p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"The words echoed louder to become a numb ringing; I couldn't focus on them, or their meaning, but I couldn't think about anything else. Trapped between an all consuming thought and a vacant brainlessness, the words "/spanem style="box-sizing: border-box;"Indeterminate death day/emspan style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"" crashed over me again and again, my mental strength eroding with every wave. /span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"I threw up; I saw myself deliver the white bread chicken and cheese sandwich into a bag lined bin the doctor preemptively put before me. My watery eyes blinked to focus on the doctor, covered in white, who spoke slowly so I could lip read. /spanem style="box-sizing: border-box;""It's not common, but there are known cases"./em/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"My mind tumbled over itself like a washing machine sloshing heavy towels. In a brief respite, it settled to produce the thought: 'But, how could this be true/spanem style="box-sizing: border-box;"'. /emspan style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"My mouth pushed forth a translation of this thought, directed towards the doctor, in the form of a single syllable "/spanem style="box-sizing: border-box;"How/emspan style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"?". The doctor, knowing better than to reply, looked down with a neutral sadness. /span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"With a final sniff, I managed a smile, a small cough, and a chuckle. I sniffed back the tears and laughed once more, saying, "/spanem style="box-sizing: border-box;"No, this can't be right. How can you not know? This doesn't happen, it's never happened to anyone I know and I feel fine./emspan style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;""/span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;""/spanem style="box-sizing: border-box;"I understand it's a shock, but I assure you there are well documented cases of this sort of thing in the past/emspan style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"", the doctor said mumbling./span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;""/spanem style="box-sizing: border-box;"This sort of thing, so not this thing exactly? No offense doctor but I am going to get a second opinion/emspan style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"", I stood up quickly and a bit too firmly, but left the consultation room in two long confident strides, thinking as I left, 'what a hack, this is completely ridiculous'. How can somebody not know their death day, everybody knows when they'll die. It's as sure as water is wet. The world simply couldn't function if people died randomly, the thought is absurd. /span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"Confident in my self-reassurance, I exited the clinic and breathed in the energy of the city. My mind continued: no, of course it's nonsense, everybody around me knows when they'll die, it's how society functions; complex jobs for the lifers, luxury for the speeders, and everything in between, it would be chaos otherwise./span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"em style="box-sizing: border-box;""But…you have an indeterminate death day"/emspan style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;" The thought crept back in./span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"'NO!' My brain so strongly rejected the memory I nearly shouted it out on the street. 'No', this time softer, 'it's not true, and thinking about it more is a waste of time. Sure, they can't, no won't, give me my death day but why did I bother with that condescending doctor anyway? I can just take the average age of 81. /span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"And so, upon arrival at the metro, I joined the 75 and over queue. My pass, however, hadn't been updated to reflect my self-imposed date of expiry, leaving the barriers closed, and a frustrated queue behind me. In a numbness I scanned it again. And again for a third time, unable to process the reprimanding buzz and flashing error text. I gritted my teeth. /span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;""/spanem style="box-sizing: border-box;"Please step back from the barriers and allow others to pass/emspan style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"", an inspector said in a bored monotone. I stepped away and looked blankly at the two young 75+'ers who glided through the barriers after me. "/spanem style="box-sizing: border-box;"This is the 75 plus line, please try your pass at the other lines, and if issues persist, return to the ticket desk/emspan style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"" the inspector continued to read off his script. /span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"I began shouting before I'd approached the ticket desk /spanem style="box-sizing: border-box;""Look, I'm not trying every line in this place just because your machines don't work, I'm an 81 year-er now open the barrier"/em/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"em style="box-sizing: border-box;""Sure, please can you provide me with your pass please?" /emspan style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"taking my pass before the sentence had finished, then with a scan and a beep, began the next line of the script "/spanem style="box-sizing: border-box;"This pass is without a doctor's confirmation of death day, you'll have to join the provisional queue". /em/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"em style="box-sizing: border-box;""Absolutely not, this is beyond ridiculous now. I'm an 81 year-er, that means it's my right to be in the 75+ line, I'm not rushing through like the 15's, hurrying to make the most of a diminishing life, nor am I willing to wait around all afternoon like the over 100's…"/em/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;""/spanem style="box-sizing: border-box;"This is a small station we only have 35s, 50s and 75s queues/emspan style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"". The response was triggered by the mention of age groups that didn't have their own queues at this particular station, rather than any conscious awareness of what I had said./span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"em style="box-sizing: border-box;""Yes, I know that. Don't interrupt me!"