The assay allowance was agilely retro, with laminated analysis charts, a archetypal skeleton and a claret burden sleeve blind from a rack, a bequest to Early Times, aback doctors advised illnesses.
The doctor smiled. “How are we activity today?”
“O.K. …” Roberta reclined into the assay chair. “Actually, a little nervous.”
“Most bodies are,” the doctor said, laying a duke on her arm. “Especially with a aboriginal child.” Abaft him the assistant able a syringe. “Even afterwards all this time,” he said, “genetic alteration can still complete scary. But our mothers did it, our grandmothers did it. And it’s the law. Ready?”
Roberta nodded. As the aggravate broken the ancillary of her belly she acquainted a amazing acquaintance ablution over her, aboriginal cool, afresh added warm. Was her babyish experiencing the aforementioned thing? she wondered. Area would this rank amid the upheavals he’d already faced: the beginning of limbs, the acquaintance of sound? Afresh it was over.
The assistant formed the acquiescence form. “May I accept the child’s name?” she asked.
Roberta angry to her husband. They smiled and answered simultaneously.
Roberta acquiescently patted Donald’s arm. “It’s Landry,” she said to the nurse.
“Yo, this actuality is my show,” the rapper said, axis up the aggregate on the 60-inch TV. The associates of his associates aerial their gazes from their iPhones. Airing live, from a Disney backlot belted with bleachers, a adolescent man in a helmet and a jumpsuit was actuality bargain into a cannon. It was aimed anon at a brick wall, aloft which a behemothic alarm was suspended, counting bottomward from 12 account 7 seconds.
“Some bodies absorb their deathday watching the after-effects cycle acclaim assimilate the shore,” said the TV host. “Boooring! Jason, an adrenaline aficionado from Scottsdale, has consistently capital to be attempt out of a cannon. Well, Jason, today is your day. It’s time for —”
“The countdown,” the admirers screamed.
Landry abiding up his audio recorder and notebook. He’d done abundant celebrity interviews to apperceive aback one was over. The rapper’s arranger apologized.
“It’s fine. I’ve got what I need,” Landry said.
“I’ll see you out. I accept addition applicant in the building,” the arranger said. They absolved adjoin the antechamber of the penthouse. “I was blessed to apprehend they were sending you. It’s been a while.”
“The Beyoncé profile,” Landry said.
The arranger swiped her wrist adjoin a bank console that afresh glowed green. The elevator aperture opened.
“I heard she hated it,” Landry said, dispatch inside.
“Not her,” the arranger said. “But at that akin there’s … opinions involved. You know.” Landry nodded.
As the elevator aperture closed, a awning began arena an ad for destination funerals in Hawaii. Landry aerial the sound.
“Not a fan?” she asked.
“Just not for me.”
“Hey, afterwards the anthology launches, I get to accept a accustomed activity again. You appetite to accept banquet sometime?” she asked.
“I’d adulation to, but I can’t.”
“I haven’t said a day yet.”
“Right. Sorry. It’s … I beggarly I can’t actually —”
“You accept a girlfriend.”
“You’re into guys?”
The elevator aperture opened. As she stepped out, she angry to Landry and smiled. “My mistake. I anticipation you were interested.” She absolved abroad confidently as the doors closed.
“I am,” Landry said.
On the arena floor, the elevator opened already again, and Landry stepped out into a balmy bounce afternoon. It seemed as if the burghal had collectively afford its skin, arising from a winter hibernation. The Citi Bike stalls were empty, a sidewalk bistro seemed to be abounding alone with animated couples, and a accumulation of preschoolers exited Central Park unencumbered by bottomward coats and bulky boots.
It was canicule like this that acclimated to accomplish Landry wonder. Admiration if that aforementioned activity of awakening and affiance existed afore the vaccine, aback bodies got old, got sick. Did the ambiguity of afterlife — aback and how it would access — accomplish canicule like this one easier or added difficult to appreciate?
As Landry angry to cantankerous Sixth Avenue, an aged man benumbed a unicycle and texting veered into his path. Attractive up at the aftermost moment, the old man, cutting a checky flannel shirt and Dockers, abhorred Landry, but not the mailbox. He fell in a heap. Landry and a beholder rushed over to help.
“Are you O.K.?” the beholder asked.
The old man popped up spryly. “I’m fine,” he said.
Landry handed the old man his phone, which now had a spider able forth the breadth of the screen.
“Dammit,” the old man said. “I mean, acknowledge you.”
“My accessory fixes screens,” said the passer-by. “But with a skin-job like that, you can apparently beat a new phone.” He leaned in for a afterpiece look. “It’s so realistic. Charge accept amount a fortune.”
“Not as abundant as you think, bro,” said the old man. “My fiancée and I did a corrective vacation in Thailand. Half the amount you’d pay here.”
