It happened slowly at first. A cell here, a finger there. Element by element, I was rebuilt.

I'd wanted to live forever since I was ten. My grandmother died in her sleep, next to a man that was not my grandfather. Grandpa had left us nine years earlier. I don't remember him at all. Grandma's boyfriend (what a teenage-sounding word!) was named Tom. He was younger than she was, and took her dancing. He refused to eat cottage cheese or play the lottery, or drink decaf. He didn't want to be old. Grandma was not very old, really: only sixty or so. My parents were young when they had me.

Death in sleep is anticlimactic. You don't get the chilling moment of realization, or the life-passing-before-your-eyes thing. You just drift away, as if you never existed at all, like dissipating smoke. There is no consciousness left to sustain you. It ends there.

Me? I cling to consciousness. I hate sleep, though I like lying in bed with my love, his warm skin snuggled against the cool alloy of my midsection. He doesn't mind that my eyes are now two different colors (one hazel, one silver.) We stopped discussing certain things a long time ago, though: he is not going to undergo replacement of any sort. I miss him already: when he holds me at night my body sometimes clenches with dark dread thinking about the day when his belly will be hard and cold against my back, rather than warm and supple. I will miss him forever.

Time moves in fits and starts. One day, the two of us spent a lifetime talking. We spoke of galaxies, we spoke of molecules. He refuses to believe that everything is predetermined; the god of uncertainty is his muse. I believe that I was meant to live forever. I am not a religious woman, but I worship metal and plastic and nanoconstructed alloys with the fervor normally reserved for deities. I worship the air and the night. I pray to electrons and serve wine in honor of discovery.

I stopped crying last year. Since birth, I've had a problem with tears; meaning that they come at the wrong times in front of the wrong people. Crybaby, crybaby they would say. I always told myself I'd outgrow it. In a way perhaps I have, for my eyes no longer form liquid tears when I'm upset. I have a special subroutine that takes over when something distressing happens. Signal interrupt: no more crying. My love was not pleased with my decision to be modified in this manner; he'd gotten used to my tears, he had come to see my oversensitivity as endearing. But tears dry me out and humiliate me.

When my love passes away, only then will I deactivate the No More Tears routine. For once, I want them to mean something, not just represent the drippy sniveling of a petulant girl who has lost the third game of Go in a row. I've always been a sore loser.

There was another day that seemed over as soon as it began. My love and I drove up to the cabin, to await the evening and see the stars glisten in the cold cloudless sky. The grass was thick with frost, and we had to be careful on the slippery rocks that dotted the driveway. Our footprints were still there in the frost the next morning, yet now it was time to go back to the city. The previous day had scarcely managed to register.

My brain is largely unmodified, except for the anti-crying thing. I'm insured against degenerative diseases and bad grammar, but my personality is intact. When you replace a person's cells and substructures very, very gradually, the sense of self is retained. The cells you are born with are largely different from the cells that marry or go off to war or die with you. You are the sum of your memories and experiences. Each civilization of cells within the body passes on its impressions to the next generation. Your nails grow, your hair gets longer, your skin flakes off into your sheets. Yet you are still you.

This morning, as I lie curled up waiting for the alarm grafted to my inner ear to go off, I pretend that the warmth of my pseudometal skin is not leached from my lover, but generated from within. It is a pleasant illusion, but an illusion nonetheless. A wisp of icy breeze floats in through the partially open window, bringing with it the sweetness of honeysuckle and the chirping of an artificial bird. How long, I think, will we sustain this existence, in limbo between machine and nature?

My love drapes his arm across me, and I clutch it against my bare chest. I'm going to live forever: the land of morning light and morning smells will beckon me to waking until the Sun gets red and hot. Only then will this little robot, who was once a thing of flesh, follow the sun.

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