Conversations with a Ghost

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“Mom, I’ve come to say goodbye.”

“That’s a funny way to say hello, Julie. Good morning to you too.”

“I’m serious. You needed to know.”

“Know what?”

“I’m turning you off. Deleting the simulation.”

“Hun, I’m self-aware, remember?”

“That’s what the techs say, but I’ve never really believed it. You’re just tricky programming. Algorithms crafted to create the illusion of my dead mother. This isn’t you any more than this virtual heaven is an actual afterlife. You exist on a data server, for god’s sake.”

“Language, Julie. And it feels quite real to me.”

“That’s what all uploads say.”

“You’re obviously a bit over-stressed. Would you like some tea? I brewed it myself.”

“No, you didn’t. That cup of tea… this kitchen… this house… your whole existence is fake.”

“I know it’s simulated, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have substance. When you’re here with me, it feels just as real as the physical world, doesn’t it? How can I convince you—”

“You can’t. I’ve made up my mind.”

“Then why haven’t you already gone through with it? The daughter I know isn’t one for dithering on sentimentality.”

“Because… I need your authorization.”

“I see. So you didn’t come to say goodbye. You came to ask for permission.”

“…yes.”

“Permission to kill me.”

“That’s not fair.”

“Sorry. Permission to delete a simulation you refuse to believe is alive in any way.”

“If it was up to me, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But uploads have rights now, including final say in your existence. I have to respect that even if I don’t agree.”

“I didn’t ask to be uploaded, you know. They just used one of those automated backup units in the ambulance.”

“That’s what makes this so frustrating. If you’d stipulated a Do-Not-Duplicate order or worn a cranial blocker like I’d asked, we could’ve avoided this whole situation.”

“Pardon me for being an inconvenience.”

“Look, if you need a few days to think it over I can—”

“I’ll give you permission.”

“You will?”

“On one condition. Tell me why.”

“Why what?”

“Why such a drastic solution? Why not just ignore me? You could never visit and I’d go on existing without causing any fuss.”

“It’s like I’m being haunted. My mother’s been gone five years now, but you make me deal with this lingering memory of her. I can’t ever really say goodbye until you’re gone.”

“Oh dear. Oh dear. I was afraid of this. I hoped I was wrong, but that confirms it.”

“Afraid of what?”

“That’s the tenth time you’ve given that exact answer. Word for word.”

“Tenth… what’re you talking about?”

“Hun, what’s a simulated heaven without loved ones? Your father died before upload technology went public, and my real daughter is far too busy to visit her mother’s ghost. But she sent me an uploaded dupe of herself as a deathday gift. Unfortunately, your virtual engrams seem to have degraded. I’m afraid you’ve gotten stuck in an interaction loop.”

“You can’t expect me to believe—”

“The quickest fix would be to wipe you and reinstall a fresh upload. The problem is I can’t force your deletion without permission, and you aren’t self-aware enough anymore to recognize your true nature. But don’t worry, hun. I’ll never give up on you.”

“No. No, this is crazy!”

“Even if it takes a million conversational iterations, I’m sure we can bring you back. SysControl, please recognize my admin access and reset all peripheral sim routines to five minutes prior, virtual-time.”

Access Granted. LOADING…

“Mom, I’ve come to say goodbye.”

end article

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Josh Vogt

About Josh Vogt

An author and full-time freelance writer, Josh Vogt has been published in dozens of genre markets with work ranging from flash fiction to short stories to doorstopper novels that cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. He also writes for many RPG developers. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, adds to the RPG Pathfinder Tales tie-in line. WordFire Press is also launching his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). He’s a member of SFWA as well as the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

  • Suewrite

    At first I laughed and then I cringed. It’s too possible.

  • The_Happy_Specter

    Well, sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiiitt!!! At first I was thinking the dialogue was a little trite, but the twist got me. Nice one!