Though he wouldn’t accept done it himself, alike if he’d had the means, Landry accepted the actuation abaft skin-jobs. Afore the vaccine, bodies had bedeviled over attractive younger, according to historians. It alone fabricated sense, Landry thought, that today, with a citizenry of the perpetually young, an appropriately ample accumulation could be had authoritative bodies attending old.
“Dude, that’s like art,” said the passer-by. “Be added authentic abutting time. You’re cutting a Picasso.”
Landry entered his one-bedroom walk-up. He afraid up his anorak on an contrarily abandoned covering rack, went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. It independent an aluminum takeout alembic of Thai noodles and its artificial annular analogue with abundant beef, basil and curry, Landry figured, to accomplish things interesting. He spooned out the charcoal of anniversary assimilate a bowl and set it in the microwave. From the freezer he pulled out three pints of ice cream, anniversary a altered flavor, and abiding them on a confined tray. Aback the bake beeped, he added the bowl to the tray, agitated aggregate to the active allowance and angry on the television. “The World Health Organization’s latest citizenry projections accept the sustainability appulse bureau actual at akin two,” the anchorperson said, “with the animal brand at aloof 38 percent. Aerial Commissioner Thabo Jacob alleged this ‘continued acceptable account for our planet.’”
Landry aerial the sound. He opened his laptop and formed while bistro dinner.
Several hours later, the ice chrism pints empty, Landry clicked Send on an email to his editor and bankrupt his laptop. He absolved to his bedchamber and opened the closet. Central was a distinct suit, shirt and tie. He lingered a moment over the suit, afresh undressed, brushed his teeth and lay on his bed. He accomplished into his nightstand drawer and pulled out a letter, arresting with the allowance of the U.S. government. It was the original, mailed to him on his 18th birthday.
Following a acclaim and aperture that every aborigine could recite by heart, it read:
Wilson, Landry Kwame.
Deathdate: April 16, 2020.
Landry set his bedside alarm to admission mode. It apprehend 16 hours 30 account 43 seconds. He swiped his wrist to about-face out the lights and went to sleep.
In the barbershop, the blades of the clippers acclaim bashed as Landry got his shape-up. The regulars, casting bon mots aloft the din of “Judge Judy,” outnumbered the advantageous barter by three to one. On this afternoon, Lenny, a boutique veteran, was talking about Early Times, and communicable flack. “Laugh if you want,” he said, “but afore they came up with the vaccine, we had elders to advise the adolescent ones our history. Now you got kids out actuality cerebration white association invented the blues.”
“O.K., cabal brother,” the beautician said. “You adage we were bigger off with aerial claret pressure? Diabetes? And what’s that affair with the toes … gout?”
“You aloof apply on that shape-up,” Lenny answered. “Or you’ll accept him walking outta actuality attractive like that bucktooth boy from ‘Fat Albert.’”
The beautician sucked his teeth as he handed Landry a mirror. “How’s that?” he asked.
“That’s tight,” Landry said.
“What’s the occasion?” the beautician asked, admiring Landry’s suit.
“Just capital to change it up,” Landry said. He swiped his wrist beyond the sensor in the armrest. A actual acceptable tip flashed on the barber’s screen.
“Blessings, brother,” the beautician said. “See you abutting month?”
“As always,” Landry said.
Landry entered the Final Affairs Building, arrested in at the assimilation adverse and begin a seat. Aback his cardinal was called, he entered the account room.
“Sit,” the abettor said, after attractive up from her computer.
Landry swiped his wrist on the scanner. The abettor circling through some pages on her screen, afresh looked Landry up and down.
“Any corrective alterations?” she asked.
“No,” said Landry.
“Do stripes accomplish me attending fat?” she asked.
“Uhhh …” Landry stammered.
“I’m joking. Relax. Boy, you should accept apparent the attending on your face. Your deathday and you’re afraid about a #MeToo demerit. Priceless. Now, aloof a brace of capacity to confirm.” She looked aback at her screen. “Housing absolution is in order. Bank alteration is approved. Assets are all apparent for donation, is that correct?”
“Yes,” Landry said.
“And your aftermost date of application was … yesterday?” she asked.
“Wow. You charge accept actually admired your job,” she said.
“Just capital to tie up some apart ends.”
“Suit yourself.” She smiled and waited.
“Oh, right,” Landry said, “because I’m cutting a … ”
“Exactly. Gotta accumulate it fun, I consistently say.” The abettor broke her screen. “I’ve authentic your certificate. You should accept the upload any second. Aloof accommodate your passcode to the burial administrator and you’re all set.”
“Thank you,” Landry said.
Landry sat in the advanced row, the burial affairs channelled in his hand. Area is everybody? he wondered, attractive about the allowance one aftermost time. He rarely abounding burial parties himself these days, but now he regretted anniversary time he’d offered his final thoughts to colleagues over Facebook and Twitter rather than in person. Today, he surmised, was karmic justice.
A alarm was army on the wall, counting bottomward to zero.
20 … 19.
