Issue No. 9, Summer 2014

Backup and Restore
Troy Harris

John Getts walked past several holographic posters, ignoring his own face protruding back at him. He reached an intersection at the corridor. An arrow pointed to the right with the text: Here is Everything by John Getts. He went left.

A young woman stopped him and looked up, “Mister Getts? I love your work.”

“I’m flattered, but I believe you have me mistaken for someone else,” John said.

She glanced between him and the picture of him in the brochure she held. The woman started to object, but instead apologized and continued past John. A paparazzi drone camera came out of a hidden nook and recorded a holographic video of him. Three security guards ran up and disabled the hovering machine with discharge wands. They apologized to John and then began arguing with themselves about how the security breach happened.

John reached his destination: a cramped and forgotten room at the Tate Modern in London. He stood in front of a painting wedged in too close to the pieces around it: an oil painting of a family sitting in a living room. The family, except one, was depicted as happy and social. A young girl sat on the floor in the middle of the room. She stared off into space and appeared so alone it broke John’s heart. Digital paint, glazed over the top, subtly changed the lighting of the scene in a slow rhythm. The girl, though, never changed. She remained bright and lonely.

John Getts was a brand. He wasn’t an artist anymore, at least not a good one. His wife was a true artist. He had demanded her painting hung as a rider in his contract. The Tate’s curator put up a fight, calling it “too traditional.” Only when John threatened to take his new show to Paris had the curator relented.

John’s contribution to his own show was minimal: his role relegated to setting up meetings between the sound artists, holographic artists and programmers. One critic had described it as, “the most massive, full immersion art piece in history.” It felt like sensory masturbation to John.

John made a decision. It was so simple now that he thought about it. He will take a sabbatical and focus on marketing his wife’s work. He was a gifted promoter and she was not. He will focus his energy on supporting her. The world needed to see her work. It did not need to see his.

He made his way to the exit and his augment glasses popped up a connection request from his friend Sammy. He accepted.

“Hey, Sammy.”

“John. How are you? Where are you at?” Sammy’s voice appeared in his mind, bypassing his ears.

John flicked his eyes in a precise pattern allowing video to stream to his friend’s glasses. Sammy could now see what John saw. “I had my monthly brain backup this morning and I stopped by the Tate to check out Kiera’s piece.”

“Kiera, right. Listen, that’s why I’m calling. Did she happen to tell you what she was doing today?”

“We didn’t really get a chance to talk this morning.”

“Okay, well hey, this is probably nothing.”

“What is it?”

“Shit John, I don’t want to start anything, but you’re my friend. I was just at Dev Null–that new trendy cafe on Brewer. Kiera was there with a guy. Probably innocent, but they seemed friendly–too friendly. John, I think they were holding hands.”

It took John a second to register what Sammy was telling him and a split second to dismiss it. Kiera wasn’t a person who sneaks around with other men. “Are you sure it was her? I’m sure there’s an explanation Sam.”

“Of course. I probably shouldn’t have even told you.”

“No, no. Thank you. You’re just looking out for me. How long ago was this?”

“I just left. I don’t think they saw me and they were still there.”

“You’re sure it was her?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing.”

“You’re right, of course.”

John said goodbye to his friend. He felt annoyed that Sammy had any doubts about Kiera’s faithfulness. I’ll just stop by and say hello to her, he thought. The south bank of the Thames was crowded with tourists waiting to ride the latest eye-sore of an attraction: skimmers that flew over the river, around Big Ben, and shot high up, giving passengers a view of the old city. He walked west and made his way across the bridge to Soho and Brewer Street. The overcast day threatened rain.

Kiera and John hadn’t been as close as they once were. That’s what happens to married couples over the years, John thought. Work kept him away and she spent countless hours on her own art. They didn’t eat together much and when they did it was mostly in silence. Still, their love for each other was unquestionable. Kiera’s commitment to him was unquestionable.

John arrived at the restaurant lost in thought. The liquid chrome of the restaurant’s exterior clashed with the old bricks hugging it. Sammy is too negative, too distrusting. I bet it wasn’t even her–just a doppelganger, he thought. But no. There she was. Just leaving with–Charlie Pritchard. Bastard!

