Science Fiction & Fantasy

Null States

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Fiction

Selfie

If you ask me, I’m more like my mom than my dad. She and I love astronomy and the mysterious origins of the universe. Dad’s not only stuck on the past, he literally would move there if he could. Every summer he drags me along on his research trips to eras where sweaty-smelling people with wool bathing suits hole up in seaside deathtraps.

“The Belleview is a beautiful hotel,” Dad protests, studying the snaps displayed on our living room wall. “It’s not a death trap.”

“Dad, it’s a wooden structure filled with flammable furniture and gas lamps, populated by people smoking pipes and cigars,” I say, from where I’m doing homework. “You told me yourself the number one enemy of old wood buildings is one careless spark. Show me a place with sprinklers and fire extinguishers, and then we’ll talk.”

He waves his hand to make the images scroll sideways. Some are black-and-white grainy images, while others are color chronoshots, and scrolling along the screen is a real-time cost analysis of different routes to get there. The cheapest option right now would require passing down three separate time tunnels and crossing two multidimensional borders. I hate the borders. They’re always crowded and boring and the lines seem to take forever, because you’re actually crossing forever.

“You didn’t object last summer when we visited the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island,” Dad says.

“Last month I did a school report on famous fires. Do you want me to read it to you?”

The color and angle of light slanting on Dad’s face changes as he brings up the blueprints. One of his many jobs is designing interactive tours of nineteenth century Victorian resorts for chrono tourists. The hotels all either burned down, got razed for redevelopment, or were destroyed by the rising tides that took out the old coastal cities. The Belleview is a sprawling white structure on the Gulf of Mexico, a tempting beacon for both termites and hurricanes.

Dad says, “Susan, you can’t stay home for two weeks while I’m away. You’ll like Florida. The space program started there.”

He goes back to his plans. I think about the Gemini and Apollo missions and the first man on the moon, more than a hundred years ago.

Mom’s surprised when I call her a few days earlier than scheduled.

“I want to come visit while Dad goes to 1899,” I tell her.

She frowns on my palmscreen. “You want to come up here?”

“You said I could for my birthday.”

“Which is eight months away. What’s wrong with time trips? You used to like them.”

“Do you know how uncomfortable a corset is?” Especially now that I’ve gotten a lot bigger on top, but I don’t mention that. “And the shoes kill my feet.”

She glances away and taps on a tablet. “What does your father say?”

They were never married. In most timestreams they probably would never even dated, but in this one they met at a wedding while in grad school and drank too many glasses of champagne. Mom gestated my embryo and Dad took over after that. Everything’s mostly worked out fine, except they’re not quite friends and do most of their communicating through me.

“I haven’t told him,” I say, spinning the moon globe dangling over my desk. The settlement she lives in is built to scale and smaller than the crescent on my thumbnail. “He’ll be okay with it.”

She makes a distracted noise. “Well, he’s got to pay half. This time of year, the rates are very expensive.”

Lunar travel is never cheap. Luckily, every time Dad drags me to the past I take snaps of old jewelry, clothing, and furniture. I send them to a replication database for commercial and private users and earn a commission on anything they use. I’ve been doing it for four years now and there’s more money in my account than either Mom or Dad suspect.

“So I can come up?”

“Talk to him, sweetie. I’ll look at my schedule.”

The key to success with Dad is timing. No pun intended. A few days later, he logs off from one of his jobs with a big grin, thanks to an unexpected bonus, and over dinner I’m ready with my proposal.

“Dad, I want you to take a selfie of me when you visit the Belleview. That way we get to spend some quality time together, and I can do research with Mom on the moon for my senior project. Wouldn’t that be great for my college portfolio?”

He blinks in surprise. “Since when do you have a selfie?”

“I could get one. I’ve got some savings. And a coupon.”

Dad scratches the side of his head. He’s one of those very tall, very skinny guys who look like they’re stooping for low doorways even when they’re not. Sometimes when we travel to the past, the locals say he looks like Abe Lincoln.

“Did you say moon?”

“Mom okayed it.”

He hesitates. “Aside from the fact that’s something we need to discuss more in depth, I’m not thrilled with the idea of spending my time with a robot daughter.”

Immediately I pop up the brochure on our tabletop. “Selfies aren’t robots. They’re just temporary containers. You used one for that conference in Brazil last year because you couldn’t be in two places at the same time.”

“As I recall, it was my leg that was in pieces,” he says drily.

“And that’s why we don’t let you ride airbikes anymore.”

