We were the only immortals the clinic made. The first time we went, it was a little brick building in the suburbs, and we were starving jobless college grads, kicked out by our parents and apparently unemployable. We answered the ads for a long term medical research schtick, to be guinea pigs, and there were going to be surgeries. They told us we would be immortal, the first two people on the path to new humanity.
Now the city's taken it over, and there's a big steel and glass skyscraper there instead, the clinic on the thirtieth floor. I think there's a smartphone startup on another floor, though they might've gone under already. So many faces, so many companies. The doctor who sees me now wasn't even born when I opened my eyes in the recovery room.
Immortal doesn't mean we can't be killed. It doesn't seem to mean we can't wear out, either, but there's only so much the doctors say. We need to check in once a year to make sure everything's good, replace hardware as necessary, install upgrades as they come out. Live forever, with appropriate maintenance. There's a stipend, but it didn't inflate the way everything else did. Turns out inorganic system replacement wasn't nearly as popular as designer stem cell organs. The company has changed directions, and now they make new organic bodies for peoples' old consciousnesses. We all pay for our mistakes, in our own way.
We watched an old old movie once Gone With the Wind, at a kitsch 20th theatre, all gold edging and red velvet. It was raining, and popcorn was cheap, and the movie was longer than anything we'd ever heard of. At the end of the first half, before an intermission of all things, the main character, Scarlett, said "With God as my witness, I'll never be hungry again." You repeated it when you got up to refill the popcorn, salt still on the corner of your mouth, and I kissed it away. That was a week before we went in for the first surgeries, contracts freshly thumb-printed
You told me we'd be together forever. We were in love. We were immortal, with gold contracts. Nothing was going to be able to break us apart, but it's been twenty years or more since I've seen you last, and we'd already gone our separate ways long before that.
We're still linked. If I concentrate hard enough, it's like I can tell where you are, anywhere in the world. Maybe I'm making it up. Maybe you're really where I think you are, my True North come unmoored. I tell myself stories about what you're doing. Volunteering in the Israeli army. Freedom fighting in whatever Russia is calling itself nowadays. Mercenary in the Middle East. Sooner or later, I'm going to have to put the theories to the test. Do you make up stories about me? Do you see me in Central America working against cartels? India, helping with election day? North Korea, in that prison camp infiltration and ultimate destruction? I check the message again. Maybe sooner.
I scanned my chip again. Didn't these things used to be called ATMs? It had started to rain, and all the people on the sidewalk had transparent bubbles around the heads and shoulders, still texting or chatting away. A few couples had double bubbles, and I watched for too long. They caught me looking, but looked away first. The kind of famous I was did not invite interaction. Do you stare at couples? Are you half of a different couple now?
I walked around and thought about it. I had no idea how to make money. It was always so easy in games, or when we still made appearances. I bought some meat on a stick, labeled chicken but it might have just been called that for comfort. Maybe I should see a movie, get out of the rain. If I thumb-printed the contract in my inbox, I wonder if you would somehow know. It might make things easier, really. You know, I know, we meet someplace where our immortal death throes won't hurt anybody. Antarctica. The moon. Because I don't doubt it would take my life to end yours at the same time, and at this point, I'm okay with it.
I pull up the contract, project it on a deserted, rain speckled chess table in the park. I try to parse what you may have done, why somebody wants me to kill you. Maybe you're doing the same thing, wherever you are. Maybe the clinic is tired of our stipends and our upgrades. Maybe the world powers have grown uneasy with our existence, uneasier, and felt the need to pull the plug. Does it matter? It should. But I'm just so tired. When I look up, the sky is still cloudy, but in patches I can see the stars. "Tomorrow is another day" was another thing Scarlett said in the movie. I felt bad now, that I never read the book. Maybe the book would tell me if Scarlett and Rhett stayed broken up. You thought they did. I hoped they didn't.
I thumbprint the contract, send it winging back through cyberspace. Being immortal didn't mean I no longer needed transportation. A taxi first, I thought, to get me to the airport. It seemed to me you were in Europe, maybe, or Africa. Have you changed your hair? Did you get the eye upgrade?
You said we'd be together forever. It'll be in body even if it wasn't in spirit.