They went northeast up Brewer Street and John followed but kept his distance. His mind had gone blank and his chest ached. The street was narrow and claustrophobic. Trendy young people wearing the newest, flashy augment glasses crowded the sidewalks. Ahead, Charlie and Kiera laughed and he rested his hand on the small of Kiera’s back. He had less hair than when John had last seen him. Charlie was Kiera’s old agent. She had fired him years ago at John’s request.

“He hopes for more than business from you,” John had said to her back then, “I can tell.” They were eating breakfast at their modest apartment in Shoreditch. Both were struggling artists back then.

“Are you jealous, my big strong man? You know I’d never even look at another.”

“I know. I just feel that it will eventually affect his performance. He won’t have your professional interests in mind.”

“You’re jealous.”

“You’re wrong.”

“I’m not mad. I think it’s sweet. You’re never jealous.”

“So you’ll do it?”

“This afternoon. I promise.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too. Almost as much as Charlie.”

They both shared a laugh and then a kiss.

When was the last time I kissed my wife,John thought. He followed them around a bend onto Great Pulteney where the buildings squeezed the street thin. Charlie walked to one of the apartment buildings on the left and opened the door. He grabbed Kiera’s hand and they walked in together.

John balled his right hand into a fist and put it against his mouth. He stood in the same spot for several minutes, taking in short bursts of air. He felt a raindrop fall but others didn’t follow. It never did rain that day.

 

#

 

Charlie sat on the edge of his bed smoking a pipe. Kiera lay still on her stomach trying to muffle the sobs. Her flaxen hair was not long enough to cover her face.

God, I hate John Getts, Charlie thought.

This was the fourth date since Kiera and he had reconnected and the third time they had made love. He had planned everything out to be perfect. He had even programmed his house controller to put Kiera more at ease. When it detected her coming into the apartment, it changed the lighting to a welcoming sepia glow. It also changed the music to genres that she loved but obscure musicians that she would have never heard; no chance a song would remind her of John. The art-screens along the walls recreated classic works selected to instill warmth and comfort.

Nothing mattered. For the third time, Kiera lay on his bed and cried. She was ever loyal to that evil little man.

Charlie ran his hand over what was left of his hair and his fingers came back with a few strands. Sure, John never hit Kiera or yelled at her. His abuse was more subtle, manipulative. He stamped the life out of Kiera while he grew his own cancer of a brand. John ignored Kiera and devalued her. Charlie saw in Kiera a talent, personality and beauty he doubted had ever existed in the world. John saw her as a threat to his empire of shit that he called art.

As Charlie fumed under his own tobacco smoke, Kiera sat up.

“What time is it?” she asked.

“A quarter of two.”

“I need to go.”

“Why?” Charlie knew he was getting in a strop but he couldn’t help it. Thinking of John upset him.

“I told you. John and I have a rebirth to go to.”

“Rebirths. I’ve never seen the point in throwing a party for it.”

“It’s what civil people do. It was my good friend, Lucy.”

“How did she go?”

“Bloody auto-taxi got a virus and ran into her while she was walking home,” she said as she picked her clothes up from around the room.

“You don’t say? I think I saw that on the news. Didn’t know it was your friend.”

“Quite. Anyway, it was only two days since her last backup. It shouldn’t be too terrifying for her.”

“I suppose not. More reason to skip it, I say.”

“I wish you’d stop smoking that. No one smokes tobacco anymore.”

Charlie rounded his mouth and blew a meager smoke ring. “It calms me.”

“What do you need to be calm about?”

“You know.”

Kiera’s emerald eyes moistened. “I suppose I do. You know, maybe this isn’t worth it.”

“Like hell it isn’t! Don’t let that maniac take away something else that you love.”

“I still love him, Charlie.”

“He’s brainwashed you.”

“I’m not going to argue with you when you’re like this.”

“I’ll see you again, right?”

“Maybe, but then again, maybe you won’t. Oh sorry, that sounded awful. I’m just so confused right now. I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

She kissed him on the lips but with less passion than earlier.

