“Hey, how’d you die?” someone asked.
She rotated her head in its socket to find the source of the question. It was just them in the dark barracks. She had thought she was laying there alone, among the rows of bunkbeds. The questioner was sitting on the edge of a bottom bunk, cleaning his visual sensors. His face display showed the image a young man, about her age. Her death age, at least. If she could release a sigh, she would have done so then. She wasn’t going to get used to this new body any time soon.
“Cancer,” She said. “After a long fight.”
“That’s rough,” he said, blinking his clean sensors. “You’re still adjusting?”
He crossed a leg over a knee. His display face smiled at her.
“Give it time, everyone comes around,” he said. “Hey, at least you have a new life now. Try to make the most out of it.”
He proceeded to polish his feet and shins. Black scuffs littered the white composite casing of his exoshell, no doubt from soccer. She could hear the rowdy games ring throughout the ship. She returned to inspecting the bottom of the bunk above her. Bunkbeds for robots that thought they still needed to rest.
“Gee, I guess I’m still hung up on all the loved ones I’ve lost and the things I’ll never see and experience.”
“So email them — on your way to Heaven!” he said, laughing at his lame joke. “And brag about all the crazy shit you’re gonna see and experience.”
She already emailed everyone she knew. Every day, often multiple times, because she couldn’t wait long enough for the lag time.
“Want to know how I died?” he asked.
“Does it matter?”
Death was cured, via body transplant, and she wasn’t sure if she was on board. She died young, but her afterlife — she felt like somebody hijacked it. Her consciousness stolen from her body after that final, weak heartbeat.
This was not organic.
“Fine,” he said, standing up. “I tried. Keep moping in here. All the way to Heaven.”
“All right, how’d you die?” She looked back at him.
“Suicide,” he said. “A new life, as a space-traveling robot, in a galaxy far away. Terraforming a new worlds for future generations — you’ve seen the ads — it was too hard to wait. I killed myself to be here.”
He leaned in, his elbow on the bunk above her.
“Fun fact: I’m not the only one. By far.”
Once he left, she made her way around the ship, searching until she found the escape pod bay.
She liked her old life, on Earth, with those she loved. When she got sick, she fought tooth and nail to keep living — to not be here. Though her fight was fixed.
The thought of riding in this tin can, for another couple lightyears, with a bunch of fools that actually ended their lives so their consciousness could play out some sci-fi wet-dream, was too much for her. She wanted no part of it. The place they were going, where she’d spend eternity with them and more like them, sounded like actual Hell to her.
She begun prepping a pod, punching buttons she hoped were doing what she thought they were. She’d ride this little coffin all the way back to earth. She’d be back with her family and friends. As a robot. It would be fine. She wondered what the long-term effects would be on her psyche — not being able to breath air, taste food, take a shit, or fuck.
“Look who’s up.”
She twirled around and he was leaning in the doorway of the pod bay.
“You’re not thinking of taking a trip — are you?”
“It might of crossed my mind.”
“Can’t let you do that, friend,” he said, as he leaned past her and turned off the pod she had already punched up. “No fallen angels allowed from Heaven.”
“Will you stop calling it that?”
“Nope, planet K2-18b just doesn’t have as nice a ring to it.”
She pushed past him and stopped when she saw others were standing in the doorway. A crowd, she wasn’t sure how many. Blank faces, they all had turned their face displays off. She turned back around.
“What is this?”
“Everyone needs to be on board.” He sat her down in the pod that she had opened. “We have a job. Your new body and new life don’t come for free. We have to build a better world for our human descendants.”
She realized he was holding something behind his back. A small white square piece of material, she saw for an instant, before he slapped it on the side of her head.
“What the fuck?” she said, reaching for the patch, still stuck to her head.
“Compliance patch,” he said, holding her hands now. “Everyone comes around. Do you still wish to leave?”
She realized something happened; she couldn’t think why she wouldn’t want to get to Heaven. She’s excited about going to Heaven, now that she thought about it.
After a wild game of soccer, she stumbled across a kid crying outside the video arcade. The kid’s face display showed a young boy, his face contorted, though no tears rolling down those simulated cheeks.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” she said.
“I miss my parents,” he said. “I want to go home.”
“That’s rough,” she said, and knelt down to be face to face with him. “You’re still adjusting. Give it time, everyone comes around. You have a new life now, try to make the most out of it.”
The boy, still distraught, looked at her.
“How’d you die?”
She thought about it.
“Suicide. I killed myself to be here. I killed myself to go to Heaven.”
Written for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: New Life.