A short story about the near future.

"What is the difference between living a thousand years, and living twenty, but with the memory of a thousand?"
- Chou Takamuri, Identity and Time

I remember my first implant, though it seems a strange thing to say.

I was ten years old, an American boy who'd never left Chicago until then. I'd been flown to a Chinese city whose name I couldn't pronounce, then left to lie on a table in a bare white room, listening to the sounds of the doctors getting ready.

When I woke up I didn't feel any different. I was still confused, and I was still a frightened boy in a foreign country. Then within an hour I knew I had been a Korean teenage girl. I'd been a child prodigy in mathematics, spending each day studying field equations, chaos and string theory, learning each thoroughly under pressure from my family and my own fear of failure.

Calculus, Maxwell's equations, Schroedinger, Born and Plank, they were all in my head, all so beautiful and obvious, all fitting together so neatly.

But there was more, and there was also less. There was the time my mother cut her hand preparing an evening meal of rice and soup, and the time I came home bubbling with excitement about my exam results, only to be told my grandfather had died while I was taking it.

I'd had a crush on a movie star, and when I confessed it to a friend he'd laughed and told me his secret love, much more scandalous than mine. One time I'd got separated on a shopping trip and ran around panicking until a man with a deformed face took me to the manager.

But before the age of seven, nothing. And after signing the consent forms to be used for implanting, nothing. It was as though I'd been one person till a specific day at the age of seven, then two till fifteen, and now I and a half, and still only ten.

I wanted to meet my parents - that is, the girl's parents - to show them how well I'd done, but the doctors wouldn't allow it.

I stayed in the clinic for several weeks, watched closely by ever-changing staff in identical blue robes, and crying every night. I wanted to go home, but home was two different places. I wanted my comic books, but I hated comic books and wanted the science books that I'd read in a language I didn't understand.

Gradually it became easier, and after returning "home" I could enjoy basketball and quadratic equations in their own ways. Baseball statistics I could appreciate from both sides.

I found I could understand most Korean and a little Chinese, but I couldn't speak them, because I remembered using the languages, but I'd never been through the process of learning them.

I was told I'd be able to separate my American self from my Korean self, but that never happened. I had, and still have, conflicting sets of memories - plus attitudes, aspirations and even religious beliefs. I can't reconcile them, but the truth is I don't need to.

My psychologist once asked me who I really was. I replied that I was myself, and it didn't matter what we called it. I thought that was quite good for an American/Korean boy/girl of 12/17.

"To believe in a True Self requires belief in a False Self. But if a False Self is not a Self, what is it?"
- Tanith Wolf, Whose Me?

I remember my first implant, and now so do a hundred others.

The girl's name was Chan-Sook. I never met her, but I first met another Chan-Sook implant when I was seventeen. She was Canadian, and I met her on the internet, as we all did in those days.

Personal contact between co-implants was strictly forbidden, simply because no one knew what would happen. Would we go mad? Fall in love? How would an already fractured mind cope with seeing itself in a mirror that talked back?

But we were young, we were clever - because that was the the point of implanting - and we were determined. And so, as a minor celebrity and teacher of higher mathematics, I got myself booked into a conference in Canada.

Sally was nineteen. Overweight and sexy, talkative and with a wild sense of humour, she was nothing like me, and we instantly liked each other. We'd been reminiscing about our childhood for half an hour before we realised, with astonishment, that we'd been remembering the same childhood. Chan-Sook was with us both.

I think it was at that moment that we both understood what it really is to be an implant.

Do you recall what they used to say about identical twins raised apart? How they live their lives in subtle parallel, make the same decisions, share an almost telepathic bond? How, when they find each other, it's like the refusing of two halves of one soul?

It was largely media hype about twins. But it's true about us. I didn't fall in love with Sally, she didn't feel threatened by our partially shared identity, and neither of us went mad. But we were like distorting mirrors of each other.

I now have hundreds of sisters - male and female - like Sally, all over the world. We are different, we are independent, but to me, they are my family.

"A person is an actor who moves from one role to the next, without ever taking off their makeup."
- Aimee X, Multilife

I remember my second implant.

I was one of the first multiple implants, and all the paranoid media speculation of the first was repeated about it. With three or more persons "blended", would the "real" person get lost? Etc, etc.

It's true that Ramon and I were quite different - much more so than I and Chan-Sook. He was fifty years old, a world-class engineer, and I was twenty eight, a theoretical physicist. He was white and I was black. He was homosexual, whereas I was not. He was also dying of cancer, and volunteering to be an implant template was his way of continuing to work.

He'd spent twelve years - longer than anyone at the time- having his memory formation recorded. He was also one of the very few adults being recorded.

I actually had the pleasure of meeting Ramon, shortly before his record was copied into me, so I have two versions of our conversation. I was nervous and a little in awe of him. He thought I was tired but charming.

When Ramon died his family asked me to speak at his funeral. A surprising request, but quite flattering in its way. I think they wanted confirmation that he lived on in me, even to the extent that he could deliver a eulogy for himself.

I had to tell them it wasn't quite like that, but I could tell them how much they meant to him, and they were quite satisfied with that.

Emotional attachments can get tricky with implants. I heard about one case where a woman tried to adopt the girl who'd been implanted with her dead husband. Fortunately she was turned down, but society is still adjusting to the technology after four decades.

"The amnesiac has no past. The senile has only the past. The implant has the wrong past. Perhaps they also have the future."
- Sam Revok, Reflection/Reflexion

Every implant module placed in the brain is also a recorder, which means the interactions between the template and the host are recorded, as are subsequent implantations, and can themselves be implanted.

I myself have five facets, including my original self. Others have as many as thirteen, and people are now starting to record entire lifespans for later implantation.

It is no longer just the most eminent who get preserved, or the richest. There are families which plan to implant each whole generation in the next. If you work for a major corporation, you may be asked to receive your predecessor's memories, and to have yours placed in your successors when you leave.

Technology never gives us what it promises, but it always gives something unexpected. The IT revolution didn't increase productivity, but it did change the kind of work people do. The atom bomb didn't make peace, but it turned war cold.

Implantation has not created a master-race of schizophrenic multi-geniuses, nor a sub-species of incomprehensible freaks, nor an army of mental clones. It hasn't drawn the peoples of the world together, or pushed them further apart. It may have made people less afraid of each other, but governments still thrive on fear.

I - or should it be "We" - can't tell you what will happen. Perhaps those who inherit me/us through my/our memories will see more clearly.

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