“If you can sign here, and here,” he said, pointing, “and here, here and here, you’re good to go.”
He perused the contract slowly, reading the words over and over in his mind. “I don’t know.”
“What are you worried about?”
“What if it doesn’t work?”
“Well ….” He shrugged his lips. “You’ll be dead.”
“That’s what I’m worried about,” he sighed.
“If you’d rather not, then I understand. It’s experimental, but revolutionary technology. I admit, we haven’t figured out how to revive the dead yet, but we will.”
“Are you sure? I mean; how close are you to cracking it?”
“Close,” he nodded frantically, “very close.”
“Within weeks, years, what is it?”
The man smiled and pulled the contract from the table. “I can see that this is not for you,” he said, folding the paperwork.
“No, please, it’s just … I don’t know. I’m worried that you won’t be able to bring me back, that’s all.”
“It’s a gamble we’re all making,” he said. “When you die, would you rather be revived in ten years, or three hundred?”
“That’s beside the point.”
“No, it is the point,” he snapped. “Just think about all of the inventions you have seen in your lifetime. How old are you now?”
“I’m only thirty.”
“You grew up with a black and white television, correct?”
“And what do we have now?”
“I see your point.”
“4K resolution,” he said, ignoring the man. “Augmented reality, virtual reality, you name it; if it’s not already available, it’ll be here in five years. It’s only a matter of time before they crack the human body wide open, you watch. There are cures for cancer and AIDs now, do you realise? I don’t suppose you do, because it’s not common knowledge just yet.” He rubbed his fingers together, indicating that they were expensive treatments. “But there are. Celebrities will outlive us because they can afford it.”
The man stared at the folded contract. He wanted it back, so he reached for it.
“Are you ready to sign?”
“I think so,” he sighed.
The salesman handed the paperwork back and watched as the man unfolded it. Within seconds, he had signed all of the dotted lines and laid the pen down on the table.
“You’re right,” the man said. “If you can’t bring me back, I’ll already be dead. What difference will it make, huh?”
“So what happens now?”
“You have to live in this country until the day you die because we need your body within hours of death.” He licked his lips and paused. He worked some mental mathematics and said, “We need the body very soon after death, just to counteract any deterioration that will inevitably occur.”
“That makes sense. But, what if I go on holiday or something?”
“We have clinics in France, Spain, Washington, New York, Texas and Rio de Janiero. If you’re in any of those countries, you’ll be fine. Any other country, though, will be a gamble.” He shrugged. “You can go for the premium package, where we repatriate your body on a private jet, but that is”—he rubbed his fingers together again—“quite the expense.”
He nodded and stared at the contract on the table. He thought about all of the locations on his bucket list and how many were in the countries the salesman had named. Not many were. “How much is the premium package?” he asked.
“You’re looking at half a mill anywhere north of the Equator, excluding Russia. It’s seven-fifty for anywhere south of the Equator, excluding Australia and New Zealand. Those three countries, Oz, NZ and Russia: they’re nine-fifty.”
“Does that include …” he thought aloud, “bed and board?”
“The big freeze?” he laughed.
“It does not, I’m afraid. The premium package prices I gave are for repatriation only.”
“So if I want to go on Safari, and I croak while searching for lions, I’m looking at my standard fifty K, plus another seven hundred and fifty to reclaim my body?”
The salesman nodded.
“So, that’s eight hundred in total, yes?”
He thought about this intently and became quiet.
“You do not have to make your decision right now,” the salesman said, “unless you plan on leaving the country, I mean. Was Africa somewhere that you wanted to visit?”
“Not particularly. It was only an example.”
“Oh, right.” The salesman nodded. “We’re opening up a new clinic in Johannesburg in three years’ time, so if you wanted to wait until then before …” He sliced a hand across his own throat. “You know …”
“I don’t plan on dying just yet,” the man laughed.
“Well, that’s good to know.” The salesman smiled. He nodded at the paperwork and lifted an eyebrow. “So what do you think? Are you happy? Or would you like more time to think about upgrading?”
“It’s one hell of a jump in cost.”
“You’re not wrong,” the salesman agreed. “But you don’t want to get caught short.”
“Can I think about it some more and get back to you in a few days?”
“Sure, I mean; if you’re not travelling out of the country, you’re golden. Do you have any planned holidays?”
The man shook his head. “Not at present, no.”
“Well then, you have plenty of time.”
“That’s true,” he nodded. “Well, is there anything else, or am I ready to go?”
“Nope, that is everything,” he smiled. “You’re covered as soon as the money is transferred over. We’ll allocate your position in the community,” he wanted to say ‘warehouse’, but he knew that it would not sound very luxurious. “We’ll prep the pod and keep it ready, should you need it sooner rather than later.”
The man nodded at this and stood.
The two men shook hands and left the room together. The salesman escorted the customer out of the building and glanced at his watch as the front door closed.
He sprinted back down the corridor, into his office, and jumped into the chair in front of his desk. “Shit shit shit!” He logged in to the computer, opened up his internet browser and logged into his online, black-market auction site. On a separate tab, he logged in to his internet banking, and then he flipped back to the auction page.
You have been outbid!
Rare White Rhinoceros horn, immaculate condition: £75,001.
He added £1,000 to his maximum bid and hit return. It went through in time. He was the highest bidder now, with only 20 seconds remaining in the auction. “That was close!” He smiled and glanced out of the window, down into the warehouse. There were pods and pods and pods in rows, for as far as the eyes could see. They were like the Xenomorph eggs on LV426 in the movie Alien, but instead of spider-like creatures, they contained the bodies of dead humans waiting to be reborn.
“Suckers,” he laughed, returning his attention to the screen.
Gavin Jefferson is a writer of genre-fluid fiction. Often weird, sometimes humorous, but always heartfelt, his stories are character driven, emotive, and original. His latest, Nursing Home of the Damned, a story about otherness, set in a care home for vulnerable vampires, will be published on Kindle and paperback in late August.
You can follow Gavin on Twitter: @DoctorUlysses
You can also read an Orchid’s Lantern interview with Gavin here.
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