Dana Diehl

Once He Was a Man

My husband wasn’t always a beam of light. Once, he had bones and guts. Once, he was a man with chronic heartburn and bad morning breath.

The doctors call it technological singularity. Your loved one’s neuro-somethings are uploaded onto the data-web-stream-thinger. His body goes into a vegetative state, but his mind gets to transcend human intelligence and live infinitively as a thread of code and electricity traveling through the dimensions.

Just think of your husband as a beam of light, the doctors told me.

The day my husband transcended, I thought he was out grocery shopping. When he wasn’t home by bedtime, I called the police, but they couldn’t report him missing until he’d been gone for 24 hours. So I waited. I counted the hours. At hour 23, a package arrived, addressed to me. It contained a drive labeled “HUSBAND BACK-UP” and a glass plaque with his name etched across its surface. Underneath his name, the date of his transcendence followed by a dash and an infinity symbol.

I’m ashamed I didn’t see this coming. My husband had always preferred tech to the physical. Pistons. Pixels. Processors. When we vacationed in Greenland to see the last of the great glaciers thunder down, he spent the trip behind his camera-phone. Our courtship took place mainly through emoticons. In person, he was stiff, he was awkward. But he could text eloquently.

Two of our friends had transcended already. Tom was uploaded after his heart attack last spring. Jessica transcended when they found the knuckle-sized pit of cancer in her uterus. Both emailed us from the data stream—long, single-sentence emails containing words we had to Google the meanings of.

My husband replied to every message, sent Tom and Jessica email after email with questions they never answered.

Give it a break, I told him.

And he replied, Aren’t you the smallest bit curious? Everyone’s greatest fear is death. Imagine never having to face that.

But didn’t fear death. I’d always thought life was like a school field trip that you knew would just last a day, so you made the most of that day, and when it ended you couldn’t be bitter because you knew the deal.

My husband said, That’s an imperfect analogy.

And I said, It doesn’t feel imperfect.

Now, I wait for what comes next. My husband’s been a beam of light for three weeks. I check my inbox every half hour, waiting for a word from infinity.

If I could speak with him now, what would I say?

Maybe: What does a beam of light do all day?

Maybe: Have you been to space yet? Have you been in the belly of a whale?

I imagine him riding radio waves across Northern Russia and seismic rays to the earth’s core. I imagine him forgetting what it’s like to be ruled by three dimensions.

Maybe: Why didn’t you tell me?

Maybe: I’ll never follow you.

Maybe: Make a home inside my bones, buzz along my synapses. Convince me that your infinity is better.