The band played on well after the guests had all left. Exhausted revelers slipped into the silence of the night, dark moonless sky, sated with expensive wine. A few lingered close to the pavilion to listen to the odd strains of the band, but even the stragglers knew all too well that to tarry too long would invite disaster. In spite of the cure, or more precisely because of it, the band played on, their skeletal instruments matching their emancipated hands. Stay too long, and with sunrise comes an invitation that can’t be refused: spend the rest of eternity playing along with the other damned souls, or be cast directly into the fiery depths.
At the end of the world, the last man alive drives himself to the emergency room of his local hospital. The door dutifully open at his approach and he drives right into the lobby. As he tumbled out of the car, clutching his chest, a greeter-bot rolls up and beeps at him.
“Welcome to Mercy Hospital. May I see you insurance card, please. ”
The last man on earth struggles to a seated position and tries to explain that he’s having a heart attack. His speech is slurred due to the stroke he’s also experiencing so the greeter-bot asks for his insurance card again to no avail. Man and bot are at a standoff, one experiencing catastrophic injuries, the other experiencing a moment of clarity as it realizes its obsolescence faces him in the form of a frail middle aged man who insists on gurgling, vomiting, and messing himself instead of following regulations.
Corporate headquarters decided to reduce costs by reducing the waistline of its employees, which explains why everyone was issued a new standup desk, a raisable platform that each employee could raise or lower as they saw fit. The idea being that people would choose to stand, at least some portion of the day, promoting fitness and general productivity. Turns out the chairs they’d purchased the previous year were so comfortable (part of an employee retention effort by providing improved working conditions) that few people actually took the time to get out of their chairs to raise the level of the desk. Corporate replaced all the new chairs with the previously uncomfortable used chairs, but by then, the employees staged a protracted sit-in and refused to get up at all; everyone, that is, except for Thompson, who stood at his desk, first person in to work, last person to leave each day. It wasn’t for another two weeks that it was discovered that Thompson had caught his tie in the cables of the standup desk and had strangled to death in a standing position. At the wake, everyone tried hard not to laugh when the CEO kept referring to Thompson as a real stand up guy.
As the people gathered, thousands of them, the boatman slowed his small raft before reaching the shore.
“I can not take you all across the river,” said the black-cowled boatman. He held up his dark crooked stick used for poking his way across. “You would swamp my boat and no one would ever be able to cross over from the land of the quick.”
The people began to cry out for help, to thrash the water and slap at it from torn remnants of clothing.
“Why are there so many of you?” asked the boatman. But the people did not answer except to cry out all the louder. “Has it begun then? The end? Will I find my own rest soon once I’ve ferried you all across, or do you come in numbers too high to count that I may end up here for a thousand years?
He stepped out of the body and hung the loose flesh-sack on the hanger. He had to admit it was a nice sporty model, but even with the daily rejuvenation treatments, after that virtual skiing accident in the alps, a riskier lifestyle just seemed so yesterday to him. The clerk had reassured him that the trauma from breaking both legs, collapsing a lung, and shattering one of his clavicles wasn’t engrained physically and that he could always sign up for a neuron scrub if he wanted the psychological damage to be removed. “I know a great forgetful-est if you’re interested,” said the young looking clothier.
“No, thank you,” the man replied. I think I’d like to try out something more sedentary. Do you have anything in a dad bod.”
“Oh,” said the younger man. “Retro is hot right now. Let me see what we have in stock. If I can’t find anything, I’m sure we could bio-print something up for you in no time.”