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During the first months of my afterlife, the wardrobes in my bedroom remained empty. I was wearing the only clothes I had: the flawlessly white suit in which I’d been married and in which I’d begun my long, drawn-out death.
My last living memory was of standing in that toilet at my wedding reception. Chatting to a bridesmaid, taking aspirin, fixing my lipstick.
I was looking at myself in the mirror, thinking how beautiful I looked in my white trouser suit when a vessel in my brain burst. There was no pain – just a sudden descent into darkness.
My wedding outfit became my funeral shroud.
Reborn as a cybernetic construct, I didn’t want to wear it and I tried to take it off. I could undo a few buttons but all else remained impervious to my efforts. Even the veil remained fast.
I sat at my vanity table. What else was there to do?
The real Rhiannon Morganfield would have studied herself in the mirror. She was not excessively vain but she did take pride in her looks. And she had every reason to.
In the years before she met her future husband, she spent a lot of money on making herself beautiful. Not that she was ever ugly; it was just that Nature had not blessed her with the attributes of a catwalk model. Her nose had a slight bump. It was scarcely noticeable and in no way off-putting. But she hated it. Every time someone looked at her face, she was certain they were staring at that small imperfection. So it had to go.
Fixing that took care of her first student loan.
Her teeth weren’t quite straight and under certain lighting conditions had a yellowish tinge. A dentist in Hungary took the best part of £6,000 from her in exchange for the smile she wanted.
Happily, when she returned to England, the National Health Service fixed the damage he caused free of charge.
When she left university, she had an affair with the owner of a PR company. When he grew tired of her, he gave her money to get lost and stay away from his wife and children. It was just enough to pay for larger breasts.
I didn’t look in the mirror. I had no need to. I knew exactly what I looked like down to the last binary digit.
And I didn’t care.
I was a cybernetic construct. A virtual woman. A figment of Robert Morganfield’s imagination. I was his beloved Rhiannon but more so.
My breasts were the mirror image of each other: same size, same shape. Full and firm. No pink lines to betray the surgeon’s scalpel. My face was perfectly symmetrical. My hair was a lighter shade of blonde than the real Rhiannon’s had been. My pubic bush was neatly trimmed. And aside from my head and pubis, my body was completely bald and staying that way. I would never need to shave or wax.
I did not sweat. My nose produced no mucus. I could not sneeze, hiccup, burp, urinate, defecate or fart. Nor, despite all the secondary sexual characteristics that signified fertility, would I menstruate.
I was what Robert Morganfield had programmed me to be. If that wasn’t good enough, the fault was his, not mine.
I sat at my vanity table. And then I was on the veranda of a bar located at the edge of a white sand beach. It looked to me like Goa in India where I’d spent a summer bumming around during my student days.
The bar was made of bamboo. The roof was reeds. Crickets chirped.
It was night. I sat at a table and looked at the moon across the calm sea. The Earth’s little sister rested on the horizon, large and confident, its rilles and waterless seas casting bold shadows.
You can see the moon as a lifeless rock. Or as a personification of the feminine divine. It controls the tides, dictates to lunatics and acts as a metronome to a woman’s natural rhythms.
There are some who say life on Earth would not have progressed far without it. No moon = no tides. No tides = no migration from sea to land and no human race.
No computers. No Avalon. No Rhiannon Morganfield.
There was a red cocktail in a tall glass on the table beside me. I had no desire to drink it. Thirst was one of many human characteristics Robert had yet to program into me.
Despite the tropical climate, I was still in my wedding outfit. In the real world, I would have been uncomfortably hot and perspiring. Here I felt fine.
I saw Robert. Dressed in white slacks and a short-sleeved Hawaiian shirt, he was strolling across the sea on a path of moonlight.
The image of a man walking on water did not faze me. I was a cybernetic construct in a cybernetic universe. All things were possible, so long as Robert Morganfield said they were.
Without breaking stride, he stepped onto the beach and waved. His pace did not quicken, as one might think it would at the sight of his beloved. Even here, in a world of his own, he needed to be in control.
He joined me on the veranda in his own good time. As he kissed my cheek, a fresh cocktail appeared on the table. It was identical to mine.
‘Calvados Bay,’ he announced, sitting down. ‘Such a beautiful place. I wish you’d lived to see the real thing.’
Another 24 hours and I would have. It was the secluded resort in the Caribbean where we’d planned to spend our honeymoon.
‘I own it now,’ said Robert. ‘The real Calvados Bay is mine.’ He picked up his cocktail. ‘To us, Rhiannon.’
Because he expected me to, I picked up my own drink and touched my glass to his. ‘To us, Robert.’
He smiled. ‘That’s the first time you’ve called me Robert without me asking you to. It’s a good sign.’
‘You wish me to converse, don’t you?’
‘I wish you to do whatever you want. As far as I’m able, I have given you free will. I don’t want you to be a robot or my slave. I want you to be you.’
‘And you want me to love you.’
‘Above all else.’
‘But I don’t.’
‘That will come in time. You’re not fully formed yet. I still have processes running to allow your subconscious to assimilate your memories. When they’re done, you’ll have the same personality you had on your wedding day.’
‘I have a subconscious?’
‘You have a mind. It’s the most complex cybernetic construction ever devised.’
‘How big is it?’
‘How big is any mind?’
‘It wasn’t a philosophical question, Robert. I was referring to the physicality. My mind is stored as binary digits. How many terabytes?’
‘About 6 billion.’ He took a sip of his cocktail and looked pleased with himself. ‘Your essence is spread over 700 servers in five separate buildings. Each of those servers is massively fault tolerant with a high redundancy. If up to 25% failed, the others could take over and you would still be you.’
We talked about me for a few hours more. The moon did not shift and the crickets kept chirping. At Robert’s insistence, I drank a variety of cocktails, each one appearing as soon as I’d finished the last.
The alcohol, of course, did not affect me.
‘What are you feeling?’ he asked as I was mid-way through a mint julep.
‘Are you happy?’
‘Are you sad?’
‘Curious as to the future?’
Robert’s brow creased, forming something that looked curiously like the Greek letter ð. ‘I had to remove your emotions to undo the damage done by last night’s information overload. They should re-assimilate themselves but I’ve no idea how long it will take. This is virgin territory we’re in.’
The crickets stopped chirping. The only sound was the gentle susurration of waves gliding onto the beach.
‘That shouldn’t happen,’ Robert said just as the sea froze like a paused video. ‘There must be a bug in the Master Control Program. I have to go, Rhiannon.’
He stood up and kissed my hand.
I watched him walk across water once more. As the moon swallowed him, I found myself back at the vanity table in my bedroom.
Lying on the bed, I closed my eyes and dreamed.
The dreams were a by-product of my subconscious mind sorting out the memories being channelled into it. Random sequences of events were placed into a semblance of order; connections were made, logic applied.When I awoke, there were tears on my cheeks.
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