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Hugh is a holographic surrogate, one he created of himself while he was alive, while he was dying. Now he has to find a way to help his grieving wife, Elizabeth, find a way to get on with her life.
This story was a semi-finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest in 2013
A Postscript for Elizabeth
Robert J. McCarter
“Hello, Elizabeth,” I said as you dropped the bag of groceries you had just come in with. I watched as broken eggs mixed with spilled orange juice. You looked tired, as if you hadn’t been sleeping much.
“Hugh?” you said, staring at me. “But… you’re dead.”
“Sorry for the surprise, hon.” I understood, I had died only twenty days earlier. I smiled as best I could, but it didn’t seem to ease your mind. I moved my little round platform so you would understand. In the dim light my holographic nature hadn’t been obvious.
You blinked, your eyes as big and brown as ever. You twirled your hair with your right index finger, just like you did the first time I said hello to you at the grocery store. I was newly divorced and helpless in the store; you took the time to get me oriented. “I… I don’t understand,” you finally said as you squatted and started gathering up the spilled food.
I had surprised you, but you hadn’t been as surprised as you might have been. It seemed like you had been expecting to see me, like you had spent the last twenty days not quite believing I was really gone.
“I guess you don’t remember,” I began. “That fancy life insurance policy we bought a few years before my diagnosis. It had a Holographic Surrogate benefit. When the reoccurrence happened, I activated it.”
As you put the groceries away and cleaned up the mess, I explained it all to you. The scanner they gave me, how I spent months recording my memories, how they assembled the holographic me from all of that after I died.
“But… but…” you stammered, a glass of Pinot Grigio in your hand. “You—no, Hugh—didn’t tell me. Why didn’t he tell me?” I didn’t like that. You were thinking of Hugh as someone different than me.
“You would have tried to talk me out of it,” I stated.
You nodded in answer and took much more than a sip of your wine. “Why are you here? What do you want?” you asked.
I smiled and took a sip of my holographic wine. With my platform right next to the table it almost looked like I was real, not some hologram pretending to sit and to drink. I wanted to look normal and put you at ease.
“I am here to help you, Liz. I know my death—Hugh’s death—must still be so hard, the house so empty. I am here so you don’t have to come home to an empty house every night. I am here so you can still tell me about your day.” You nodded as tears ran down your cheeks. “What I want, Liz, is to love you.” What I desperately wanted was for you to accept me.
“You pick,” I said.
“Seriously?” you asked, seated on the big overstuffed couch. I had positioned myself to the right of you. It looked as if the couch extended beyond the arm and we were sitting together.
“Seriously,” I answered.
“Don’t you think that’s a bit out of character? Hugh was never that fond of my taste in movies.”
My brow furrowed as I searched my memories. “Sorry, I am not perfect. I have many of your husband’s personality traits, and many of his memories, but not all.”
You nodded, your stare lingering on my holographic face. I hated it that you weren’t accepting me as Hugh, but I knew pushing it wouldn’t help. “All righty, then,” you said, turning your attention to the flat screen on the wall. “Show me all the rom-coms you think I might like.” The flat screen turned itself on and began showing movie trailers.
“What do I call you?” you asked over breakfast. Oatmeal with blueberries and black coffee. It made me happy to see that you were eating.
“My name is Hugh,” I said.
“But you are not my Hugh.”
“I am, Liz. I am parts of your Hugh, maybe not all of him, but enough. My name is Hugh.”
Your lips pursed and your eyebrows narrowed. After a moment you nodded slowly. “Parts, eh? ‘H’ then, I will call you ‘H.’“ You turned your attention back to your breakfast. Your lawyer brain had locked in on a decision and that was that. I smiled, it was so you. An artist and a lawyer; when we met my friends said it would never work, but it did.
After eating, you grabbed your bag to go and turned back and said, “Bye, H.” The smallest of smiles played on your lips. I rejoiced.