Mlister's saixa de areia

A Series of Vignettes Concerning Death

Thaddeus dipped his hands into a bowl of goat’s blood and began drawing the sigil. The motion was mechanical, practiced. He’d been preparing for this precise moment for quite some time. He set up the reagents in their designated corners, taking care not to smirch the names of God, and began the incantation.

The demon appeared on cue, ablaze with black flame. Before it had a chance to speak, Thaddeus began sketching out the terms of their deal. Well, “deal” was a relative term. As the demon saw it, it was a donation.

He was going to sever his soul from his body.

He had seen the shades that inhabit the Road Between. His teachers told him to pay them no mind, that they were a distraction from his spiritual journey, but his curiosity won out in the end.

Some of the shades looked carefully and lovingly preserved. Some of them lived visibly violent lives. Some of them hadn’t lived much at all. But there was one constant among them: their gaze. It was listless. Not dull, not lifeless, but listless. It would wander, it would even react, but it was missing the vibrancy of life.

He didn’t want that fate for himself.

You wouldn’t think that an immaterial spirit had weight, but Thaddeus could feel his ātman uncoil and disconnect from his body. It was a dull throbbing at the back of his body’s head, an immeasurable weight removed from the pineal gland.

Thaddeus, or rather his body, woke up the next day. It didn’t feel hunger, or thirst, or grogginess. To an outside observer, it was quite happy.

*

Tom was wheeled into the operating theater on a gurney. His body was unnaturally still, in a way that even the dead struggled to keep up with.

He wasn’t anesthetized; he didn’t need to be. Just about every nerve in his body didn’t work. He couldn’t feel, couldn’t move, a machine pumped his heart for him, and another made sure he didn’t drown in his own saliva.

It was a one-of-a-kind neurodegenerative disease. They traced the cause to some contaminated water, the reservoir next to his farm residence in Massachusetts. By then, the infection had already started incubating in his mind.

A nurse came in and handed the surgeon a small bottle. The treatment. It was a rare substance harvested off the shores of Bangladesh. It was the basis for all modern amnestic treatment. The contents of the bottle were heavily diluted, to an almost homeopathic extent, both to stretch the supply out and to reign in its potency.

The clinical term for the procedure was “Complete Mnectomy of the Holistic Memeplex.” In layman’s terms, they were going remove his memories.

Tom was lucky in that he had a living will. In it, he outlined not only what would happen should he fall comatose and indefinitely need life support, but also the protocol for if his relatives had to choose between his personality and his health. While his ailment was unique, the procedure wasn’t, and he signed off without thinking twice.

Tom, or atleast someone that looked an awful lot like him, woke up the next day. He needed to be taught how to speak, and how to read, and how formulate his thoughts. Despite that, he had a look of relief on his face.

*

“So why did you get that implant?”

“The focus-enhancement one?”

“Yeah. It’s not like you have a day job, or even a hobby that needs it.”

“I wanted to be immortal.”

“Ha ha, but no, seriously.”

“I’m not joking.”

“I thought brain backups and stuff were illegal. Banned in ’58 or whenever.”

“They are. It’s not a mind imprint, it’s thought-maintainer.”

“Yeah, that clears it right up.”

“I can tell you’re being sarcastic. A mind imprint is a hard AI replica of my brain. My implant is much simpler. It essentially lets me have two streams of consciousness.”

“And this makes you immortal by…?”

“It’s recording one of those streams of thought. When I die, it’ll be removed from my head, and it’ll continually play back thoughts, over and over again.”

“Where are you keeping it? Are you just going to pass it down to your kids, like some kinda of f’d up family heirloom.”

“I’ve made arrangements. If I ever have children, they’ll be a part of those arrangements.”

“And you’re just okay with this? Being a glorified tape recorder on infinite playback?”

“I read a book. The author made some compelling arguments on how the cessation of consciousness is the only true death. I decided to apply it to my own life.”

“Hope you’re happy with yourself.”

“I will be, when I wake up in the morning, knowing that even if I had died, I would live.”

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