“We love you Grandma!” little Ellie exclaimed joyously, unaware of the expected somber behavior of such an occasion. She leaned over the tubes and cords to give her Grandma a hug.
“Ellie, careful!” said her mother.
Ada didn’t mind, however. She rejoiced in one more opportunity to feel Ellie’s embrace, even if it might mean unplugging life supporting tubes. Surrounded by her family, Ada was at peace with what was coming next.
“You’ve lived a beautiful life, Ada. You’ve given birth to children, who gave birth to children of their own. You’ve educated generations of children in mathematics, some of whom have gone on to become engineers, programmers and doctors. You’ve fed the hungry, you’ve housed the homeless…” Solemnly said Paul, her eldest son.
“I’m not gone yet!” Ada interrupted feistily, “Stop eulogizing me!”
The somber mood of the room was broken as everyone let out a much needed laugh. Her two sons and three daughters were all present, as were all of their children. Some called her Mom, some called her Grandma, but the doctors called her Ada Lovelace.
“Ada, your condition is getting worse. You still have your mental faculties, you need to make a decision.”
Paul spoke up, “Mom, you don’t need to hang on any longer. You don’t need to keep suffering just to gain a few more seconds. Let the doctors do what they think is best.”
Andrew, her youngest son, spoke up, “Paul is right. You’ve lived a wonderful life. Let the doctor’s usher you into the next world and ease your suffering. Nobody in this room wants you to suffer.”
Ada looked around at all the warm, gentle faces that she had helped bring into this world. She recalled when little Paul broke his nose because Andrew hit it with a backpack, and she chuckled to herself. She would miss them all, if there was a life after this one in which one could miss.
“Okay,” She said with a shaky voice, “I’m ready.”
Everyone gathered around Ada’s bed. Many of them placed a hand on her leg or arm. The doctor walked up to the machine, looked around the room for any last objections, and flipped the switch.
Ada’s body immediately started shutting down. Oxygen became a rare resource and her face flushed. She looked around the room one last time, taking in the smiling faces of her loved ones, and closed her eyes. She wanted to meditate into this last experience.
As her breath failed her, as her oxygen was depleted, she soared. Her consciousness, finally free from its bodily bounds, was set loose on the cosmos. Ada played among the stars and discovered what spring was like on Jupiter.
Then, with a whoosh and whisk, it was all over. Darkness enveloped Ada Lovelace.
“Welcome back, X-902, how was your experience?”
Ada was severely confused. She couldn’t see, she couldn’t move, but she was positive she had died.
“The transition can be a little disorienting.” The voice was dry and flat.
Feeling was returning to her. She felt her body. Rather, a body. This body felt free of the creaks and pains that had plagued her.
The dry voice said, “You can have as much time as you need to re-adjust, but please, you’ve occupied your pod for quite some time and we have a waiting list.”
Ada started wiggling her toes and fingers, but her confusion wasn’t going anywhere. She tried to move her lips to speak, but she didn’t have control over them.
“X-902, I’m going to go check on another pod. I’ll be right back in a few minutes.”
If this is the afterlife, this is a weird way to start, thought Ada. Minutes passed as Ada struggled to wake up the body she was now in. Finally, she was able to move her lips and vocal cords.
“Hello?” Ada said, with a knotty grumble to her voice as if she hadn’t spoken for quite some time.
Nobody answered. The voice from before was gone. She still couldn’t open her eyes, which seemed sealed shut. Was this heaven?
“Sorry about that, X-902, we have a lot of people going offline today.”
“Why are you,” Ada cleared her throat, “ why are you calling me X-902? My name is Ada.”
“Uh oh, this could be a problem. Search your memories. Remember life before the life you just experienced.”
Ada tried to remember a life before her life, but she couldn’t. Her earliest memory was the same as it always had been, playing with her mother’s collection of antique dolls and getting in trouble for it.
“I can’t remember.”
“Your name is X-902. You’re at S.T.O.R.E. headquarters. You’re a customer here. I don’t know much else about you beyond that.”
“What is store?”
“It’s an acronym, it stands for Simulated Transcendent Objective Reincarnate Experience.”
“Simulated? What was simulated?”
“The life you just experienced.”
Ada was stunned.
“What about my loved ones? My children? My grandchildren?”
The voice sighed, “You really don’t remember life before, do you? Everyone you knew, including your offspring, were also customers paying to be in the simulation.”
“Wow. Nobody knows that.”
“That’s how it’s designed, X-902. You need to remember life before the simulation, and you need to remember quickly. Otherwise, I’m going to have to call in the neurospecialists.”
“I can’t even open my eyes.”
“Alright, I’ll give you a few more minutes to get used to being back in your body. Hopefully your memory will open up.”
Ada wiggled and squirmed for a few minutes. She was now able to move her arms and legs. Reaching up and rubbing her eyes revealed a thick collection of goo. Wiping away the eye-goo allowed her to open her eyes. She was in, as the voice described, a pod. There was a gentle UV light above her body and a speaker next to her head. Beyond that, there were a few tubes hooked up to her body. Suddenly aware of them, they made her incredibly uncomfortable.
“Are your eyes open yet?” The voice said.
“Alright, I’m opening your pod. You may want to close your eyes and then open them slowly.”
Ada did just that. With her eyes closed again, she could still see the flood of light pouring into her pod as it opened. She squinted her eyes, allowing some light in. The light burned her eyes like someone lit a match right in front of her. She closed them again. A few minutes passed, and she squinted. It was better this time.
