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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

83_ym_thanksforallthetexts_lthomas.jpg
Art by Londyyn Thomas 2020

So Long, and Thanks for All the Texts

By Jay Adair

“Tell me what you remember about the accident.”

Danny studied his surroundings while he pondered the question. He sat on a thin mattress in the middle of a windowless white room. The only accent in the room was the oddly brash yellow floor.

“I don’t remember much,” Danny said, finally replying to Omar’s question. “I was driving on the highway, I lost control of the car, and the next thing I knew I was here in the hospital.”

“This isn’t a hospital, Danny,” said Omar, adjusting his tie absently.

“Aren’t you a doctor?”

Omar giggled like a child. “Becoming a doctor requires way too much schooling. I’m an insurance agent.”

“Insurance?”

“Look Danny, let me be frank with you. The crash was very bad.”

Danny bolted upright in bed. He was astonished at his carelessness. He had neglected to check that there had been no damage to his body beyond his face, which seemed to be completely unscathed. He frantically grasped at his limbs to determine if anything was damaged or missing altogether. His desperate hands gripped flesh at all of the sought-out locations.

“No Danny, it’s not that,” Omar said. “You’re dead. The crash killed you.”

A hysterical laugh escaped Danny’s lips. “But, I don’t get it. I’m here talking to you. I can’t be dead. So how—”

“Let me clarify. I’m from Afterlife Insurance.” Omar pulled a small round device from his pocket and slid his thumb along its edge. A blue and red holographic company logo appeared before Danny’s eyes. “You probably know that your parents had signed you up for an insurance policy with us when you were just ten years old. They’ve been paying big bucks to maintain it for the last nine years.”

Omar flicked his thumb on the device again and the logo was replaced by an image of an insurance policy document, signed by Danny’s parents.

“How…how are you doing that?” Danny asked.

“As you know, this holographic tech doesn’t exist yet in the real world. But it does exist in our simulated reality.”

Danny fell back on his elbows, his breathing rapid and shallow. The room spun.

“We were able to save your brain,” Omar continued, “but your body was mangled beyond recognition. You were going very fast, Danny. Well beyond the speed limit.”

Danny’s could only stare, slack-jawed. His blankets were wet with perspiration, his eyes wild like a cornered animal.

“We’ve transferred what most people would call a ‘consciousness’ into our world simulation software program. It looks pretty damn good, huh? Almost like the real thing, hardly any uncanny valley to speak of.” Omar said. He spun on his heels to demonstrate his realistic features. “The insurance that your parents purchased will allow you to live out your life in a simulated version of reality. We update the program frequently, try to keep things just like they are in the real world. Most of the inhabitants are just bots at the moment but we are adding more and more residents every day who, like yourself, met their demise far too soon.”

“Wha…What about my family? Can I see them?” Danny asked, re-discovering his ability to speak.

“Yes, absolutely. They can stop in and visit the simulation for limited periods of time. I myself am ‘logged in’ from the real world right now, of course. Our clients get jobs, start families, and live out full natural lives. The simulation even ages you as you would have aged in the real world.”

“Can’t you just keep me at nineteen? Why do I have to age?”

“Storage of brain cells, upgrades, and maintenance to the system—these things are expensive. We have to set a limit. We also don’t want to encourage people to take advantage of their insurance coverage, if you know what I mean.”

“So…maybe things will be okay for me?” Danny said as he looked at Omar with misty, pleading eyes.

“Not so fast, there, my friend,” Omar said, his voice taking on a gentle tone. “I’m going to have to be frank with you again. That accident didn’t just kill you. You hit a minivan going the opposite direction. Rosa St. Clair, thirty-three years old, mother of two, is dead as well.”

Danny doubled over, sobbing. “This isn’t real. This is a dream. This can’t be real.”

“It’s as real as it gets, Danny. The police are investigating the accident scene. It’s still early, but initial reports show that you were driving well in excess of the speed limit, were likely distracted by a cell phone, and initial toxicology tests on your remains showed drugs in your system.”