God, I hate John Getts.

 

#

 

John and Kiera arrived at the Rebirth Center close to the same time. John saw Kiera crossing the street and waited for her before going in.

“We’re both late,” she said.

“Not the first time. They never start these on time.”

“Let’s hope you’re right.”

John grabbed Kiera’s arm and he felt her tense. It took tremendous willpower for him to act normal. There would be time for a confrontation later. They entered the main room where Lucy’s newly generated body lay motionless. She had always been an attractive girl, but the Center had done an amazing job with her new body. It looked like the old Lucy but they had gently smoothed some of the angles in her face. She was stunning in a simple black cocktail dress.

“I need to switch my business to this Center,” Kiera said. “What an amazing job.”

“She looks good,” John said.

The room itself was more of a small ballroom than a clinic. The elaborate hover lights and expensive curtains recalled a festive party that would go on well into the night. The couple made their way through the room and chatted with the other guests. After a while, Lucy’s husband went to the front of the room and grabbed the partygoers’ attention. He wore an ill-fitting black suit and held a champagne in his left hand.

“Hello and thank you all for coming. Lucy’s death was tragic and it has been tough being without her for these last few weeks. I need to thank Doctor Meyer and his whole team for their work on Lucy’s new body. As you know, Lucy had a backup done just two days before her death. Still, these things are always stressful so please remain calm and be supportive. Thank you.”

Lucy’s husband nodded to the doctor who waved his hands and twitched his eyes in a rapid motion. Lucy’s new body took on life and she opened her eyes. Her husband knelt over her and rubbed her head.

“Daniel?” she asked.

“Yes love. I’m here.”

“What?”

“You’ve just been downloaded into a new body, honey. There was an accident.”

“I died?”

“Yes, but you’re back now. Everything is fine.”

Lucy shook her head in confusion and closed her eyes again.

“Honey, wake up,” Daniel said.

“I’m so tired.”

“That is to be expected. Don’t go back to sleep, though. Fight it off.”

“Am I dreaming?”

“No honey, but you’re okay. We have all of your friends here.”

“I was just being backed up.”

“That was twenty-three days ago.”

“I’m going back to sleep. I must be dreaming,” she said, closing her eyes again.

“My darling, this is real. Please try to stay awake.”

After several minutes, Lucy became more lucid. She accepted reality and attempted to stand up. Her husband helped her off the bed–itself decorated in burgundy coverings–and led her around the room. She exchanged hugs and greetings with each person, eventually making her way to John and Kiera.

“Hello you two. Thank you for coming,” Lucy said.

“Of course. How are you feeling?” Kiera said.

“This is quite the feeling. I’ve been to a dozen of these parties but always standing where you are.”

“We’re glad to have you back,” John said.

“You look beautiful, Lucy,” Kiera said. “I would kill to look half as good as you after dying.”

“I wouldn’t recommend trying it any time soon,” Lucy said and managed a weak laugh. “It’s quite disconcerting.”

“Call me after you get your bearings,” Kiera said. “I’ll catch you up on all of the art gossip.”

John and Kiera stayed for another hour and had a couple of cocktails. They said their goodbyes, exited the Center, and hailed an auto-taxi.

Kiera gave the computer the address and they rode in silence the entire way home. John put his head against the window and London passed by. Occasionally, a skimmer’s lights from the Thames ride became visible in the sky, breaking John’s concentration.

They arrived at their apartment and went to the bedroom to undress and get ready to sleep.

“Honey, I was thinking,” John said, “I want to take a sabbatical and focus on your work. I want to market for you.”

“Oh John, you don’t need to do that. You’d die if you couldn’t do your work,” Kiera said.

“No I wouldn’t. I’ll die if your work remains obscured.”

“I’m okay with how my career is going.”

“It’s not fair. You’re the better artist. It kills me to say it, but you are.”

“Lets talk about it later.”

“Okay.”

Kiera wore only a dressing gown, her back turned to him. Her figure was as good now as the day he met her. John’s throat went tight and his next breath taken in pain.

“So anyway… You don’t have to say anything, but I know about Charlie.”

