Author: Bill Cox

I surf on a sea of Hawking radiation, my being as light as gossamer and as dense as neutronium. In an attempt to resolve a choice, I turn the idea of ‘me’ around in my mind, examining it from a multitude of angles and perspectives. It glitters like a diamond, reflecting stars of memory that flare and die in a fraction of an atto-second. I savour these moments, hoping they may provide insight and allow me to resolve my quandary.

I’m standing by the side of the swimming pool, wearing arm-bands and a healthy dose of fear. Dad stands in the pool, arms open. “It’s okay, son,” he says, “Jump, I’ve got you.” Feeling a rush of resolve, I bend my legs, tense and push.

I’m looking in disbelief at the spattered blood on my handkerchief. A single thought echoes through my mind, my body stunned into immobility by its implications. “My remission is over.”

I’m listening to the Doctor as he outlines a revolutionary new procedure. “It won’t cure you, but it will save you.” Feeling so weary from the chemo, I wonder if I should just accept my fate, let nature take its course. Then I hear a whisper in my ear, a thought that galvanises my spirit. “Jump. I’ve got you.” I meet the Doctor’s eye and say “Okay, let’s do it.”

I’m wakening up in my new machine body. I look at my plastic hands and fingers and realise that I don’t have fingerprints anymore. Six months later I have that crisis of identity they warned me about. “Am I still me, or just a pale imitation?” I ask the empty apartment. Mechanical fingers hold the EMP pistol, but I can’t quite bring myself to point it at my head and pull the trigger.

I’m standing on Utopia Planitia on Mars, realising that I no longer need to breathe. I decide to stop the unconscious rise and fall of my chest, as Deimos falls below a vermillion horizon.

In the cupola of the Starship Hermes, I feel the pale scarlet light of Proxima Centauri hit my optical sensors. It reminds me of the sunsets of my youth. I wish I could cry.

“You can wake up now,” says the transferring AI. Opening the sensors of my new six-mile-long ship body to the tsunami of data that almost washes me away, I scream a birth-cry across the radio spectrum.

I’m using a graser to mine quark matter from a neutron star, creating a new body for myself, etching my consciousness and memories onto virtual particles that dance in the quantum foam.

I’m hanging over the event horizon of Sagittarius A*, poised in perfect balance between gravity and the expansionary force of the Big Bang. I’m trying to decide if I should remain in this universe or see what awaits beyond the crushing boundary of the singularity below.

These stars of memory fade, but in their brief presence I discerned a pattern that I now know must be completed. I create a sound, barely a whisper. I imprint the words onto tachyons and send them back across the millennia and light years, to the non-descript office of an Oncology Doctor. This action both closes a time-like curve and completes my understanding of who I am and where I came from. I am here because I wanted to be here.

I gaze down at the supermassive black hole, tasting its energy, feeling its torsion of space-time and acknowledge that I’ve come to a decision.

I tense this latest iteration of my being.

And jump.