Author : Debra Lim

When the call finally came, I just stared at the phone. The answering machine picked it up, and Dr. Wainwright’s voice echoed throughout my small room.

“I’m afraid the implants didn’t take. I’m terribly sorry to tell you that she didn’t-”

I shut off the machine and just stood there, a heavy pain settling in my chest.

The implants had been a long shot anyway, they said. She was just too old, they said. It was a miracle she’d survived this long, they said.

Feeling the warm tears slide down my face without my permission made the pain explode into anger. I threw my chair across the room and fell to the ground, tugging my legs into my chest.

I imagined her coming to me now, sensing my pain, gently nudging me. She’d always been by my side, her happiness giving me the strength to get up everyday, to beat back my depression and finally make it into the Academy. If it hadn’t been for her, I might never have left my room.

“And now she’s gone, and you weren’t even by her side at the end.”

My voice sounded distant. Everything felt far away, and I closed my eyes.

“Stop that!” I squealed with mock anger, rolling on the ground. Nala’s silicone tongue slapped against my face awkwardly as we wrestled. She leapt back, her eyes alight with their usual green glow.

I held up my personal datapad, re-reading the acceptance letter for the umpteenth time.

Ms. Miller, you have been accepted into the Moses School of Engineering at the…

I hugged the device to my chest, tears streaming down my face. I’d worked so hard in the last few years, and not all of it was on academics. I’d gone shopping on my own, and even walked through the park, Nala by my side. I still avoided large crowds, but I’d made it a long way from the dark cave that had been my bedroom.

I looked at Nala, her bare metal tail wagging happily. I sighed, reminding myself to replace the fabric that had worn off of it. The exposed circuitry could get damaged without the protection.

Rolling to my feet, I reached down to pat her blocky head, and it felt a little too warm.

“Hmm, maybe it’s time for your maintenance check-up?”

“There’s not much we can do. There are no more models like this one anymore, and this company in particular went out of business over five years ago.”

Five years in technology basically meant ancient these days.

I looked down at Nala, her floppy, too large tongue hanging out of her mouth.

“We can try an implant that would allow us to remotely access her data files. We’d then be able to transfer her to a new body. She’d still be the same pet, just in a new suit.”

Nala just continued to smile her doggy grin up at me, oblivious to our conversation.

“Alright, do it.”

“There are risks…”

“But if we do nothing, she’s gone anyway, right?”

It hurt to say it, but it was the truth. The specialist would be in at the end of the week. By then I’d be away at the Academy.

I rested my hand on her head.

“I’ll be waiting for you at the Academy, silly.”

She let out a tinny bark as I walked away.

I uncurled myself and stood. The tears had dried. I looked at my monitor, a picture of Nala and I at the park.

I wrapped my arms around myself and whispered.

“Thank you.”

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