By Herbert Creech
Published in ART TIMES December 2015
I remember my grandfather's transition as if it were yesterday. I was sixteen years old and it was the year 2034. My grandfather was seventy-four as of the third of March. This was the transition age as mandated by the federal government. We were all gathered around the dining room table in the main part of the house. I suppose altogether there were about a dozen of us. There were women and men of just about all ages and types, but of course tending toward the younger set, as was the fashion. I think the main reason I remember the occasion so well is because of the immense confusion and embarrassment to which I was subjected by the antics of my grandfather. I shall never forget it. I shall certainly never get over it.
Grandfather had been born way back in 1960 and he had the greatest stories! We often walked under the huge oak trees in the back yard and he would talk to me about his times. He had especially been interested in music and something called marijuana. When it came to music, he told me about "soul" and "disco" and something he called "country". He even gave me some of his recordings which I tried to listen to but none of our modem listening devices can play them now so 1 had to rely on grandfather's scratchy voice to render them as best he could. He also spoke to me of wars, politics and other things from the twentieth century but I was advised to ignore all that by my uncle Bill, so I did.
Anyway, we were around the dining room table to celebrate grandfather's Transition. There was a government edict that it take place no later than ninety days from his seventy fourth birthday and we had planed it for weeks. This was all according to the proper government regulations, of course. Grandfather, 1 recall, was drinking heavily and discussing somebody named Bob Dylan. None of us had a clue but we went along with it due to the solemnity of the occasion.
Uncle Bill was answering a question from his wife, Sue, who had asked again, yet again, one of her innumerable legal questions. I think she was a law student on a government scholarship, but I could be wrong in this.
"So tell me again about the ARC, Bill," Sue said with the vapid look of a mentally defective infant.
And so Bill did so. "As everyone - except you - seems to know. Sue, ARC stands for the Afterlife Research Commission. In the early part of this century after it was determined that the conservative policies of the twentieth century had almost destroyed the country certain economic studies were done. Health care was a major issue and part of the problem was how to fund it and how to mandate it for everyone in order to prevent
the demise of the entire civilization in case of continuing growth of the population or some sort of plague."
"You are so smart," said Sue. She was about thirty, well-dressed and buxom but not one to be at all confused with a member of the intelligentsia, as was her Bill.
Bill went on. "The government commission appropriately funded had come up with the idea of transitional interface resorts for everyone over seventy-four, but since this was only a proposal at die time, certain research was needed to bolster the concept, particularly in the eyes of certain religious as well as atheist groups in the country. Surprisingly, these adverse groups united in opposition to the proposals of the President
and his party in Congress, so he appointed a number of Nobel Prize winners from Sweden and Norway and gave them a special project to determine whether or not there was an after-life. After three years of intense study, the Conamission, under the political guidance of the President and his party, decided that there was indeed an afterlife and it had three defining characteristics. One entered it simultaneously upon death, it was eternal and it was blissful. Its exact nature was not determinable, though. So, there."
"And that is beautiful. Yes! One of the most blissful things ever done by the government", said my sister Liz who sat immediately to the left of Bill drinking gin. Liz was a beautiful girl of twenty who studied social construct at the state university and took summers in Spain with her earnings as a sex helper for the homeless. This was another new government program established in Washington so young women could recognize their true potential.
Bill glanced longingly at Liz for a second, glanced at Sue's inquisitive smirk, and continued. "The ARC findings were greeted with mixed emotions from the people. Almost all stalwarts in the President's party, the majority, of course, approved heartily, but, as usual there were rebels, mostly ignorant southerners. That is why it became necessary to place a criminal sentence of life in prison against anyone who disagreed with the findings of ARC."
As a history student, I could not resist at this point "What about the First Amendment!" I almost shouted. I wanted the attention of the family. Bill smiled with the utmost of charm and just said," Well, Kenney, you know
without being told that the President and his party amended that past relic into oblivion for the good of all! But here, let me buy you a drink, rascal!" Bill was the greatest whether you liked him or not.
Just about that time two beautiful girls from the government came in and offered grandfather a glass of wine and two Tranquility tablets. These were the pills that the government mandated that everyone take at their transition party. Not to take them, of course, meant that one would be arrested and charged with a violation of the ARC act which carried the death penalty if you were over seventy-four and life in prison if you were not. Everyone took them except for the occasional misanthrope. Grandfather took his and one of the girls bent over so much as to show ninety per cent of her breasts and kissed him full on the mouth.
