I had nine more months to make my decision. April had nine days.
You got notifications every day once you got down to the final 10 days before declaration and that timeline ironically lined up exactly with how many days April had before she had to leave for college. April would have decided if she was going to live forever or not by the time she boarded her flight to Seattle.
18 was a hard year before the declaration. Officially become an adult, vote, graduate high school, go to college, and since 2045, decide if you wanted to live forever, or die a natural death that could occur at any time.
Technology was available by 2035 to allow all humans to upload all of their minds and memories onto a hard drive. Your memory was backed up continuously onto the hard drive every second of your life. Once your original body started to die, or died, you just slid the new hard drive into an artificial body and moved on with your life.
Mandatory hard drive access, data back-up, and body replacement for all citizens came up for vote in 2044, and passed with flying overs. We could all live forever now if we wanted to.
Once you hit 18 you had a year to declare if you wanted to live forever or die naturally when the time came. You had to declare by midnight of your 19th birthday or the government automatically decided to let you die naturally.
April was my first girlfriend. Met just after I turned 16. I wanted to stay with her every day this Earth had left to offer. She wasn’t so sure.
“What if the aliens arrive and turn us into sex slaves, you want to just keep getting reanimated over and over again?” April asked me as we sat in her darkened bedroom.
“I don’t think they’ll be interested in me,” I answered, trying to fight off the urge to laugh at my own joke.
“Who’s to say the sexual orientation of martians.”
“I don’t think they would be interested in me, even if men were their sex of choice.”
“You know what I meant. What if things get so bad and you CAN’T die?”
“Then you just kill yourself. Tell them to stop reanimating you. They make such a big deal about making the decision now, but it’s not like you can’t just cancel your life subscription later on.”
“Yeah, but that blurs the lines of suicide. I’m not sure how that would apply to the afterlife.”
Yes, we had become immortal and April still had a belief in a higher power.
“I’m just still not sure where I stand in my faith yet,” April went on.
We had been through this before. April’s family was deeply religious and had all elected to not be reanimated.
I never knew what to say when April brought up spirituality. My family had evolved it out of our system long before.
“I don’t know, I think just do it if you’re conflicted. You can always go back on it later, but you can’t restart the back up if you don’t declare now,” I said.
“You declared already?” April asked.
I lied. I hadn’t declared, yet. I was waiting to see what April did first, but I didn’t want to tell her and put even more pressure on her.
There was never a doubt in my mind about declaration. I wanted to take a rocket ship to the edge of the galaxy and back. Swim with aliens on a moon off the coast of Jupiter. All that kind of good shit that could eventually happen.
I thought death was ludicrous, not immortality. Why should my turn at the joystick be cut off earlier than someone else’s because I got hit by a bus or my cells decided to start multiplying more than they should one day?
April got a new notification on her phone.
“Eight days left.”
The fact that April had religious parents meant I had to spend my nights away from her, staring up at my ceiling, and thinking about the things had kept up teeangers all night forever.
I know that holding off my decision of immortality based on what my girlfriend decided to do was ludicrous at 18, but I was in love. There wasn’t a molecule in my mind that thought I would ever be with anyone else. We were going to spend our lives together, whether they went on for a few more months or for a few more millenia.
The good side of April’s semi-Christianity was she shared the same wholesome romantic notions as me. We already talked about marriage, kids, grandkids. Yes we were one of those creepy couples that was going to get married at like 20 and start having kids.
The government’s Declaration Department started calling you each day when you got to five days out if you hadn’t made a decision yet. April wasn’t answering the calls.
We were on day two when I was summoned to a chain Italian restaurant for a terribly awkward “going away” dinner with April and her parents. The irony of calling the dinner that with the declaration decision looming wasn’t lost on me.
I was finishing up a 16-ounce generic ribeye when the subject came up. I had been noncommittal to any and all conversational opportunities at the table. I kind of just agreed with anything they said in as few words as possible.
April’s parents said they didn’t want to influence her to not declare, but the constant sideways jabs they made about “California politics” made it clear which path they wanted her to choose.
I had to step in.
