“Please, please come in. Can I get you anything? Coffee? Water? Okay. Let’s just have a seat. We have a lot to discuss and a couple of decisions to make, but I assure you, we’ll keep this as painless as possible. You’ve come to the right place.
“I might begin by offering my condolences. No, maybe that’s not what you expect to hear from me! Ha, ha, yes, but seriously—this is a time of transition for your grandmother, and regardless of what we decide today, there will be some grieving. It’s a natural thing, a human thing, to feel a sense of loss. Even for those of us lucky enough to live in these times. These days, when death has finally lost most of its sting… but not all. I understand exactly how you’re feeling right now. I went through this same process with my father, a few years ago, and I can tell you right now—what you’re feeling is natural. Your grandmother has died, yes. But that doesn’t have to be permanent, not anymore.
“Let me just bring up some graphics on the screen, here, this is just… well, call it inspirational. Are you religious? No? Okay, let me click through these first twenty or so images. Here. This is our facility. Yes, I agree, it looks nice. It’s very quiet—though, not silent, per se. If you ever come to visit the data center, and I hope you will, you might be surprised to hear music playing in the hallways, in the employee areas, even in the server rack warehouse itself. That’s for the benefit of our workers. Some of them report a, well, eerie feeling being around all those resting souls. It’s a purely psychological effect, there’s nothing ghostly or spectral about the work. Mostly our employees spend their days checking the servers, making sure they stay cool, making sure the emergency backup batteries are fully charged. We can’t afford an outage, not even for a moment! Unfortunately, the way the process works, if we ever lost power, well. If a stored personality is ever, you know, switched off, it’s impossible to boot it up again. One of the little problems in the system that we’re always working on.
“I’ve taken the liberty of examining your grandmother’s social media profile, I hope you don’t mind. I wanted to get a sense of how she might fit in at our facility. Ha ha, that’s kind of a little joke we have. I see that she worked in information technology back in the early, wild west days of the internet. Amazing what they accomplished back then, really amazing. And I see she was a fan of science fiction films. That would explain why you’re here. Most people of your grandmother’s generation wouldn’t have made this choice, much less written it into their wills. Though honestly I find that a little surprising. Death is forever, as they say. But now it doesn’t have to be.
“Your grandmother can live forever. And I mean that perfectly literally. Forever. I want you to think about that. She’ll be around when your grandchildren are old. She’ll be around to see the sun burn out. As long as she’s taken care of in our facility. And there aren’t any power hiccups.
“Let’s not worry about that, shall we? I assure you, we take the most extreme measures to avoid any power loss, even for a moment. For the reason I mentioned earlier, yes. So let’s not worry about that. I want to talk to you instead about the packages we have to offer, and the upgrade schedule you can see in this slide here, and—
“Will you be able to talk to her. Well. In a limited sense, I mean, you can talk to her all you like but—her ability to talk back will be limited. There’s a little light on the front of her server. It blinks when she knows someone is there. That’s something, right? We can have a webcam set up to monitor that light, yes, that’s actually part of our Heaven 17 package, and of course it’s included if you purchase Cloud 9 maintenance insurance, and—
“No, I’m sorry, you won’t be able to see her or interact with her. She’ll exist as a layer of information on top of a silicon substrate from now on, and… I know, it’s a lot of jargon to process all at once. Let’s just say that there won’t be anything to actually see. Or hear. But her consciousness will live on forever. Let’s stay focused on that—
“No, no, I get this all the time, but no—she won’t be interacting with any other of our resting souls. That would require far too much processing power, power we need to keep the souls active. Alone? Will she be all alone in there? Well, yes, technically, but as I said earlier, she will have some dim consciousness of the existence of other people near her server rack. We’re not exactly sure how, but we know it has to be true. That’s what the blinking light is for. So let’s not use the word ‘alone’. That makes it sound so grim, when what we have on offer here is—
“I really think we need to stay focused. This is immortality. We are offering the cure to the greatest affliction humankind has ever known. We are offering a cure for nonexistence. For oblivion. For death.
