When I first uploaded, it was void, disorienting. It was black until my eyes worked, silent until my hearing came online (mercifully, soon after I awoke). I had to re-learn how to make my new virtual body move. Before I got to edit my avatar, I struggled to recognize my own face in Cloudspace – a default skin, practically featureless, blank.
Because I am the upload, the electronic backup, I am E-Luna. The one with the brain tumor consuming her – me? – is F, for flesh. They tell me F-Luna will go through something just as terrifying while her brain dies; I know better than any of them just how awful it will be to watch.
* * *
My husband and I wept as we made love, the day the doctors told us what the biopsy said. When Jon told me his employers were willing to take me on as an uploading test subject, I only wanted to know if the headaches would follow me into the Cloud. That, and whether Jon and I would be able to see each other once I'd been converted into data. I didn't care that the future E-Luna – me – was only going to be a copy, that the original, "real" me was still going to die, no matter what. I wanted so badly to live that I didn't even care that it wouldn't quite be that me that got to keep living. Now, on this side of the screen, I don't feel the difference. This data-body is the same me as the old skin-suit. That version of me is still here in the world, for now, but soon enough, there will be no "original" me and no "copy." There will only be me, and I'll simply be Luna once again.
* * *
When they first let me speak to F-Luna, months after the upload, I was a novelty to her until she saw my name at the bottom of the video window. Before they made me, I decided on a catchphrase to remind her who I was, but by the time we could connect, she'd already forgotten it.
"I'm sorry." Her voice wavered; mine never would have. "I should have written it down."
"Don't apologize," I told her. "And anyone who won't cut you some slack can go fuck themselves."
Once enough of her memory was gone, she decided I was an assistant at Jon's lab – sometimes, one that was carrying on an affair with him. "Don't lie to me, you cunt. You know him too well."
I still knew her too well, too. "He's almost my father's age. I'm sorry, he's a good boss and all, but hell no." It was a relief to see that break her rage down that first time, but soon enough, it would bring her to tears and apologies, like so many other things were starting to. I got really good at telling her: "Anyone who won't cut you slack can go fuck themselves."
* * *
I used to tease Jon that he was a pervert, that my libido couldn't keep up with his. When I uploaded, it actually became truth. We found ways to compensate for my lack of a body, new games to play with each other, but it could never be the same.
"What'll you do when F-Luna's gone?" I asked him once.
He smirked. "There's a new company in Japan that builds these boxes with special fittings."
Then, silence. A downcast look on his face started to spread, and I wanted to cry when I realized all he could see on his side of the screen was a poker-faced avatar, even if it was pretending to stroke his face.
* * *
By the time F-Luna could no longer operate the computer, she had forgotten me as well. The last time I spoke to her, she forgot to turn off the chat; I watched as Jon surprised her in the bedroom, coming home early – and as she surprised us both by whipping off her clothes without a word. I'd gotten good at manipulating things in the Cloud, though; I shut down the camera from
here. I never told either one of them, and now she's basically gone, except for the stories Jon brings me (and I will pretend to scold him, sometimes, that he's either grieving too much or not enough). Like her actual death is merely a formality, one I have to prepare him for.
* * *
The lab camera shows me more than Jon knows. I see his colleagues: the young fat assistant, the blonde researcher our age. She looks nothing like me, but I see how John looks at her, stolen glances too fast for any flesh eye to see. I've been nudging him in her direction; I may clench pixel fists when he's been inattentive, but it would be cruel to demand he tend me like an interactive shrine.
We discussed it once: "How am I supposed to explain you to someone else?" he asked me.
"Maybe you shouldn't have to." It shocked us both how obvious it was – and how quickly it came to me.