Sometimes, it’s the little coincidences which make me laugh.
Today is Sunday. It is Grandfather’s eightieth birthday, so tonight he will die.
Does that mean he gets to be dragged through the streets by a herd of half naked nymphs? Cassia says that people used to wake up wondering if they were going to die and how long they have. Now “the Society” has it down that everyone dies on their eightieth birthday. Which makes me ask, what happens to people that die before their birthday? Even if disease has been eliminated, which I doubt, there are still accidents. Do those families get a credit of some sort since they’ve been cheated however many years of time with someone they love?
All the studies show that the best age to die is eighty. It’s long enough that we can have a complete life experience, but not so long that we feel useless. That’s one of the worst feelings the elderly can have. In societies before ours, they could get terrible diseases, like depression, because they didn’t feel needed anymore. And there is a limit to what the Society can do, too. We can’t hold off all the indignities of aging much past eighty. Matching for healthy genes can only take us so far.
Again, I’m torn by this. On one hand, it’s incredibly stupid and asinine. On the other, it’s what a government would probably say in order to justify killing old people. Also, these people suck if the best they can do with breeding and a few decades of advancing medical science is get you to eighty. I expect a bit more out of a futuristic society that has hover buses.
Cassia says that it wasn’t always like that and that people could just die anywhere. Now they have to do it in the designated death zones, indicated by the double yellow line. For once she seems to agree with something her society does because she says that people used to be able to die alone and no one should.
The whole family is there, they go up to see grandpa, Cassia tells herself it’s fair and it didn’t used to be that way. After today they won’t have a reason to come to the old folks home. Not that they did before, unless they thought grandpa would give them moral support to justify their bad decisions. Cassia says that most kids watch their relatives death through “portscreens” to give them distance. She says she pities them but doesn’t say why. I’m going to assume it’s because Cassia wants to capture grandpa’s essence which will escape his body with his last breath.
They have about a half hour until the “Committee” shows up and they’ve all brought gifts. One of them is a mummified cat which will guide him in the afterlife while everyone else brought jars to stuff his organs into. Or Bram brought a rock, because he sucks, while Cassia brought a letter. She apparently spent all day at the computer and put together a bunch of lines from poetry and then printed it out. Which is exactly the kind of thing a teenager would think is deep and meaningful but Cassia will be praised for it because it’s something that Ally has actually done.
Before they go inside the banquet hall, some old lady pokes her head out and asks if they’re here for Mr Reyes. They say yes, she asks if it’s a private banquet, also a yes, and then laments that she wishes it wasn’t so. Her own death day is only a couple of months away and she wants to get some ideas and hers will be public. Then she goes away and Bram whines about her trying to ruin grandpa’s day.
Inside, grandpa asks to be moved near the window. Dad asks him if he remembers doing that for him back when he got all of his inoculations. This makes grandpa laugh and say it was a different house and Cassia comments that he’s wandering now which is to be expected. Once they hit eighty, they start declining fast and no one makes it past midnight. So now they have built in expiration dates? I guess they must all be replicants. Where the hell is Decker when you need him?
The Committee does not take long. They arrive, three men and three women in their long white lab coats, and they bring things with them, too. The Banquet clothes that Grandfather will wear. Equipment for tissue preservation. A microcard with a history of his life so he can watch it on the port.
Grandpa’s death suit is made of a “fine material” and it’s a light green. Cassia is sad because it means they’re a lot alike. Not really, lady. The catalog doesn’t exactly have a ton of color options to pick from so it’s pretty good odds you’d pick the same colors. They hand over his usb stick which has images of him from throughout his life. Cassia says that he hasn’t seen some of these images in years and must be excited to view them.
Wait, what? Do they not have their own pictures in this future? Surely they’re allowed to keep a cloud drive with their favorite photos on it. It’s not like they don’t have the technology for it. They ask who will take possession of the usb drive and he says his son. Then they say that he qualified for preservation and grandpa says his son will take care of that too. It involves him running a swab on the inside of his cheek and then getting it to the “Biological Preservation Department”.
I’m glad that Grandfather has qualified to have a tissue sample frozen. Now, for him, death may not necessarily be the end. Someday, the Society might figure out a way to bring us back. They don’t promise anything, but I think we all know that it will happen eventually. When has the Society ever failed in reaching a goal?