“I don’t know if I can afford to travel next summer. This could be our last big trip together.”

“We’re still taking it together. The selfie’s going to act just like I would. When I get back from the moon I’ll synch the memories in and it’ll be like we were never apart.”

He’s not convinced. Luckily, I’m persistent and persuasive and finally he agrees, reluctantly, as long as I pay for half the selfie out of my own savings. Mom gets my visa approved, my friend Jessy shrieks with jealousy, and Dad and I visit the selfie showroom. The model we pick out has my same body shape. A half hour later she comes out of the imprint mold with my face, hair, birthmarks, and the tattoo Dad doesn’t know about. A few days before my trip, we return for a visit to the lab. A technician loads Selfie Susan with my neuro profile and any memories I’ve elected for her to carry. I give her everything except my passwords, my poetry, my first kiss, and Carlos. Some things are private.

“I’m going to wake her up now,” the technician says. He has a coffee stain on his white lab coat. “They’re a little disoriented when first activated. Do you want to meet her?”

I stare down at the steel lab table. I don’t like my nose. I can’t see if her eye color is exactly the same. But underneath the blue paper gown she’s otherwise exactly me, and it’s kind of creepy. What if she’s smarter than I am, or funnier, or Dad likes her better? I decide to wait outside. Dad stays in the lab for fifteen minutes, talking to his temporary daughter, and when he comes out he’s wearing a frown.

“You don’t like her?” I ask. He shouldn’t. I’m the real deal and she’s going to be recycled at the end of his trip. But I panic a little at the thought he might not let me go visit Mom.

“She’s fine,” he says, pulling me in for a hug. “But you’ll always be my favorite.”

Dads are so sentimental. I pat his back. “I’ll miss you, too.”

The night before I leave, I’m too excited to sleep. I’ve memorized every step of the trip. Dad and I will take a bullet train to the nearest space elevator in New Mexico. I’ll ride that to an orbital transfer station. A shuttle will take me and three hundred other passengers from the station to the moon. I’m going to be traveling with scientists, researchers, grad students, and families. The higher and farther I go, the more I’ll see of our gorgeous spinning planet. Me, in space. Finally. I’m going to take a hundred thousand snaps.

Once I get to the moon, Mom and I will bond in a way we’ve never before. She’ll grow to appreciate what a great daughter she has, and I’ll learn how much she regrets putting her career ahead of everything. Or maybe not, because real life isn’t like movies. I’m not expecting bittersweet epiphanies that lead to heartfelt declarations or anything. I’m not expecting much, really, except two weeks of low gravity and cool science and looking down at Earth hoping Dad’s having a good time with my plastic twin.

And it all goes exactly to plan, really it does, until a micro-asteroid rips through the transfer shuttle’s engine, breaches the passenger cabin, and sends us screaming into oblivion.

• • •

Dad’s late picking me up from the selfie labs. He apologizes, but he doesn’t look me in the eyes while speaking. He pockets the remote that can reboot me if my programs crash, signs the final rental agreement, and walks me to the autocar.

“I already sent the bags ahead,” he says. “Susan packed your overnight bag.”

“I’m Susan, Dad,” I remind him. “Just riding around in a temporary package.”

We climb inside the dark, air-conditioned car. He immediately pulls out his tablet to read his notes about the Belleview Hotel. “I’m still getting used to the idea.”

I nudge his knee. “Keep that up and you’ll hurt my feelings. When we synch, you’ll hurt her feelings, too.”

A very slight smile flicks over his face. “I can see you remember how to take guilt trips.”

My other me has thoughtfully loaded a backpack with our spare tablet, some snacks, and some of our jewelry. The funny thing is that I know I’m a copy, and that she’s technically the “authentic” Susan Ann Miller, but I don’t feel fake. I poke my own arm. Plastic, but warm and soft. I flex a muscle. Okay, I’ve never been known for my upper arm strength, but it feels like a real muscle should. I zing Jessy.

She peers at me through the screen. “You don’t look like a robot.”

“I’m not a robot. I’m exactly Susan. The real deal in a plastic body.”

“She said you’d say that. What about Carlos and the butterfly?”

“Who’s Carlos?”

“See!” Jessy grins. “You’re not exactly like you because you didn’t tell yourself that Carlos is sort of your boyfriend.”

I’m instantly indignant. “I have a boyfriend and I didn’t tell myself?”

Dad raises an eyebrow. “You didn’t share it with me, either. Let me talk to Jessy.”

