Thorsten Nesch

- Storyteller -

08. Model One-Way-Swim, James Dean, Pitchfork or French Revolution?

Ten to nine in the morning, I arrived at the Afterlife Inc. building after flowing down 13th through a torrential downpour that had let me grab my umbrella.

I dodged the not very motivated C.A.U.S.E. protester on the sidewalk by waiting until she was busy with another visitor. It wasn't Minna, she most definitely would have confronted me.

As soon as I sat down in the waiting room, I shot Jaqueline a message, and she got back to me right away. Despite being number 14 in the waiting room, she pulled me out personally to invite me into her office, and I left the area with the eyes of the others respectfully resting on me.

After some small talk in the hallway, she changed the subject when she got settled behind her desk. «One thing we haven't touched on yesterday, Arthur, is your last wish. If you know what you want, we can set something up right here, right now.»

I stammered, «Strangely, I haven't given it a thought so far at all. Can I do it later?»

«Absolutely, your hotel room will be equipped with an audio recording device. With one click you can record your last wish minutes before your journey if you like.»

«What's with my device? I can leave a message on it.»

«We don't want to lose it, too often it gets destroyed, when...», she gestured I would know.

«I see. What about... call me old-fashioned... why not written, typed on the keyboard… or even longhand... not that I know longhand, I...»

«Some get a little nervous, shaky, their handwriting unreadable, even having problems hitting the right keys, and they start to think about words and sentences and then other stuff, nah, we don't want that, we want to be able to understand your last wish. Audio is just the easiest way so short before the journey, trust me.»

«Okay, there isn't much anyway.»

«Some warm words to your brother, how you liked it at the hotel, that will help him, and we can use it as a testimony, everybody likes to hear that you had a good time during the highlight of your life.»

We both smiled.

She continued in a serious manner, «What we do have to talk about today is the way you want to go.»

«You mean how I…», my finger slid my throat in the air.

She lit up, «You want to go that way?!»

«No, no, no! That was just a gesture.»

«Oh, okay, well, I need to know, I do have to forward your request, so everything's going to be prepared and set up for you. Exactly like you want. Satisfaction guaranteed.»

«What options do I have?»

«You are lucky being with Afterlife, with us you have all options, we are facilitating suicide in any way, we cater to your wishes. Do you have any preferences?»


«Do you like it quiet or spectacular?»

I was flabbergasted, I wasn't aware that I would have a choice expecting them to take care of everything, having a routine, a standard, and I admitted, «Sorry, I have no idea.»

«Arthur, you strike me as an introvert, most of my customers have already their fantasies, and you just walk in here, totally open, wonderful, I really like that. Should I give you a run through your main options?»


She wiped over her device and turned it around to me, «This is the list. I know it by heart, you can read it parallel if you like. Further details can be discussed at the hotel.»

«What details?»

«For example, your last supper, your last meal, your last drink, do you want to listen to music, what music, smell certain things, all that, do you want to hug somebody before you go, or kiss, or have sex? Or do you want to die during sex, depending of course on the model, obviously! Nobody else should get hurt during the process, except you find someone, who wants to leave the same way you do.»


«Now, let's start with the classics, solid death, no joking around, most common is model Sleeping Beauty: done with sleeping pills. We make sure you take enough, you fall asleep and never wake up. That's it. A recent alternative to this is Take A Breath, which became quickly popular, it is done in a De-breather, like in an oxygen tank just without oxygen, you breeze in your own used air and die comfortably within thirty minutes. Huh?»

«I don't know, my gum bleeds, what if I have bad breath?»

«Yeah, no, we don't want that, good thinking though, I like how your brain works, Arthur. Good for your brother. Let me continue.»

«Yes, please.»

«Then we have Ivy Nurse where we inject Natrium-Pentobarbital into your arm...»

«With a needle?»

«Yes. Takes only a few minutes.»

«No needles, please.»

«Okay, noted, no needles, so no Last Vaccine either, no problem. What about the King's Ending: done with poison. By the way, this list is gender specific for men, and if you have a female friend who is interested, it would be Queen's Ending for her. The gender-neutral would be They's Ending.»

«How considerate.»

«Next is Pulp Fiction: we give you a gun, you do it yourself...»

«Wait, you have guns up there?!»


«I thought they destroyed all privately owned guns in 2037 because of the Scionvard massacre?!» After a guy had walked on an elite university campus and shot over one hundred rich kids, it took the politicians less than 48 hours to change the gun law, it was called the Concorde Effect—if it happens to the rich, bureaucracy happens at the speed of light, and gun owners had five days to turn their guns in, a mandatory buy-back programme enforced by law.

«They did. Down here. A single model of the most available and popular guns and rifles were spared and kept, originally for a museum, but later they sent them up to the hotel as exclusive offer.»


