by Wang Xu

It was two o’clock in the morning. 

Robert woke up from a nightmare with a huge ache in his belly.

He knew it was the cancer.             

Keeping silent for a moment, he switched on the bedside light. Robert walked towards the window, drew back the curtain, and looked up at the night sky. Stars twinkled as diamonds against the blue field. Robert lifted his arm trying to touch the stars, but it dropped down in a second.

A nightmare passed through his mind.

It was a vast frozen sea, on which people were playing games and shouted: where is the land? Where is the land? Suddenly, the ice cracked and people dropped into the sea. Robert ran, ran, and ran, the cracking sound following him. The land was near…was just before him. The sound of breathing filled with the whole space…Robert dropped into the sea…He cannot breathe, and he felt the fear of death.

For five years since he was first diagnosed, nightmares followed him each night. They were tentacles of a gigantic octopus, wrapping his neck. He picked up the phone near the foot of the bed and called his doctor. 

“Doc. Smith, how’s your project going?” he said.

“Theoretically, it is workable. But…” Smith stopped.

“But what?”

“But we need a test subject to see if it’s a success.”  

“I’ll do it.” Robert said.

Silence flowed into the room.

After several minutes, Smith asked, “are you sure?”

“Yes.” Robert stood still. Not a single muscle twitched or doubted him. 

Three months later. 

A building of three stories stood at the far south side of the nation.

“Let’s go to the lab,” Smith said as he shook hands with Robert in front of the building.

All rooms were clean, with large machines taking up most of the space. People in white gowns hurried everywhere.

Robert nodded without stop.

“Mr. Robert,” Smith said without any expressions on his face. “I need to remind you for the last time, we do not know what will be the result of this experiment. You may die or be arrested by the United Earth Government because we did not get the formal approval. It is dangerous and illegal, so you should take the consequences and risks by yourself.”

Robert nodded again without saying any word.

“So, let me repeat the experimental process,” Smith adjusted his glasses while shaking his hand. “Your memory will be transplanted to a thin chip, and the chip will be transplanted into the brain of a clone robot, who will become you after the experiment. That means you will die today. Physically I mean. And your memory can be transplanted once, twice, thousands of times. Yes, I mean, you’ll not feel any pain anymore; and the most important thing is, you’ll never die, ever.” 

Smith stopped, taking a sip of water to wet his throat. His cheeks and ears became red; his legs trembled, forcing him to lean on the rail. 

Robert’s teeth rattled hard. After several minutes’ silence, he said: “I’m ready. Let’s do it.”

“All right.” Smith answered.

One hundred years later.

Robert sat on a deck chair on the deck of a yacht, wearing sunglasses, shorts and watching his ten daughters playing and laughing beside his perfect wife, a beauty with a pretty face and a nice character. She was his fifth wife, he remembered clearly.

Robert grinned and looked at the sun, which was smiling at each cell of his body.

One thousand years later.

Robert was in a spaceship with his ten sons and a graceful young wife around him. They were going to travel to the Milky Way. He used to tell his children that the galaxy was made of milk when they were young. 

“What is milk?” they used to ask him.

“It’s a white fluid, and it’s sweet, my boy,” he used to say.

“I want to try it.” the boy said.

“Someday,” he said.

Then, he took them to the Milky Way Galaxy because there was no milk on the Earth since many years ago, and other foods too had vanished. 

Ten thousand years later.

Robert sat beside a window of a spaceship, looking down at the people on the ground. There were many circles, inside which were silent people, waiting to board ships to other planets. Outside many were crying, shouting at the top of their voices: we have the right to board, we’re people like you!

There was another voice floating in the air, which was much clearer: Only people with ticket have the right to board! One ticket is 10 billion dollars! Only people with ticket have the right to board! One ticket is one billion dollars.

Robert, sitting beside the window of a spaceship, was looking down at the people on the ground, alone and silent. 

He stood up and went down the ship with the ticket in his hands. He went toward the out space of the circle, to a boy staring at him.

“Sir, please go back! We’re ready to fly.” a solider standing beside the circle margin held out an arm and said.

He kept on going.

“Sir, Sir, please go back to your ship!” Too many hands stopped him. 

He was forced to turn back to the ship, feeling the boys’ eyes sticking on his back.

When his ship was in the space, he saw a red point appear where the Earth used to be. The government said the earth would explode, and of course they were right. They were always right. 

Twenty thousand years later. 

It was two o’clock in the morning. Robert woke up from a nightmare.

It was a vast frozen planet on which people were playing games. He asked them how can he disappear. They replied happily, there is no way for you to disappear; you’re the man who never dies. Suddenly, the land trembled. and people disappeared into a huge crack. Robert ran and ran to the crack. The crack was near…was just before him, and then it disappeared. Robert felt tears on his face.

Next day, he stood on the top of a building, looking down upon the city with a big smile on his face. 

Robert could not hear any voices anymore, he pushed the “suicide” button in his one hand. 

He jumped. 

Suddenly, thousands of drops of water filled the space, and thousands of colorful rays twinkled in the air. After several minutes, though, they disappeared.

People driving in the air, shoppers wondering in floating stores, and all others stopped and stared at the rays. 

There were no expressions on anyone’s faces, but their hands were all clenched into fists for the man that was never supposed to die.