When the Road Ends

Prompt courtesy of Be Kind Rewrite. Head on over there to read some more great writing and why not take a crack at one of the prompts yourself. I chose “where the road ends” as my prompt, but “an inconvenient death” might be applicable as well.

 

Some people flipped through the brochures they found on the desk, and some chatted in low voices to the person sitting beside them. The woman in the beige slacks and blazer smiled too wide at everyone from the front of the room.

“Hello, everyone. My name is Margaret, I’ll be hosting this little informal information session today. I’m so glad you all chose to participate,” she said, laying her hands over heart, and smiled even wider.

“If you’ve all settled in,” she said, “we have a short film we’d like to show you that will explain the services, but more importantly, the peace of mind, we offer. Please keep all questions until after the presentation, and I will be more than happy to try to answer them.”

She gave the seven or eight people seated at the desks another wide smile, moving from left to right, eyes squinted to show how happy she really felt, and then walked briskly to the light switch and flicked it off. A crisp image appeared on the front wall, to short gasps of surprise.

A tall man, handsome, with a deep, natural tan appeared onscreen. He wore an immaculate white linen suit and his hair was the envy of TV weathermen. He gave the crowd the same wide smile, before speaking in a deep, comforting voice.

“We never know when we will come to the end of our respective roads in this world, folks,” he said, his palms up toward the heavens. According to the market research and focus groups, people found this to be a sympathetic action. “There are just so many pitfalls and dangers and plain accidents out there, waiting. Our lives could be over just like that.”

The man on the screen snapped his fingers to demonstrate how quickly it could all end.

“Of course, I hope you all live to a venerable age, and that your passing is pain-free while you are surrounded by the people you love, and who love you in return.”

He let the smile fall, and his head followed. After a few moments, he lifted his eyes and continued to speak.

“But friends, statistically, you would be in the minority. This world is tough and loves nothing better than to wring you for all your worth and then toss you out when you are no longer useful. It’s terrible. And sad. Heart-wrenching even. When you think of how many people pass alone, afraid. Or wracked with pain.”

The fingers of his left hand dragged lightly down his cheeks and from his chin. Market research proved people found this to be another sympathetic movement. The man on the screen brought his hands together and spoke again.

“What if there was a way to live your last few moment in peace and tranquility? What if during those last few moments, you were able to revisit all the happy memories, all the birthdays and holidays, the first kisses, all your moments of glory.”

The man on the screen paused to allow the people watching his broadcast to conjure up these memories themselves.

“The human memory is a fragile thing. Events that were incredibly vivid fade over time. There seems to be a limit to what we can recall. But that does not mean these memories are lost. Imagine your mind is a skyscraper, each floor is a separate business or organization. The bottom floors your childhood, the middle your adolescence, then adulthood, and so on.

“You find yourself on say the thirtieth floor, and try to recall something from when you were younger. So you take the elevator or the stairs down to the floor you think this memory is filed. But when you get there, everything is in boxes, and not properly labelled, and sometimes just thrown haphazardly around.

The man on the screen smiled wide and stretched his arms out from his side. He winked and continued.

“It doesn’t mean we are bad people. Or unorganized. We just moved on to another floor and told ourselves we’d come back down soon enough and clean it all up. But then the upper floors started to fill up and we kept climbing.”

“What we here at Nostalgia offer is basically a cleaning and filing service. Our doctors and scientists, the tops of their field, the cream of the crop really, have created a program that sorts all your memories for you. Once the program has alphabetized and dated and dusted off your memories, you and your personal technician will go through them, selecting only the happiest, the proudest, the most blessed and blissful. Basically, folks you will be creating a montage of your greatest moments and achievements.

“When you are about to pass from this world, and independent scientists have proved this, your brain fires off messages to the rest of the body, your organs, nerves, that sort of thing, letting them know that it is time to shut down. What we have done, is perfected a way to intercept these messages. A microchip, although I wish we would come up with a word for something smaller than micro, is inserted just behind the ear. One of those messages goes out and the chip clicks on and you spend your final moments basking in the happiest moments of a life well lived.”

The man on the screen smiled wide once again.

“Well, that’s it for my end of the presentation folks. Our representative will be able to answer any and all questions you might have. Thank you for your time, and remember you only get one life, so live it.”

The screen shrunk until it was just a dot, and then disappeared with a short bleep. Margaret turned the lights on and walked back to the front of the room. A wide smile stretched across her face.

“Alright then. I’ll just pass out these application forms and then we can get around to your questions, if you have any.”

 

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9 thoughts on “When the Road Ends

  1. Cool. < And when you read that word I want you to imagine it whispered, with extra 'o's. LIke, cooool.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this. Perhaps partially because I'm in marketing, but mostly because it was both creepy and tempting. It sounds like a great service, and a fascinating idea, but I feel like something much more sinister is going on.

    Fantastic work.

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