- A write up by Angelica Atkins
In Henry Szabranski’s “Mortless,” Simon is a powerful man who at first sees his new wife and is relieved because he won’t have to say ‘goodbye.’ He turns to the technician, elated at the good news, and the technician warns him that she had sustained brain damage. River (his wife) had been pulled from plane wreckage (a while ago), her body damaged. Simon is glad he ‘insisted’ that the old human version of his wife get nanowires to record her brain, so that the resurrection chamber could work.
The technician, Morton (Simon nicknamed him Mortless because he’s responsible for the resurrection of his wife) tells Simon to “ask her something.” He asks her how she’s feeling, and she says “sleepy.” Then he asks what she remembers, and she recalls that she was going to a lover. She recalls their argument, and that she doesn’t love him.
Simon turns to Morton and threatens him, since he wants her memories of Gustav gone and for her to love him. Morton resists, citing how damaged River’s mind is, and that editing it probably isn’t possible. He also brings up the illegality of the procedure. Simon claims that the police won’t find out, and when Morton says that the resurrection chamber won’t work the next time, Simon threatens his job. Morton finally agrees, and asks Simon to leave the room. Simon refuses, as this time he’s staying. River’s body disintegrates, and Simon says goodbye.
Acute & Chronic tension
Acute: Simon trying to resurrect River & keep her loving him.
Chronic: River leaving Simon for Gustav; River continually rejecting him.
What we could use
So the concept of resurrecting tech isn’t new…but what if an asshole used it for his own ends? Honestly, this story was unsettling to read. Simon even starts out as a sort of normal guy, relieved that he won’t have to say goodbye and happy that his wife is alive, but as soon as River shows animosity, he kills her. I thought it was interesting that he is this rich asshole, so rich that he can determine whether she lives or dies, even though she’s (technically) already dead. He tries to suit her to his needs, but in each incarnation, she still slips away. Also, it seemed like the one change between this incarnation and the others was that he was going to stay and watch her form, since the other times he would leave and then Morton would call him in.
The continued use of Simon getting his way, through intimidation and threats and his position in power, slowly becomes more menacing. That’s one of the things I highlighted, because characters are supposed to not get the thing they want, and here even the reader is rooting for Simon to never get what he wants. But it’s effective, which I thought was a nice turn from wanting the main character to win. River’s death is also the one instance it seems in his entire life that Simon doesn’t get his way, and it’s tearing him apart. The one thing he can’t get is his old wife back.
Personally, I think that’s the one reason he’s even reviving her, because this River doesn’t seem that alive and honestly seems a mindless copy. Her one moment of clarity is when she says “I hate you. I never want to see you again,” but she only responds whenever Simon directly asks her something or when she sees him looking at her. I was expecting her, after that line, to start spewing venom or at least demand to be let out or react to Simon’s demand to erase her memories, but she doesn’t. Instead she sits in the goo that made her and doesn’t do much of anything else. So Simon’s making endless copies of his wife and they all refute him. But he keeps trying to erase her memories, like that will erase her love.
And even if he does erase her memories and she does love him, would he even want her around? Before this, she seemed compliant or eventually gave in after he ‘insisted’ so her copy will doubtless, if having memories tampered, just be a body.
A final point I wanted to bring up was the reveal of Simon’s character. It started showing itself about a third of the story, in Simon’s first insistence. I was still hooked on what would happen, and I did leave the story thinking that Simon would never get River to love him.
Were y’all satisfied with the ending?
Did you still want to read once you found that Simon was an asshole?
If Simon does succeed deleting River’s memories of Gustav, would she love him? Do you think each incarnation of River is even real?
Also theory: Simon caused the plane crash. But probably not.