Dying is illegal. Except for the lucky fricks who bite it quick. Like the favored one who plowed his Fiat under a semi. Not enough head room. Popped his bean clean off, sent it rolling into the back seat.
They can’t sew a head back onto a body. No sense cryo-freezing bloody pulp. No sense arresting a dead guy either.
I jumped so I could see Ben again. Three stories should have been high enough. The backflip double assurance. I kept my eyes open till the end. What was supposed to be the end. Then I blacked out. I woke up under hospital arrest.
Clumsiness doesn’t warrant arrest. Neither does stupidity.
I should have made it look like an accident.
They replaced my guts three years ago. Stomach. Small and large intestines. Bladder. Cancer ate a hole through my colon. Made me a family disgrace. Dad’s youngest son: a slovenly drunkard with no self-control. Colon cancer’s 100% preventable. So he says.
Lucky me, they fixed it so I could continue to disappoint. Smart cells replaced my organs, each microscopic processor programmed to behave like cilia, tripe, sausage casing.
The fall wrecked my fake guts. That was the point. They gave me new ones anyway.
The mausoleums used to be full of dusty bones. Bodies left to the decency of decay. Now they’re freezers. Families lying on top of families. Suspended. The power supply’s backed up by a power supply that’s backed up by a generator. Security guards constantly monitor.
Knowledge will outpace death. There will be a cure for every disease. Death is the end. Blackness. Not even that. It’s the end of blackness. The end of emotions.
Those who’ve come back from suspension call it a long dream. Memories replay. Emotions are remembered. Rewind, repeat. Meanwhile the unfavored rot in slums, their genes not worth the hype.
Last year I caught the housemaids whispering in the second floor kitchen. Heads bowed. Hands clasped. In the name of Ben.
When they looked up, they saw me standing in the doorway. The tears in their eyes flashed with fear, like for a second they forgot I’m on their side. I just wanted to know why Ben made them cry.
The next day the one named Sara came to me in the gardens. She glanced over her shoulder to make sure we were alone. I thought she was gonna jump me and I was ready. Instead, she started telling me about Ben. How he’d lived. How he’d died. How in dying, he’d saved the poor and the meek and the misfits like me.
Sara’s cheeks blushed when she spoke and her tongue rolled around in her mouth like candy. I wanted to undress her right there by the rose bushes.
It’s illegal to freeze anyone before their fortieth birthday. Unless they’ve diagnosed you with some terminal disease. Then they’ll put you under no matter your age.
They had to stop the fountain seekers. Too many people freezing themselves while they were still young, still healthy. Before they had any fake parts. Need some money? Sell your guts to the highest bidder. All so some old frick can brag that he’s still 100% organic.
They can fix spinal cords but they won’t fix mine. I’m safer in this chair, they say. Unable to move my arms and legs, unable to harm myself. They won’t hook my brain up to robots either. No. I get to sit in this chair watching reruns.
Rumor has it Ben comes to people at night, in their dreams. No one’s allowed to talk about it. Only in secret. I never believed the whispers until I met him face to face.
Six months ago, driving down I-97 at midnight, glowing deer eyes stared at me — the animal’s ears twitching as I barreled toward it, too fast to stop.
They don’t bother cryo-freezing animals. Unless the animal belongs to some rich person. As for the deer: unimportant. No point trying to fix it. They fixed me instead.
There I was, my back against asphalt, my eyes fixed on the stars. I felt myself slipping. Oblivion was near. I knew it and I was scared. I still believed their bullshit back then.
And suddenly I was warm, like a baby wrapped in a blanket. Arms cradled me. I looked up and saw his face. He smiled and my heart filled up with helium. The night glowed. I could see through shadows.
Then the balloon popped. I fell into a puddle of my own blood. Cold penetrated my bones. This time when I looked up, I saw a circle of triumphant grins. I’d slipped into the void, they said, but they’d brought me back to life.
They could fix my spine. I could walk again. Brush my hair. But I’m cheaper this way. No repeat offenses. That’s a guarantee.
I turn forty next week.
Jessica Thomas has a background in English and music; she learned computerese to put food on the table. On Uncle Sam’s behalf, she speaks java to various computers and web servers, gently coaxing them into submission. She writes for fun and for retirement funds. Her short stories have appeared in Residential Aliens and 365 Tomorrows.