«Right! I know. We have everything, from the 17th century front-end loader pistol over a Kalashnikov to a Lin-Khan. You name it, whatever you know from movies and so on, we probably have it. Including any type of ammunition and calibre. We are always curious and keen to extend our portfolio. So don't be shy. Promise?»

«Okay.» I couldn't help but picture myself in all these scenarios.

«Should I continue?»


«Model Rock Star: drug and, or alcohol overdose. Model Titanic: drowning. The Salute to Solingen: slashing your wrists with the knife of your choice—optional in the bathtub. Takes the edge off, hurts less. And I assure you: painkillers or any drugs prior or during any of the models are always an option. Keep that in mind.»

«I will.»

«By the way, with the guns and knife models, we offer our skilled help in case you don't want to do it yourself. We don't want that you hurt yourself. We have experienced experts for all models. Soft Suicide we call it, when we do it for you. You let me know.»

«Good to know.»

«Oh yeah. Very common, too, is model Trainwreck; you lay down on the train tracks, and leave the rest to us.»

«A train? I thought, this is all done at the Cloud Hotel?»

«It is, it is, nobody wants to have this mess, excuse me, down here, and then the delays, it's not fair to the first responders either, post-traumatic stress disorder, no, no, it's all in the hotel, Lethbridge has no train anyway.»

«You have a train running through the hotel above the clouds?»

«500 metre train track, standard, and the locomotive of an old Japanese high-speed train accelerating to anything between 2 and 87 mph before it hits the journeyman. The speed is set to the wishes of the hero.»


«Just the best.»

This was a rather noisy option, I wondered, «Do I hear the train in the hotel room, or the shots?»

She bursts into laughter, «Arthur, Arthur, I sure never forget you, you are hilarious. You're living in a SMH, right?»

«I do.»

«You can't compare those paper-mâché walls built for hard-hearing pensioners to the triple muffled luxury dividers of our hotel rooms! They are like giant high-end screambags; if you want you can run around and holler in it all day.»


«And many do. The nerves. But you won't hear a peep. So, don't worry. Let's keep moving here. In James Dean you drive a car…»

«Isn't that unethical?»

«It's not run on gas, no fossil fuels involved in any of our services. It is more like an illusion, you know. You sit in the car and there is this 3-D wide-screen projection. I saw a demo-video of it, fantastic, I tell you. You can speed up, and when your car crashes, you get smashed accordingly, there are flexible 1-ton weights with steel bars that can close in from all sides…»

I winced.

She tempered her excitement, «Just an option.»

«I think that's not me.»

«Oh wait, we need your brain, your brother! So that's off the table. Forget that I said that, I make a note. There'll be a surgical team on site when you...»

«Can I ask you something?»


«Since you kind of have the age… Did your parents drive a car, back then?»

She seemed to be surprised by my question. «We… didn't drive a car, never, not once.»

«Did you know somebody who drove a car?»

«We heard about it, from a neighbor, more a rumour, I never knew anybody personally who drove a car, and my parents didn't talk much about it, but I know they had a friend that was a pedestrian. They got along really well. And this doesn't quite belong here, Arthur.»

«I guess not, I just always found it odd, that nobody seemed to have driven a car back then, or even knew somebody who did, for all the cars there were. Somebody must've known somebody, somebody must've driven them.»

«That's the past, history, and we of course shall never forget the dark time, but this is the present, and we, especially you, have a glorious future.»

There was a pause in the conversation, then she continued her spiel, «Back to the models, it's getting juicier from now on.»

«The car option sounded pretty juicy for me already.»

«Hear me out, we are getting to the good stuff. Model Van Halen: you can jump off anything you can think about, and smack into anything you can imagine, how does that sound?»

«I am more worried about how deep I can jump inside the hotel.»

She jotted something down into her device, «Aha, I sense some interest in this model. I fill you in, you jump about 20 metres deep before you smack down on the platform that comes up with 75 mph at the same time, this equals a free fall of over 200 metres. That does it effectively, doesn't matter how you land. Moving platform and the walls around feature the latest projection technology. You can jump off Jupiter and smack down in a bathtub if you want.»


«Yeah, right?!»

«And you are always dead?»

«As dead as the hope that our weather will ever change again.»

«100% sure?»

«Believe me, we got our physics straight. We work with trained engineers. Between you and me—you see, I am honest with you, the truth and nothing but the truth, right—I admit, there were some problems in the early stages, but that is years ago, and even then we lived up to our high standards, mentioned in our contract. We always delivered everything we promised.»

«What do you mean, what happened back then?»

«Good question, and I will tell you, because I am honest with you all the way. So mind you, this is years ago, and we are not proud of it; back then some fell, but unfortunately they didn't smash down hard enough, so they were still... a little alive, uhm, drowsy of course, but our team picked them up and repeated the process until the heroes went on their journeys. You see, we run a 100% service up there, no matter what model you choose, you lose. Excuse my pun.»