Kiera spun around. Her mouth gaped open.

“No. Don’t say anything,” John said, holding his hand up. “I mean it. I can’t take thinking about it right now.”

Kiera’s hands shot to her mouth. “John–”

He waved to cut her off.

“No, really. Just answer this–If I promise to make some adjustments, would you cut it off with him and try to work with me?”

Tears had begun to stream down Kiera’s face. She nodded.

“Good, good. I’m putting all of the blame on me.”

Kiera started to say something but John cut her off. “We can talk about it down the road. I just can’t handle talking about it now.”

Kiera nodded again and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

The apology confirmed it and John didn’t trust himself to say anymore. He just shook his head and headed to the kitchen. He poured a generous amount of whiskey over ice and drank it in three gulps. He went into the guest bathroom and cried.

The next morning John woke up and smelled sausage cooking. He had slept in the spare bedroom. He walked into the kitchen where Kiera stood over the stove. She was pale and shaking.

“Morning love. You didn’t have to do this.”

“No, I did.”

John sat down and she served him a traditional English breakfast.

“We should talk tonight,” she said.

“I know. We will. What do you have planned today?”

“I have my backup scheduled and then–Well, I have to take care of something.”

John turned his eyes to the plate below him and nodded, not wanting to inquire further.

 

#

 

Kiera sat in the patient’s chair at the clinic, reading a book on her augment glasses, and sipped on black tea. The halo attached to her head pulled data from her brain and encoded it. The technician came by to check on the progress.

“Wow,” he said, “one hour and still only sixty percent. Someone must have had a lot on her mind this month.”

He probably didn’t mean anything by it, but Kiera glared at him. He blushed, realizing what he had said and excused himself. Kiera had a dark thought float through her mind. She should end this backup and kill herself to forget this ever happened. When did she last get backed up? The day before she ran into Charlie at a gallery opening. If only the universe had spared her that one coincidence. She shook the thought out of her head and the halo sent a warning to her augment glasses asking her to remain still.

I must face my problems as an adult, she thought.

She had conflicted feelings about John. She was both relieved and annoyed that he had taken her affair so well. He never handled problems like a normal adult.

The backup ended and Kiera made her way to Soho and Charlie’s apartment. He opened the door and looked at Kiera, surprised. He gave her a tight hug. He tried to kiss her but she ducked away.

“What’s wrong?” he asked. Worry moved like a shadow over his face.

“Nothing. Invite me in.”

“Of course. I wasn’t expecting you. Excuse the mess.”

Kiera walked in and the lighting made a drastic change from blue hues to brown. Music began playing at a low volume in the background.

“Your place is never a mess.”

“Please tell me you’re here with news of your divorce and are going to beg me to elope.”

“Charlie–”

“Please, Kiera,” he said. He was shaking. Rip the bandaid off, she thought.

“Charlie, we have to end it.”

He squatted to the floor and put his hands over his face.

“Don’t do this,” he said in a quiet voice.

“I’m just leading you on. I will always be with John.”

“That bastard! He’s ruining you. Have some self-respect.”

“No Charlie. This–” she encompassed the apartment and him in a sweeping gesture, “this will ruin me.”

“I’m one who cares for you. Don’t you see? You are not an average person. You’re one of a kind. You should aspire to greatness,” he started to sob between words.

Kiera dipped down to his level and held on to one of his hands, “No Charlie. I’m just a normal person with a little bit of talent. This was my fault. I wrapped you up in this and I apologize a million times. I have to go now.”

She started to walk out the door.

“Wait,” Charlie said, “let me just say one thing.”

Kiera turned around but didn’t say anything.

“Just promise me you’ll think about yourself. I’m not lying, you are more incredible than you will ever know. Don’t let anyone dampen that.”

Charlie stood straight and did his best to regain his composure. Kiera couldn’t help but admire him. He was right. No one had ever loved her as he had.

“Thank you. Goodbye Charlie.”

He nodded and she left.

