Janice opened her eyes slowly, feeling groggy. After a second, she sat up, squinting. Everything was so bright, the room she was in was completely white, the bed, the tables. Everything. She blinked, then started rubbing at her eyes. The last thing she remembered was leaving the house for work, had something happened? Was she in an accident. Her vision was going in and out of focus.
“Just relax, give it a second.” She knew that voice, she recognised it. Bob? She rubbed her eyes again, he was sitting at the table. She stood shakily and moved over, sitting across from him.
“Where are we?” He slid a glass of water across the table, Janice took a sip, feeling a bit better afterwards. “Are you hungry?”
“They said you wouldn’t be, but I thought I’d ask.”
“Who said? What happened, was I in an accident?” She looked down at herself, she wasn’t wearing a hospital gown, she was wearing a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt, both white of course. She had no visible injuries, at least not that she could see. There was something off about her body though she couldn’t quite tell what.
“No, there was no accident, you’re ok, don’t worry, just relax and try and get your bearings. You’re a little disorientated.”
She wasn’t paying attention, she was looking at her hands, there was something about them, something strange. They were completely smooth, then it hit her, it was missing. The scar on her index finger from when she had cut herself when a knife slipped, she flipped her hands over, the palms were smooth too. She had nicked herself the other day, there should be a scratch mark still, but it was gone. She looked at Bob again, realisation slowly dawning on her.
“Bob. Tell me what happened.”
“Just stay calm, ok? There’s nothing wrong with you, you weren’t in an accident or anything.”
“Then why can’t I…Oh. What the fuck? What did you do Bob?”
He looked down at the table, at his folded hands, “Nothing. I just, I couldn’t tell you otherwise.”
She placed her head in her hands, breathing slowly. “When was the last time we saw each other?”
“This morning, just before you left for work.”
“I see. And what time is it now?”
“It’s about midday.”
“You skipped work for this?”
“I used a sick day.”
“Are you going to tell me that you did this?”
“Then what’s the point? It doesn’t matter what you tell me because it isn’t real. At the end of this I’ll be gone and the other me, the real me, she’ll never know.”
“I spent a lot of time thinking about this you know. It’s the only way.”
“No Bob. No it isn’t. I can’t believe you’re doing this, you know if I knew what was going on right now I’d leave you. You know that, right?”
“Then why would you do this? I’m going to find out sooner or later. You know how against this I am.”
“Then why? Why would you make me go through something like this? Something so awful?”
“How long do I have?”
“I paid for three hours.”
“Great. Just great. I get to live for three hours before they kill me. You know that’s what they do right? They’re going to kill me. They say that the bodies can’t support life for that long but we both know that’s bullshit, don’t we. Oh other people might be able to convince themselves it’s true but you know. You know and you still did this to me. How did you do it?”
“I set up the scanning in the doorway to do a full scan, when you left for work this morning it copied everything. It was easier than you’d expect.”
“Jesus. Do they know?”
“So what’ll happen if I tell them?”
“I don’t know. They didn’t say but I don’t think they care all that much, once they’re not caught.”
Janice shivered, she felt sick. She knew some people, celebrities and pornstars mostly, that sold copies of themselves but she didn’t know how they could stand it. Did they know how real this all felt? That she was the same person she was when she woke this morning?
“What will they do? When this is over, will they delete me from their systems?”
Bob didn’t say anything.
Janice turned and threw up onto the floor, the vomit was a pale green, solid in colour. She gasped for a moment. She heard Bob sliding the glass of water closer. She grabbed it and took a mouthful, after swishing it around she spat it out onto the puddle of vomit.
After a moment her breathing slowed down, she sat up again and looked at Bob, the man she had thought she loved when she left for work, the man who was now hard to look at.
“I um.” He was shaking, sweat beading on his upper lip and forehead, “I made a mistake. A year ago. When I was away on that trip, something happened and I didn’t mean it to but we were drinking and things went too far.”
Janice started to laugh, Bob flinched, “you cheated on me? That’s it? That’s why you chose to subject me to this? Because you fucked someone else?”
“I had to tell you, you deserved to know.”
“No, you just wanted to ease your conscience. You’re not telling me jack shit. I’ll be gone soon remember? And the other me will have no idea.”
“I needed to know how you’d react, how to prepare for it.”
“I never realised until now just how selfish you really are. I mean I always tried to make excuses for it, but wow. How do you think I’d react? Because I certainly don’t know. I have more important things to worry about than where you stuck your dick a year ago.”
Please, how would she…you…react? I have to know.”
“I’m not telling you.”
“But you have to.”
“I don’t have to do anything for you.”
“I still have you for another two hours.”
“Really? You’re threatening me? I don’t think you have the balls for that. Besides, I’ll fight back. Not like there’s any repercussions for me here, is there? What’ll they do? Kill me?”
Bob opened his mouth to speak then closed it again.
“And before you get any ideas there’s no point in doing this again. I’ll figure it out, just like I did this time. Besides, how much of our savings have you already spent on this?”
Bob mumbled something.
“I said I have my own account.”
“Oh, that’s just perfect. How long were you saving up for this?”
“Well, not this specifically. I just wanted some money saved, just in case anything happened.”
“Like you were ever going to tell me about the money. How much did this cost?”
“It was subsidised.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
“About half a million.”
“Fuck. You spent that much just to tell me you cheated? What the hell is wrong with you?”
He shrugged again. “It’s more expensive the first time. Once they sort through everything and get a copy, it’s cheaper. It won’t be as much the next time.”
“Yes. I don’t know if I’ll tell her, but either way it doesn’t matter anymore, does it? You’ll never leave me. You can’t.”
“It’s my back up plan. Always pays to have on in place. Pretty simple too. I’ll tell you you had an accident. That it’s your latest save file or something.”
“How’s that supposed to work? What about when you’re older? What then? How will you explain that away.”
“I’ll say that there was a problem, a glitch, that the other save files were corrupted.”
“She’ll find out. Sooner or later. She’ll sue, take you to court, get it deleted.”
Bob smiled at her, “She’ll never know. I’ll make sure of it.”
An alarm beeped twice, a voice filled the room, soothing and low, “This is your fifteen minute warning.”
Janice looked at Bob, they had been sitting in silence. She wanted to dive across the table and attack him, but something held her back.
“So, anything else you want to tell me? What else have you been doing behind my back?”
Bob shrugged, “There’s nothing else. That was it. I love you too much to lose you. But I couldn’t bear the thought of keeping something like that from you.”
“Oh? And what’s this?” Janice gestured around the room.
“This isn’t the same.”
“It’s a breach of trust, a dismissal of anything I may have wanted. This is much worse than cheating.”
“And that’s what is important then, what you think?”
“Well, I’m the one who’s going to have to live with it, amn’t I?” He stood from the table and left the room without looking back. Janice stayed sitting, too shocked to move.
Two people entered the room, both dressed in white, they stood either side of her and took one arm each, neither spoke. Gently they lifted her to her feet then guided her through another door, Janice felt dazed, off. They brought her down a short hallway and into a room, there they set her carefully onto a chair. They left the room, door closing behind them. A voice came from somewhere, mechanical, male, smooth.
“Decommission in three. Two. One.”