I am sitting in the dark, watching the clock on the wall. The minutes tick down towards the inevitable end.
The calendar, once the drummer of my life, calling cadence to everyday tasks, has become my bitter enemy.
We are encouraged to indulge in whatever we like in our last day: alcohol, drugs, sex, anything non-lethal.
I cannot find it in me to open the scotch my friends gifted me. I don’t know why, but I want to be awake, alert for this.
I’ve been instructed to wait patiently for the Terminus Team to arrive, that they will be prompt.
I cannot help but fidget a little, every sound making me jumpy. I still have a little time left, but what if they’re early?
When I asked about that, I was told that they were neither early nor late, only *I* would be. A bit of humor.
It was humor I did not appreciate, it being at the expense of my Expiration.
The Expiration dates are supposed to make things easier on society, to plan for births and deaths predictably.
We are told that the Expiration dates are based on so many factors, such as genetics, habits, social groups.
There are many who do not believe this, that the Expirations are assigned according to social and economic needs.
I do not know what I believe, but it has been so long since anyone has died naturally that I don’t know what to expect.
If I were about to keel over within the next six minutes as the mark says I should, would I feel it coming on?
The thing about the predictions was that they were only times and dates, there was no cause ever listed.
My mother once told me that dying was supposed to be like giving birth: no one knows what it’s like until it happens.
And in the same vein, she said that it’s different for everyone. She felt herself declining for months before Expiring.
After she was collected by the Terminus Team, I thought that part was weird: we weren’t supposed to suffer.
We were supposed to Expire before any life-threatening condition could take us, could impact our lives negatively.
There are even fines and legal ramifications to the families of the deceased if anyone is allowed to die naturally.
I swear it seems like the clock is going slower than it should, taunting me, teasing me. I start to fidget even more.
I can’t do this. I can’t just wait here for them to come and terminate my life. How do they even know when I should die?
I’m about to break the law, I can feel it. I get up, I move towards the door. I have no family left, so no one to punish.
I open the door just a little bit, peeking out to see if the Terminus Team is waiting. The corridor is empty.
I glance at the clock: official minutes left to do what I will with my life. After that, it’s lights out… unless it isn’t.
I feel fine, in all honesty. I can’t imagine that the Expiration date emblazoned on my arm is correct.
I make a break for it. I slip out of the door, lock it behind me, and I dash for the stairs at the end of the hall.
The Terminus Team is probably going to take the elevator, there’s no reason not to. They aren’t expecting resistance.
I slip down the stairs carefully, making sure that no one else is on the stairwell. From the 7th floor, this is harrowing.
I open the stairwell door to the garage just a crack and peek out; the Terminus Team is collecting there, about to go up.
At least, I think it’s them. There are four nondescript men in charcoal grey suits, one with a silver briefcase.
They are chatting politely amongst themselves, then they get into the elevator all at once.
When the elevator door is closed, I run as fast as I can to my car, fishing the keys from my pocket as I go.
Oh god… they’ve put a boot on my tire in preparation for the posthumus estate sale.
Never mind that, I can run. I’m in great condition, I ran track in school, I work out once a week.
I glance at my Expiration date and then look for the digital clock in the garage: I am officially two minutes late.
My heart skips a beat, elated that the niggling fear in my head about the validity of my timestamp was correct.
I calculate the time that it’ll take to get to the exit of the garage on foot, something that I have never done before.
I hear the Terminus Team open the door to the stairwell above me, yelling to each other to find me quickly.
They are shouting to at least one of them to take the elevator, it dings in response to that request.
I have no choice, I start running for the spiral pathway that will lead out and into the open air.
What will I do once I get there? I haven’t thought it out that far, it’s something I should prepare for.
The Terminus Team will not stop looking for me until I am properly “retired”, at least so long as I’m in the city.
There are rumors of villages of people who defied the Expiration protocol, living into their late years in the wilds.
I try to remember what those forests and glades looked like, recalling back the days of my youth.
I am still running up the driveway, sticking close to the wall so I don’t get struck by a car. How ironic that would be!
I emerge into the early light of day, and I am now over fifteen minutes late to my own death.
I look around for a good exit strategy, a taxi or a bus, but the streets are remarkably empty of people at this hour.
I should have thought of that, but there was no time. I’ll just have to keep running.
There is another Terminus agent at the door to my apartment building; he sees me, gives chase.
I am pulling ahead, getting away, when something goes a little wrong. Something is making the world a little darker.
My head starts swimming and I feel sick to my stomach. I slow down, a bit, trying to focus on the ground in front of me.
I feel tightness in my chest now, like a hand squeezing my lungs and pulling strings on the inside of my arms.
Oh no… this is how it happens… this is what they meant…
I fall to my knees right as the Terminus agent from the apartment building catches up with me.
He helps me to the ground, I am gripping his lapel. He is smiling kindly, there is no malice or ill-will.
“Hey now, it’s okay,” he says, “it’s a good thing I caught you. It’ll all be over soon.” He takes my pulse.
He presses my finger against the readout to verify my identity – terrible business, retiring the wrong person – and nods.
An aero-syringe is pressed to my neck. The pain fades then is gone.
And so am I.
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