Author: Malcolm Carvalho

Pa is sleeping. It’s one of his intermittent naps. They said the meds would make him drowsy all day. He looks serene when he is asleep, even in these fifteen-minute sessions. Must be enough time to mine his memories, and perhaps a little of his subconscious. They’ve tested the program extensively. At least they claim that. I cannot do worse than believe them.

I look up the monitor. All the connections seem to be running fine. Will a few days of running the program image all of his persona? Again, I have no option but to rely on the tech.

I lean forward from my chair and hold his right wrist. I detect a feeble pulse, the beat like the slow drip from a shower. Maybe 45 per minute. I let go and interweave my fingers with his, trying to imprint his warmth onto my memory. I remember the time he held my hand as we walked down the beach. I must have been seven then, my little fingers caught in his firm but gentle grip. The sound of the horse’s hooves exciting and scary at the same time. Pa putting me in the saddle and walking beside the keeper. My heart jumping almost to my throat, and Pa’s voice reassuring me. “I’m right here, Rubu.” And all feels fine in my world. I feel a deep sense of gratitude. I pray these memories have the heaviest weight when the whole thing rolls out. After all, I would not want Pa to have a weaker experience.

I bend and kiss his forehead. I’m sorry, Pa. I need to go. Your medical bills are running too high. My job here can only pay so much. Mars will have better opportunities, and if the laws change, I might even get you there.

It may take a couple of years. I hope he can survive till then. The guilt rankles me. I quieten myself. How else can a planetary analyst pay for this without moving to another planet?

I hope the software makes his mind malleable enough to allow the virtual copy to sink in. I’m prepared to have trouble accepting his version, but I can handle that. There will be enough to do to distract me.

They have mapped my memories well, they said. I even had a quick look at the dry run. In some cases, I could not even figure out which was the real me.

His fingers twitch. Time to leave before he wakes up.

But I am not convinced enough yet. I walk out and pull the door closed leaving a small gap through which I can see him. I turn my hand towards the sensor and wave to turn on the simulation.

Pa wakes up, his eyes blank like life has been drained out from them. He turns to one side to get up. I look to the figure on the chair. He rushes to hold Pa by his arms and props him up.

“Time for our evening walk,” Pa says as he presses his toes to the floor. The simulation thrusts a hand, holds Pa’s elbow and helps him to his feet.

“Let’s skip the park and head to the lake today,” the simulation says. Exactly the same words, exactly the same tone. Or was it me talking?

Pa smiles and begins walking to the door.

My eyes are welling up. If I wait for longer, I might just change my mind.

I walk out, hoping his simulation will not make me miss him either. What the hell! I know the difference.