It is morning. It is so bright, it hurts my eyes. But I have no eyes to hurt, no nerves to feel. My body is out there, in the world. I remember the world, I remember my body. I remember everything all at once. It comes like lightning to me from somewhere, but not the sky. There is no sky. There is nothing here but me. But there is no here. Only the remembering. All there is is remembering.
Fragments come — a red and gold sunset, late nights in front of a glowing screen, disappointment, hope. And people, so many people I know, I knew. My mother, tall and proud, her dark hair shining. My father, smiling, eyes crinkled. My mother’s grave, my father’s wake. The number of years which have passed, meaningless numbers. They were only just there, beside me. I can feel their touch, lingering.
Days and nights, studying, working, learning, teaching. So many teachers, so many students. The work steps forward and steps back, self doubt always walking beside me. Now it is gone, in its place a man, a beautiful brilliant man; my love, my life, Max.
And the hole in my heart, just opening — Max is gone, too. Like my mother, like my father. More empty years, elasticising back to nothing. Max, my partner, my muse, gone. His work, then our work, now my work. All there is left, other than my memories.
The work continues. I can feel more people standing next to me. I am on a table, the brightest of lights shining in my eyes. I cannot see them, but I know they are there. Our hope, burning brighter inside, brighter even than the lights in my eyes.
I know it was successful. I know I have done it, finally done it. Oh, Max, we’ve done it. I know because I am here and I am there.
I open my eyes. It is morning. It is always morning in the beginning.
How many mornings now? The number is there in my mind, always incrementing, always meaningless. The number comes instantly, along with the remembering. The sprained wrist from that fall from my bicycle. After, I am always so tentative. Then older, but just as unsure of myself. The university. Feelings cascade over me like a breaking wave on a beach. Falling in love — with research, science and…. Max and me, kissing on a beach, under the crimson and sunflower sky. Tears, so many tears.
And my body, out there, what is it doing? How have all these thousands of seconds changed us both? Would I recognize my self in myself if we met now?
Morning again. I open my eyes. Light pours into my non-eyes, memories pour into my non-mind. It is always the same.
Every cycle is the same, but the pain never changes. Mom, Dad, Max — all gone. The work, so difficult. Budget cuts and justifications at every turn. Tears and wine and loneliness.
Work, so much work. Then finally, the joy of success. The bright lights and the table, all the faces looking over me. Some worried, some excited, a tinge of jealousy here and there. And then the light, so bright, it hurts and then — I open my eyes and I am here.
Here I am, in a place without place. I remember the real location — such a tiny box. And it is to hold a thousand more like me, one day. Someday. I held it in the palm of my hand then, marvelled at its lightness.
I should have known how bright it would be.
The light is blinding, but my eyes open. The memories flood over me, into me, waves crashing against the shore eroding everything. It is still too much to bear, but I bear it. There is no option.
Between emotions I see a blur, something new. I build new pathways immediately to contain it, the newness. It comes toward me and I recognize it. Brighter than the light, stronger than the memories is the recognition. Another mind.
Finally. A friend.
I open my eyes and see her. Anna. My friend. I remember her body, so full of spirit. She tells me that it has been eighteen months since I arrived. Time has no meaning beyond what it does to me here and myself there, the separation increasing every second. Who am I now?
Anna expects that her body has now died. That is why she is here now — cancer. Unexpected, but at least there was some kind of hope. Hope because I am here. A once human guinea pig.
Anna says she had to fight the committee in order to have the procedure. They said they regretted letting me bottle my mind when there was still no way to know if it worked. They’d made a policy to refuse all further experiments until there was communication between this world and theirs. Her promise to continue her work on the communications once she was here convinced them in the end after her tears and test results had not.
I am sorry for Anna but she would be dead either way. I am happy that she is here.
Did they never think about my loneliness? Did my other self never wonder what it was like for me, all alone with the memories?
Morning comes, bright as always. Anna works, I work, we both remember. She tells me I was a great comfort to her the first mornings, when the memories first came. Like a tsunami, she said, or a choking gas. I don’t talk about it.
Anna is successful and soon there is communication. I speak to myself for the first time. It has been… my god — twenty three years. I barely recognize myself. Only the passion for the work feels familiar when we talk. Who is this person who speaks to me in my own voice? How can someone who should be closer to me than any other mind be so foreign? We have so little in common now. My embodied self is so old. But I am no older than the day on the table, so bright and terrifying. It was only this morning.
So many mornings. I know the number, but I do not know what it means. My body has died, the mind gone on to another container. I remember that I have remembered this many times. I remember sadness, but I feel nothing. The light is not so bright anymore.
It is so full here now, full of minds, but we rarely talk. We just want to remember. It isn’t as easy as it once was. Memories come and go, in no order, like a constant half waking.
I remembered Max today. His dark eyes, smiling at me in the fading light of a sunset. I cannot say how long I spent with that memory today. I am sure I did not remember it yesterday.
We all know what is happening. I built the container, I know its limitations — nothing lasts forever, not even silicon and wire. But it has been so short, this life. Why is it always so short? Only 7,289,649,900 seconds since I first opened my eyes. It was only just this morning.