At the end of the two weeks we gathered for an announcement of the results of the first test. There were seven of us – only those who passed the test. Others had quietly left before; I appreciated the discretion of the testing panel as there was no need to rub the salt into the wounds of those guys by publicly announcing their failure – they were hurt enough.
I was glad to see that Lenka made it to the second test; over the previous fortnight we talked a lot and became good friends. It was strange to talk to her in a normal language again and she teased me by correcting my unconscious attempts to say words in Inverted Napanii.
Then came the part which I feared the most and tried not to think about all that time – mind transfers. As soon as Professor released the results of the first test his assistants inititated clone production for the remaining group. I thought it would take months, or at least weeks, but we were told to prepare for the mind transfer procedure in 5 days’ time. As the clock ticked toward the scheduled date, I grew more and more uneasy; all the fears and misgivings I had during my travels came back. We were told that the success rate of the procedure was extremely high, that an averarage person was more likely to die in a traffic accident than during mind transfer but my brain refused to accept rational arguments and locked in on the possibility of failure. After all, I had already almost died in an accident; maybe I was one of those “lucky” ones who attracted all misfortunes like a lightning rod.
My mood was so negative that even a successful outcome did not attract me anymore. I looked at a silly tattoo I made in a uni and thought that my clone wouldn’t have it. Although I always wanted to get rid of that tattoo, now it seemed an essential part of myself which would be gone after the mind transfer. Same with a scar on my face; without that scar I would see a stranger each time I’d look in a mirror after cloning. After four days I was seriously thinking about bailing out.
Apparently, such thoughts were not uncommon before the first mind transfer – although I didn’t make any complaints I received an invitation to a meeting with a psychologist. No particular agenda, just for a chat. The psychologist turned out to be an elderly lady with pleasant manners and… a cat. As soon as I sat down, the furry assistant jumped in my lap, looked me in the eyes and meowed. Mechanically, I stroked him and scratch behind his ears. The cat tested the surface of my legs by turning around once or twice, then found the right position, curled up and started purring. As I continued stroking his fluffy coat, for the first time in the last four days I felt at peace.
The chat with the psychologist then went very smoothly. In fact, it was me who did all the talking while the lady skillfully guided the conversation with open questions. I told her about all the negative thoughts I had and hoped she would dissuade my fears. Instead, she asked me about the reason why I applied for the tests in the first place. I told her about the traffic accident and she wanted to know all the details. As I was reliving the horror of being buried alive under a mountain of mangled metal, I felt that the pendulum of my emotions started swinging in the opposite direction. Suddenly, all the rational arguments I tried to present to myself during the period of my depression gained weight, while all my misgivings seemed childish and insubstantial in comparison to the prospect of eternal life. Soon I felt quite optimistic not only about the mind transfer procedure but also about my chances of success in the second test. At that point the cat stopped purring, yawned, stretched and unceremoniously jumped off my lap without saying good-bye; I understood that the meeting was over. Before I left, the lady said casually, “By the way, don’t worry about the scar. Our geneticists became very good at reproducing such features in the clones. You won’t notice the difference.”
I left like kissing her.
Then she added, “Sorry, we can’t do anything about the tattoo.”
“Ah, that tattoo. I wanted to get rid of it anyway,” said I and left the room.