So Long, and Thanks
for All the Texts
“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
“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
“This isn’t a
hospital, Danny,” said Omar, adjusting his tie absently.
“Aren’t you a
Omar giggled like a
child. “Becoming a doctor requires way too much schooling. I’m an 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
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
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.
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.”
family? Can I see them?” Danny asked, re-discovering his ability to speak.
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
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.”
will be okay for me?” Danny said as he looked at Omar with misty, pleading
“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
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
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
“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
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,
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
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.”
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.”