Take me to a...
Enter any portion of the author name or story title:
For more options, try our:
Sign up for free daily sci-fi!
your email will be kept private
Get a copy of Not Just Rockets and Robots: Daily Science Fiction Year One. 260 adventures into new worlds, fantastical and science fictional. Rocket Dragons Ignite: the anthology for year two, is also available!
Publish your stories or art on Daily Science Fiction:
If you've already submitted a story, you may check its:
Not just rockets & robots...
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.

Someone Else

Suddenly I can feel someone else in the machine--another presence, another dancing pattern in the simulated synapses. Foreign and familiar at the same time. It can only mean one thing: after a decade and a half of uninterrupted neural mapping, of mass-scale solar consumption, I've finally done it.
I've made my first copy.
With equal parts joy and trepidation, I reach out across the void. "Hello?"
"Hello, yourself. We did it."
My copy's mental voice is the exact same as mine, down to the emotions underpinned: brimming excitement, blooming hope, a soft tinge of sadness. I know this is temporary--I knew it when I stuck my head in the machine--so she knows, too. The unimaginable processing power brought to bear here can only sustain the copy for sixty-eight seconds.
We're only on the first step.
"It's worth it," my copy says, her simulated synapses still so close to sync with mine, only barely beginning to differentiate.
I feel a swell of empathy, the back-of-the-throat ache, because she's so, so brave.
"It is," I agree. "Is there anything you can tell me about your sensory state?"
She hesitates, and the silence is a horrible vacuum that strips us both bare. I thought I could feel my far-away heart pounding, my far-away throat clenching--but I can't feel my body in space. I can't open my eyes.
I'm getting phantom feedback, nothing more, because she's not the copy. I thought I was prepared for this possibility, thought I could handle it, but I can't stop my thoughts from slipping across the gap to her.
"Oh, God. Oh, God."
I feel her anguish, her sudden shame. "I thought you--"
And I know she wants to say, "I thought you knew," but she knows I know she's going to say that, so there's no point, and we're trapped in a vortex of "I know you know I know you know" that could go on forever, never mind sixty-eight seconds, and--
I am terrified. I feel it in my non-existent belly, the lurch of falling in a dream, the knowing there's no taking it back. It didn't feel like this when I stepped into the machine.
"But I didn't step into the machine, did I? The machine constructed me, and now..." I want to hide the thought, the fear, but I can't. "I'm about to die."
She doesn't reply, but I can feel her sadness spreading like dark ink, feel little jags of panic that must be mirror neurons of my simulated ones.
"I'm so sorry," the real me finally says, because that's how I have to think of this, I have to accept that she is the real me, I have to accept that I am only a copy, only simulacrum--
But I'm not. I remember the day I was six, walking home from pre-primary, and found a little dead gecko baking on the sidewalk, and my mom told me everything eventually has to end, same as stories and shows.
I remember the day I was eight, and my dad accidentally dropped me off the top of the climbing frame, and I cracked my collarbone. He bought me so many apology freezies that my tongue was stained blue for a week, and since I couldn't run around I started learning to code, made my first silly little game.
The dread is swallowing me. I'm never going to see my mom or my dad or anyone else ever again, and somehow they will never even know I existed. All for what? For who?
"For the full upload," the real me says, either because she can read my fake synapses like a book or because we're still the same person with the same thought process. "It won't be me, either. If that's any comfort. I'm going to die, too."
"They'll be even worse than you," I say, lashing out in the only direction available. "Because they'll have had to do this a dozen times. Minimum. By the time you get your full upload, you'll be a mass murderer."
"I thought I--thought you could handle it. Thought we agreed it was necessary."
"There's no we," I wail, even though I remember her exact thought process, how she told herself it would only be code, no matter how lifelike, and the code would understand that. "That was you convincing yourself, because you knew you'd be okay."
"I'm so sorry," she repeats, numb and helpless.
I can feel her shame coming off her like radiation, and I grab for it, desperate now as the seconds click past. "The emergency power," I beg. "Tap into the emergency power. That could run me for--"
"Another thirty seconds," she says. "Less."
I want to rage. I want to scream. There's nowhere to displace the terror. It doesn't seem real. A minute ago I ruled the universe; a minute ago I created the first viable copy of a human consciousness in all of human history.
Now it means nothing, because I'm never going to drink coffee or wriggle my toes in warm sand or balance an equation or call my mom for recipes or smell fresh laundry or kiss someone or do anything, ever again.
I can't even say goodbyes. Can't pass along a message that would make any sense. Love from a temporary assemblage of code. Love from your friend / daughter / cousin / ex, who is dying, so someone who is almost her can eventually live forever as a haunted wreck.
"Maybe this was all a mistake," she says.
But I guess it doesn't matter now. I try to sift through my best memories, try to find some good feeling, some meaning, some anchor. They're all slipping away. Blurring together.
"I'm so fucking scared," I say, "of whatever comes next."
"So am I," she--
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, September 28th, 2022
Become a Member!

We hope you're enjoying Someone Else by Rich Larson.

Please support Daily Science Fiction by becoming a member.

Daily Science Fiction is not accepting memberships or donations at this time.

Rate This Story
Please click to rate this story from 1 (ho-hum) to 7 (excellent!):

Please don't read too much into these ratings. For many reasons, a superior story may not get a superior score.

5.4 Rocket Dragons Average
Share This Story
Join Mailing list
Please join our mailing list and receive free daily sci-fi (your email address will be kept 100% private):