Be still my heart
As I fell asleep last night, I listened to my heart thump in my ears, wondering not for the first time if it wasn't a little too loud, just a tad too hard. Is this it? Is this the last time I will close my eyes to sleep - just for a night? My heart began to pound till it seemed it would burst. I made myself breathe deeply. I thought: Why worry? Does it really matter? I won't know when it happens, I'll just no longer be. Poof. And who will really care and for how long? Eventually, it will be as if I never existed--like all who have come before and been forgotten, erased, with the passage of time. My eyes closed, my heart slowed and I slept.
Except that when I woke up, last night was a long, long time ago.
I opened my eyes and looked at the unfamiliar face hovering over me. I tried to jump up and away, but found I couldn't move.
"Don't fret, love. I'm Nurse Aliya. It is my pleasure to welcome you back."
"Back? Was I sick?"
"Well, no, dear. You were dead."
"What??!!" Eyes looking frantically around the windowless room, hospital white, with a mirror on one wall and computer screens filled with information I could not see on the other, I glanced at the nurse and asked, "Is this the afterlife?"
She laughed. "No, this is your next life."
"I know, crazy, right? But it's true. Over the last," she looked at some device in her hand, then continued, "almost three hundred years since you died..."
"Three hundred years??!!"
"Two hundred eighty six if you want to be precise. Anyway, with advances in nanotechnology, biology, physics, astronomy, genetics, artificial intelligence, and various other intersecting fields of study, we are now able to reintegrate the essence, or souls, if you will, of those who have been, into human bodies engineered using a modified-for-perfection version of the desired genetic code."
"Modified for perfection?"
"Perfect mental and physical health, perfect fitness, minimal aging. However, if a newlifer abuses the new body in any way, they are terminated immediately, the soul lasered into oblivion."
"You can do that? Obliterate someone's soul?"
"We give life. We can also take it away."
"Oooookay. Um, do people have babies the old fashioned way any more?"
Nurse Aliya grimaced. "There are some who prefer to take their chances with coitus, but some 62% of those will still request some genetic programming of the fetus. In any case, normal biological pregnancies and births outside of the Global Government Labs are strictly regulated."
"Normal bio...But I died 300 years ago! Before all this was possible, right?"
"Well, yes, but our research has found that there are in the universe a finite number of," she cocked her head, "souls, that dwell inside all living creatures. We have the ability to collect and reassign, or not, at will. Your most recent death 286 years ago was not your first, but since it was your last and most educated, it was decided that particular consciousness would better adapt to this new life."
I closed my eyes trying to take it all in. They snapped open and I asked, "Is my husband...back, too?"
"I am not at liberty to say. Over time, we have found it best not to assume that those who were linked in one place and time want to be so joined in their next iteration. A few do seem to have a sort of as yet inexplicable link that draws them to each other life after life." She smiled. "But that is uncommon for myriad reasons, one of which may be that some are assigned a new gender. Or species."
"Yes." She looked at her hand again and walked to the door. "That's enough for now. You will sleep for a bit and then we'll get you into your new body." She left.
"My new...," looking down as best I could, I realized I could not move for my head -- if it was indeed a head with eyes allowing me to see for who knew in this place of science fiction in which I found myself -- I could not move because below my head there was no body but rather only myriad wires and tubes filled with a fluid not necessarily blood and though I could not see it, in the silence of the windowless white room, I could hear the thump, thump, thump of my heart.
I closed my eyes and screamed.