Author’s note: Recently, I saw that Amazon released a new show titled, (Upload). Now, since I wrote my short story eight years ago, and it’s pretty much the same exact topic, I figured – why not re-release it? So, I pulled it out of mothballs, dusted it off, polished it a little, and am posting it here. Let me know if you like it – or don’t.
He showed up at my house just before eight, carrying the same black satchel, his fedora nearly covering his eyes.
“I told you two times already,” I said. “I’m not interested.”
He’d made his pitch to me before. I didn’t want what he was selling.
Standing on the porch, rain splashing off his shoulders, he removed the fedora, held it to his chest. His expression appeared worried, almost sorrowful.
“I know you did, sir,” he said, “but please, hear me out, just one more time. There’s been some…well, some developments.”
When his eyes began to water, I just couldn’t take it. I opened the door, waved him inside.
“Better make this fast,” I said. “I’m going to bed soon.”
I led him to the living-room, asked him to take a seat. He declined. He appeared nervous. He was chewing on his lower lip and twisting his fedora in his hands.
What’s he have to be nervous about? I thought.
“I’m worried about you, Mr. Everett.”
I rolled my eyes. Here we go again.
“Like I told you before,” I said, probably raising my voice more than I intended. “I’m fine. I don’t need your services.”
He glanced around at my trash-littered living-room, then his eyes came to rest on the family portrait above the mantel.
“A man needs his family,” he said. That’s what we’re offering. Wouldn’t you like to have your family back?”
A hot anger welled up inside of me – too fast and too intense to contain. “Look, Chief,” I said. “My fucking family is gone! I’m sick of you people trying to use them to snare me into whatever Goddamn scheme you got cooking. I don’t want your bullshit version of them, I want them.”
“But it is them, Mr. Everette,” He said. “They’ve been waiting for you for a long time now.”
“That a fact?”
“Certainly! It’s their feelings, their memories, everything that makes them who they are.”
“Who they were,” I corrected. “But, hey! why didn’t you say so in the first place? I tell you what. You go fetch them, march them over here. I want to look into Mildred’s eyes. I want to cuddle with my children. Can you do that? Can you put them in my arms? If not, you need to go away.”
The man’s face lit up. He gave me the biggest smile I’d ever seen on a human face.
“Yes, Mr. Everette. “We can do just that.” He set his satchel on the floor, unzipped the top. “Just give it a try, hmm? On the house, of course.” He reached inside the satchel, pulled out a small syringe. “Just for a few minutes, okay?” If your answer is still no after that, I’ll never darken your doorway again.”
I threw my hands up in the air.
“What the hell,” I said. “If it’ll get rid of you.”
“Really?” He said. Unbelievably, his toothy grin grew even wider.
“You wore me down,” I said.
“Alrighty, then.” He said, holding up the syringe. “I suggest we get started.”
A few minutes later, I found myself sitting on my coffee table. Fedora man was sitting behind me, on the couch.
“Okay, Mr. Everett,” he said. “You’re going to feel a small prick on the back of your neck. Try your best not to move.”
The pain was both brief, and intense. Before I could react , I found myself standing in my living room. But it was cleaned up. Some of the decorations were different too. The television was a larger one, and it didn’t have the long crack down the middle from that time I threw a vase at it.
I turned. She was standing just outside our kitchen, her hand over her mouth.
“Mildred?” I said. She rushed to me and I lifted her off the ground. I could feel her body through the blue dress that I’d bought for her on our last anniversary together. I spun her in circles, put her down – embraced her. Then we kissed, long and intense, both our tears streaming down our faces, mixing. When our lips parted, I looked around the living room again, then scanned the kitchen.
“The kids?” I asked. “Where are the…”
“At school,” she said and giggled. “But they’ll be home soon.”
“I can’t wait to see them,” I said. “It’s been so long.”
She lifted my hand, kissed the back of it with her soft lips. God, how I missed those lips.
“What are we supposed to do until then?” She asked. Then she gave me a little wink. That wink always drove me batshit.
“Oh,” I said, “I’m sure we’ll figure something out.”
Still holding her hand, I led her to the bedroom, sat her down on the bed. Then delicately, began to slowly undress her. Then I was pulled back to the real world.
