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The Living

Sarah Kanning writes and lives in Oregon, and is currently at work on a near-future, gritty-yet-hopeful solarpunk novel.
She took a Canadian one-way and left him with a closet full of her clothes, a cabinet full of her meds, and a wrung-out heart. So he came to us.
"Pancreatic cancer," he said. "She wanted a cleaner death. But I still can't stand it."
He doesn't have to, not with the number of zeroes in his bank account.
He brought medical records and a wedding dress. A handful of photos. It was enough for us to work with, to give him a simulacrum. A few video clips gave us her voice and mannerisms, and he told us the subtle alterations that would allow him to preserve the illusion a bit more. She was bird-boned, a wisp. We had to change the composition of the bot's skeleton and skin to make it more like her: a translucent being who seemed almost capable of flight.
He could have her back healthy and strong, but no. He wants to convince her, just one time, to stay.
Pay all that money to have your heart hammered flat, again and again.
"Oh, Bill," she says. "You've been the best part of me. But you have to let me go."
And he does, he does, every time he walks back out of our playroom. Another dress rehearsal for the big show that already opened and closed long ago.
"Reset the sim," he says, and we do, we do.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, July 1st, 2021


This story was sparked by a friend who said one reason she had moved to Oregon was the "death with dignity" law on the books here, which allows terminally ill people to legally self-administer a lethal dose of medication. Canada has a similar law, but most U.S. states do not, which could lead to the kind of "death tourism" hinted at here. For the curious, this piece is set in the same world as a story I published elsewhere, "Sex with Ghosts."

- Sarah Kanning
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