A Regular Death

Short psychological story in a thunderstorm

“Does it hurt when you kill them?”

Simon pulled a face, playing with his pass. “That’s a bit of a strong word for it. They’re already dead. You make me sound like a killer.”

“Aren’t you?”

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“No.” He said, firmly. “We just discontinue their files. We refresh the system.”

They paused, the light flickering around them, watching the living intruders with a silent curiosity. “So, who do you want to talk to from The Afterlife°?” Simon asked brightly. “Former Presidents? A favourite movie star? Anyone you want. Here, they can go anywhere and experience anything they want in the database. Forever. Isn’t that something?”

Tom paused, unsure of what to say. “Elizabeth McDonald.” The name sounded cold in his mouth. Foreign.

Simon frowned. “Who?”

“My grandmother. Elizabeth McDonald. Died in 2047.”

“I’m afraid her name isn’t on the system database.” He looked uncomfortable, aware that this press exclusive wasn’t going very well. “Perhaps a relative had her removed?”

“No. You’d know if you deleted her, right?” Tom stared at him. “You’d know if you’d stopped her existing?”

“I’m afraid non-paying accounts are closed by the system,” Simon responded stiffly. “We don’t keep a record of closed accounts.”

“No, that would be bad PR,” Tom said coldly. “How many millions of people you had murdered because they couldn’t pay for heaven.”

“You’re romantising it, Mr Hillard. These aren’t living people. These are just their neo cortex profiles. Memories. Behaviours. They aren’t alive. This isn’t heaven. It’s a database A database to save your loved ones for only $50,000 a-”

“So what else is a human, Simon? Apart from memories and behaviours?” He was angry now, his face red. Simon shrugged.

“I’m not a philosopher, sir. I’m head of communications at Afterlife.”

“Did she beg you not to?”

“What?”

“Did she beg you not to delete her when you removed her?”

Simon stared at him. “She wouldn’t have known it was happening, Mr Hillard. It would have been so quick.”

Tom spat on the floor. Or where the floor would have been. The database was an empty grid now, with nothing but the uninvited standing awkwardly in the centre. Tom looked around him, surprised.

“Where have the lights gone? The accounts?”

Simon shrugged. “They are filtered out from conversation about being deleted. Might frighten them.”

“So if families can’t pay,” Tom retorted, “You kill their relatives? Great business you have here.”

Simon sighed. “We extend life. We give an existence as a service. This is a free market, sir. We are allowed to charge for a service.”

“Feels like blackmail. Ransom.”

Simon laughed. “I can see you don’t agree with what we offer. That’s okay. But do you-" he leaned in, a little too close. “Want to be saved?”

Written by

24 year old with an awful lot to say about everything. Opinions entirely my own. Usually. madelaine@madelainehanson.co.uk

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