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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"I want to die"

       “There’s a suicide clinic down the road.” Alendine Trippet kept her half-moon glasses fixed on the report before her. If she had a credit for each time an adrenaline junkie or bored debutante had made this request, she would have had her own house inside one of the Domes.

When the customer in front of her didn’t say anything or walk away, Ms. Trippet cocked and eyebrow. Without looking up, she drawled: “I need you to be more specific. We don’t want any mistakes. Allow me to restate your request: You want to experience the memories of a person that we harvested at the time of their death. Is there some particular death memory that you want to experience?”

            “My own.”

            This got her attention. She looked up to find her face a few inches from twelve-year-old Tommy MacKenzie, his blue eyes shining with earnestness. “Oh my,” was all that she could muster.

            Tommy looked away and brought the cuff of his sleeve to his eyes hoping to regain his resolve only to find that with each wipe another two tears appeared for each one now soaked into the fabric.

            “Her name is Mandy. She doesn’t like me.”

            “And you like her very much.” the ridiculousness of the situation was not lost on Ms. Trippet; every child in the history of mankind had fawned after someone who didn’t know they existed, and every child had to deal with the emotional maelstrom of rejection. Her initial reaction was deeper scorn: why couldn’t this boy see that he was not special, that his seemingly singular angst was a universally shared experience?

            She was about to retort sharply when a woman wearing nothing but a clear pleather overcoat slid a hand across Tommy’s shoulders, the weeping sores on the skin along her mouth and jaw badly hidden under heaps of makeup, “Oh, poor little guy! Girls can be so cruel.” She glanced back at her friend who was sitting on the bench and cleared her throat pointedly.

Her friend, who was more robotic than human anymore and of no immediately identifiable gender, looked over at the boy, gave him a lascivious thumbs-up and went back to chatting up a tired-looking maintenance worker, who had scooted as far away from them as the wall would permit.

“If you are lonely, I can help you out,” the woman smiled, showing off her chipped teeth, “I’m good at making boys forget their worries-“

“Don’t you touch him!” the woman and her friend looked up sharply as Ms. Trippet leapt to her feet, her sharp, bird-like face pulled into a contortion of rage, “Get out of here! Go back to the abyss!” She meant to say, “Stay away, you fucking diseased bitches,” but it didn’t seem appropriate to use that kind of language in front of Tommy.

“Woah! Whatever, you freak.” The harlot laughed, “C’mon, Simone, lets get back to the abyss.” she laughed again on the way out, and Simone looked genuinely disappointed as it followed her.

Tommy looked terrified by her outburst and started to timidly shuffled towards the back door. He stopped dead when he felt a light hand on his shoulder. Ms. Trippet smiled down at him, “It’s something I heard in a very old movie. Something about elves, dragons, and wizards.”

“What are those?”

            Ms. Trippet rubbed her brow, “Forget it. I realize that everyone nowadays is too old for magic.” For the first time, she saw the slightest glimmer of a smile from the young man. “Let’s take a walk.” Ms. Trippet led Tommy past the sarcophagi and into an area reserved for employees. “Tell me about her.”

“She’s pretty. She’s taller than me, and she doesn’t notice me.”

            “What do you like about her? Is she nice?”

            “Mandy? She’s very smart and she gets the best scores. I’m usually the second best. When she is working on a project she is very intense and she bites the end of her hair. And then she changes suddenly when one of her friends arrives. She always has the most beaut…, um, best smile.” he looked at his feet, “I’ve never seen her in person…I mean, all of our classes are automated, so I only get to see her in two-dimensions, but she’s the only reason I wake up everyday and sign in.”

            Ms. Trippet smiled at Tommy. It had been a long time since she had been around real innocence. It was blissful and yet she knew that she needed to proceed carefully. “So why did you want to experience death.”

            He looked at her with the solemnity that only the very young can pull off, “It can’t be any worse than the way I feel now.”

            “Oh, yes it can. Have you talked about your feelings with your parents?”

            He looked at his shoes, “They are doctors in the Dome. I never see them except on video monitors and then we only talk about grades and stuff. They don’t have time to talk to me about friends and girls. They are always talking at me about surviving and avoiding disease.” he looked up, surprised to find himself at the door, “Wha…?”

            “I have an idea, but I’m going to need a few days. Come back at the end of the week? I promise it will be worth the wait.” she left the heavy request on her lips as an implication: please, don’t kill yourself before Friday.

            Tommy stared up at her and the wrinkled around her eyes squeezed together pleasantly as she smiled at him. He nodded slowly and cleared his throat, “Thank you.”

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