Gerrold Feely lay in his vast bed and gazed up at the mirror on the ceiling. His hands and feet were already amputated from a bout of diabetes before he had his first pancreas transplant. He declined regrowth in favor of implanted limbs but now those too were removed. Even so, he jiggled his knee in time to the music that was playing inside his head from another implant. Tubes radiated out from under him, and his 'girls', hired from the remaining corners of the third world, tended to him, keeping him clean, rotating him to prevent bed sores, and regularly checking on his vital stats, among other duties.
His lawyer, Grant Devon, an ancient man in a young man's body stood by the bed and snapped his fingers to get Gerrold's attention.
"What...is it?" slurred Gerrold, smiling and bopping his head to the music.
"I'm leaving," said Grant. "Or I will be in a few months. I'd like to advise you to go as well. The social infrastructure is breaking down and..." he looked surreptitiously at the many women lounging around the bedroom, "...I don't think you can trust them if things break down totally."
Gerrold laughed heartily until he started coughing. One of the women ran up to the bed, leaned over him and vacuumed out the mucous clogging his airway with a discrete device implanted in her hand.
"No way man!" exclaimed Gerrold. "Have you already forgotten what a pleasure it is to live inside your own body?"
"I do live inside my own body--"
"Not the original one. Now see, I'm an original. One of the few. 'Cept these fine girls. Hi darlin'," He made a kissy face at the nearest one who smiled back warmly. "Nope, she don't speak English. Just the way I like them. Isn't that right honey?"
"It really is the same--"
"Can't be. All that pain in transfer? There's no way. Always been skeptical of that shit. Why I got rid of the implants. Don't need them no way."
"Look, sir, I like to think that we've been friends all these decades as well--"
"Sure, sure. Yes. But don't bother trying to convince me."
"Well," said Grant hesitating. "I'm leaving. I put down the deposit--"
"I guess I paid for that!" Gerrold broke into peals of laughter. The woman with the vacuum rushed over again, but Gerrold waved her away with the stump of his right arm. "Sorry, old lawyer joke. Hmmn."
Grant stepped back from the bed and walked towards the picture window at the far end of the bedroom. One woman offered him an Arnold Palmer*, his favorite beverage. He accepted it absentmindedly and gazed out the window. The city below was half empty and there hadn't been a traffic snarl in a decade. People scurried along happy to limit their time on the street and exposure to the many criminals that were barred from both digital and analog transfers. Grant remembered the good days when you could walk freely and maybe get a good hot dog and a newspaper.
"Newspaper!" exclaimed Grant.
"What's that?" asked Gerrold. "You still here? You haven't slithered back to your office? Har har har!"
Grant narrowed his eyes.
"I was just remembering the past. Back when I had my first body." He sipped his drink and relished the coolness of it going down his throat.
"Ah the first body. Everybody talks fondly about their first body, but here I still have mine."
"So you keep saying." Grant looked out the window more as Gerrold's face was wiped by one of the women. "Gerrold, are you planning to die?"
"Mmm, you're morbid. Nah. Nobody plans that, do they? Well, I guess there's somes that do. I guess I'm gonna just keep going on. Ya know?"
"Do you have any other objection to analog transfer besides your stubborn refusal to leave your first body?"
Gerrold rubbed his chest with his left stump, thinking on the matter, then one of the women scratched his itch for him.
"You know, not that I'm avoidin' your question, but you and I are living as long as we can for different reasons. I just want to see how things turn out, but you fear death."
Grant turned from the window, about to protest, but Gerrold pulled one of the women towards him and started making out with her. Grant turned away again in disgust.
"That proves it," said Gerrold, prying himself away from the woman.
"The body disgusts you. You don't like the meatiness of it, or the decay. That's why you want to have a digital transfer--anything else is suicide to you. It's the final transfer--to rid yourself of all the unpleasantness that reminds you of the finality of death."
"That's not true. It's just your body that disgusts me," said Grant, cracking a wry smile.
"Ooooh!" exclaimed Gerrold. "The gloves have come off! I like it when you get real and spar!" He grinned back, then Gerrold turned suddenly serious. "I'll miss you."
"I'll still be around. You can still email me."
"How ancient and impersonal," Gerrold chuckled.
Grant moved to the foot of the bed and rested the tips of his fingers on the covers. He tapped them lightly.
"I will miss you longer," he said, his voice cracking.
The two men looked at each other and knew exactly what the other was feeling. Gerrold broke the moment.
"To the end of time then. And may you have many adventures."
Grant raised his glass, smiled, then took a big gulp and made a conscious effort to appreciate the specialness of the moment in his present state.
* An Arnold Palmer is half lemonade and half unsweetened iced tea, which I personally love, but a plantation iced tea is better--half iced tea and half pineapple juice. I don't think these are too common outside the U.S.
Also note that this is another song substitution.