“Whooops,” I say, and “accidentally” disconnect the call.

Luckily, there’s no time, literally, to investigate the mystery of Carlos before we arrive at the timeport. It’s a giant building by a lake with strict queues and multiple stations for security screening, insurance waivers, orientation briefs, more security, more waiting. Thousands of people make a lot of noise, and the wallvids play the same boring election stories over and over. I wish we could just pick a president and be done with it.

Finally, Dad and I reach the ramp into a long black-green tunnel. I’ve been through before and should be used to it, but it’s creepy. It makes you feel like you’re going uphill and downhill at the same time, and it’s simultaneously cold and hot, and it seems like there’s an invisible wind pushing you forward but also holding you back. Usually Dad and I walk through hand-in-hand. This time he hesitates, so I grab his hand and squeeze it.

“The first time we went through, I was so nervous you promised me a pony ride when we reached Coney Island,” I say.

He nods. “Then you felt bad for the ponies, so we got ice cream soda instead. Our tradition.”

“Don’t think you can get out of that now. Selfies don’t need food, but we like it anyway. I want chocolate scoops and chocolate syrup and seltzer that gets up my nose.”

Dad smiles, and we go through the time tunnel together to visit the Belleview Hotel in 1899.

• • •

Dad’s not supposed to pick me up from the selfie labs until noon, but he’s early. He’s jittering with excitement or too much caffeine or maybe nervousness about me being a robot and all, but I’m not really a robot. I’m Temporary Susan, and some subconscious programming keeps me happy with that. Nobody wants a selfie moping around in existential gloom.

As it turns out, Dad’s unsettled for another entirely different reason. “I had a last-minute commission for a trip to the Hotel Del Coronado in California, 1918.”

“I don’t have clothes for 1918, Dad.”

“I was up all night printing some out,” he says. “You’ll like it there. We might meet Charlie Chaplin.”

I don’t know who that is, but if Dad’s excited about that, he’ll be less worried about the whole selfie thing. I rummage through the backpack that Original Susan packed for me. She must have been in a hurry, because there’s no tablet or comm device. I want to call my best friend Jessy and see if she can tell the difference between selfie and real thing.

“I grabbed the wrong bag,” Dad says, apologetic. “Tell me how you feel. What’s it like to be in an artificial body?”

We talk all the way to the timeport. Inside, the lines are as long as usual, but thankfully there’s no news of the upcoming election. Maybe all of the stations have gotten tired of talking about it. Dad keeps me chatting. He’s very interested in my experience, which is strange because he wasn’t very thrilled before. He keeps staring intently at my face in a way that might be creepy if he weren’t my Dad.

The time tunnel is long and dark, as eerie as I remember. Dad takes my hand and says, “I know your body just passes nutrients through, but when we arrive I think we should have ice cream sodas.”

I squeeze his fingers. “Sounds like a deal.”

1918 isn’t too boring, mostly because there’s a Hollywood movie crew filming around the hotel exterior and down on the beach. It’s for a silent film. How people were ever able to enjoy silent movies is beyond me. The bad guy is played by someone named Rudolph Valentino, who will be famous eventually. He gets to run around in a bathing suit with bare legs while all the women have to wear soggy leggings. Otherwise the clothes are more comfortable than 1899, though not as easy or convenient as hanging out in the temperature-controlled moon habitat in shorts.

“Is that what you’re going to remember most?” Dad asks on our way back to the labs, once we’re back in the future. He’s gazing out the window pensively. “The clothes?”

“No, the stars.”

“Valentino?”

“The real stars, Dad.” The best thing about our trips is when I can find the edge of land, stretch out flat with my arms over my head, and point my toes up into the glittering dome of the sky. All those stars, so bright and distant, their light traveling across time just for me. The universe is full of secrets waiting to be unraveled.

“Thank you for coming,” Dad says when the technicians take me back. I’m not nervous about my impending annihilation. Another subroutine to thank. In what seems like only a few minutes, I’ll be reintegrated into biological Susan.

“See you soon,” I say, and climb up on my lab table.

• • •

Dad’s very late picking me up. I’m afraid he’s backed out of the whole deal and would rather go into the past alone than with some facsimile of his daughter, even though I feel like the genuine Susan. The friendly technician in a wrinkled lab coat assures me that’s not true.

“He’s more committed than you think, kid. Here, hold your remote for a minute while I check the calibration.”

