Fish Dance

Eric Schwitzgebel

Clarkesworld (issue 118, Jul. 2016)

Falling. Rebecca and I are falling. My daughter and I—so high it seems impossible that we could survive. We are in the back seat of a taxi that has somehow unhitched from its arcing track between the skyscrapers.

Theory 1: Your last thought is your least important. It is a dead-end wisp that will vanish in an instant, with no effect on anything. Theory 2: Your last thought is the secret culmination of your life, potentially altering the significance of everything that came before. You might affirm it all, regret it all, have that final moment of redemptive insight. Theory 3: Your last thought is an opportunity—your one chance to undergo an intriguing death experience, maybe an overdose of an amazing drug, maybe the feeling of surrendering to the sea in a storm against the cliffs.

The wind mounted as we fell, whistling fearfully through the door frame. Rebecca floated, eyes closed—angelic? mermaidine?—left hand pressed against the dashboard, a dancer mid-air, school uniform and black hair billowing. Her right hand brushed the taxi’s soft inter-Face, which wore an expression I had never before seen in an AI. Could a taxi know enough to fear death?

I wanted to reach toward Rebecca, hold her, make my last thought a thought for her. She was drifting toward me, her book bag elevating off her lap as her legs straightened. But my arms would not respond. I looked down at them, and they seemed foreign objects. Instead of love, I thought, my final thought would be that my final thought would be of final thoughts instead of love.

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