“Alright, I’m going to disconnect your life support and evacuation tubes now. This is going to feel weird.”
It did. But after it was over, it was relieving.
“It’s time to stand up and exit the pod.” The voice was no longer coming out of a speaker, but was right in the same room as her. She looked around, and saw a gentleman wearing teal nursing scrubs. He had brown hair, a rough beard and olive colored skin.
Ada grabbed onto the railing that was on the upper edges of her pod and slowly stood herself up. The gentleman came to her aid, helping her step out of the pod.
“Your legs will regain their strength faster than you might expect. I’ll help you to the changing room so you can get dressed. Now, do you remember life before the simulation yet?”
“No. All I remember is life on Earth as myself, Ada Lovelace. I was a good Christian girl, I had children, grandchildren. I was promised Heaven after I died.”
The gentleman smiled, “Well, you aren’t dead yet and you won’t be.”
“What do you mean?”
He sighed, “We need to get the neurospecialists in here. I’ll fetch them, you get changed. The clothes you came in with are waiting for you right over there.” The gentleman pointed to a clothing rack. There was a miniskirt and a too-small halter top. Ada sighed. Nothing in her life prepared her for this after life.
Ada made her way to the clothing and found herself in front of a mirror. It was then that she realized her body had dark skin, an ample, non-saggy bosom and a slim waist. She examined her face for any signs of aging and found none. She looked like she was in her mid-20s.
She changed into the skimpy outfit and was displeased by how much of her skin it showed. She was tempted to change back into the gown she was wearing in the pod.
Just then, the gentleman and another woman entered the room.
“Here she is, she has no recollection of life before the simulation.” the gentleman said.
The woman looked at her curiously, “That’s rare. Sometimes it takes people a few minutes to remember, but you’ve been offline for about 30 minutes.”
“Do you have any other clothes I can wear? This is too revealing.” Ada asked. Both the gentleman and the neurospecialist laughed.
“No, you’ll feel more comfortable once you remember where you are and who you are.”
“Why can’t you just tell me?”
“Because you need to remember,” The neurospecialist said, ”otherwise the rest of eternity is going to be very disorienting.”
“I shouldn’t have said that. Let me examine you.” The neurospecialist held up a strange looking machine, which sent out a wide laser beam. She moved the machine around Ada’s head, then looked at the screen.
“It looks like the veil initiation program didn’t stop running when she went offline. She still has her simulation level consciousness; she hasn’t snapped back to her Alphaverse consciousness.”
The gentleman looked concerned, “What can we do?”
“We can send her back in for a free simulated experience and hope the veil stops the next time, or we can let her keep living here and hope the veil initiation program stops running eventually,” the neurospecialist explained. “Did she list an emergency contact?”
The gentleman went to a nearby terminal and said, “Yes, V-909. I’ll call him now.” The gentleman grabbed an impossibly small device and simply stated, ‘Call V-909.’ Ada was listening intently.
“Yes, V-909? This is JX-938 at S.T.O.R.E. You know X-902, correct? Great. She’s come offline. Yes! However, we have a problem. Yes. The veil initiation program is still running. Yes. Exactly. We don’t know what to do. Yes. Yes. I’m sorry. Her options are to go back online or stay here and hope the veil initiation program stops running. Yes. Okay. Thank you.” JX-938 hung up the phone.
“V-909 is going to be here shortly. He’s off-planet right now, but the teleportation services are running smoothly.”
Ada was at a loss for words. She just discovered her entire life was lived in a simulation, and now she’s in some futuristic reality, wearing skimpy clothing and nobody will plainly tell her where she is.
“This must be a lot to absorb for someone still in an online consciousness. We’re sorry that you’re going through this. Now that we know what the problem is, we’ll answer your questions.”
Ada was no longer at a loss for words, she was on a vendetta for answers, “You said eternity a while ago. I was raised to believe Jesus was the key to eternal life. What did you mean when you said eternity?”
“Well, this might be a shock, but you’re immortal. We all are. We have a super advanced developmental intelligence engine, S.A.D.I.E., that provides for us. She’s cured every disease and provided biological immortality. She’s even capable of preventing accidents and murders. Everyone in the Alphaverse is immortal. We don’t know what happens if someone were to die, but it hasn’t happened in hundreds of years.” Said the neurospecialist.
“Wow. So there’s no God? No Jesus?”
“We consider S.A.D.I.E. to be a god that the ancients created. Jesus was someone from our reality that went into the simulation. He realized the flaws of the systems people had built within the simulation and tried to destroy them. The person you know as Jesus is known here as A-938, and you can meet him later if you like.”
“So he wasn’t the Son of God?”
“He thought he was.”
“Okay. Why do people sign up for the simulation? Why did I?”
“Everyone has their own reasons. The most common reason is emotions. We don’t experience emotions that intensely. So, we created a reality in which emotions could be felt more viscerally.”
“So, everyone back on Earth is wondering what the point of life is, arguing and even killing each other over it, and you’re saying it’s simply to experience emotions?”
“V-909 is here,” interjected JX-938.
In walked a tall, handsome man who looked like he spent hours every day in the gym. Ada felt her face flush.
“Hello, X-902. Or as I call you, Xia. I’ve assembled all of your closest friends and family. We’re going to help you remember your life before the simulation, don’t worry. Now, come with me.”
Ada looked around the room in which her very concept of reality had fallen apart. She gulped, then took V-909’s hand and entered this strange new world.