The Last Word

On being reawakened, I was aware of travelling in a shocktrain as it flashed past the numberless nutripharms of what might well have been the new Muungano province. Never sure how long I’d been in suspenshun, I quickly checked the system clock.

My son knew he was talking to a computer program and yet I could sense that he was in trouble -again. Overcoming the uncanny valley eventually, he’d accepted that this, my avatar, was actually as real a version of my consciousness as I had ever been for him.

His work for the FanWan Corporation had paid well (mostly in extra span) but had inevitably exposed him to a variety of neuropaths, over the course of his 75-year career, which had come to be suspected of damaging both fertility and mental health.

Perhaps his growing interest in religion, genealogy and costly recourse to the Ancestree machine were symptoms. His next assignment was apparently at the International Regulation headquarters in Daressalaam -the research institution which had hosted my own work on ‘population management’.

After the Second World Crash of 31-40, much of what was once curiously called ‘The West’ had opted to follow the Icelandic example and shun economic growth. Material comfort was manageable, subject to limited reproduction rights, and people started to seek alternative goals in the form of privacy, longevity and in ways to preserve some personal legacy. The first time I’d run the Ancestree code with a live person, it too became a prized resource…no-one thought very much about the implications then.

“I’m so depressed…the medication isn’t working. What should I do Father?”…the last word seemed extra significant to this fat, 42 year old -it was hard to remember that, as an instance of my prescreened progeny, he could stay flesh for another half century, before becoming greyware, like me.

“Well, suicide is not the answer. I know you believe I created a form of afterlife but I am no Messiah. Just because I couldn’t cope with the guilt of all those corrupted files and chose to upload early…”