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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #1718889
A crap shoot--government style.

Twenty-five minutes to midnight.

I may have less than a half hour to live. Then again, I may live another ten, twenty years. Let me explain, as good a way as any, I guess, to spend these last few moments. You see, ever since the change or the 'Remodification' and the new regime kicked in, only a certain number of people are allowed to live past their sixtieth birthday. To 'be fair' and I can't help but roll my eyes at that, everyone had to get a marker inserted in their chest that is set to release a lethal dose of peracetrocyline at midnight on the sixtieth anniversary of their birth. No antidote, and attempts at removal cause it to discharge.

It is nothing more than a lottery and I figure, since I never win anything, either this is the last time I won't win or that I'm due. At any rate, I'm okay with this. Guess I’d better be as there is nothing I can do about it. Congress voted it into law. They said there would be change. But no one ever asked me for my two cents worth.

The line waiting to check in went out of the parking lot and down the block. Who knew that many people around here shared the same birthday? I looked around wondering if I’d see anyone I knew. Saw the mayor, of all people, but I’ve never talked to him. I quit looking at the people. It was too depressing: A walking metronome of people shuffling towards their destiny, shivering although it is actually quite warm for a fall day. The maples are a vivid red and the sky is impossibly blue. The revolving door—what a joke!—led into a steel grey and ad nauseam-green hallway.

My wife died last year, an hour before midnight. She had a heart attack right there in the parking lot while we were waiting in line for her to go in. During those countdown moments, our last minuscule time together, the stress just got to her and, of course, there was no resuscitation allowed. She died in my arms, my name on her lips, but I wish she hadn't, because she was so scared. They say their method is instantaneous. One second you are alive, and the next, you aren't. And she might not have been one of The Chosen. But I’ll never know.

Funny, how we've all come to think of 'The Chosen' as the ones picked to die, rather than to live.

Those that survive and aren't preselected for elimination--oh, did I say elimination? I meant Population Correction. They are allowed to live out their lives, but are refused certain medical help, in order to egg the process along . . . naturally, of course. It all comes down to dollars and cents. Makes no sense to me.

I've got to wonder exactly why they have us make these recordings. Last will and testament, they say. My last will would be to live. And my testament, well, I'm thinking it is my thoughts, my words. The kids are scattered across the country and anything of mine they might want, I’ve already sent them. I've said my goodbyes, just in case. Crossed all the T's and dotted all the i's.

The packet that arrived a month ago with the forms for our final health inspection (not check-up, mind you, but inspection,) said we could bring a comfort item or two. I wonder what other people brought: Pictures, perhaps or a favorite book. I wore my wife’s favorite shirt, the one she got me for our thirtieth anniversary. I have the note she wrote me after our first fight, and the poem I am most proud of tucked in my shirt pocket.

Quarter ‘til.

I’m in a small, sterile room with a desk, recording equipment, a mirrored wall and the clock. Big clock. Black hands moving inexorably across a face yellowed with age. Kind of ironic, I think. The second hand moves with an audible click. Counting down the moments, counting up the possibilities. I’ve never been one to wear a watch.

I'm wondering if there is someone on the other side of the mirror listening, watching this. Does what I say have any impact on the outcome today? Do they make a judgment on me based on these few moments to decide if I live or die? Could I say anything that might change their minds? Do they like playing God? Do people beg and plead?

Do I want to die? Hell no. I want to see my grandkids grow up, although I have serious doubts about the world they will inherit. The meek . . . seems to me, the meek go quietly into their good night. Part of me wants to rail at the fates, part of me wants to trust that God will overwrite some pencil pusher's decision and part of me simply wants to watch one more sunrise. No, more than one.

I've been a writer all my life. It seems to me that I should have some overwhelmingly profound thing to say: Words to leave behind. But I guess I do, in a way. My writings will survive me. My words will enlighten, confuse and cause both smiles and tears.

My bucket is quite full, I'd say. I've traveled the world, or a good part of it. I've met some phenomenal people. I've made some excellent friends, some of whom have actually made it past D-Day. Used to want to try parachuting, but recently that idea struck me as not so very different than today. I had a chance to jump and chose not to do so. I would have liked to visit Ireland and Wales. I should have liked to master the art of . . . of something else; doesn’t matter what, really. It is just that there is so much to do and see and I haven’t done it all yet.

Seven minutes.

Thinking it over, most of the items I'd like to top off that bucket with are little things; another Christmas, one more waterfall, another book read or written. I've lived a pretty good life. There isn't much I regret or things in my personal life that I would have changed. I would have liked to find that woman I saw in the park just so I could tell her that she reminded me so of my mom and that her passing me that day caused me to smile.

Expect she's long gone now. It seems like many of those who make it past their 'today' almost go into hiding, as if they are ashamed that they were allowed to live. Not me. I shall dance. I shall continue to write. I will live and breathe and find joy.
Or, I won’t.

Two minutes until midnight.

My mind is going blank. Do I continue talking or go silent. Will the sensation of the poison entering my blood make me scream or will my heart simply stop? Will I live only to die of some horrid cancer ten years down the road? I'll happily take my chances for if I live it will be a new adventure. But then, I suppose, if I die, that too, will be a grand experience.

There should be music: something grand and epic or soothing and sweet: Vivaldi or Pachelbel's Canon in D Major, Bolero even. Something, anything to drown out that insidious ticking.
Ah my love, my dear sweet love, will you be waiting for me? If it were up to you, I know you'd happily wait a bit longer. Still, I miss your smile so much it hurts. I miss your cooking and mostly, the way we laughed together.

Sixty seconds.

[Attention. All natal day chosen will black out in thirty seconds. Some of you will reawaken in the recovery center; most will not. Good luck and happy birthday.]

So this is it: a recorded voice telling me they are stealing what might be my last thirty seconds to live. It all comes down to . . .

1354 words
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