Life beyond

Category A: First Place (2021) Monash Short Story Writing Competition

Author: Charlize Chen

Title:  Life beyond


I’m sorry. I will always be. I made the choice and it wasn’t mine to make.

I remember the days when you swung me round and round, your hand gripping mine tightly. Your bellow of a laugh, so out of place to your slight figure. Your smile lines, crinkles that feathered outwards from your eyes like the stroke of a paint brush. Your hair, that retained its fiery hue for nearly all of your life. Your dismay at the first strand of grey. And when I was older, sitting in fancy wrought iron chairs, watching the sun go down and sipping cappuccino with you. I also remember that first time, when your coffee remained untouched, cold, forgotten on the kitchen countertop. My joking admonishment. 

“You can’t live without coffee!”

I remember the first time my name was foreign to you. And then my face. Unrecognisable. Some days were good, some bad. You were never fully there.

And I chose. I chose what I thought was right. I chose what I thought was best. I chose to preserve your thoughts, feelings. Your memories. Everything. You.

“In fact,” they said, “she will be able to live forever!”

And what it did to you. It made you inhuman. Incapable of feeling. Loving. You had her smile lines; they never puckered again. You had her eyes, once so full of meaning. You had her voice, her stories. But you weren’t there. You weren't real. You weren’t you

Days, weeks, months. I kept you whole. I shattered. I couldn’t continue. Couldn’t pretend. Couldn't ignore. I terminated the program. My mother. My beautiful, funny, boisterous mother. The program was your tether to life. Your tether to me. You lived. You weren’t alive.

It was my fault. 

My vision clouded with thoughts, I walk straight into someone. I duck my head, muttering a quick, “Sorry.”

But when I look up, a man stands there, arms glued to his sides like two popsicle sticks. His face is an impenetrable screen, his voice expressionless, though husky.

“No worries.”

 A lurch in my stomach.

I hurry past the rotating HoloFilm stand, past the shelves of Instameals — packets of thick, flavoured paste — and grab a dozen free-range eggs, a bottle of full cream milk and a carton of cereal (Wheat Checkers: A smile in every bite!).

“Just these, please.” I offer a pleasant smile to the cashier.

My smile becomes strained as I see her properly. Her posture is impossibly straight, her gaze vacant.

They’re everywhere. We made the choice.

I’m sorry. I will always be. I made the choice and it wasn’t mine to make.




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Last updated: 02 September 2021