 

#

 

Over the next three weeks, John lived up to his end of the bargain. He spent his time obsessed with marketing Kiera’s work. He called in favors and indebted himself to others. He schmoozed, wined, dined and hassled the important individuals in the industry. Kiera appreciated his work but they disagreed on many issues.

“You must do a few pieces that are more commercial,” he said to her inside of a cafe near Highbury Fields. Rich executives crowded the small room and stared into space, talking to unseen people through their augment glasses.

“I will not compromise. Make it work as is or give up.”

John sighed. It was the same old argument. “I’m not asking you to compromise with your real art. Just do a couple of pieces that pander to the masses a bit. That is how they will find out about your real art.”

“Pander? Do you even hear yourself talking?”

John shook his head. “A poor word choice.”

“No, it was the perfect word choice.”

“My darling, I’m only trying to help.”

“Of course, but you’re not.”

Their arguments would go on and on like this, day after day.

After three weeks, all John had to show for his hard work was two small gallery shows and a smidgen of media attention. He was starting to have doubts that he could go much further if his wife was not willing to compromise just a little. Of course, that would mean admitting defeat. One Thursday night, while he brooded in his study, his agent requested a connection.

“Hello Nigel,” John said after flicking his eyes in the pattern to accept the connection.

“John, good man, have you had enough of a sabbatical yet?” Nigel said, his accent betraying his wealthy upbringing.

“Of course not. I’m enjoying seeing how far we can take Kiera.”

“Right. Well, you might have to postpone that a bit.”

“I told you, Nigel, no more contracts right now. I’m out of the game for a bit.”

“Uh huh. Okay, but I just had a virtual conference with Holoart.”

“You’re just wasting your own time.”

“John, they love the new show. They’re ready to invest in you.”

“Stall them for a few months.”

“You’re not understanding. They’re offering the world.”

“Say again?”

“They want to tour your current show for two years, rights to three Holo docs about you and your work, the rights to your next three projects, three books, a retainer to be a consultant and a seat on the board.”

“Oh my.”

Nigel activated his video stream and his face appeared on John’s glasses. He was smiling into the mirror on his desk. “They’re offering a big number and I can get it bigger. You’re going to be set for life. You’re going to be the world’s most famous artist. Let me close this deal, John.”

“I need to talk to Kiera first.”

“I’m going to take that as a ‘yes’. I’ll start planning the counter.”

“Don’t do anything until I talk to Kiera.”

“Just planning, I promise. Let me know by tomorrow, though.”

John ended the connection and shook with excitement but also guilt. Nigel was right. He had to accept this.

John found Kiera in the workspace they had set up for her in the second guest room. John told her everything and she listened with little reaction.

“I’ll turn it down, though. I swear I will,” John said.

“Don’t be silly. This is everything you’ve worked toward.”

“It’s not fair, Kiera. It should be you.”

“You’re a great artist, dear. The world loves you.”

“I’m a hack. You’re an artist. The world needs you.

“Well they have you. Congratulations… I’m excited. I am, I swear.”

“I can still help you out too.”

Kiera shook him off, “I’ll be fine. Maybe this is all I’m meant to be. I’ll open a bottle of wine in celebration.”

She left the room and John sank into a chair in the corner.

 

#

 

The next morning, John left for a meeting with Holoart and Kiera was home alone. The chime for the front gate sounded and Kiera accessed the gate camera on her augment glasses. Charlie stood outside.

She hesitated for a moment then buzzed him in. Within seconds, he stood in her living room.

“Hello Charlie.”

“Kiera, hi. Thanks for not shooing me away.”

“We’re still friends, Chars. I still care about you.”

“I’m glad to hear it. Listen–” he trailed off and dropped his eyes toward the bright electro-glow floor.

“No need to say anything.”

“No, not that. I’ve done something for you. I hope it’s not weird that I have.”

Kiera swallowed and her jaw tightened, “What have you done?”

“Nothing bad. Something good. I–You mean so much to me.”

Kiera was terrified in anticipation, “What did you do?”

“I got you a show at the Tate. A real show. Two rooms. They’re small but they’re all yours for a month. They want to incorporate you into a larger show as well. Something about mixing old disciplines with modern disciplines. They want to you have a say in the curation.”