The remote is silver and rectangular, no heavier than a pebble. It’s kind of weird to think about how it can reboot my brain if it crashes. I wonder what it’s like to be rebooted—like dying and getting instantly reborn, or would I even notice? I ask the technician.

“There shouldn’t be any gaps in awareness,” he says. “Unless your owner double reboots, which puts you into safe mode. Able to walk and follow instructions, but not running your full profile.”

“Like a zombie,” I say.

“It’s very rare,” he says.

Finally Dad shows up breathless and harried. “Sorry, last-minute commission and change in plans. We’re going to New Hampshire.”

In the car he shows me pictures of our new destination. The Wentworth is the Grande Dame of the Sea, he says. I’m sure I’ll be just as bored there as I would be at the Belleview, but I don’t say so because I’m too busy being annoyed he forgot my tablet and comm.

“You don’t need to call Jessy,” he says. “How’s it feel to have an artificial body?”

“It feels the same as a normal one.”

“No differences at all?”

“I said it feels the same, Dad.” I wish he’d stop trying to prove how different I am from his “real” daughter. I’m the only one he’s got for the next two weeks, and I paid a lot to make this happen, so I don’t need quizzing.

The timeport is full of people and noise and some blabbering on the wallvids about the presidential election. Dad keeps talking to me, so I can’t be sure, but the candidates aren’t familiar. What happened to the ones I’ve been seeing for months?

“Your mother sent some pictures,” he says, showing me snaps of her and the “real” Susan up on the moon. They’re in a lab together, posing with their heads propped on their hands, smiling. You can see our mother-daughter resemblance. “There’s a couple dozen of them.”

I scroll through the snaps as we inch forward in line. Mom and me in the chow hall. Mom and me walking in a lunar arboretum. I wonder who took the pictures. Something else is odd, too, but it takes me a moment to figure it out.

“Dad, look at my earrings,” I say. “I’m wearing the same ones all the time.”

He looks blank. “So?”

“I change them every day. See?” I flick the silver hoops I’ll have to pull out at the final time border where we change into period clothes. We’ll leave our modern clothes and most tech in secure lockers, ready for pick-up upon return. “I packed twelve pairs for the moon.”

“Maybe you forgot them.”

“I’d buy or borrow new ones,” I tell him. “Why would Mom send fake pictures?”

Dad’s distracted by a security screener moving down the line with questions that need answering. I thumb Mom’s picture and put through a call.

She answers with, “Bob, you know how I feel—“ and then stops when she sees me. The screen resolution is so fine that I can see her go pale despite the hundreds of thousands of kilometers between us.

“He promised you’d never call me,” she says, her lips tight. “Get off the phone, selfie.”

The hostility knocks me backward into Dad. When he sees what I’ve done, he reaches for the remote in his pocket.

White noise floods my head, followed by nothingness.

• • •

Dad picks me up from the selfie lab with a change of plans. We’re headed for the east coast of Florida instead of the Gulf of Mexico. The resort is named Murray Hall and it’s in Ruby Beach, outside of Jacksonville. Dad brought a note from Jessy for me. Her parents have dragged her off to one of those “techno free” resorts in Nepal for a month. She’s going to go crazy without her comms, but no more crazy than I’ll be in 1888.

Dad has another surprise. He paid for VIP access through the timeport. Shorter lines, faster screening, and no wallvids screaming out election stories.

By the time we reach Ruby Beach, I’m too beat to pay much attention. Selfies get tired like everyone else, although our reaction is driven by power levels and not biochemistry or physiology. Dad and I take adjoining rooms on the third floor facing the sea. The lack of air conditioning means I wake up with sunlight broiling my room. I flop around in the hot bedclothes like a fish yanked out of the ocean. It’s cruel to take a modern teenager anywhere without air conditioning. I hope Moon Susan is happy with herself, up there having fun while I sweat my way through the nineteenth century.

Dad knocks on my door with, “Come on, get dressed and let’s eat breakfast.”

Food in 1888 isn’t very good. People eat meat and greasy eggs and biscuits that don’t even have chocolate on them. I watch Dad eat and pour extra sugar into my tea. The hotel manager stops by our table and thanks us for visiting. Murray Hall doesn’t get many time travelers, although of course he hopes Dad’s work will bring more.

“It’ll be my pleasure to write about your fine establishment,” Dad says.