“Just a little more time,” I said when the man’s green eyes appeared again before me. “I just needed a little more time. You didn’t have to pull me back so soon. You could’ve at least let me see my kids first, you bastard.”
“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way,” he said. “This chemical only gives you a taste of what life is like on the network. But I’m afraid its effects are extremely limited. But the good thing is that I can still upload you to the network permanently, if you choose. That’ll be a bit more complicated than a simple shot in the back of neck, of course. But just think about it. You’ll never be away from your family again.”
“But it’s not real,” I said. I was on the verge of tears again. The man’s big smile returned.
“Were you not able to touch her?” He asked. “Did you not smell her perfumed hair, feel her lips pressed against yours?”
“I did,” I said. “I felt her. It was like she was actually there.”
“Well now, Mr. Everette,” he said. “There you go. “What could be more real than that?”
“I need to consider.” I said. His smile disappeared in an instant. Eyebrows furrowed, he leaned in towards me.
“Mr. Everette,” he whispered, “You remember a man by the name of Jason Blake?”
Yeah,” I said. “He was Judy’s high school boyfriend.” I looked around the living room. “It ended badly for him. I heard he hanged himself – not long after high school.”
The smile returned – larger than ever.
“Well, that’s why I rushed over here tonight!” He said. “Now, I don’t want to worry you, Mr. Everett, but the late Mr. Blake’s brother had his memories extracted and uploaded to the network today.”
“They can do that?” I said. “It’s been at least twenty years.”
“Oh yes,” the man said. “We can. We’ve advance quite significantly over the past two decades. You’d be quite surprised by what we’re able to do. You see, we discovered he memory-centers of the brain are very resilient. They can even survive cryo-chambers. We’re now thawing people who were froze many years ago and uploading them. I can’t tell you their names, that would be unethical, but one opened an amazing amusement park and had an extreme talent for animation.”
The kids will be home soon, I thought – my wife, my kids… Blake. I looked at our family portrait above the mantel. Thought of Mildred, her blue dress, her soft lips, pressed against Blake’s.
“Okay,” I said. “I’m sold. How do we do this?”
“Perfect,” the man said. Still sitting on the sofa behind me, he lifted the satchel onto the table, placed the syringe back inside.
“I’ll take you to the building. There, we’ll map your memories. Once they’re all mapped out, it’s just a matter of uploading you to the network. It’ll take hours on my part. But for you, Mr. Everette, the benefits will be instantaneous. It’ll all be done in a blink of an eye. It’s all pretty simple actually.”
“What about my home, my stuff?” I asked. There was a lot of shit to go through. Everything was just happening so fast.
“Oh,” he said, “don’t you worry about all this junk. Leave it to me. I’ll handle everything. Besides, you won’t need anything from this unpleasant world anymore. You have in enough in your account to buy you at least five hundred years on the network. After that…well – we’ll worry about that when the time comes. I’ll probably be there with you. Wouldn’t that be grand?”
“Um…sure,” I said. In truth, I hoped I’d never see his creepy smile again.
“Great!” He said. “So; I have your consent?”
“Yes,” I said. “Please. Let’s just get it done. I needed Mildred’s arms. I needed my kids. It’d been way too long. Maybe it would be better. Maybe that shithead Blake hadn’t caught up with her yet.
“Great!” He said. “Now, please lean forward and cover your eyes with your hands.”
“Trust me,” he said. It’s all part of the process. At first, I did what he asked. I heard him fumbling around in his satchel. Then, as always with me, I began to have second thoughts. I just couldn’t fathom leaving the real world for a fake one – even a fake one that felt real. I spun around on the coffee table to face him, found a pistol aimed at my face.
“Well, now,” he said. “This is unfortunate.” He lowered the pistol to my chest, then pulled the trigger.
As I lay dying, I remember him kneeling over me, placing his fedora back on his head.
“Severing the brain-stem is the best way,” he said. “But this will do as well. I’m sorry it won’t be as instantaneous as I promised.” His face became blurry, then the world went dark. Next thing I knew, I was standing in my front-room again (but the clean one). Mildred was there too, by the kitchen, our boys standing on either side of her. They were all smiling.
For the first time, in an awfully long time, I smiled too.