“Let’s go out. It’ll be fun,” Ross said. He was sitting on the TV, his body transparent and ghostly.
“We can’t,” I said. “You’re an imprint, remember?”
“Oh, yeah.” He flicked his right hand’s thumb and forefinger a few times, the way the original Ross always did when he was thinking. “Uh, well shit. You’ve got nothing to do here man.”
“We can load up a game.”
Ross rolled his head back and forth.
“Nah, I still destroy you in those. Shit, I think I’m actually better now than when I was alive.”
I leaned my head back onto the couch. He’d been gone only a few months but I had missed him enough that I figured a simulacrum might be a good idea. It sort of was but in the two weeks he’s been here we’d exhausted most of the things we would have done together in a year’s time.
“Well I don’t know man. I mean, I’d love to bring you on the town but a portable unit is expensive. I spent most of your savings just to bring you back how you are now.”
“I know,” Ross said, “And I appreciate it. I do. But, uh, we’re starting to hit a brick wall here. I mean, Joss, you’re great but boring.”
“Are you shitting me? You do realize I can turn you off right? Like, whenever I want.”
Ross sat up.
“It’s gonna be like that, huh?” He hoped off the TV, and slowly floated the foot down to the ground. “Look man, I’m not just an expensive toy you hooked up to hang out with. Hell, if you want that, go get Don.”
“I sold Don to get you.”
“Well that’s your fault then. He was a great ‘bot. I’m not just a toy. I know what you did to get me made. Your memories scanned in, mom’s, dad’s, three of my ex-girlfriends, my best friend Yvette’s, and even that asshole Robert and his dog. You even got my psych eval from high school programmed in. Don’t give me shit about turning me off.”
I turned him off.
He always got preachy after a week or two of being active. This was the third time I had to turn him off since I activated him. I’d turn him on, we’d play for a bit, and then he’d get bored and demand more. It was getting quicker lately, but without a portable unit there wasn’t much I could do.
The little bead that landed on the floor where he had been blinked at me a few times. I picked it up and put it in the case on the shelf, the ones with the rest of them. Mom, Dad, him, Yvette too after she took her life when the holo Ross pushed her too far, and one of me. That one was tricky but at least he helped me with the day job when I was sick. The rest I’d bring out when I needed their company. I just wish the portables were cheaper, but the version of Ross that had been in a portable had left me and never come back. I didn’t want to pay for another portable and loss it too.
Admittedly this story is also partly inspired by the holograms of Red Dwarf.
Life after death, digital rebirth, and things like that; they fascinate me. If we’re brought back from the memories and imprints we left behind is it us or just a hollow shell pretending to be us? If you can’t tell the difference, does it matter to you? Likely if you can simply turn off a loved one so you don’t have to deal with their digital ghost, it probably does. But if they’re consistent, solid, and appear to be the real thing would you care if their body was made of hard light instead of flesh?