For Dinner: Scrambled eggs with vegetable juice.
Written in the Year of our Lord 3580, April 12th,
Location: A small inn along the river Nibulon, called Libal's Scream
Nirut brought me a couple of messages. I touched each tag to my forehead, and nanobots within me resonated with the quantum encryption and filled a small image in my sight, filled their voice in my mind...first was all too familiar. A Lokiite visage, a Lokiite voice: Misltu, the Traitor. So how are things at the old homestead?
Doubtless they speak of me with the greatest of reverence, he said, irony dripping off his every word. Tell them it pains me to be so far from Loki. It pains me more than you can know.
Good luck trying to sell your odd religion among a rational people. We have our religions, but self-sacrifice is, thankfully, a mystery to us all. You have to be human to understand something that...absurd.
I touched the second message-tag to my forehead, and immediately flung it off, while Nirut watched. Looking at me rather puzzledly, he went and picked it up.
"Who's it from?"
"My father. Well, no, not my father. That's the whole problem...."
"I understand in human society, fathers are quite important."
"Yeah. Both my parents got badly injured in a trip to some of the back country of Frey, when their was a malfunction in their transport. My mother died before they brought her into the hospital. My father lingered on for a few days. He was conscious, but ebbing fast...
"He requested to download his mind---his consciousness, his memories, his personality...into a computer simulachron. Then he took Last Rites, and died...my brother and I watched."
Nirut was refreshingly unsympathetic. The bonds between father and child on Loki were practically nonexistent, a passing fact to be noted. "And...?"
"Then the computer simulation would call me, saying "he" was my father. Leave me messages. Even show up as a holographic projection at my door."
"So you don't accept he really is your father?"
"No. My father died on that hospital bed. I saw him draw his last breath. I saw something go out of him, like a bird departing, and all that was left was so much....meat.
"There's also a problem of...political correctness. AI's---artificial intelligences---won legal rights in human society, but there's still some lingering bigotry against them in some quarters. Many believe to deny rights to the deceased's downloads imply a contempt for all AI's. My father, in a sense, made himself a pattern for an AI to become. Some people say a refusal to acknowledge the simulation as the real thing---betrays a latent prejudice against AIs.
"On the other hand, the Church is very clear on this. They do not hold that downloaded personalities are the same as the original, or are entitled to the same rights as the original. They are treated as totally new AI's by the Church. Because there is a problem with doctrine if we acknowledge them as the same....
"I don't know if you know this, Nirut, but a lot of humans think humans don't really stop existing after death...that God sends them to a place after death."
"I had read of that. We find it one of your more---interesting---beliefs."
"Yeah, I'm not going to defend it, just ask you to accept that I believe it, okay? But the point is, if he's in the afterlife, he can't be that computer simulation. The simulation is an echo, a shadow. Not even a ghost...a ghost would imply it was in some sense really my father. I don't doubt it believes it's my father. I even believe me when it says it loves me. Yet I can't love it---it's not my father.
"'Love'. I always have problem with that term..."
"Ahhh, owe allegiance to. Anyway, there's a legal problem here."
"Remember, humans can do this at any time. Some people regularly make 'backups' of their personality in case they die. Oftentimes heads of states are required to, in case they die unexpectedly. But all of these copies can't inherit the living person's property. Even though we allow AI's to vote and have legal status, that would be too confusing. So...
"We have legal ways to establish the computer's, uhhh, continuity with the deceased. If in the deceased's will such a simulation is identified as being him, then it's legally the deceased. My father never changed his will in that regard, so that's out. The other way is for immediate heirs to acknowledge that the simulation is the deceased."
I picked up the message-tab, and placed it against my forehead, saying as I did so, "My brother acknowledged the simulation as Dad. I never would. So...he/it keeps haunting me."
My father's voice filled my mind, his image was speaking. Yet these were not his words.
Bigot. Religious fanatic. I never thought a son of mine would deny his own dad, who was prejudiced against people who have suffered a death. If your wife and children had done this, you'd still have them by you...although I guess you wouldn't accept them because they're not in the flesh! For someone who thinks the spirit is all, you have a funny way of showing it...
I'm a pauper because you won't turn my holdings over. If it weren't for your brother's generosity, I couldn't even maintain myself, and I would die a second time...why do you hate me so? Don't you want to talk to me again? You moon for what's buried in a grave, and am convinced I'm---strumming a harp somewhere---and ignore your father screaming at you in his need....
I laid the message-tab to one side. Nirut shook his head and left, one priest unable to help another.
I've never been able to properly come to terms with grief for my father, because this, this echo won't leave me alone. How can I mourn the loss of my father, if his mockery's voice is constantly trying to hector me, if his mockery's image is everywhere I go? I didn't see my father this much when he was alive.
Is that why I became a missionary? To try to escape seeing the mockery? Yet no place in the Community Cluster is totally isolated....
He/it wants Dad's property, not out of greed, because he's truly convinced he is my father. That may be true for him, but I don't have to accept his definitions. My "father" thinks I'm betraying him, won't be cured of its delusion that it is my father. I suspect my brother of giving in just so he wouldn't have to live under that pressure...
I'm an unwilling Hamlet, and the "ghost" of my father...