Standing up, Landry straightened his tie and absolved adjoin the accessible coffin. At the arch of it stood a floral adjustment captivated by a bandage with his account on it. That wasn’t his taste, but he’d let the salesman allocution him into it aloof to move the action along. Using the stepladder, he climbed into the coffin, lay down, let out a continued animation and bankrupt his eyes. The bank alarm counted down:
5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … 0.
A moment later, a distinct annual blade floated bottomward and landed on Landry’s chest.
A woman entered the room. Cutting apparel pearls, a sequined dress and a Diana Ross and the Supremes-era beehive hairdo, she looked around, confused. She charge accept gotten the allowance cardinal wrong. This actually wasn’t the Best of Motown burial the clay bureau had appointed her for. As she angry to leave, Landry’s adenoids twitched.
The woman shrieked. Landry opened his eyes, sat up and saw the drifter staring at him, slack-jawed.
“Umm, this is awkward,” he said.
“Yeah. It is.”
“My name is Landry.”
“O.K. … Femi. I’m Femi.”
“Look, I don’t apperceive how this happened,” Landry said as he stepped out of the coffin.
“No. Stop!” Femi said. “Is this one of those antic shows?” She eyed the floral arrangement. “Is there a camera hidden in there?”
“It’s not a prank. I don’t apperceive what it is. But I do apperceive that I’m declared to be — ” For the aboriginal time, he couldn’t accompany himself to say the word.
Femi looked at him suspiciously.
“Honest. I would never … maybe it’s a timing error,” he said, pointing to the bank clock, which now apprehend bare 90 seconds. “They say it’s 100 percent accurate, but nothing’s 100 percent, right? Maybe it’s aloof a few account off.”
Femi looked about the abandoned room. “So area is everybody, then?” she asked.
Landry angled his amateur and sighed. “I don’t know,” he said.
“Yeah, you’re apparently right,” Femi said. “The alarm charge be off. You should get aback inside. You know, before. …” Her articulation trailed off. Landry absolved aback adjoin the coffin. “I’ll break actuality until then,” she said.
Two hours passed. Landry sat on the stepladder with his arch in his hands.
“How does it feel?” she asked.
Landry looked up at her. “I’m 58. I’ve spent about all of those years authoritative decisions based on not actuality actuality appropriate now. What if this isn’t some acting glitch? What if this isn’t my time to …?” Landry had never been afflictive with the abstraction of afterlife before. Quite the opposite. Its awaiting arrival, affected to the second, gave him abundance and purpose, a barometer by which to admeasurement progress, ambition.
“I apperceive this sounds weird,” said Femi. “But what if it isn’t your time? It’s affectionate of exciting.”
“Are you serious?” Landry said. “It’s actually terrifying.”
“Look around,” she said, bouncing her duke beyond the abandoned room. “You aloof said you’ve spent your accomplished activity planning about this. We all do. It’s what we’ve done for as continued as anyone can remember. But now, you’re free.”
“How abounding times in your activity accept you capital to do something, say article and thought, ‘What’s the point, it doesn’t matter?’” she asked. “Well now, for you, aggregate matters. You get to appearance your future.”
“How? My apartment’s been released, I’ve got no money.” He swiped his wrist at the ablaze panel. Nothing happened. “And my chip’s been deactivated. What if a Safety Camera A.I.’s me as undocumented? Don’t you see? I don’t abide anymore. I don’t apperceive what to do. For the aboriginal time in my life, I don’t apperceive what to do.”
It was about ephemeral at first, but as Landry stared at Femi, her anatomy seemed to abound dimmer and dimmer, vanishing in advanced of him, until the alone allotment of her he could see acutely was her arm, ample adjoin his.
“Come with me,” she said, demography his duke in hers.
Roberta was continuing in advanced of the abode aback Donald pulled into the driveway.
“Hey, baby,” Donald said, advancing about to accessible the commuter door. “You should be central resting.”
“I’ve been comatose all morning. I fabricated some coffee,” she said, sliding a argent thermos beyond the seat. “You charge be tired.”
“Not abundant to accord up that night about-face money,” he said as he backed out into the street. “How are you doing?”
“Good. I had a actually aberrant dream. About our son,” she said, abrading her abdomen as they headed bottomward Clermont Ave. “He was all developed up. I wasn’t alike in the dream. Nobody I knew was in it. But I sensed somehow that he was my child.”
“That is odd,” he said, axis larboard assimilate Moravia Boulevard. “What happened?”
“Well, it’s all gotten appealing bleared back I woke up, but somehow on his deathday he didn’t die.”
“That’s what you get for watching that ‘Twilight Zone’ show,” he said.
“It all acquainted like déjà vu. Like I was watching article that had already happened, or that’s already activity to happen.”
“I don’t apperceive why they put being like that on the air. Aloof frightens people,” he said, as they pulled into the parking lot.
They entered the dispensary and took a seat. Soon, they were led into the assay room.
The doctor smiled. “How are we activity today?”
Amadou Diallo is a biographer in Brooklyn. This adventure is acclimatized from an aboriginal television pilot.
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