“You’re lying, right? Charlie, don’t lie to me.”

“It’s true.”

“Stipulations?”

“None. Enable a transfer.”

Kiera gestured to allow Charlie to transfer a file.

“That’s the contract,” he said. “I can help you fine-tune it if you’d like.”

“I’m not sure we should be–”

He took two steps toward her and put his arms on her. His musky smell that Kiera found so attractive hit her nose and chipped away at her inhibitions. She felt herself relax into his arms.

“Charlie–”

“No one knows you better than me. I promise you that.”

Kiera let herself be kissed by him–at first on the neck and then on the lips–and then she led him onto the couch where they made love. After, they sat up and Charlie pulled out his tobacco pipe.

“Are you mad?” Kiera said. “John will smell that the instant he walks in the door.”

“Fuck John,” Charlie said and lit the tobacco.

Kiera closed her eyes and took several deep breaths, “You need to leave now.”

“Sorry, okay? Sorry, I’ll put it out,” Charlie said pushing the tamper into the pipe to extinguish it.

“No, I mean you need to leave now and not come back.”

“Kiera, what–”

“Leave Charlie!”

“Are you mad? The show–”

“I don’t want the show. I don’t want you meddling with my life. I don’t want you trying to ruin my marriage and I don’t want you smoking your damn tobacco in my house.”

“Kiera, wait–”

“Get out, get out, get out!”

“I’m the one that loves you, can’t you see? I’m the one that cares.”

“You don’t care about me. You hate John and you want to steal his wife from him to hurt him.”

“Why are you saying this? You know it’s a lie.” He was crying now.

“Is it? Get out of my house and don’t come back. Don’t talk to me on the street and don’t try to contact me.”

Charlie’s bottom lip quivered and he sputtered out unintelligible noises. Kiera stood with crossed arms and his sadness turned to anger. She feared she had gone too far. She didn’t care. At that moment she hated him like the devil he was.

Charlie stood up, trembling so bad he threatened to collapse. He grabbed a hovering light out of the air and slammed it on the floor. The tile cracked in a dazzling display of colors. He stormed out of the house. Kiera finally cried.

 

#

 

The next day, John and Kiera sat down for breakfast at a quarter of six. It was still dark out.

“I don’t do well at this time of day,” John said.

“It’s your own fault for scheduling your backup so early.”

“It couldn’t be avoided. My entire week is filled with meetings. You didn’t have to get up.”

“If I ever want to see you, it’s going to have to be first thing in the morning and the last moments before bed.”

“I’m sorry. I suspect it will slow down in a couple of weeks.”

“I suspect it won’t,” Kiera said, about to refill John’s coffee. He put his hand over the cup.

“No more. I have to run. The repair man is coming to replace the floor today?”

“Yes,” Kiera said, turning away.

“We need to contact the hover light manufacture. That could have killed someone. Just nose-dived into the floor? It’s lazy programmers, I tell you.”

“I’ll handle it. That’s the last thing you need to stress out about.”

“Okay honey,” he said and kissed her on the cheek.

John grabbed his coat and headed into the predawn morning. The fog hung heavy and blurred his vision. He checked the time on his glasses and swore. He would be late.

He took a shortcut through the narrow alley behind his complex. Footsteps echoed behind him and he turned around. A hooded figure stumbled toward him. A drunken bum. John stepped up his pace and the man yelled after him, “John Getts!”

John spun on the ball of his right foot. The drunken man tripped over his own feet and fell to the ground. John walked toward him to help him up, still unsure of who it was. He offered his hand, and the man took it. Up close, John recognized the face.

“Charlie Pritchard?”

“What is it to you?”

“You’re trollied, man.”

“You’ve brainwashed her against me.”

“Charlie, it’s over. Go home.”

“We made love yesterday on your couch. She doesn’t love you.”

“You’re drunk and mad.”

“Did you notice the broken floor?”

John shoved him hard in blind anger. Charlie fell backwards and hit his head on a fire escape ladder. He crumpled to the ground. John wanted to kick him but he composed himself. Charlie started laughing.