“I just think human evolution has led up to this accomplishment for hundreds of thousands of years and we will eventually create a paradise and get to live in it forever. Why miss out?”
April’s parents both gave me blank stares.
“No one will live forever,” April’s dad started in on me. “Once your body dies, you are dead. Life is not just a consciousness. A computer, a robot, can have that. It’s our our souls that make us divine.”
“I’m not sure if I’m divine. I just ate more than a pound of of meat. That’s the equivalent of eating a human foot,” I shot back.
I rode home from dinner with April alone. No conversation until we reached the curb in front of my house.
“I was just standing up for you,” I said from the passenger seat. “They shouldn’t be trying to sideways influence your decision like that.”
“And it’s okay for you to? They gave birth to me. You just asked me out two years ago and I said yes,” April spiked back my serve.
I got out of the car and headed to the front door of my house.
“Wait,” April’s voice called out to me before I got my feet onto to the lawn.
April and I laid across my bed with all the lights out. I think it was the first time I hadn’t heard her heart pounding when she was close to me in a few days. I was about to ask her if she had made a decision when she spoke.
“I just don’t know, isn’t being a vampire a bad thing?”
“The declaration takes away everything bad about being a vampire and keeps the one good part.”
“Well, just drinking blood would make it easy to stay skinny.”
April didn’t laugh after that statement and I didn’t know how to react.
She chose for me, pulled my face towards me and gave me a kiss.
We didn’t talk about her decision the rest of the night. We didn’t talk about anything. We just laid there until we fell asleep.
I was not allowed to see April on the holy day of Sunday, but she texted me to come by and there was no way I was letting midnight come without knowing her decision.
I walked up to her window on the side of the house and knocked.
All the lights in her room were off. I worried her parents kidnapped her or something with her decision impending to try and force her to make their decision.
The window slid open from the inside right as that thought flew through my head.
“Climb in,” April’s whispered inside.
I found myself in April’s bed for the first time. She sat cross-legged on the end of the bed looking at me.
“Did you make a decision?”
I asked eagerly, no longer worried about pressing her too much. The midnight hour was coming in just a few hours, it was time to tighten the screws.
“I did, but I’m not going to tell you, or anyone.”
“I couldn’t even tell you if I wanted to,” April said. “They give you the choice to make a random coin flip decision if you want. I chose that. I’m not against the possibility, I’m just against playing God.”
Hospitals smelled the same exact way for nearly 200 years. The disinfectant stung my nose as I sat outside April’s room. April and I had been lucky enough to only have to go to the hospital just a few times in my 85 years on our ride on planet Earth and this was April’s last.
Everything hurt – my joints, my head, the meat in my legs. I was a bit jealous looking at April in that bed, hooked up to about 10 different machines, her eyes closed, never going to open again. I was ready to go myself.
The idea of planting a human being in the ground in 2119 was comical to me, but April’s parents, dead for nearly 50 years, insisted that April, and I, be buried next to them in a family plot in Whittier, California that was ironically being encroached on by a human hard drive storage facility.
So there I stood in the crushing July sun,surrounded by the few of our friends and family who had yet to shed their original bodies to be reunited with their artificially recreated younger selves, cursing the odds. I considered not even going, but April would have hated that and I didn’t want to let her down one more time.
April didn’t have to do what she did. Leave it all to chance and leave me alone for the rest of eternity.
I walked away from the ceremony and made my way to my car at the very back of the lot. Had I been paying attention to the path in front of me and not my phone, I would have noticed someone was in the passenger seat before I sat down behind the wheel.
But I didn’t. I sat down and jumped out of my skin when I heard a familiar voice ring out next to me.
“Hey,” April said to me with a brightness in her voice I hadn’t heard in decades.
I looked over and saw the 18-year-old version of my wife. She gave me a kiss that felt just like that one she gave me a few nights before she made her decision.
She never lost her sense of mayhem and humor in her 85 years. She went through the week-long rejuvenation process without notifying me and was released just in time to make the funeral.
“So we landed on the right side of the coin?” I asked.
“No. I said yes. I just wanted you to think that you might only get one shot at this. We’ll just have to say goodbye at the apocalypse.”