Theseus


I woke up to a dark room. It felt like there were restraints on my arms and legs. Suddenly, there was light. A figure emerged from the darkness. I tried to speak but the words escaped me.

"Stop fighting, child. Everything will be easier if you cooperate."

The figure came into focus. I could see his long, slender form, white lab coat and black pants. His skin glistened under the light and a smile curled out of his lips. His eyes were hidden behind his goggles.

"Tell me, child: have you heard of the story of the ship of Theseus? Nod or shake your head."

What? What relevance could this possibly have? I wanted to get out of there more than ever. That kind of smile on that kind of face never bodes well. I shook my head trying to escape.

"Ah, okay. Thousands of years ago, the Greek hero Theseus set out on a journey on his wooden ship. As the battles wore on, the ship's boards started to rot and were individually replaced. After a decade of adventure every single board on the ship had been replaced. Was that the same ship? When did the ship become a different ship? Did adding a single board cause the ship to become a new ship? Was it after a hundred boards were replaced? A thousand?"

I lay there flabbergasted.

"Now, you must be thinking, 'what the hell does this have to do with anything?'. Well, you see, I'm running a little bit of an experiment. If we replace your body parts one by one, when will you not be 'you' anymore?"

Oh no.

"And for that matter, notice your breath for a moment. You're pulling in air and letting air out. When you breathe in, that air becomes a part of you, doesn't it? When you breathe out, that air no longer is a part of you. Same with your food and waste, drink and urine. Are you ever truly yourself? Is the self always changing yet deluded enough to believe that it's a constant?"

I felt a jolt of strength and tried to struggle against the leg brace. I was a runner in my younger years. I hoped that the residual muscle would save me. I managed to get my leg a bit loose and then I felt a pinch in my neck.

"I told you child, don't fight me. I am your future. Maybe you will be more cooperative after the first board has been replaced."

Everything started to get warm and the light faded into darkness again. That smile remained.