35 – Numb

The leaf had turned into a greenish pulp between his fingers. Had he done that? He hadn’t even noticed. He stayed for a moment staring at the stains on his hand, lost in thought.

“–Are you sure this is going to work as you expect?”

“–Don’t worry about it. All the data seems nominal, it’ll be ok.”

He cleaned the residue on his shirt and stared again at the cold carbon fiber spider at the end of his titanium limb.

It worked perfectly, of course; this whole body did. It would last for ages, never grow old, get sick or die. And it could sense the world around it with the perfect detail only a machine could have.

“–But once I do this I may never be able to go back. I have to know.”

“–You know it’s the only way, Jim. You volunteered and worked harder than anyone in your group for this. Are you having second thoughts?”

He could detect and identify every molecule present in the air he breathed. His eyes could perceive wavelengths way beyond the visible spectrum in both extremes. His fingers could determine the exact chemical composition of everything he touched.

But he remembered…

As hard as he tried, he could not shake from his mind the memory of what it was like to experience the world with his own senses. No matter how perfect this new sensors were, he could not –feel– with them same way as his imperfect flesh ones once did.

He had wanted this. It was, of course, the only way.

Robots, no matter how advanced their brains or how perfect their programming, lacked the most important thing for exploration… curiosity.

“–Listen Jim. By the time you return from this mission our technology should be advanced enough to give you back your human body.”

“–Are you sure about that?”

They were sure. But when all contact was lost halfway on the voyage back, he wasn’t anymore.

The Earth was beautiful. And it was surprising how little time it had taken it to heal once its most destructive species finally messed up the environment far enough to cancel the conditions necessary for its own survival.

If only he could feel it.

If only he could cry.

• • •

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