"Too bad he can't get it up!" shouted a drunken Liz. No one cared. We ate and drank for a couple of hours and then the Nurses from the government came in and asked if we were all having a good time. We answered in the positive universal and the male nurse in the blue uniform then informed us that it was time for grandfather to go with him to the Transitional Interface Resort, that is, in common language, the TIR. Grandfather turned a little pale. His Tranquility medicine must not have worked due to the huge ingestion of alcohol which preceded it. I am not sure. But I do know he looked a little horrified.
Un-nerved by all this, I turned, as usual, to Bill. "Well, it's like this", said Bill, looking intently at Liz as he spoke, "The transitional interface resort works like this. Naturally, everyone signed on when they took the oath not to defile the findings of the ARC. And specifically, when grandfather gave fifty per cent of his property to the government and agreed to consume the Tranquility medicine, he knew he had to attend the TIR".
"But, how does it work?" I said. I was only sixteen.
"Well," said Bill, "It's like this. I visited it once on a special visa from the government. Now, this is for the good of all the people and a huge majority voted for it in the last national referendum. We know overpopulation is a problem. So is the soaring costs of health care. Adjustments had to be made. Thank goodness for a great President and his party. In order to save the country from itself, a way had to be found to get persons seventy-four and older to leave us. Suicide and homicide were out. We had to find a better way. And, we had to square it with the truth of the religions in the country.
So, the afterlife verification commission, after years of intense study, found that one moves from this abysmal existence into an immediate afterlife of eternal bless. Because of the natural cowardice in the human race, all governmental resources had to be marshaled in favor of this program. So, dissent from the ARC findings is punishable by death. Otherwise, entry into the transitional interface resort is easy and is funded by a giving government, regardless of the individual beliefs or means of the citizen."
"Bill," I said, "This is great. What's the problem?"
"People like grandfather."
"But, why?" I said in my boyish simplicity.
"Well, he is as we say of an "old school". He does not believe in any afterlife and thus demonstrates himself a traitor to the ARC. This alone would send him to prison or the death chamber. He lives in the past, thinking only of himself. When drunk, he rants and raves about some cannibal named Thomas Jefferson and absurdly contends that the transitions resort is "fake". This is just awful."
So, I asked Bill a question and he had told me he knew a lot about the transitional interface resort and had hoped to be more friends with Liz before he retired there.
Bill continued, "You report in to the transitional interface resort, having a few hours before taken your Tranquility tablet. Now, inside the resort is everything mortal man can desire. There is great food, young women, swimming pools, sun tan parlors, virtual reality palaces where anything you want goes. However, and I need to be honest with you here, Kenny, the air, water, and all food and drink are saturated with Tranquility
so that after a maximum of three days or less, the inductees slip unnoticed into a transitional period, totally peaceful I assure you, and awaken immediately in the afterlife as guaranteed by the Afterlife Commission. It's the truth. What could be better?'
As Bill and I were talking along these lines in front of the TIR a brilliantly colored limousine arrived at the gate and I observed three muscular governmental agents deboard the vehicle amidst much screaming and hollering. It did not take long for me to realize that this tumult came from the mouth of my dear grandfather. The poor fool was roaring like a lion. He was apparently drunk, but no matter, he always was. There was a perfectly square yard in front of the TIR of beautiful short grass like the perfect tennis court. I was standing just to the left of the white marble Corinthian posts when of a sudden without any warning I found grandfather on his knees right in front of me screaming. You can't imagine my humiliation. The entire family and numerous friends were standing right there.
Grandfather did not look himself. His eyes were red, his beard tattered, his clothes riven in shreds and slobber drooled out of his toothless mouth. (I knew the personnel at TIR had removed his dentures to be given to the less fortunate, thank goodness). I was not scared but totally humiliated in front of all the people, including my own relatives! I have never been able to live down that day! I can only hope, in order to save honor and face, that I shall never question the findings of the ARC and that when it is time for me to visit the transitions interface resort that I will be able to bravely redress the disgrace which my grandfather brought to our family. After all, if one cannot believe in his own.
(Herbert Creech lives in Dayton, OH.)