“Dad?” he said.
“Is that really you?”
“After a fashion, yes.”
“Are you part of the software?”
Grenshaw studied the man before him. He wanted to hug him, but he was afraid he’d fall right through the apparition. “Can I visit you like this?”
His father inhaled a large breath. “No. We decided it wouldn’t be healthy.”
“The committee,” he explained. “After the Revolution, I got called to help develop an educational initiative. They were impressed by my anti-plastics campaigns.”
“Is that why you were traveling so much before you died?”
“Yes. We had monthly meetings all over the world. It was ironic, actually. We could have easily met via virtual conferencing, thereby saving some of the resources we were attempting to conserve, but nothing can really compare to face-to-face interaction, you know?” His father’s gaze was forlorn.
“I never got to see our work come to fruition, son, but they said it would be truly revolutionary. The people I worked with were genuine, wise, intuitive. It took ten years to develop the software. I can see now, that it was worth it.” He was crying. “You’re the first subject, son.”
The first? “You mean no one else has had a GCF Computer?”
“No. But others will follow.” He wiped tears from his eyes.
The two stood in silence for a minute.
Eventually, Grenshaw spoke. “Why are you crying, Dad?”
His father sighed. “It was a difficult decision, son. Now I see it was the right one.”
“A difficult decision? What was?”
“I had to make a big sacrifice for the project.”
Grenshaw felt a sudden wave of fear and paranoia. Perhaps he was the sacrifice. Was he being manipulated again? He thought back to the monster, to the Marigold cafÃ© with the out-of-business sign, to Tommy. And then he remembered the chef’s comments and the brothers in the alley. “Dad,” he said, “did your sacrifice have anything to do with my brother?”
His father looked surprised. “What?” he chuckled. “No. You don’t have a brother.” He smiled. A peace-filled smile. “You have billions of brothers. And billions of sisters.”
Grenshaw exhaled a relieved breath of air.
“My sacrifice,” his father explained, “was a self-sacrifice.” And as the words escaped his lips, he began to flicker, like a weak hologram.
Grenshaw’s eyes widened at the sight of his fading father. “No!” He wasn’t ready yet. He had so much more to say, so much more to ask. “Wait!” he shouted. “Don’t go.”
His father held out his hand. Grenshaw reached for it, and in that last flickering second, felt his father’s touch one last time.