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March 27, 2016

Mom and Dad are arguing again.

Just like we all pretend that I can’t hear it, we all pretend it’s not another argument about me. And even though this has happened before, we all pretend that it hasn’t. We’re all acting like this is the first time. How many times did they have this argument before they found me? More than when I was still here? Less than after I came back?

This body still doesn’t feel right.

It wasn’t my body when they first had this argument, back when it was just hushed whispers after they thought I had gone to bed. It’s certainly not my body now, when they’re yelling at the top of their lungs in the kitchen.

I always thought the reason my memories were off was because of the hack job that cut rate doctor did forking me. A corruption of data that can only occur when it’s sent blasting millions of kilometers through the deep darkness of space. I never thought it was because I was trying to remember something that had happened to the wrong body. A version of me that could never be the real me.

And now, the memories of that other life, on that strange beautiful barren rock don’t quite mesh with my current reality.

I try to grab headphones off a nearby table, but my forearm knocks them over because it’s too long.

The perspective was always off in those old memories, a few inches too high. Now I keep my eyes closed as much as I can because the vertigo gets too overwhelming. I inevitably start to have a panic attack, and then I retreat back to my room while Mom and Dad start arguing again. It starts in a hushed whisper, like it did the first time, but it eventually becomes another screaming match.

I keep my eyes closed, so that I don’t start crying.

When I can’t see the world around me, in this strange warped perspective, I can almost remember what it was like to be me. The real me. The one whose hips weren’t so narrow and whose shoulders weren’t so broad. The me who didn’t constantly trip over themselves and feel like they were about to knock everything over with their ugly gnarled anvil-hands, just by turning around too quickly.

But all I can remember clearly is the look of surprise on that stupid merc’s face when they showed up to get me.

I didn’t know that a tin-can body could register surprise on its weird pseudo-features. That bare approximation of a mouth and eyes that was created for no other reason than to prevent the user from experiencing complete cognitive dissonance. I had never gone for a ride in one, but I don’t think I could handle it. I can’t handle my own stupid flesh-and-bone body when it’s like this, let alone what it would be like if I didn’t have a real face.

My whole hand is shaking as I lift it to my off-putting angular jawline, the rough stubble immediately causing my sausage fingers to flinch away. I had never liked stubble, and I always thought it was because it looked so unkempt, that it felt so raw against my own soft skin, but now I know the real reason.

Even to these callused things, it feels wrong.

I start to laugh, but the rough noise is so alien that it catches right in my too-thick throat.

Again, I lay still and try to pretend like I’m not here. Not listening to the birds outside and my parents arguing downstairs. I try to keep my eyes shut, even though they keep trying to flutter open, and I just try to remember what it was like to be me.

The thing is, it’s getting harder and harder.

Again, I see that tin-can face, the lime-green lights that stood for its eyes pushed up by the blocked off cheekbones and the two rectangular bits of chrome that served as eyebrows shooting up its forehead on visible tracks. The odd hole in its head that stood in for its mouth was open in surprise, revealing a small set of gears that worked the jaw, before a voice garbled out from the speakers in its chest, “Are you the Heller kid?”

I had nodded, and finally managed to speak, “Y-ye-yes… did my parents s-s-se-send you?” The meek words sounded so strange when my natural basso repeated them in the present.

The tin-can had never explained much, only that they were there to send me home.

“Home,” I let my new tongue mull over the word in the present, reminding myself that it was no different than my original tongue. The soft bed beneath me and the bright star in the sky didn’t feel like home, but the sound of a door slamming in the distance did.

I wasn’t sure which of them had stormed off until I could hear Dad sobbing. Soon he would start muttering, wondering where he went wrong.

I could still remember sitting down in the chair, the same kind of chair I had sat in when I had first made the journey across the depths of space. This time though, I wouldn’t be forking myself, leaving behind a not-me to torture itself.

I’d be going home.

The doctor and the tin-can had both promised that I wouldn’t even notice anything. I would simply cease to be in one place, and then be again in another. Of course, in reality, there was the period of downloading myself and then the long lag as I journeyed across the emptiness of space.

To me though, it was just a heartbeat.

One Mississippi, and you’re dead.

Two Mississippi, and you’re alive.

Only when I woke up, I wasn’t me.

When they saw me crying, my parents thought it was because I was happy. Overwhelmed to be back home. The tin-can had never told them how they had found me, what I had looked like when they had, the look of surprise that flashed across their face when they burst through that door to find me. The terrified me that had just wanted to go home so badly, to escape all the problems that I created because I had simply wanted to be the real me. The version of me that had just wanted so desperately to set back the clock, to not run away, to not be split in two.

The version of me that had never realized I had left behind that not-me to wither and die. That there could be just as many problems back home as there were on that barren rock I had run away to. The one who thought that all the awkward memories were just the result of data corruption. The one who had always thought their parents had known what their child really looked like.

Somewhere in the distance they’re whispering again, and I wonder if they know that they’re just pretending it won’t lead to another argument. Just like they had to have been pretending when they thought I would be happy to wake up in this deformed body, with its out-of-whack proportions and the wrongness emanating from its very core.

I scrunch up my face in an attempt to keep my eyes closed as I feel my throat tighten. I try to take a deep breath but it immediately becomes unsteady. A single sob escapes past my thin chapped lips while Mom and Dad start arguing again.

I found the designs earlier today. The crude attempts to shape my own body, carved out of this thing, and perfected by what I had always assumed was a cut-rate doc on the other side of the solar system. This time, I knew exactly how to describe what I wanted, and the odd disjointed memories to show him exactly what I was supposed to be. And this time, I wouldn’t be leaving behind some wrong version of myself to torture them when I’m gone.

The process wouldn’t take as long this time, because I wouldn’t be taking these memories back with me. I don’t need more memories like these, I have enough from the first time around.

To me, it would just be a heartbeat.

One Mississippi, and you’re-

Author’s Note: Decided to put this at the end rather than the beginning because I feel like this story is better without an introduction. Basically, was just thinking about transhumanism and forking and came up with this.  I hoped it would do better but what can you do.

Also, wow, it has been a while since I’ve posted anything here.  Mostly been trying to get work done, and most of it hasn’t been short form so that’s the answer to that question.

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