25 January 2013

"Her Story"

By Curtis C. Chen

In 2023, Amanda learned something about her daughter.

She found the doll's head jammed under the living room sofa. She didn't see the rest of the doll. Her first stop was Barry's room.

"Have you seen your sister's Barbie?" she asked her son, brandishing the head and hoping to elicit some sign of guilt.

Barry shook his head and went back to programming his Hexbugs.

Amanda proceeded to her daughter's room, fearing an imminent tantrum but wanting to get it over with before Donald came home from work.

"Colleen," Amanda said as she stepped into the doorway, and stopped.

Her nine-year-old daughter was hunched over her teatime table, prying open the torso of the AI-Barbie with forceps and a craft knife. A small pile of wires, circuit boards, and microdot sensors lay on the pink plastic tabletop.

"Colleen," Amanda said, kneeling and holding out the doll's head, "are you looking for this?"

The girl looked, shook her head, and smiled at her mother. "No thanks, Mom. I don't need the head. There's nothing inside there!"

Amanda nodded, put the head on the table, and went back downstairs.


In 2032, Donald failed to keep his family together.

"You can't just leave," he said as his daughter flung clothes into a suitcase.

"We're done with the estate stuff," Colleen said. "I need to be in Cambridge next week to sign for the scholarship."

"You're really going to go." Donald folded his arms. "You're going to fly across the country and leave your brother and me here."

"Jesus, Dad, you're both grown men." Colleen opened a closet.

"We're a family!" Donald said, louder than he had intended. He took a step forward, but stopped when Colleen flinched.

He waited for her to look at him, but she only turned away.


In 2099, Colleen helped her brother end his life as a human.

"How long will it take?" Barry asked.

"Oh, about fifteen minutes," Colleen said.

"That fast," Barry murmured, flexing one arthritic hand.

"Your genome's a good candidate." Colleen booted the autodoc. "Runs in the family."

"Too bad this wasn't available for Mom."

"It wouldn't have helped her. The tumor was in her brain."

The autodoc's manipulators whirred to life, cycling through their startup diagnostics.

"Is this going to hurt?" Barry asked.

Colleen coughed out a laugh. "You probably should have asked that before signing the consent forms."

"Speaking of forms, they told me I'd have to re-integrate," Barry said. "Is that true?"

"We do all the paperwork here at the hospital," Colleen said. "Don't worry, you won't have to stand in line at the federal building."

"But I'll be a new and distinct legal entity. A post-human being." Barry looked at his sister. "Was the transition difficult for you?"

Colleen stared down at her genetically engineered, double-thumbed hands and softly glowing green skin. Then she looked at the old man who was her brother.

"We're not just the sum of what came before," she said. "We're more. We're different. But we don't forget the past."


Photo Credit: Deborah Leigh (Migraine Chick) via Compfight cc