“I see. I mean, I think I understand. Yes, it might seem like a limited existence. But surely it’s better than the alternative. And it’s not like she’ll lack for stimulation. Honestly, we tried that with our first generation product, just keeping the resting souls in a state of sensory deprivation, as it were. Imagine just a featureless white room, and nothing to look at or hear, and you can’t even look down at your own body because you don’t have one anymore. It’s… yes. It was pretty grim. And we discovered that it just didn’t work. A human mind, in the absence of any stimulus, well, it goes insane pretty quickly. If it can, it shuts down. I mean, when we gave the first generation of resting souls the opportunity to shut down, well, they did all take it. Immediately. But let’s not focus on that. We’ve come a long way since then.
“Your grandmother will be given constant stimulation. We feed in video and audio streams twenty-four seven. Oh, we try to keep the program varied. Mostly, though, it’s just old anime shows from the 1980s. I’m sorry? No, no, I understand. Like I said I saw your grandmother’s profile. I know she would have preferred classic movies, perhaps, or just music, but we can’t, at this time, offer personalized stimulation feeds. We have a strategic partnership with a company that owns the rights to, really, a startling amount of anime from the 80s. Honestly, it’s kind of fun! So retro!
“Other kinds of feeds? What other kinds of feeds are possible? I’m not sure what you’re asking, specifically. What, like virtual reality? Oh, no, ha ha, no, no no no, it won’t be like that. We have nearly ten thousand resting souls in our facility alone. Can you imagine the processing power it would take to provide them with a virtual world, twenty-four hours a day? Oh, no, that’s quite beyond the—
“Twenty-four hours, yes.
“No. They don’t sleep in there. No, the reasons are, well, technical. But they’re related to the problem with, ah, power hiccups. Basically, if we don’t keep the resting souls constantly running, that is to say, if their programs ever stop we… well, we don’t have any way to start them up again. So no, they don’t sleep. On the plus side, they don’t need to eat, either, or groom themselves or—or—yes, I understand, you hadn’t thought about that before now. That your grandmother will never brush her teeth again. I know, it’s these little prosaic things that we never consider, that bother us now. Please. Take your time. I’m just going to bring up this next slide, which concerns the financial packages we have on offer.
“Hmm? Financial, yes. Well, we are talking about eternity here, and that’s a very long time. We’ll need to set up some kind of direct deposit system to cover the weekly fees, not to mention the yearly surcharges and then any upgrade package pricing you might want to consider. We suggest, and this is purely optional, we suggest setting up some kind of endowment now. Our investment package can help match inflation and make sure your grandmother is protected for a very, very long time. Of course, any investment may lose money, I’m required to say that. But an endowment really is best. Otherwise, your children, and your grandchildren, and their grandchildren can make modest contributions to your grandmother’s upkeep on a week-by-week basis. It’s up to you. Let me bring up this next slide.
“Yes, that’s what we’re looking at, not including taxes, fees, and package upgrades. Yes. Per week.
“I understand. It’s a big decision I’m asking you to make. I don’t want to pressure you. But I do think it’s important to note at this juncture that the harvesting procedure—that is, the process by which we read your grandmother’s personality state directly from her brain tissue—has to be done within the first twenty-four hours post mortem. Otherwise there could be… glitches. After forty-eight hours the procedure is impossible. So we need to act quickly. Unless you want your beloved grandmother to just… die, like people used to do. Unless you want her to just be gone. Forever.
“You can sign here. A thumb print is fine. We’ll take it from here—you don’t need to do anything else. What’s that? The… the body? Ah, well, it’s sort of, you know, used up in the procedure. You really don’t want it back, once we’re done with it.
“It’s been lovely getting to meet you today. And please, when your own time comes, when you’re ready—please let your children know that I’ll be here. Waiting. Waiting and ready to serve your own post mortem needs.”