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Are you excited for your birthday?” my mom asked cheerfully, but her half-crooked smile couldn’t hide her anxiety. “You know everything will be all right! You know that, right?” She had asked me this question again and again for the past few days, as if convincing herself more than convincing me.

Of course, mom,” I answered as cheerfully. “Most of my friends have already done it. I’m sure I’ll be fine. I am really excited about it!”

Have you talked to Grandpa recently? Did he try to convince you not to go through with it?”

I did. And he tried.”

Just what I‘d expect from the old busybody! Listen, Jake, I don’t want you to think that your father and I are pushing you. But this is a great opportunity. You will be the first in our family to do this.”

I know. We discussed it with Dr. Hall. He said that the procedure is pretty safe. They’re fairly certain of the outcome. And I know you started saving for this the day I was born. I really appreciate it!”

The word “fairly” lingered for a while, however.

Grandpa was not my real Grandpa. He was my grandpa’s grandpa. Yes, that generation, the one that still remembers the major breakthrough in human longevity. Grandpa was in his late 150s, but he didn’t look a day over 75.

They got so good at organ replacement therapy, and made it so cheap, that almost everybody had it done. Of course, this was just a temporary fix, because no matter how many replacements you got, you couldn’t live past 300. This was quite enough for most people, but science kept pushing in the direction of real immortality.

Then, one very clever AR/VR engineer went to medical school to become a doctor and got the genius idea to put the two together, and a new field was born: immortality through virtual reality.

People had been tinkering with digital immortality for years, but this engineer took the idea to the next level. Once your brain is safely removed from your body, suspended in chemicals which keep it in its best condition, and hooked into the VR-verse, you can’t tell the difference between the real world and the VR world. You can do anything, go anywhere, and feel anything that you would in real life. Only better. Because you never die.

On the day of my birthday party, my grandfather took me aside. “There is no going back, Jake,” he said. He found me pacing outside on the deck. “So, you are having it done tomorrow? You could at least wait until, say, you’re in your two hundreds. There’s no rush, you know.”

Mom doesn’t want me to wait. She is afraid something might happen to me. Like with Tommy.”

Grandpa flinched. He didn’t want to be reminded of my brother’s fatal accident.

But all the same,” I continued. “What’s the difference if I lived in the real universe or the VR-verse? They say everything will be the same.”

And what if it isn’t?” Grandpa asked. “Nobody has come back to testify to that. They can’t reverse the procedure. Your parents will lose you. They won’t see you ever again, they won’t talk to you, they won’t know what has become of you.”

Mom’s pushing me to do it. She says she isn’t, but she mustn’t care too much about not seeing me.”

She pushes you because she cares. She is afraid you might end up like Tommy.”

But that was an accident.”


Before we could go any further, my father appeared on the porch and asked me to go inside and help my mom with the cake. Apparently, he just wanted to scoop me away from Grandpa, because when I went inside, my mom was already done passing the plates around and was talking to Galeb’s mom.

Galeb had had the procedure a month earlier. When the party was over, Galeb’s mom was the last to leave. She hugged me tightly and half-whispered, half-sobbed, “Good luck”. I hugged her back.

I was surprised how little it took for me to make up my mind.

As I was about to go to bed that night, I told my mom, “I’ve decided to wait. I think I am too young to make this decision now.”

My mom’s face went white. “Are you sure, Jake? Are you absolutely sure?”

I nodded. But before I could elaborate, my legs felt weak. I sat down on the couch. When I tried to say something, it came out all slurred.

I heard Grandpa shouting, demanding to know what was going on, and my mother screaming back at him, “I gave him the cocktail earlier today, just like Dr. Hall said I should. He told me not to tell Jake to not stress him out. The cocktail was supposed to sedate him overnight. And he was not supposed to wake up until it was over! We need to stop it. Call the hospital! Hurry!”

I don’t remember much after that.

When I woke up in the hospital, everything seemed normal. I guess they were able to reverse whatever the cocktail had started to do to me. Dr. Hall was the first to visit me.

So, everything went well, doctor?” I smiled at him.

Yes, Jake,” he said, smiling back at me, “just as we planned.”


Milkana N. Mingels was born in Bulgaria and currently lives in Massachusetts. She is the author of the Tales from the Mountain of Perun duology. Her short fiction has appeared in Sirens Call, and Every Day Fiction e-zines. She would love to hear from you on her Facebook page


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