“We’ve not reached consensus,” Tudor says, “but then it’s not crucial.”
I see lips around breath and teeth that catch my eyes.
The equation for our salvation is within our reach, within our cells. But we must agree.
“We don’t have to agree, Juanita,” Tudor says. “We can still evolve.”
“I don’t see it that way,” I say.
“The splining needs to match or it won’t hold,” I say it, and I’m firm about it.
The smile softens, and he nods. “I’ll make it so.”
My eyes trace his departing then snap back to the information crawling along their surfaces. I feel the whirring of what I think of as the exoprocessors along my skullcap but know that they make no sound. The whirring’s my thoughts; it’s static.
The information tells me that we are close to finding the method for our completion. With this code, we can end death not as a reality but as a natural consequence of senescence. We can unlock the option to die and transform the nature of living and dying forever.
The nans tell me that the cells are scrubbed and that the bioforming is going well. Food begins to grow naturally – well, so to speak – and the cells no longer hunger. Without hunger we don’t eat. More importantly, nothing need be eaten.
The beam tells me the terraforming is completed on hundreds of planets, opening the door to life already living and planned for sustained grow over. The algorithms on the polymer fused to my eyes tells me the probability of success and gives me a breakdown of the problem areas with a suite of solutions.
Tudor returns, as does his smile.
“We’re aligned now. Feel better?”
He’s kidding, but I’m not: “Yes.”
The smile bends and pulls down one of his doe eyes further: ““You can’t give life without death, Juanita,” Tudor says.
“Watch me,” I say as I send the signal to the first Ark to release life into what was barren, to give a spinning dead craggy hulk fertility and newness.
And we both watch as life of every shape and size that we can see through our new eyes and plain to our old eyes, that we knew when we were children and that we’ve discovered as we grow, bursts forth at every speed into the new motherland. Its beauty is visceral but I do not cry because my work – our work – is not done.
I breathcode the signal to the nans to dissolve; a final sacrifice. Their remains become like the fountain of youth, salving my makeup with self-sufficiency. I feel the satiation immediately and want no more for food or drink.
I can see the same feeling on Tudor, my kinesic register interpreting his change in posture.
“See?” I ask.
“I hope you’re right.”
There’s nothing to be wrong about. Without the need to consume, there’s no need to make more. Without the need to die, we are free to live for however long we wish, combing these rocks and stars together, finding only that which calls from within to be outside.
“So are we done?” Tudor asks.
“Yes,” I say with certitude. “We’re done.”
“Then, I’ll see what’s left to be done.”
My brow furrows as I know his meaning. This is not what we meant.
“But you don’t have to,” I say.
“I know,” Tudor says. “But I’ve always wanted to know, and now it’s all that’s left to know.”
“Don’t be stupid,” I say. “There’s nothing. That’s all there is to know. We have the life of stars now. We can see everything for evermore.”
“I’ve seen it, Juanita,” Tudor says.
“No, you haven’t. You’ve seen a mote on a beach.”
“Well, on that much we agree.”
His shoulder rolls around toward me, and he says in a way that annoys me: “I’ll come back to you if I can. I’ll tell you what there is.”
“You won’t. There’s nothing.”
“We’ll see,” Tudor says, and he chooses to fail.
I put his cells in storage. I’ll bring him back when I’ve had enough of this feeling.
The Meaning Of Life
This was my first attempt, weighing in at 185 words. I gave it another go because I didn't think this one was clear enough or hard sf enough for the contest.
When the singularity happened, it was just as everyone thought. Everything changed. No hunger. No poverty. No war. But strife persists. It persists in front of my eyes because first I saw the flesh of my brethren as material now as it is - flesh. Then I saw the skin of my sages as material now as it is - skin. These are life as I am life, conscious as I am; I see that now. We have the means at our fingertips to make anything we can imagine and a vast expanse to fill with our imaginings. Our imaginings used to contain dread. Less and less as we have the means to filter out dread through compassion for life as life. We open the stars and dead rocks to become life as life. Room for everyone. Time and space enough to study and learn about life and how to sustain life with only life. Death becomes as choice and a matter of timing, I hope. That mystery remains but life persists ever-present, longstanding and for the first time in history truly side by side.