It wouldn’t be so much of a pleasure if he was the one stuck wearing a high collar, long skirts, and a ridiculously lacey camisole. I absolutely refused to bind myself into anything resembling a corset. Dad’s probably not much more comfortable in the layers of his linen suit. Why couldn’t he specialize in twenty-first-century cruise ship travel, instead?

“You should come with us,” Dad says, after the manager offers a personal tour of the property.

I pick up my drawstring bag. “You do your thing, I’ll do mine.”

“Susan . . .” he says.

“Dad . . .” I mimic. “Go. Have fun.”

I spend the morning drifting around the resort, taking snaps of jewelry and furniture. The border police don’t let you bring communication devices into the past—too valuable, too prone to theft, the insurance claims are ridiculous—but simple flash tech is okay. After lunch I find myself a straw hat, a deck chair, and some shade. With me are the collected works of Mark Twain and a tall glass of genuine lemonade. The ocean’s at low tide, the blue waves dotted by gulls plucking their lunch from the sand. Horse-drawn carriages pull the tourists up and down the shore.

By the time I’m done reading, the tide is back in and the horses are being returned to their stables. I need to go find Dad and declare that it’s time for our traditional ice cream soda. Before I can leave, I realize I’m being watched by one of the locals, a boy my age. He has dark hair, dark eyes, and a big frown. He doesn’t look comfortable in his white suit and hat, and can’t seem to decide whether to come outside or keep lingering in the doorway.

“Do you need something?” I ask, figuring he’s just a gawker who wants to see the time traveler’s daughter.

He walks to my chair and stands over me. “Susan. It’s Carlos. I rented this selfie.”

I shade my eyes and blink up at him. “Carlos who?”

“She told me she didn’t give you those memories but I thought maybe a little . . .” He tugs on his tie, as if it’s too tight around his neck. “We go to school together. You, me, and Jessy share a science pod.”

Okay, no one here knows about Jessy, so I guess he’s legit. But I’ve never heard his name before. “Still nothing. Why would my original block you out?”

“Because we’re more than classmates. More than friends.”

My heart speeds up a little. “How do I know you’re not lying?”

He sits on the edge of the chair and touches one of my hands. His fingers are soft and smooth. “You have a birthmark on your right leg, right behind your knee. And matching tattoos that we got before you left. See?”

Carefully he pulls up the sleeve of his summer jacket. A tiny blue butterfly is marked inside his wrist. I have a duplicate on my right hip, where Dad’s never seen it.

Carlos says, “I can’t stay long. I could only afford to rent this until midnight. But I miss you. I wanted to see you.”

His voice has gone wistful. It’s strange to think he feels something for me that I can’t even remember. We must have a pretty strong relationship if he can’t be apart from me for even a few days. I glow a little inside, metaphorically.

“I don’t miss you,” I tell him truthfully, because you can’t miss someone you don’t remember. “But maybe we can take a walk on the beach.”

He smiles and offers me a hand up.

Strolling around dry sand isn’t easy in Victorian high heels. I peel my shoes off and Carlos strings them over his shoulder for me. He recalls stories about Jessy that I’ve shared with him, and some complaints I’ve made about my parents. Apparently I write poetry, though I don’t remember that, either. He says our first date was ice skating. Our first kiss was in the carport under my house, very quiet so that Dad couldn’t hear. Dad thinks I shouldn’t date until I’m thirty. Carlos wants to be a famous architect. He already knows that I plan on being an award-winning astrophysicist. On a blanket in the dunes, hidden from passers-by, we watch falling stars streak across the sky. His head rests easy on my plastic belly, and I run my plastic fingers through his curly plastic hair. Although we came from a factory, our bodies can feel warmth and softness and joy.

My other self can keep the moon. I’d rather have this.

“I can send you money for another rental,” I say when it’s time for him to go.

He belts his trousers and tucks in his shirt. In the starlight he looks lovely and tousled and very sad.

“Susan, how many trips have you gone on with your father?” he asks. “As a selfie, not as yourself.”

I prop myself up on one elbow. “This is the first time. Because I’m visiting my mom, too. You know that.”

He drops to his knees and cups my face with both hands. “You left for the moon four summers ago. I’m sorry. You didn’t—there was an accident.”

My ears fill with a buzzing noise that’s louder than the ocean surf. “I’m dead?”

Carlos kisses me, but I don’t kiss back. My lips feel numb.

“Ask your father,” he says, and disappears over the dunes.

Clumsily I button my blouse. Over my head, the ancient constellations silently whirl on their carefully delineated paths. No moon yet. I walk back to the hotel with my hair unpinned in the salty breeze, my shoes forgotten, and if the locals are aghast that I dare walk through the lobby that way, I don’t care. Nothing matters except for the truth.

