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Statica

metaphorical_cowboy's picture

The screen lights up the room. The dreams fade as the alarm clock wakes Kamahl. The clock’s AI saves today’s neural response scan to the volume/pitch levels. Once he can tune it out, the AI will switch to a variant. Once up, Kamahl goes through the morning motions when preparing for work.

During the commute, he flips through the public meta-radio channels. Near end trip the local aether screws up the fractal infrasaturation from the satellites to Kamahl’s implant. Officially no one knows which country dumped electro-genetic pollution into the United States of Africa a generation ago. Unofficially no one cares. This USA is the last non-socialist country left. The sensation is like being surrounded by a wolf pack.

His department meats the routing order quota. Kamahl’s a hard working employee but he’s been on autopilot since his wife died. Eventually, the work day ends and he can leave.

Back home Kamahl reads over notes during his rice dinner. Most of the information just repeats pseudoscience. Unaided imprint detection impossible, but people still cry ghost. Imprintology began with thanatologists and psychologists mapping the human mind’s death. The eventual result was the Urvine Engine, which allowed contact with the decaying nervous system’s trace chemicals. During death the left lobe tries to analyze and attach meaning while also trying to prevent shutdown, creating a core bioelectrical imprint of the individual onto the surrounding environment in the process. The in-between and all-around are still vague.

After closing the blinds Kamahl pulls his urvine engine from its hiding spot. This toaster shaped machine put him in permanent debt. While most of the parts were printable, Kamahl spent a fortune finding and acquiring the others. Luck isn’t usually associated with death. Only about one in a hundred people can leave an imprint.

Philosophy only clouds the situation. Some say she’s only a weak copy of Regina. He doesn’t care. People keep photos of lost ones. She’s essentially the same principle. Still, the fact that Regina can remember new things raises a lot of questions. Kamahl takes all the necessary fluids and powders, connects all the equipment, and executes all the programs.

If the stray bullet had been an inch higher, Regina’s last words would’ve stayed cruel. There was an argument. He thought she was cheating. There was a pop and she fell over. Luckily she was one in a hundred.

Most of his paycheck goes to the energy bill. The engine’s whining as it uses a village worth of electricity. The holographic image projected into his mind’s eye via satellite takes a minute to focus. Regina’s next to the window looking through the slits at the light purple afternoon sky. Kamahl would love to raise the shades, but his senses are too sensitive for it not to be painful.
Touching feels like something between air pressure change and static electricity.

The conversation’s friendly and hugs are welcome. Regina wants to watch a movie Kamahl told her about last time. She has to back up to not interrupt the download, but that only takes a minute or so. The two form something like a metaphysical “cuddle” for the next hour and a half.

Afterwards, they have the usual conversation. Regina tells him to move on like usual. He knows she doesn’t mean it. Her kisses taste like a weak battery. She’s been “dead” for near eight months. She’ll die in another four. Imprints only last for as long as the quantitized chemical make-ups last. She’s a little weaker now. Before, Kamahl would get goose bumps just being near her.
The time flies and the time comes. The engine is slowing down. Her goodbye kiss is always rough. Everything shuts off as Kamahl closes his eyes. He’s got some time to dream. It’s never enough, but it’s better than nothing.

A great, if grim, concept

A great, if grim, concept and well-developed. An especially good touch having the imprint be so expensive, implying the great 'costs' involved, not only in resources but in what clinging to this last vestige of Regina may be doing to Kamahl.

Intriguing...

Intriguing, and beautifully written. (Double spacing between paragraphs would make it a lot easier to read off the screen.)