That Man is Dead

Cover of That Man is Dead

I figured I knew what was coming when the black car picked me up from the funeral. Even in death, he kept that arrogant smirk on his face, teasing that he knew something I didn't. After walking through the secure hallways and into the secluded room, I put on a smirk of my own. Even from behind, it was unmistakable. “So, you found a way to bring yourself back from the dead, after all.”

He finished washing his hands and looked up. The vigor of engineered youth had softened his features, like a distant memory come to life. “Oh, no. I've done nothing of the sort. That man is dead.” He paused. “I have all his memories, of course: conscious, subconscious, muscular; I know what he knew, think like he did, feel what he would, move the way he moved… But I," he humbly gestured to he chest, "I am not that man. That man is dead, and I have the impossible.” His eyes went wide. ”His memory of it. Something he does not remember, could not possibly remember, yet it is clear in my mind, running through the synapses of this perfect replica of his brain.” He tapped the side of his head. "Down to the very last moment, he truly believed it was not the end. His last thought was to plan the next morning's coffee. I had tea.

“I remember his parents and siblings, his awkward school days, meeting his wife for the first time, changing his children’s diapers, coming to this place.” He gestured around with both arms and looked at me. “Every person from his life, I recognize immediately. I know their names, their faces, their voices, their mannerisms, their scents, yet I’m meeting them for the very first time. I remember appointments he made but… couldn’t keep, and here I am: picking up where he left it. You were one of the people he most wanted to see after he pulled this off, and not just to rub it in; he was genuinely excited to see you again.” He paused for a moment and closed his eyes. “You and he had your quarrels, but he was really quite fond of you. Brotherly, almost…

“But I’ve never seen you before in my life!” He finished with an odd chuckle as his eyes snapped open. “I have no history of my own with you, only the memory of his. Such an odd experience it is, to see another’s memories through your own mind’s eye, reminiscing on a life that was never yours, to be born directly into the middle of your own life, the hard part already taken care of. I never had to go through school or start a career, yet I have all the knowledge, experience, prestige and property to go with it. The man willed everything to me, including the entire wealth of his knowledge. Not just his knowledge, but his rigorous method of thinking and learning. The very thing every mentor has lamented to impart to their students since the dawn of man, I have been given freely, with no action on my part, just by existing. This must be how his wife felt watching her children grow up and leave her behind to start lives of their own, how she wished they could understand…

“But then again, he got off easy. She had to change her own body for months and labor to create a life, adjust directly into feeding and caring for them, teaching them everything they needed to know about basic physical functioning and language, working to keep them in school, preparing them to support themselves and make their own decisions. He never had to do any of that. He never had to fight with a stubborn, developing mind. He never had to herd the volatile cocktail of intense curiosity and deadly naiveté of a young child, nor the arrogance and sloth of an adolescent. All he had to do was tinker around in his lab, like he always did, and die. He didn’t even have to meet me! He’s taught me everything he possibly could, said everything he could possibly have said to me, without so much as uttering a word. That man is dead. His work is done. And now, here I am: living a life of my own, making my own decisions…”

I heard the door lock behind me.