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 Gone In a Flash by Tamara Wilhite

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
specfiction Posted - 03/21/2007 : 12:27:04
Gone In a Flash

a short story by Tamara Wilhite

“What did you do today?” My grandson was quiet, but not morose as usual.

“I went to the park,” he finally admitted. “I saw a Lightshow.”

I dropped the plate in my hands. “Who?”

“I don’t know.”

“You saw someone die, and you don’t know who?”

“I don’t know. It just happened.”

“You know that suicide is wrong.”

“I thought you let Grandpa die a natural death.”

“That’s different.”

“You chose not to continue his life.”

“He died a natural death. We didn’t use artificial means of prolonging his life.”

“He ended it how he chose to.”

Choice. You either chose to fight tooth and nail to keep you going for 150 years or you ended it in a flash. “Was the suicide a protestor?”

“He didn’t have any signs up or anything.”

“Was there a crowd of friends or family?”


“Why would someone commit suicide in public and not even make a public statement?” I knew people often chose to “go” in a pretty place like Regan Park. They should do it at home or in a hospital – anywhere but where people like me might see it.

“The Phoenix were handing out Flashers. The guy just took one and did it.”

“In public?”


“The police didn’t stop them?”

“They had a hazmat team nearby in case something went wrong.”

“And someone walked up and committed suicide like that?” I snapped my fingers.

“Pretty much.”

“I’m glad you left. It’s getting insane.”

“Yeah. Some old fogy was yelling that they couldn’t do that sort of thing.”

“Good. Suicide is wrong. Suicide in public is worse.”

“No. He was complaining that all these people killing themselves meant nobody would pay into the retirement system.”

“That system is broke anyway.”

“A Phoenix said it didn’t matter what age a person was. One of the women said the old guy probably killed some of his own kids before they were born, or even afterward if they didn’t meet spec. Or he’d have denied them medical treatment and let them did – and that’s murder if it isn’t suicide. So if we can all die at any age for anyone else’s reason, why not at our own time for our own reason?”

He’d listened. He’d paid attention. Their words and reasoning was sinking in to his impressionable mind. “Jacob, do you know why suicide is wrong?”

“You said that life is precious.”

“What else?”

“Don’t go into the God stuff.”

God stuff. Right and wrong, good and evil, it was all God stuff. Off limits stuff. “You can’t get your life back once you make a mistake. You can’t undo a mistake, and you can’t come back from the dead.”

“What about reincarnation?”

“Unless a squirrel comes up to me and says, `Hi, I was your cousin Chandra before she got killed in the Times Square Tragedy,’ I won’t believe that clap trap.”

“It’s cleaner than all the others ways you can go.”

Flashers were popular because of all the things it wasn’t. It wasn’t painful, just a half second high heat explosion. It wasn’t messy; it left a faint burn marks and some ashes. It didn’t kill innocent people if you were at least 10 meters away from anyone else, so there was no guilt. Since the terrorists had devised the horrific devices - and they’d been mass produced before we won the Jihad – they were common. A small shiny thing that fit in your hand. Press the code, and you go up in a flash of fiery light. No muss, no fuss, not even involving pharmacists. The fact that the light was pure white led many with no spirituality to relate it to enlightenment. Suicide was becoming an impulse act with no consequences except your death.

“Why aren’t the cops stopping it? Those Flashers are dangerous.”

“That’s why they were there. So that no one who didn’t want to die didn’t.”

“So no one who doesn’t want to die does?”

“They’re supposed to protect lives.”

“Then they should have stopped the Phoenix –“

“But it’s an individual’s choice! It’s their right! –“

“It’s their life.”

“Why should somebody with no hope stick around? Aside from taking care of old farts and paying taxes for everyone else? Or -”

“To have their own families one day.”

“Or blindly continue the bloodline so their elders can have their genetic immortality?”

I felt a knot in my stomach then. I knew the feeling from when I’d lost my husband. Grief for those still living, but about to go. “I love you.”

“I know.”

“You need to spend time with the living. Your cousins –“

“You raised those girls up to be breeders.” Dismissive. People who valued life tended to carry it on with full enthusiasm. My two granddaughters had already had three children between them. “They made their choice.”

I couldn’t stand this discussion. Much less from my own kin. “If you don’t want to listen to me, are you going to leave?”

“Next Saturday.”

The knot in my stomach got tighter. This is why he was no longer worried. He then calmly whipped an invitation out of his pocket.

“I’m not impulsive. I still care about everybody. That’s why I didn’t do it today.”

If you have enjoyed Breathing Room, check out Mrs. Wilhite's book "Humanity’s Edge" at:


1   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
tamarawilhite Posted - 04/22/2007 : 17:36:50
If you enjoyed this short story, you may also enjoy "Natural Talent" and "Geronimo Reduex", two new Amazon.com shorts by Tamara Wilhite. Only $0.49 a piece.

Tamara Wilhite/Humanity's Edge

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