Author: Bill Cox

It was a surprise to us all when Callum volunteered to inwardly migrate. We all knew a ‘friend of a friend’ who’d done so, but Callum was the first in our extended family.

I’ll be honest, I was disappointed that he’d signed up without consulting me. As brothers, we’d always been close. I’m not saying we didn’t have our secrets from each other, but inward migration was such a huge life decision that I would’ve expected at least a discussion.

I see the sense in it, given all the immigration from the Mediterranean countries and the pressure that puts on our resources, even in this quiet corner of Scotland. You can’t walk down the High Street these days without hearing conversations in half a dozen different languages. I understand that the Warming has rendered these places unsafe for human habitation, but home feels less like home every year.

Callum seemed happy with his decision and once you sign up that’s it, so it wasn’t as if he could change his mind. He’d the usual two weeks to put his affairs in order before reporting to the Migration Centre. He did his best to avoid me for that time, attending a seemingly endless procession of parties, but finally I got him to myself just two days before his migration. It all boiled down to one simple question. Why?

“I’m just fed up,” he explained. “Each year things get just a little bit worse. More blackouts, more shortages of food. More crowds, more disease outbreaks, more crime. You’re not stupid. You can see the way things are going.”

“But why inward migration? You’ll lose everyone that cares about you!”

“Don’t you remember what it was like when we lost Mum? She had breast cancer and twenty years ago they could have cured that. Now, everything is a death sentence. No chemotherapy meds, no radiotherapy. We had to watch her fade away in front of our eyes. I don’t have the strength to do that again. Don’t you see? The way things are going, the inevitability of it all, I’m going to lose everyone I care about. This way, I won’t have to see it, I won’t have to live through it. Instead, I’ll be living in a world without limits, without shortages, without death.”

Ultimately, I couldn’t agree with his decision. It felt too much like cowardice to me, running away from reality. Nevertheless, I still found myself by his side, on that final day at the Migration Centre’s reception area. The rest of the current crop of volunteers were there too, with their families, crowds of people laughing, crying, saying their goodbyes.

I hugged my brother one last time, then watched as he joined with the rest of the volunteers passing through the doors of the clinic. I thought about the machines waiting behind those doors, where Callum would be anaesthetised and have his brain scanned, one slice at a time. I knew that bodies were never returned to the families, as those who underwent inward migration weren’t considered to be legally deceased.

A version of Callum will live on in a virtual world, where time runs at a much faster rate. Fleeing from a collapsing civilisation, where energy and resources are at a premium, these digital refugees will live extended lives in paradise. As uploaded humans, their energy use and ecological footprint will be but a fraction of their biological counterparts.

The government tells us that they’re heroes who’ve made a sacrifice for the greater good.

All I know though is this.

I miss my brother.