Well, they did fail to beat the stupid out of you, Cassia. They hand him a virtual menu then, which grandpa reviews and says is in order. With that done, they leave him alone with his family and congratulate him as they leave. Cassia says she can read her grandpa’s mind and he’s wondering if they’re congratulating him for his life or his death. Great, now Cassia is a budding telepath.
Bram asks if they can give their gifts, dad says to hold on as there are other guests coming/ They ask what he put on the menu and he says all desserts and something else. Then he asks for their presents starting with the little kid, who tells him to close his eyes first.
“A rock,” Grandfather says, opening his eyes and looking down. He smiles at Bram. “I have a feeling I know where you found it.”
‘I bet you won’t.’ ‘Was it the moon?’ ‘No, I got it from the Hill.’ ‘Huh, the Hill? You sure it wasn’t the moon? Because a rock is a pretty boring gift if you just picked one up from around here. I’d think a last gift should at least rate a rock take from an active volcano if not the moon.’ ‘No, grandpa, it’s just a rock I found on the ground.’ ‘Well it’s a good think there aren’t such things as possessions in this future or else I’d be writing you out of the will as we speak.’
Everyone else wants to give their gifts after they say their goodbyes. He says that won’t leave him with much time to enjoy it but then his friends start showing up along with the food. It turns out the secret dessert is pie. Not any particular kind of pie, just a “fruit filled” pie. Cassia nibbles on her own piece and wonders if death will always taste so good.
Then we get some continuity confusion. Cassia says that the guests put down their forks and sigh with satisfaction. Then Bram says that it’s good, referring to the pie, while their dad doesn’t eat anything. Does that mean that the immediate family aren’t guests or that everyone eats in reverse in the future?
Once everyone’s viewed the files on the usb drive, they all get shooed away. That’s got to be exciting; go eat some pie, watch a PowerPoint presentation and leave. Did no one think to bring a bit of liquor? You can’t tell me that “the Society” has completely stamped out drinking. Prisons try that and inmates still manage to make intoxicating, if disgusting, spirits. Anywho, mom tells them it’s family time now.
“Thank goodness,” he says. “I have things to say to each of you.”
Yeah, it’s a good thing your friends are gone. You wouldn’t want them to hear you say nice things to your family. They might get the idea that you were a nice guy or something. Everyone talks with grandpa alone, Cassia goes last and he reads her letter composed of borrowed phrases. Grandpa says it’s a fine letter and full of nice sentiments. I’m mentally injecting sarcasm there. ‘Yeah, great letter you printed out for me. I like how you personalized it by taking things you liked and pasting them together. What, were you too busy to make me a collage?’ Of course grandpa has to tell Cassia that she’s special because Unicus is always hungry.
“You have words of your own, Cassia,” Grandfather says to me. “I have heard some of them, and they are beautiful. And you have already given me a gift by visiting so often. I still love this letter because it is from you. I don’t want to hurt your feelings. I want you to trust your own words. Do you understand?”
Cassia is about two degrees from being a naked avatar for Ally. ‘You have your own words and they’re awesome, no matter what your editor says.’ She give him the cottonwood seed from earlier then he says he wants someone else’s words. He asks to see her compact, removes a slip of paper from a hidden compartment and reads it.
It doesn’t take long for him to read the paper, and when he’s finished, he closes his eyes. An emotion crosses his face that I cannot read. Something deep.
Wait, how do you know that Cassia? If you don’t know what it is, then how can you tell it’s deep? Maybe he’s feeling the shallow urge to kill the idiot in the room? Perhaps it’s the frustration of knowing that his legacy is a gaggle of morons who occasionally go hungry when they forget how to eat.
He hands it to her and says that he’s giving her something important that she might not understand but she will one day. Grandpa, I think you are severely overestimating Cassia’s cognitive capability. Then everyone comes back, he says he loves them all while Cassia says he lived a good life, everything works as it’s supposed to and he dies at the proper time. And Ally calls it a day, while trying to keep a cliffhanger because we don’t know what’s written on a sheet of paper.
aw, i was really hoping for grandpa to make one last-ditch effort to lay claim to his own life for once.
the sweet docile grandpa lunges at the committee and dies with a smile on his face, knowing his entire life he had no choice but to give his life to the society, but his last second on Earth would be his alone.
hahaha I started reading the chapters online but your recaps are far better!!