« Leap Day | Main | Demon Dog Treats »


by Rudi Dornemann

When the announcement came that he was being called up, Marek didn’t even own a suitcase. His neighbors and regular customers pooled their money and bought him one. He let them think it was happiness that took his voice away.

It was, everyone told him, an honor. A miracle.

He’d had to read the letter three times but still didn’t understand why he needed to bring anything with him-- after all, he’d be pure mind, all electronic, after he went up. Whether he wound up in the place between planets or the place between stars, it’s not like he’d bring the picture of his late wife, the framed first dollar their kiosk had earned, his daughter’s bronze star, or the flag they’d given him at her funeral.

But the cab driver, who loaded the suitcase into the trunk so gently that nothing clinked, explained it: the memories would be anchors, digitized and uploaded, that his personality could hold onto.

“Otherwise,” said the cabbie, “you’ll lose who you were and just be a machine.”

Marek stared at the city sliding past.

He’d spent days distracted by all things that he couldn’t put in the suitcase -- the way the kiosk looked, when all the flowers were fresh and all the buckets were full, first thing in the morning, when the light seemed to come from inside the petals. The pressure of Tina’s hand on his; the weight of their daughter in his arms. When he explained, none of his friends understood.

“I’ve taken lots of folks to the up station,” said the driver. She tried to catch Marek’s eyes in the rearview mirror. He knew that tone of jealousy-edged pride from his friends’ voices.

On the dashboard, a pair of picture-sculptures morphed though what looked like snapshots of the driver, her friends, her family. Between them, a dried, unopened rose bud; a string of pebble-beads; a sea shell; and a flag Marek didn’t recognize.

“Yeah,” said the driver, “I’ve taken paying uploaders and five or six lottery winners like yourself.” This time she was the one who looked away from the rearview. “The luck hasn’t worn off yet.”

Marek squeezed his hand out of the shimmering holoprinted paper and held the wristband over the seatback.

“Here,” he said, “You go.”

He had to repeat himself.

“You can use the suitcase,” he said, and, somehow, that was the thing that convinced her.

Post a comment