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I’m Not as Old as I Used to Be

I am no longer old, and will never be young. I’m... different. Once, you might have said “augmented.” It’s an ugly word, “augmented,” but ugliness, I must admit, is a large part of what is happening to me. A large part of what I am. Soon it will blow through me, pass by me, pass me by, and only I will remain, and I will be him, and he me.


It is said that there are moments when a man can feel his life changing. I last felt that way over seventy years ago, and I still remember it. I remember almost nothing, actually—but that day, a little before sunset, she ran into me in the street and we both stopped and looked at each other and smiled. Two total strangers. I would have liked to remember what she wore. We were married for many years, after that. I would have liked to remember her name.

There was no point to my life without her, before her and after.

I would have liked to remember her smile.


I am no longer sick, and will never be healthy. I feel my brain moving to and fro while its different parts, from within and without, fight against each other, complete with each other, merge one into the other. I understand this with a clarity that hasn’t been my lot in recent years. I feel it like an intense light shining through the grayness in which have I spent all of my days until now. In one respect, after years of dimness all understanding is a blessing, after years of dullness every sensation is a world in itself. As short-lived as they may be, as terrible as they may be, I take pleasure in them.


I had a full life, I think. Few memories make it though the barriers, the rest are blocked by the parts of my mind that still stand on barricades. I had a job I liked, I had a woman I loved. There were... there were other people I loved. I remember love, if not its subjects. I remember that I did great things, but nothing beyond that. And maybe they were not so great, but only seemed so to me? I do not know, and in a short while I will know nothing more.


I do something I haven’t done in years. I open my eyes.


A blinding light. Everything is a blur. A white figure leans over me. Someone speaks, but I do not understand. It’s been years since I’ve listened. The figure returns to its place by the bed on which I lie. Tubes and wires, wires and tubes. I let go, tell my eyes to rest, but they remain open. They look to and fro—and it is not me who directs them. The picture sharpens. The figure smiles at me. Its face wakes in me a kind of sleeping memory. Inside me another barricade falls, quietly, comfortably. In the corner of my eye I see a row of trees, reflected at me through the window. I would have liked to look straight at them, but I can’t.


A radio plays in the background—maybe in one of the adjacent rooms—a cheerful backdrop to the grating sounds rising in my brain. It’s been playing for many years, but only now do I notice.

Adjacent rooms.

I remember where I am.

“Soon,” the figure says. “Soon, Grandpa.”

And I remember the conversations that took place beside my bed. The medical issue, the moral issue, the monetary issue... the money was paid, I know now, out of my grandson’s small savings. My grandson who stands here now, smiling, by the bed, and waits for me to return from the world of the dead, brave and new.

“It’s working!” he says. “It’s really working!”

Of course it’s working. I feel the invading swarm settling in my brain, expanding blood vessels, changing neural pathways, improving performance, removing barriers. I feel it, or know about it from those conversations which I didn’t hear but which suddenly emerge from the depths of my memory, and the feeling and the knowledge are the same. I feel it, and I know that it is the last thing I’ll ever feel.

I remember the injection that, only a few hours ago, I refused to be aware of. I remember the cold of the liquid swimming in my blood. I remember who I am, and know that soon I will cease to be, because this new, improved, augmented mind will not be mine. Soon I will pass some sort of threshold, and then I will know. Or know no more. And the thousands of others, those who received the same treatment before me, they too are no more—but no one knows this, and will never know. My grandson paid for it and he is a good boy, I remember that now, and he deserves a whole and healthy grandfather. I hope that’s what he will get, but I don’t know. The change is sharp. Too sharp.


It is said that there are moments when a man can feel his life changing.

I feel my mind change. I don’t fight it. I have lived my life. As if speeding toward a final destination, the memories rush in: I am suffused by the smell of the street where we met, by the last rays of sunlight on white hair, by a hospital different from this one, by the cry of a newborn, by despair, by joy, by meaning.

My brain says, it’s closing time.

And in its swan song, in mine, I remember her smile.

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