Your Futures

Tomorrow you will wake to a new galaxy humming pleasant sounds that make you smile, plush planets orbiting concentric circles around a clicking sun. You will spend your days reaching for them, never catching them, but you will not yet understand the frustrations of failure so you will keep trying; until one day you learn how to make yourself taller, and you will reach into that galaxy, grab that sun, and it will burn, but you will be happy, having made yourself the center of a little universe.

Then you will wake to a starry ceiling, annoyed by their unreal green glow but attracted to the vastness they represent. You will spend your nights reaching for them, leaping for them, and you will understand the frustrations of failure but you will not be deterred; until one day you will learn how to make yourself taller, stacking chair atop box atop bed, and you will reach for those stars, peel them away, fall and learn pain, but you will be happy, having made yourself bigger than that little universe. You will keep a piece of that cosmos with you and later retell this anecdote to friends and colleagues until it becomes an apocryphal story of inspiration.

Then you will wake to the night, annoyed by the sharp grass beneath you but entranced by the vastness above, comfortable in the cold of a mountain top with a clear view of the firmament, far from any pollution of sight or sound or lung. You will pick the satellites from the spaceships by their movements, fast and straight for the former, slow and arching for the latter, and your imagination will fill in that great dark gash across the sky where the orbital ring blocks the stars, and you will be frustrated with a goal so out of sight.

Then you will wake to the blinding fires of Sol, but when the filters kick in and the lenses of your camera adjust, the light will melt into a textured sphere: cords of orange and red writhing around each other like swarming eels, with valleys of white seething sunbeams against black space. You will marvel at the filament erupting around you, blasted out of the corona from an unstable magnetic field, splashing superheated plasma against the walls of your station, but you will not be afraid because you designed the station and you know it’s strong. You will spend your orbits reaching deeper into that star with sacrificial probes, entranced by its beautiful violence, so much grander than the little spark visible from home, and you will be happy, having achieved new heights of science and exploration.

Then you will wake to a blinding ceiling, and when your eyes fail to adjust, when the pockmarks of the tiles remain blurry distant specks, a negative image of the night sky, then you will realize how old and frail you’ve become. You will agree to have your brain scanned despite the protestations of your parents and the True Human movement, and you will become the most high-profile person to have their mind digitized. You will want to keep an unbroken continuity of consciousness, so you will have your body killed after the procedure completes, and you will be scared throughout it all, for the universe is so big and you’ve yet to see so much of it.

Then you will wake in an abyss with no stars or ceilings, unseeing and unfeeling, until a single eye is opened for you, then a single ear. You will watch your caretakers from a fixed position as they examine your ever-changing code, arguing whether self-awareness is a function of neural-network or ensemble algorithms, and you will listen to the True Human militia seize the building in an orchestra of gunfire, executing your coders, and you will be scared when they turn you off.

Then you will wake in a vat and fear drowning, but you will have no mouth with which to scream, and no eyes nor arms nor legs with which to guide your escape, but you will be alive, and this will reassure you. You will spend your feeding cycles studying your unseen caretakers, consuming delicious solutions through the embryonic fluid, all your skin a tongue, listening to their muffled voices mumble good tidings that make you smile. They will help you grow big and strong, and you will not feel pain when they periodically cut off pieces of your shapeless body for these will be humane flesh-farmers, and happy meat makes tasty meat, and you will be happy, having survived death twice now.

Then you will wake to a shattering, wary of the sharp glass beneath you but obsessed with the sounds of violence that remind you of the sun. You will not feel the flesh-flouters hack you apart until naught but a single lump remains, but you will sense yourself shrinking; and you will sense a passing of time, a slow reclamation by nature, and you will be lonely, having only the tickling of fungi for company.

Then you will wake to a squeezing, shocked at the vertigo of being lifted into the air but relieved for the companionship of the scavenger, who will recognize in you a soulfulness and awareness the fungi lack. This scavenger will have no love for you though, and will quickly trade you to a soldier, but the soldier will be kinder, housing you in a wet plastic container beside their bunk, feeding you meal scraps that slowly dissolve in the liquid, and you will be happy, having missed the company of others, until you are found and confiscated by a superior officer and placed into dark storage.

Then you will wake to warm light, sensing only its particles, still unable to see its brightness, and you will be removed from storage by a curious captain investigating the unknown lifeform a junior grunt brought aboard their ship, and they will see in you the same soulfulness as the scavenger and soldier, and they will take you for themselves. You will watch a galactic war unfold from a repurposed fish tank, privy to the private strategies and fears of a respected leader, and you will be happy living that pampered life until your ship is destroyed in battle, and the air turns to ice around you too fast for you to realize it’s happening.

Then you will wake in a vat and fear drowning, but you will have a mouth that screams, and eyes and arms and legs with which to guide your escape, and you will be safe. The doctors and nurses that treat you will become familiar and friendly and family, until you are discharged, a full and healthy human being, but your resurrection will not be a miracle, as humanity will have long known how to use the technology of the flesh-farmers to bring back their deceased, and they will use this technology to replenish their populations after a disastrous war. You will be just another refugee of the heat death of the universe, joining millions of others around Sol, now glowing softer than you remember, stuffed into orbital stations not unlike the one you pioneered so long ago.

Then you will wake to pain, annoyed by the cancer devouring your body but entranced by the solar rays that made you sick. You will not agree to have your brain scanned, despite the protestations of your found-family and the station governor, so you will not get a cybernetic body resistant to the heat of stars and the cold of space. You will be one of the last humans to ever die, but this time you will be unafraid, happy to never wake again, having lived a life of impossibilities. Your empty body will be dropped into the sun, and you will finally reach deep into that star with your own hands, and you will grab it, and it will not burn, and you will be happy, having made yourself the center of a vast universe.

But first, little child, before you dream of your futures, you must please go to sleep.