August 11, 2022

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

The 3rd place entry for the 2021 Sci-fi Writing competition, Hana Isphani's submission shows us how the future of science can be interpreted using the prompt 'Spectrum'

By Hana Isphani

Humanity has reached a stage where death is not so much a burden as an inconvenience.

That is why I smile, as I lie in the cold hospital bed, machines whirring and bleeping in the emptiness of the night. At last, I was going to receive a body stronger than mine had ever been, immune to the atrophy caused as cancer siphoned what little energy I had.

Just beyond the edge of my bed, a glass box stands, lit from within to reveal a pulsing, wrinkled pulp. A perfect replica of my brain, 3D printed over the last few weeks in preparation for my passing. All my memories, dreams, hopes and fears locked safely nearby, the only splash of colour against the sterile white walls and grey equipment.

“Is this truly all I am?”

With that thought, the box glows brighter, a spark appearing from its base and splintering as it reaches the brain. The lights slithers along the inside of its grooves like worms furrowing through unknown soils, eventually becoming lost to the depths beneath. The electrodes against my shaven head warm intensely as fresh neuronal connections transfer through, from the dying consciousness to the newly born.

I must have fallen asleep for, when the shuttered door of my room opens, I cannot recall how long it had been since the burning subsided. Perhaps it never subsided at all, but merely became insignificant compared to the unceasing aches within my bones.

The doctor wears an ironed white shirt, not a crinkle visible along the coal-black trousers. Their shoes are freshly polished, the sheen reflecting the box’s light as they enter the room.

They wear a pale mask, devoid of all emotion. The skin of their hands and neck, however, are exposed, too smooth to be organic. They must be Resurrected, as I was soon to be.

“I’m afraid there has been a complication.” A woman’s voice, middle-aged and indifferent. “We will be terminating your Resurrection.”

“What?” I ask, attempting to sit up. The pull of the wires enwreathing my body holds me firmly in place.

“You are aware of the contracted agreement you were required to sign?” She asks. “If not, I cannot be held responsible for your illiteracy.”

“Of course I read it!” I cry, unable to even shake my head. “I don’t understand! What part of the contract did I break?”

“You see, our rules are very simple here.” The woman walks over to the glass box and ran a finger over its edge. “Two things can terminate the contract: a criminal record and suicide.”

“Neither apply to me!” I insist. “You must have made a mistake!”

“Of course, whilst the first of these two terminating clauses is clear cut, the second exists along a… spectrum, so to speak.”

The tightness in my chest releases; there is no way she could prove a suicide attempt, no matter what spectrum she referred to.

“You used to work in the nuclear energy field?” She asks, her blue eyes glinting as they catch the light. “Is that correct?”

“Yes,” I answer slowly. “But I fail to see the relevance.”

“Of course, exposure to nuclear radiation increases one’s risk of cancer quite exponentially.” She lowers her head with as much conviction as a robot programmed to emulate body language.

“I am terribly sorry – you must understand that to guarantee equity to all participants of the Resurrection programme, we must adhere strictly to these rules, no exceptions. Our greatest challenge is resource allocation to an undying population. As someone who chose to work in a high-risk field, you have indicated a selfishness we are unwilling to endorse.”

Perhaps she was a robot. No human, Resurrected or otherwise, could look a dying man in the eyes and say those words.

“Unfortunately, creating this brain is already a cost that we will loathe to waste,” she continues, nodding to herself. “As such, whilst you will not be Resurrected, your donation will be gratefully accepted by the research team behind the project.”

“No way,” I whisper. With a shaking arm, I tear the electrodes from my head, chest, arms, anywhere I could reach. The woman merely watches, her chin tilting in warped amusement.

“Selfish, suicidal tendencies,” she says, shaking her head. “Indeed, we have made a correct judgement of your character. I wish you a pleasant final few hours.”

She leaves without another word, carefully turning the handle of the door behind her. Yet as the external brain stops pulsing, shrinking into a pale, unrecognisable mass, I feel a sense of peace I never have before. A freedom from the restraints of this world.

If possibilities here are constrained by the arbitrary spectrum of impassive scientists, then I am ready for the fate that will follow, infinite and unknown.