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Some Things Are Hard To Get Rid Of

Benjamin S. Wolf is a software and fiction engineer in California. You can find more of his work (fiction and otherwise) at bswolf.com and on twitter as @bswolf.

***Editor's Note: Adult Story***
He awakens to a strange sensation, as if he's being groomed on the inside. He opens his eyes (it's all he can do) to see a woman replacing the cover on his chest cavity. It clicks into place. He doesn't think about that. He doesn't think about anything.
She lies back down on the bed, curled on her side with her hand still draped over his chest, trying to fool herself into believing it was just like when he was alive and human. But the gentle thump thump from within his chest has a different feel than in her memories. This fake beat is not the same.
He regains movement in his left hand and he covers her hand with it. She breaks down, crying for the second time since his death--the first had been after finding his secret stash of peanuts in the cupboard she can't reach without the stool. She presses her face into his shoulder and lets it out. He squeezes her hand--at least that's the same. Then he pulls her hand across him, gradually drawing her onto his body. He releases her hand and places his arm around her.
They cuddle like that for a while, until her sobbing dries up and they begin to make love. When he regains full control of his body, he flips her over and finishes her right.
Afterward, he lays back down next to her. She's satisfied, yet haunted by the blank look in his eyes, like he looks through her, as if the procedure made him blind in addition to mute. He's looking at her now, yes, but only that. He doesn't sign her pet name or gesture that he loves her, like he used to do. His eyes don't dance back and forth between hers. He doesn't break out into that smile that happens when you stare too long into your lover's eyes. She does smile, though, but drops it just as quickly. He never reacts. A chill sweeps through her and she turns away. He presses himself behind her, wrapping an arm across her stomach. She freezes, suddenly unsure. It was lonely, sure, sleeping alone for the past few weeks without a warm companion to spoon her. It was another thing to be spooned by a corpse, a robot, a zombie, whatever she wanted to call it.
He thinks about the sex, knowing little else. He'd remembered all the moves, but it had felt rote, memorized. Yes, he knows she enjoyed the sex, but her reactions post-coitus suggest she's not been fully satisfied. He vows to do better next time.
Months later, it's become a problem. A habit. He's become so much better--at sex, not intimacy--than he had ever been in life. He knows when to change it up. He knows when to tone it down, when to turn it up. He's eating up her life now, and still all he can think about is how to improve it. And so he continues to get better.
She, on the other hand, continues to get worse. She's stopped drawing, stopped writing, stopped working overtime (which was arguably a positive thing). She meets her friends less often, becoming silent and distracted even when she does. She finds it hard to sleep without turning him on beforehand, and when she travels home for her high school reunion she barely manages her own unsatisfying release each night.
She tries dating again, without much success. There are some sparks, but no connection like she had had with him (though she acknowledges that a connection takes time to build up). What's worse, the sex is unsatisfying. Who, man or woman, could hope to match her former lover, who in life knew all her sweet spots and in death became augmented with an artificial intelligence mostly used for fucking her?
Her mother tells her it was a mistake to have the procedure done, that it's a procedure intended for old people to be less lonely while they wait to pass on. Her mother says she needs to send him back and start moving on and find another man (she hasn't told her mother about the women), no matter how bad the sex is in comparison. Besides, her mother continues, married life isn't all about sex. Her father had never been all that good at it, after all. (This was not a picture she needed in her head!)
Yes, her mother agrees, she's allowed a mourning period. But a mourning period where she has his body still around--fer godsakes, a mourning period where she's still doing him--is just weird. In her grandmother's day, mourning periods were done without the dead body. (Well, hopefully.) That way the mourners could focus on the real memories, rather than these fake ones still being created.
So she promises to quit him. Cold turkey doesn't work; she craves his touch and his embrace too much. She powers him up again but asks him just to hold her. He does so without complaining, until she can't help herself. But he stays true to her instruction and does nothing more. The sex is mediocre but she falls asleep in his embrace afterward.
Over the next month she continues to fight the temptation, becoming less and less addicted to that one part of him, even able to go nights without the sex. She starts sleeping in the bed alone, though it takes a few days before she can get a full night's rest. And then she can bear to send him back.
He's predicted this, of course, since the night she asked him for comfort, not pleasure, then began to pull away from him. So when she opens the closet one last time, to return him and not to use him, she finds him like this: his arms are crossed over his chest, the third and fourth fingers on his right hand folded underneath the palm; his left hand is curled into a claw, as if to scratch at his shoulder. It's his last message, frozen on his hands, encoded in the sign language they shared:
"I love you, bear."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, September 8th, 2014

Author Comments

You may ask, "What becomes of a society in which reanimation is publicly available? What will people use it for?"

Here is my answer.

- Benjamin S Wolf
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