Up in his room, scratching notes in a book by the light of a lamp, Dad looks up and says, “There you are—” before he realizes something’s wrong.

“Is it true?” I ask shakily. “There was an accident?”

He puts aside his fountain pen and we stare at each other. A long minute passes, filled only by the tick of a clock on the mantelpiece.

Dad asks, “Who told you?”

“Does it matter? I’m dead!”

He rubs his head. “You’re not dead. You suffered brain damage in the decompression and crash of your transfer shuttle. You’re in a coma in Texas. Your body is being kept alive while we wait for new treatment options.”

I don’t know what to feel. Angry that he’s been lying to me. Bewildered at why he couldn’t just tell me. Unable to imagine my biological body in a hospital bed, living on without any kind of consciousness to move or control it.

“So what is this selfie, a toy?” I ask bitterly. “A plastic doll you take out of a tube every summer to play with?”

I don’t remember sitting down, but I’m suddenly in a padded gold armchair. Dad comes to me and crouches down with sorrow written all over his face. He’s so close I could hit him in the nose if I wanted to.

“You’re not a toy,” he says. “You’re Susan. But your selfie brain has limited storage and the neural connections degrade after a few weeks of use. The technicians can’t synch you to a living brain, so they put each trip’s memories into long-term storage for later integration. Every summer I rent your unit and they reload the original neuro profile they have on file.”

I shake his shoulders. “You can buy a better model, put me into something more permanent—“

“Your hospital bills are too high. The insurance money, your savings, my income—it’s all tapped out. I sold the house. I work twenty hours a day to afford just this short trip every summer. “

My voice is wobbly. “Mom can afford it.”

“She can’t,” he says. “We’re not rich, Susan. She already pays all she can. I’m sorry.”

I stalk away from him to the balcony. Out over the ocean, the stars hang like strands of tiny white Christmas lights. But there will be no Christmas for me. No Thanksgiving or birthday or college, no career or Carlos or more butterfly tattoos.

“What happens to me the rest of the time?” I ask, my hands wrapped around the railing. “Don’t tell me they just let this unit sit in a tube, unused. Do I work in a factory? Maybe I clean bathrooms. Maybe they rent me out for parties.”

“It doesn’t matter what the unit does,” Dad replies. He sounds muffled and thick, and far away. “I get you and we get this. It’s all I can offer you.”

“It’s not enough,” I whisper. Saline tears drip down my face. They didn’t mention tears in the selfie catalog, but apparently we can cry for ourselves and our families and for futures that will never be.

He comes up behind me and wraps his arms around my chest. “We won’t stop looking for a cure. One day you’ll wake up and I’ll be right there beside you. You’ll leave the hospital and resume your life and none of this will bother you.”

On the horizon, far over the ocean, the thin crescent of the waning moon is rising. Silver and distant and empty. Somewhere nearby, Carlos has already passed through a time tunnel to a future where he and Jessy have graduated school and moved on with their lives.

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Dad,” I tell him.

The silver remote flashes in his hand. “I’ll never let you suffer.”

• • •

I open my eyes. Everything is dim. Standing by my bed is Dad and a man in a white coat. This looks like a hospital. Or maybe a lab. I’m in a bed. Or maybe on a hard table. I’m wearing a paper gown and underneath it, on my hip, is a tiny itch like a rash or a scab or a recent tattoo. My body feels blazing hot and icy cold, my mouth full of sand, my head full of strange, disjointed thoughts.

“As I said,” the man in the lab coat says. He’s a doctor or a technician. “Disorientation is normal.”

Dad bends close. He looks older than I remember, with silver sprinkled in his hair. “Susan, do you know who I am?”

Sure I do.

The more important question is, who am I? Real or selfie?

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Sandra McDonald

Sandra McDonaldFour of Sandra McDonald’s stories have been noted on the Tiptree Award Honor List, and her collection Diana Comet and Other Impossible Stories was a Booklist Editor’s Choice and ALA Over the Rainbow book. She is the author of The Outback Stars series of SF adventures, the Fisher Key mysteries for GLBTQ young adults, and stories that have appeared in Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Beyond Binary and War and Space: Recent Combat as well other magazines and anthologies. Once upon a time she was Hollywood assistant who worked at CBS Television and Disney Studios.  Visit her at http://www.sandramcdonald.com.