I waved it off.

«Again, the platform is a giant flatscreen with a projection of your choice: water, grass, pavement, monkey bums, whatever you like to smack onto.»


«Is that something for you?»

«Monkey bums?»

«I joked», she corrected her attitude, «Except you want monkey bums...»

«No, no. It is safe now!?»

«Absolutely safe.»

«Maybe I consider this.»

«Please check the box next to it, then you will find it in your favorites later, it is not a commitment.»

Model Van Halen turned light gray.

«Why is it called Van Halen?»

«Frankly, I don't know. It is one of our oldest models, I can do some research and let you know.»

«No worry.»

«Oh, wait! My brain, for my brother. What about my brain?»

«Right. Good thinking. Well, we could rip off your head before touchdown.»

«I think about it.»

«Good, next, you like swimming, right.»

«True», I tried to remember if I mentioned that before.

«Check our model 'One Way Swim'; you swim and swim and swim until you are exhausted and you drown eventually.»

«I prefer swimming over drowning, I like swimming, yes, not drowning, no, thank you.»

«Okay. I know you're not religious, nevertheless I have to introduce you to the following models: in Jehova we could stone you to death, model Roman means we nail you to a cross, or with Boombadabang you can blow yourself up.»

«No, no and no.»

«I thought so. And I'm totally with you there. But you never know what strikes your fancy. Next: with Mister Lightning you are sitting on an electric chair, something I personally don't recommend, it usually takes a while, the journey.»

I shook my head.

«Model Hangman Jury is self-explanatory, model French Revolution as well.»

«A guillotine?»

«Is there a spark in your eye?!»

«A guillotine... that is fancy.»

«It is, one of the classy ones.»

«Can I dress as a French King?»

«Sure, no problem.»

«A 21st-century billionaire?»

«Yes, we even give you a bad haircut.»

I sat a check mark behind the model French Revolution.

«Similar flavour provides model Pitchfork…»

«Oh, like our grandparents’ revolution when they chased the rich out of their villas on the hills!?»

«Exactly, you could pretend to be a banker or a fossil fuel magnate or one of their lackeys.»

Check. «I was always curious how it feels to be an oilhead at the dawn of fossil fascism.»

«Don't we all. Another fast way is Back To The Wall, with a firing squad, eyes tied or not, your choice», she checked my reaction, which wasn't much, and went on, «What's your relation to the animal world? Would you like to get bitten by a spider, a swarm of hornets, strangled by a boa constrictor, eaten up by piranhas or torn apart by pit bulls, lions or bears?»

«You got a zoo up there?»

«We have up there, whatever you'd like to have up there. Space is plenty, and we are creative.»

I shook my head, «I am not so much into animals, please.»

«Just to open your eyes to the possibilities, last week somebody wished to be culled to death on all his four with a bolt stunner while wearing a pig costume.»


«Yeah. Let's move on», she suggested the fiction section, gladiator schemes, fighting robots, reenactments of movies and online games, where I would be an actor or an avatar, and die in real life, the way they did in a virtual reality.

Nothing for me, I preferred to keep Justine in good memory.

Finally she mentioned the more exotic, mostly slower ones: starving yourself to death, being buried alive, Harakiri, or shot in the stomach, tortured to death, or group suicide with others, in company of like-minded people. She finished with, «We offer any way to die, just not old age, hahaha.»

I joined in on her laughter.

Nothing really convinced me, what made me think, «Some of those scenarios, I can imagine, would make me a little nervous right before it happens. Is there…»

«Oh, by then you are drugged. Don't worry. Whatever you like.»

«What would you take?»

«My advice would be classics: LSD or Psydopil, mixed with a juice, or a long drink, a Tequila Cloudswirl or a little Sex in the Rain! After all, it's all-inclusive, isn't it!»

«Yeah, have me down for a Tequila.»

«You are a Tequila man?»

«I never had one.»

«You will like it. So, are you going Van Halen or French Revolution or Pitchfork?»

«We are through all the options, right?»

She laughed, «If you can't think of a new one, nobody ever thought of, then you are through, except the Wildcard.»

«What's the Wildcard?»

«We surprise you. You don't know until it hits you. We surprise you with when, where and how!»

«Get out of here.»

«Yes. You have no idea.»

«And it can be…?»

«Any of the above.»

I leaned back and looked at the ceiling.

«Woah, Arthur, you are a gambler! You like to gamble, you're the man, we have a gambler in here! A gambler, Arthur, the gambler. You surprised me again!»

«I must say I am intrigued.»

«That's what the Wildcard is about.»

«My whole life was pretty predictable.»

«Yes, it was, it so was, it is time for some change, for some surprise, shake things up, give yourself a push.»

«All the above models?»