/emspan style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;" The looks from the commuters only encouraged me to double down on my rage. /spanem style="box-sizing: border-box;""Let me through, let me through right now or I'll be speaking to your manager, you cretin, you don't have the right to tell people if they're in the right life line or not, to tell people where they need to go!"/em/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"The barriers opened, and the ticket desk shutters closed. The inspector decided it was easier to appease than to suffer the abuse by challenging me./span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"My heart-rate settled during the long wait for the train in the 75+ queue. With a longer life there was less urgency to complete a journey, freeing up more resources for the 35s and under, giving them more time in their shorter lives. This was seen as a reasonable trade off and a fundamental component to the Social Contract itself. The wind blew through the dusty black tunnels, pushed by the flat faces of electric metro trains. It gently pushed on my face for a few minutes, as I struggled to read the advertisements on the other side of the tracks. The words, recognised by my vision but illegible to my pre-occupied brain, were insufficient distraction from my nagging and gnawing thoughts./span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"What if, I asked myself, what if i'd gone to the doctors earlier? If I'd have booked my death day confirmation appointment earlier, would the answer have been clearer? No, I steeled my mind again, I'm fine and I just need to get a second opinion. With a quick reference to my /spanspan style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"phone, I found another clinic not too far and made a mental amendment to my route. /span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"The ride was slow and cramped, hot and shaky, but I re-surfaced an unfamiliar part of the city, pausing to savor air after many lungs worth of train air. Walking fast, to outpace both the idle commuters and my persistent doubt, I headed towards the clinic./span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"The map's directions took me past quite a few restaurants and bars for those that will live for less than 30yrs. Their drunken, drug fueled indulgence billowed out onto the street in a haze of smoke and shouts. Living their short lives to their maximum in their own way, of course, not everybody decided to spend it in bars, but a lot did. Perhaps I should be in there with them? On the other side of the same long street of pubs and clubs, were towering office blocks of glass and steel, occupied by long lifers with 60yrs or more on their clock. Working away a proportion of their lives to support society and facilitate the indulgence of those with less. /span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"Having never thought about the social structure, a profound sadness settled over me. I'd always taken it for granted, but there is a melancholic beauty in the acceptance each person has towards their social role. Without refute, each person knows their lot, dealt without malice or kindness, and lives their lives accordingly; dedicating their bountiful time to the economy and progression of society, or enjoying a few years free of hardship and toil./span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"I was outside of this. Left without and unable to participate in a fun life, or a fruitful one, or any blend in between. A tired dread settled in my chest and the midday sun cooled. What can I expect from my life? What should I value most and prioritise? Should I take the short study route and drop out for a casual 3 days on 4 days off work life like those with 50 years? If I die at 20 I'll have wasted time studying, when I could have been eating, drinking and having sex. But if I live to 80 I'll be unable to support myself and give back to the world after an early life of frivolity. Who should I associate with, the 20yr hedonists, the 80 yr ascetics, or the 40yr moderates? I'm forced to walk through the path of my life mapless. /span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"Frozen by these thoughts, stood looking between the raucous bars and the stoic skyscrapers, a gloomy malcontent shuffled my feet back towards the metro station. Not wishing to engage in conversation with anyone this time, I trudged through the provisional queue and rode the statistically average length journey to my home station, unable to remember much. I reached the top of the middle speed escalator before I noticed my tears. The blur gave my eyes an excuse not to focus on anything and instead autopilot through the station and walk home. I can't live like this, it's unfair, and unreasonable to expect anybody to adjust to a life of such uncertainty. I was scared./span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"I stepped through my front door and ignored the habitual call of 'hey' from my mother; instead collapsing on my bed, exhausted, tired and miserable. /span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"The next morning was a little easier. Though still feeling a crushing weight of solitude on my chest, I was able to face getting out of bed by the promise of small pleasures: a bowl of cereal and a coffee. These, however, tasted grey and I felt my efforts to get out of bed betrayed. What if I'm a 20year-er? That would mean I'd die this year. /span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"Aggressively, I gave an audible tut and a self-deprecating eye roll, trying to snap out of it. '/spanem style="box-sizing: border-box;"What nonsense, you know this is ridiculous, you feel fine/emspan style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;"', I told myself. To seek reassurance I called after my mum, to share 'the joke' that was the doctor's diagnosis. "Hey mum, listen to this right, so the doctor yesterday…"/span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;""Oh yes", my mother replied half listening, "the death day confirmation appointment, so what are you looking at?"/span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;""Well get this, they said it was 'indeterminate'" I said, somewhat shakily but covering it with a single 'ha!'./span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;"span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px;" "My god" mother replied, unable to keep panic and worry from taking over./span/p
p style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: 'Merriweather Sans', sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 0px 0px 27px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; border: 0px; outline: 0px; color: #666666;" p