“But I confirmed my appointment last week!”
“I’m sorry, sir, an emergency arose, and we needed that time for someone else.”
“So what am I supposed to do?”
“We have an opening in three days. And if you have any loved ones in from out of town for the occasion, we will happily reimburse them for the inconvenience.”
“I don’t have anyone.” He was immediately aware of how pathetic that must sound. “… from out of town,” he added weakly.
“Well, we are sorry for this last-minute change. Will you want the time three days from now?”
“Yeah, I suppose I don’t have a choice.” A feeling of loss and emptiness began to settle over him. “What do I do for the next three days?”
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“Yeah, thanks for nothing.” Turning to leave, he noticed a sign on the wall: “Maximum of 5 people may accompany the client.” He imagined it would be tough for someone with a large family, but he couldn’t muster any sympathy.
Back on the sidewalk, the world moved around him as it had every other day. He wandered around for a bit, at a loss for where to go, what to do. His apartment had been rented. His phone was disconnected. There was no place for him anymore. Visiting a friend was out of the question. The announcement had already gone out, and anyone who had known him would only be unnerved by his presence. Only now did it occur to him that he should have asked for money for a hotel room. But he didn’t want to back to the clinic again.
The walking dead. That’s what he was. Still alive, but already dead as far as the world was concerned. Now he had to exist that way for three days.
Drinking at a bar was the only solution that presented itself. He made certain to find a place where he was unlikely to run into anyone from his life. Luckily, he hadn’t completely emptied his back account. His will specified where the money should go, but it wouldn’t be carried out until the back received the death certificate.
He was grateful that no one at the bar knew him, no one there had gotten the announcement. It wasn’t much fun drinking alone, but it was better than scaring everyone in the place. So he sat, downing drink after drink, hoping to blackout for three days until his rescheduled appointment.
It took someone putting their hand on his arm to draw his attention away from his single-minded pursuit of alcohol-induced stupor. A woman had sat down next to him. She was staring at him, clearly expecting an answer to a question he hadn’t heard.
“I said, what are you drinking to forget?”
He tugged his arm away from her hold. “Everything,” he mumbled before turning back to the glass in front of him.
“Everything? That’s quite a lot.”
“That’s why I need a lot of alcohol.”
A vid screen behind the bar began showing a commercial for the clinic that had upended his day by giving him three more.
“Bastards!” he spat, swallowing another gulp.
“Agreed,” his neighbor offered.
“You don’t like them, either?”
“No. I mean, the whole thing gives me shivers.” She shook, just a little. “Planning when you’ll die? The whole idea just seems wrong.”
“Oh. You’re one of those.”
“Natural deathers. Isn’t that what you call yourselves?”
“You think it’s normal to schedule your death?”
“I think it beats not knowing. It’s better than sitting around, fearful, because you don’t know when you’re going to die.”
“I can’t believe I’m even bothering to argue with you.”
“Well, don’t. I’m just drinking, minding my own business. You do what you like.”
“Okay.” But apparently she couldn’t just leave it at that. “If you’re okay with the death schedule, why’d you get upset at that commercial?”
“Because today was my day. And they changed my appointment. Now I have to wait around for three days.” He hadn’t meant to say it. But he was drunk, and she had gotten him angry. Now people around them would know that he was walking dead.
However, no one around seemed to have heard. And she didn’t react the way he expected. “Oh,” she said after a moment. “So you are supposed to be dead already?”
“Yeah.” He took another drink and avoided looking at her.
“So? Now you’ve got three more days to live. Why not enjoy it?”
“Because I was ready to die. Now I’ve got extra time with nothing to do.”
“Why don’t you just kill yourself, then?”
He was genuinely shocked. “What kind of suggestion is that? I’m not suicidal. I’m just ready to die.”
“Uh huh.” She finished her drink. “Well, good luck with that.” Then she walked out of the bar.
Glad to be rid of her, he ordered another drink from the bartender. He hadn’t had much of a life before today, but it was more than he had now. Now he just had three days of waiting to die. He hoped there was enough money in his account to cover the bar tab.