Tears streamed from Danny’s face. He pounded the side of his head with his fist, rocking back and forth in the bed.

“Danny, we normally take some time acclimatizing newbies to the simulation environment, but this is a unique situation. I know this is a lot to take in—”

“Oh really, you think so?” Danny shouted, spit flying from his lips.

“You have to hear this now because I have limited time and I need a decision from you right away,” Omar said. “Ultimately, you have three options. Even though you died in the accident, our insurance policy is not immune to the long arm of the law. Option one: they put you to trial, sentence you, and you do jail time in the simulation. Just so you know, jail in the simulation is just as horrible as real-life jail, so I don’t advise going with that option.

“Option two is the ‘age-up’ option. Your case goes to trial but rather than serve the jail time, we simply age you in the simulation for the number of years that the judge has sentenced you. This way, no jail time, but you lose some simulation time.

“Option three: the ‘goodwill clause.’ If a policy-holder causes the death of a non-policy holder, the policy-holder may choose to transfer their insurance over to the person that was killed.” Omar leaned in to look into Danny’s eyes. “Essentially, you would pull the plug on your own simulation to give Rosa St. Clair, loving wife and mother of two who was taken from the world so tragically, another chance at a life.”

Omar flicked his device and a document appeared before Danny’s eyes. “Rosa’s brain was saved in the accident, but we have limited time to make the transfer, so we need a decision right now.” Omar grabbed Danny’s arm and lifted it towards the document. As Danny’s hand got close, a holographic pen appeared in his limp hand.

“I can’t think about this? This is my life we’re talking about,” Danny said.

Omar tapped his wristwatch. “Not just your life. Clock is ticking, buddy.”

Danny looked at the document. The three options that Omar had described were listed, a box for a signature beside each one.

“I know it’s a big decision,” said Omar, “but this cannot wait. I cannot--”

Danny scribbled his signature into one of the boxes. “There, you happy?” he snapped.

Omar shut the hologram off. “Thank you for your swift decision my friend. Now, we’re going to cut off the simulation for the time being, and we’ll turn things back on when we’re ready to go.”

“Wait, I want to—”

#

Danny opened his eyes, the bright light temporarily blinding him. Omar sat, legs crossed, in a chair beside his bed.

“Omar? Is everything okay?” Danny asked.

Omar shrugged. “If you mean the trial, then I would say from your perspective it did not go well, no.”

Danny tried to sit up, but pain shot through his entire body.

“Here, let me get that for you,” Omar said. He leaned over and clicked a button on the side of the bed. Danny felt the bed raise him up into a sitting position. Now upright, Danny did not need to grasp for his extremities to realize what was going on. Underneath dangling robes he saw boney, frail limbs.

“We got a court order to age you to ninety-four years old,” said Omar.

“Ninety-four! But I—” Danny tried to shout but a violent coughing fit overtook him.

“Look, don’t get mad at me. You chose the age-up option. I’m just following the orders of the judge and apparently he has a tendency to be harsh with dead trust-fund kids clogging up the court system.”

“Where…the hell…am I?” Danny sputtered.

“A nursing home. I made sure it was a good one, though,” Omar said with a wink. “Chin up, Danny. There’s a finger-painting class in ten minutes.”

 

END

 

 

Jay Adair is an office worker and music instructor. His work has appeared in 101 Words, Jitter, Escaped Ink and Hawk & Cleaver’s The Other Stories. He is also a drummer and can be heard on recordings with Jon Creeden & The Flying Hellfish (www.joncreeden.com), Chad McCoy (www.chadmccoymusic.com), and Just in Time (https://justintimeband.bandcamp.com/). He can be reached at jayadairwriting@hotmail.com.













Londyyn Thomas resolutely eschews any mythologizing of an artist and so avoids discussing personal life and relations.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020