"How's Jessica?" I ask between sips of a cold soda at a sidewalk cafe in the heart of the city.
"She's doing great, still working on her artwork," she watches drones walking by in their daily,
pre-programmed routines, one in particular wearing a red blouse has her attention.
I want that blouse, I imagine her saying in her head, and
snicker at the idea of it... of how well I know my wife. "Some of it’s really good," she smiles politely
at the drone as he bring us our food, "we have
to visit her some time so you can give it a look."
Sunlight bleeds in from between the high rises and cars leisurely pass the grill's patio on their way to nowhere.
The weather is nice and cool and warmer here than in Montana. I watch a gentle wind rustle the leaves on a pair of
trees planted in the sidewalk. Fiona shares the moment on her Feed– she taps and swipes at her Watch and begins
recording a Stream: rings glow neon green around her pupils; she stares at her sandwich for a moment and says
Yummm for her audience; she looks up at me (my
cue to wink), then up and down the lazy road next to the patio; she finishes with a cute one-liner about traveling
with her hubby, then taps her Watch to stop recording. Synthetic green fades from her eyes and she returns to the
moment. She takes a bite of her sandwich and smiles. I think six months back to our 90th anniversary.
We sat together on a bench in a park in Paris and watched drones going
through their subroutines pretending to be human: tourists taking photos, children throwing pennies into a
fountain, locals sitting and laughing. I had my arm around Fiona, held her close so we could share our body
heat. I squeezed her and whispered I loved her, and she replied the same.
"Do you remember the day we met?" I asked.
"Ever since I met you, and even though we were friends," I rubbed
her cold, rosy cheeks softly with the back of my fingers, "you made me feel things I’d never felt
She nodded. Light rain formed tiny silver beads on her amber hair.
"I didn't understand what those feeling were
till we went on our first date..."
"When you took me to Lanikai," she said mattered-of-factly, her eyes as big as marbles, "under that full moon."
"And we watched the ocean's inky black waves lap onto the golden sand
before us," I said in my dramatic theatre voice and smiled. "That's when I knew I had to spend the
rest of my life with you."
She paused, turned her head toward the fountain and laughed uncontrollably;
her face turned red she was laughing so hard and mine did too except because of embarrassment and it felt hot
under the sprinkling rain.
"Darling?" she looks up from her potato chips.
"Yes, my dear."
"Yes," I fumble out of my head and back into the conversation, "You'll have to send her a message
on our behalf," I take another sip from my drink, "We ought to visit her. I'd love to see what new work
Our plane touches down at the airport in Montana and we hop back in our Mustang; I follow the curves of the road
through the soft slopes of the countryside. We pass a dozen ranches empty on the inside, but their shapes add to
the scenery when viewed from afar; this was as much detail as we could afford when we paid for our World. We drive
past the gate of our ranch, unfinished redwood unaged and unchanged since we loaded in fifty years ago.
We store our packs on the ground beside the door as we enter; Fiona heads for the kitchen to grab us water and I
head for the couch. I look at a painting above the fireplace across the living room. Fiona’s friend Jessica
painted it for us a few decades ago; we paid $5,000 from our life savings to transfer it from her World to ours.
I’d rather have used that money to upgrade our World with more processing power, but Fiona insisted.
She sits down on the couch next to me and flicks and taps on her watch to activate her Feed. Her eyes roll to the
back of her head and she slumps backward onto the couch as algorithms feed into her mind's eye the experiences of
friends, acquaintances, and strangers from other Worlds. I light a cigarette, take a drag, and look out the window
at a lone cloud hanging in the sky. I relish the feel of the smoke as it fills my lungs; Fiona had me quit smoking
before she'd marry me but here in AfterLife I can smoke to my heart's content, not even worry about the smell
sticking to our carpet or furniture; a nice detail I paid extra for when we had our minds digitized and migrated
My watch vibrates. I take one last drag before I tap the green symbol of a room on the face of it; my living room
vanishes and everything is replaced with white nothing.