Waking up after nearly eight hundred years on ice was bound to be hard. Just hearing that it had been that long was a shock to James’ system. Somehow, spending a few days in sheer agony as his body thawed out had cured him of that particular concern.
The medical staff was very attentive. They gave him pain killers that didn’t help and tried their best to make him comfortable. Mercifully, they put him back down for a few weeks and when they woke him up again, he was good as new. In fact, he was better than new. His withered muscles had been repaired, the blurry vision he had experienced at first had been corrected, even his hairline seemed a little better. And, of course, they had cured the cancer. All in all, it wasn’t a bad deal.
Though the world outside his hospital balcony had changed, James was amazed at just how much things seemed the same. Sure, the cars below were slick-looking and they ran on electricity, but they didn’t fly. Kind of a let-down, in fact. The buildings had all gotten facelifts. The billboards and cereal boxes had gone holographic, people got television implants that James had so far refused. The point was the world still had cars, buildings, billboards, breakfast cereal, and television. It all seemed so very normal.
All except the bombshell that Charles had dropped the other day. Charles had been assigned as his caretaker while he recovered and had been filling him in on history. No big surprises and no nuclear war. Then Charles explained why he seemed so tireless in his attention to James. “I’m an android,” he explained.
The two had grown fairly close over the past few weeks, but the news created a serious rift for James. When he finally admitted it, Charles seemed relieved. “I’m glad to hear that’s all it is!” he laughed. “I thought you were some kind of racist. We know there used to be a lot of that back in your time.”
James shook his head and breathed in the city air. It had a slight smoky edge to it, which told him they still hadn’t solved pollution. “No, I don’t care what color you are. It’s just hard to wrap my brain around the fact that you aren’t even a human.”
Charles put his hand on James’ shoulder. It felt warm and as soft as flesh. “But I am a human. Inside I am. I used to have a human body, just like you. Besides, my entire personality was uploaded here, so I really am the same person as ever. I’m as much a man as you are. Can’t you see that we’re the same?”
He still couldn’t quite grasp it. His only friend in this brave new world, and the man wasn’t even a human being. He told Charles that it would take some time and he wasn’t sure he could ever come to accept it. Charles nodded, patting his shoulder, and told him he understood and that he’d try to help. That was when Charles did the unthinkable: he grabbed James by his belt and tossed him from the balcony.
Screaming all the way down seven floors, it struck James like a thunderbolt that deviation from the norm was not accepted here. After all the trouble they went through fixing him up, these people could toss him away, just like that. He was beyond stunned; he was furious and terrified and had only a second to make peace with God. There really wasn’t any time to think at all before it was all over.
He hit the plastic cement and bounced before landing in a heap. Crazy as it seemed, he didn’t even feel it. He didn’t lose consciousness either. It was like there was a gravity barrier on the ground or something. It was all just a cruel prank!
When a concerned passerby helped him to his feet and he started to dust himself off, James stopped cold. His right arm was lying on the ground before him. Where it used to be, now only wires and sparks remained.
Dumbfounded, he looked up at the balcony where Charles leaned over, shouting down to him, “I’m just as much a man as you are, James! We’re the same!”