«You can't ask for more suspense.»

The different options flashed by my inner eye. Some ways I liked more than others, but one thing I liked the most, was the freedom of choice, the randomness, the feeling of unpredictability.


«I take it.»

«The Wildcard!»

«I take the Wildcard.»

She clapped her hands, «Good for you. Wildcard it is for Arthur. We only die once, don't we?»

«We only die once», that sounded good. That felt good. Until the more unusual ways to go flashed by my eyes.

«Arthur, how do you feel with that?»

«Uhmm.» I got stabbed into the stomach and slid open, my guts spilling into my hands.

«Be honest! I can't let you leave if you are not fully satisfied. You have to feel good about it.»

«I guess.» All of a sudden a trap door opened underneath me and I fell into a projection of people laughing at me.

She read me, «Arthur, Arthur! What about this: let's change it to a more comfortable solution. Should you feel like Wildcard at the hotel, you can switch there anytime.»



«Well, in that case, yes, please. It is...», a lion sank his teeth into my arm and ripped it off, blood spurting out of my stump like food paste out of a defect kitchen tap, «The uncertainty, maybe.»

«All good, it is a big jump from where you came from, to the Wildcard. This is about you, you're the boss.»

«I appreciate that.»

«So your favourites were Van Halen, French Revolution and Pitchfork. What do you think is more you? Definitely no surprises in either. Two quick, one after a little chase, with a yummy drug cocktail beforehand.»

«Van Halen I never heard of, and getting my head ripped off?! No. Pitchfork demands running, and I ran enough in my life, French Revolution sounds best.»

«French is French.»

«I go with French Revolution.»

«Great choice, I change that right away», her zebra fingernails galloping over her screen, «You won't regret that. It also jives best with your donation to your brother.»

«Thank you so much.»

«No worry, and if you change your mind again, do not hesitate to let me know, this can be changed up to three times! The details for your shuttle to the Cloud Hotel I will send you later.»

A thought I had a couple of times before crossed my mind, «Jaqueline, why did they not build the Cloud Hotel down here?»

She wrinkled her forehead, «The field of solar panels on its roof?! Over half of the city's energy usage is produced by them up there.»

«Right, silly me.» Sent down to us through the energy pillar. How did I not think of this?

«No, not silly you! You are the hero, you and nobody else, not me either. Speaking of me, my early lunch break starts in a minute. Are we done for now?»

: : :


When I heard her saying my name, I instantly turned around to, «Minna!»

She caught up with me after I had left the building, our umbrellas bobbed against each other—the rain hadn't subsided during my interview.

She asked, «You came back here again?»

I stopped walking, so did she. We had to raise our voices against the noise of the rain on the plastic above us.


She shoved her polka-dotted umbrella inches under mine to form a roof for both of us. We stood with our legs close together so our pants wouldn't get too wet. Behind her back a small waterfall rushed to the ground. The veil of water shielded us against the looks of the pedestrians around us.

Her trimmed eyebrows—one shaved slanted in half—narrowed with wrinkles between them, «Why?»

«I had questions.» Why did I talk to her? I didn't need to.

«Don't lie.»

«I'm not…»

«You are lying, and yesterday you were lying too, because if you had a meeting today, you must have signed your commitment yesterday, and that means, you discussed your suicide five minutes ago, that's how this goes down, I know how this works, it's not my first week on the watch.»

She caught me.

«Now look at you, Arthur, your posture went from a guy that struggles to somebody beaten as if I let some air out of you, hot air, lies! Why did you lie to me? I have nothing to gain. We hardly know each other. You could've told me the truth yesterday. And today!»

«I'm sorry, Minna, about the lying part. I guess… yesterday… I didn't want to… disappoint you.»

«In order to disappoint somebody, you need to establish a relationship with that person. We barely met.»


«And lying is nothing a relation can grow on», she turned her head to the side, where all the people streamed by, «Man», she looked back at me, «Did you feel a relation?» No blinking, she nailed her green eyes into my vortex.

«I... may. I... I didn't want you to talk me out of it.»

«If that would be so easy... or... are you not convinced yourself?»

I didn't know what to say.

She continued, «Let's have a talk, let's sit down somewhere, together, for a coffee. It's on me.»

«Do you always invite strangers for a coffee?»

«I invite whoever I want.»

«For a coffee!?»

«I have a budget for this.»

«Save your volts for...»

«No, there are some better-off people that donate to us, the C.A.U.S.E., our cause.»

«Why would anybody do that?»

«Maybe modern indulgence trade.»

«To invite strangers?»

«To talk stupid strangers out of doing stupid things, and I do know your name, that doesn't make us total strangers.»

I had nothing against sitting together with her for a while, no matter what she had to say, and if she would be mad or not in the end, just spending some time with her, away from the rain, away from my thoughts, was something I was looking forward to.

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