“You’re a lunatic–” John trailed off when Charlie produced a gun from his coat. He pointed it at his own chin.

John held out his hand and stepped forward “Whoa, wait guy. Don’t do–” Charlie whipped the gun forward and right at John’s left eye.

“Wait, Charlie,” he whispered.

 

#

 

John sat down in the chair at the Rebirth Center.

“Hello Mister Getts,” the young male attendant said. John nodded.

“Same old drill,” the attendant continued. “The halo will start after it gets some baseline readings. Press the call button if you need anything. Can I get you a tea or coffee?”

“Coffee please.”

The attendant nodded and walked out of the room. John hoped the procedure ran quick this week. He wanted to get to the Tate. One of his wife’s paintings hung on display and he wanted to see it. His wife was the real artist. He had been considering the idea of a sabbatical to help his wife get traction in the art world.

“Backup commencing,” the halo said and the world went black for an instant.

John’s eyes were closed. I must have drifted off, he thought. I guess I need that coffee.

“John, honey? John?” It was his wife’s voice. He opened his eyes but the room was a blur. His head ached.

“Kiera?”

“Oh John! Welcome back.”

“Wait–”

“John, there was an incident. You were killed.”

John kept blinking rapidly to clear his vision. His body ached with fatigue. He had never felt more tired. He closed his eyes again.

“John, wake up. You need to stay awake. The doctors say it will be rough because it has been seven weeks.”

“Where?”

“The Rebirth Center.”

“I was killed?”

“Shot.”

“Why?”

“We don’t know. They never caught him. Probably a hoodlum. You were on your way to get backed up so you lost a lot of time.”

John shook his head as if to ward off the confusion. His vision started to come back. A group of people stood a ways back from his bed. He looked down. He had been dressed in his favorite navy suit and a green tie. He sat up in bed and thousands of tiny strands of pain raced up his back.

“Seven weeks? Dear god. Murdered?”

He allowed the doctor to help him to his feet and within a few moments, he could stand on his own. He kissed his wife. Her skin was grey and translucent. She must have taken this hard, he thought. He grabbed a mirror from the table next to the bed. It reflected his own face yet not; like looking at one’s identical twin.

His muscles came alive in increments. Before long he could walk with minimal assistance. He thanked everyone for coming, one by one. His agent Nigel held out his hand, grin from ear to ear.

“I always knew you’d be pleased when I died,” John said to him.

“I’m pleased you are reborn. We can get back to work now.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh John, it’s exciting to get to tell you twice. You’re a very lucky man. Your wife would kill me for talking business here, though. Stop by my office later so I can give you all of the details. We’ve lost three weeks of time and seven weeks of memories so there’s much to do.”

John nodded, confused.

Wally, an art journalist, hugged John next. He and John were old friends from university.

“Hey Wally, man. Thank you for coming to see me embarrassed like this.”

“This? I have hours of holos of us more embarrassing than this little thing.”

“So what did I miss in the art world in the last couple of months.”

“Well, your show was a success, obviously. Oh! Did you hear about that agent, Charlie Pritchard?”

“Charlie? No. I know him, though. He used to represent my wife years ago.”

“He offed himself in his apartment. Knife to the throat.”

“Dear god, how awful. I guess I should make an appearance at his rebirth, then. Kiera will want to go.”

Wally shook his head, “No. That’s the crazy part. Old Charlie never got backed up. Didn’t believe in it or something. He’s gone.”

Gone, gone?”

Wally nodded.

“Jesus,” John said.

“What’s the matter?”

“Oh nothing. I was just thinking about how my wife ended her contract with him. I wasn’t very nice to the man.”

“Well, you said yourself it was years ago.”

“Yeah. I’m sure he wouldn’t even have remembered who I was.”

John found his wife in the crowd. She walked with a frail gait and her eyes were bloodshot. His chest went warm with the knowledge of how much she loved him and how sick she must have been for the last few weeks.

I’m going to make it up to her, John thought. I’m going to make her more famous than me.

She was the true artist, after all.


Troy Harris is a computer programmer during the day and a writer at all other times. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona.