Foreign Future

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” — Arthur C. Clarke


I am a conscious being.

My body, manufactured and currently tailored to its current surroundings, is perfect and surpasses the laws of physics.

It is the temporary domain of my spirit, but I am not attached to it

It is 934,706 A.D., although calendars have come and passed since that system was in use.

I am part of a collective conscience, a hive mind that spans galaxies, an intelligent universe that has fully evolved to be a self-sustaining, breathing thing.

The limitations of space have not been a concern for eons. We can choose where to be when we want to be there. We can bend or manipulate anything we want. For the majority of human civilization, the distinction between biology and technology has blurred so much that we have become the machines that sustain us.

Individual, but whole.

Physical, but spiritual.

I am on a fabricated planet. It does not generate a gravity well, so I float in a city of servers, towering things which house and support the parallel digital universe we travel to and from. This planet is one of millions.

My form is winged, with two limbs. I flap to propel myself forward, and then the wings morph into two more limbs, all of them with opposable digits. With my forward momentum, I glide toward one of the server towers. I grip its side, and I latch on.

The ground is thousands of meters below me, but I do not have vertigo. That is an unimaginable sensation of olden times, when heights were lethal and gravity was a problem.

I probe out with my electroreception, and I am aware of the currents running through the tower. They arc up, like a lattice, and the structure is beautiful. I immediately spot a dead zone on the tower. It is what I am looking for.

I clamber up the tower, my digits finding holds with ease, the lack of gravity and my synthetic muscles keeping me from becoming tired.

In seconds, I am at the dead spot, and I morph one of my limbs into a metal plug, the nanobots that comprise my body shifting their molecular and atomic structures to become a piece of machinery. With the other limb, I procure a multitool, and I set to work.

UV light has eroded one of the wires. A process that takes thousands of years, but it is possible that the routine maintenance of the tower has missed this particular spot before. There are many towers, after all.

I set the wires together and superheat them to fuse them.

My job done, I push myself off the tower and morph some wings to guide me through the atmosphere.

Soaring through the server city, I feel free. There is no need for a physical body anymore, but the joy of having a tactile existence supersedes any freedom I would get living as a purely digital being. There are, of course, those who choose that life, who see no reason to experience the physical world when it could be simulated, but I am not one of them.

I head to the nearest admin center, where I can report my job as done and clock in.

I tune in to the general chatter of the near universe. It appears to be a lively conversation about time travel.

“How do you know that time travel is not possible?”

“Because we have not discovered it by now! It’s been how many eons with the best scientists working on it, how do you think we wouldn’t have stumbled upon the answer by now?”

“So you’re saying it was inevitable, that there’s nothing else to be discovered.”

“Of course not. We’re at peak performance.”

“I disagree. We’ve said that many times, and there has always been some new discovery.”

“If time travel existed, we would have been visited by ourselves by now.”

“How do you know we didn’t just go far enough back that we were undetectable?”

“Because we would have found traces of those settlers by then.”

“So you think we ought to just accept the heat death of the universe?”


I tune out. Not much worth listening to — this debate is very popular.

I land at the ground level and enter the admin center. It is empty. I walk up to an upload pod and prepare the upload.

My conscience leaves my body, and the pod disassembles the nanoparticles for the next being to set foot on this planet.

I am now in the alternate, digital universe, nearly infinite, in my private digital space. I can see my thoughts and ideas, organized the way I prefer them. I wonder what it will be like when the universe dies, and all of the physical support disappears. When all of our digital selves wink out without warning.

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