(Modern Parables Series)
Then Jesus entered an Obamacare waiting room. A huge number of people were sitting, standing, or lying there, and moans and stale breath mingled in the air. A single worker stood behind the check-in desk and languidly flipped through clipboards with sign-up lists, striking out most names, highlighting some others, and doodling in-between. Hand-lettered signs marked the unisex bathroom, the broken water fountain, the free emergency suicide packs, the free Morning After pills, and the free Do Not Resuscitate wristbands. A glass-encased cabinet showed the other high-quality safesex, safedrug, and other safedeath supplies, all sporting a picture of Our Esteemed Leader. Once, bored children could have been seen wasting their precious time "playing" with germ-ridden toys as overprotective "parents" tried to remind them not to put anything in their mouths. The "Let the Children Come to Me" program had changed all that. With children being educationally conditioned at state facilities from birth to age thirty-two, there was no need for an understimulating "play area." This formerly wasted space had been profitably replaced with a rack of brochures and books with titles such as "Ninety-Nine Ways to Know You're Gay," "It Takes a Global Community," "Smoking is Hell Fire (And Lung Cancer Takes Too Long)," "The More I Gain, the Less I Am: Handbook to the No-Eat Diet," "Safe Eating and How You Can Do It," and "Oh, Jump Off a Bridge: The Annual Catalog of Dignified Departures."
A Pentium II stood in the corner by the weigh-in station under a sign proclaiming "WIs: Worth Index While You Wait!" Just enough of a crumbling instruction sheet was left to make out a diagram with a bell-shaped curve showing value with respect to age. There was also a description detailing the integrated approaching to value determination: "We combine your personality, family, obesity, and tolerance profiles to determine your exact worth! Be sure and take this worth index with you when you go to the sign-up list!" A series of posters on the wall each showed two pictures side-by-side, one in black-and-white, and the other in color. On the first poster there was a photo of an older child holding a baby with Downs Syndrome with difficulty. The next photo showed just the older child, this time with hands lifted up to the sky. The caption said "Less is more!" Another poster showed an unhappy woman looking down as a man talked to her. To the right was a picture of the same woman, this time smiling at another woman. Its caption was "Toward a more perfect union!" The third poster showed an elderly man in a wheelchair frowning as he read his W.I. The next panel showed the same man joyfully holding out his arm to a physician preparing a syringe. The caption was "Come to me and I will give you rest!"
A TV in the corner was blaring The Great One's latest speech: "U.S. Healthcare: New Methods! New Hope! New Miracles!" Jesus went to a scruffy guy lying on an air mattress and started chatting with him. The man put down the "Feel Like a Burden? Try Our Solution!" brochure he'd been reading. On the TV, the Supreme One was reading through the daily update of state-mediated clinical breakthroughs: "...and this nearly brings us to the end of our largest, and most practical section -- 'Dignified Departures.' Many years ago I promised to reduce healthcare costs. And as you all know, I have been faithful to that promise. Dignified Departures enables just that! Of course, I couldn't have done this without you. The research groups I've been describing are finding new and interesting ways to depart with dignity, and Death Counseling is the number one most popular major in our state schools (those the mortality rate is -- nevermind). As one final example, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently discovered a new technique for painless passing. It involves voluntary infection with African sleeping sickness. Now this does sound novel! Almost makes you want to -- anyway -- I am confident that this year will bring even more breakthroughs in Dignified Departure research, and offer custom methods for each and every global citizen! It's never too early to start your planning! I would like to take a moment to mention a little something in passing (no pun intended). As you know, friends, under my watch, the FDA was streamlined to speed the approval of compounds which hasten dignified departures, especially those which make death possible through novel experiences. Of course, I cannot take all the credit for this development, because it is truly easier end a person's life than to continue it. But do not let this dampen your enthusiasm, my friends! Remember that dignity comes by allowing each one to choose the end! Each day brings reports of brave citizens of the world unselfishly determining that they are not of any use to society, and thus choosing to depart -- even though their W.I. did not yet report their undesirebleness! These caring and model citizens are to be commended, and others are to be continually inspired by their stories! Remember! More is obtained through death, than through life! ..." Though initially suspicious of the newcomer's questions, the disabled man soon warmed to Jesus and his broad smile. The TV continued blaring "...and, my friends, you -- you -- they just don't make teleprompters like they -- uh -- as I was saying, my friends..." "Name's Raj." "You come here often?" "All day, every day!" Raj cracked a smile. "Me and my mattress!" The TV announced "...today I am joined a friend who would like to tell you about the excellent care she received just this week at an Obamacare facility. Jan, what struck you most about your experience?" "O Divine One, I can remember what care was like before Obamacare. And when I think about it, I cry. Ritalin-intake was subject to so-called "parent approval"! Women brought deformed, useless eaters into the world! Individual conscience superseded group consciousness and duty to society! But as you have shown, O Great One, joy comes in the morning. Joy comes in the morning! I know that the treatment I received just this week enables me to work for my state, which is the one thing I want to do most. I die daily, so that my society can benefit. And when I have outlived my usefulness, O Mighty Leader, I will willingly lay down my life so that others might live..." Raj was distracted by the TV, but Jesus kneeled next to him and asked, "Do you want to get well?" Raj turned his eyes to the ceiling and answered mechanically, "Sure, bub. But everytime people with my illness are collected, the quota gets filled before anybody helps me put my name on the sign-up sheet. Anyway, my W.I. isn't exactly high, so I might be rejected anyway." He paused, then continued, glad to have someone new to describe himself to. "I'm a challenging case: back when I was born, there was still 'interracial breeding.' (That's been outlawed, y'know, to cut costs). Since I'm mixed-race, that makes my tissue-type harder to match -- it's not done that much nowadays. So really, I don't know. So much is out of my control." His voice gained strength and he raised himself up on one elbow, poking a finger at Jesus. "But there is a way that I can take control again! Times have changed since I was a kid! Like they say, 'We're all terminal eventually!' so why split hairs?" He paused again, and the steam he'd collected evaporated slowly. His body sagged back to the mattress, his eyes closed, and his voice dropped. "Healing? I'm not sure I'm worth the trouble." His eyes flicked open and he stared at Jesus. "Are you?" Jesus kept his gaze and said forcefully, "Get up! Deflate your air mattress, pick it up, and walk!" Raj jumped up, deflated his air mattress, and ran out the door, rejoicing. He didn't even notice the brochure that crumpled beneath his feet.
No sooner did he pass the bronze Kevorkian statue and reach the sidewalk than he was accosted by two Globicorp "volunteers." "Hey, hey, hey, there!" one said to him. "What's that you're carrying?" Raj, now enraptured, but as scruffy as ever, glanced down at his wadded-up mattress. "It's my air mattress. I've got to go find a dumpster so I can throw it away." "You have a permit for that?" Raj started sweating and mumbled something about not having a chance to file the paperwork. The first volunteer turned to the second. "You got that, Mulligan?" Mulligan nodded and scratched some notes on a pad. Looking back to Raj the first volunteer said, "You are aware that you are in total violation of 44-61-78, 25-17-94 and 45-66-09?" Raj blinked twice and looked despairingly for an exit. "Postulation of private property, unlicensed transport of material, and environmentally irresponsible waste disposal. What do you say to that?" Raj looked up from watching his wiggling toes and said, "All I know is that the guy who healed me told me to deflate this air mattress, pick it up, and walk." "Who was this?" "Beats me. I was so busy getting healed He could have gone anywhere. I think He might have been passing out tracts when I jetted, but I'm not sure. Anyway, anything's better than the garbage they've got in there!" He paused, then added, mostly to himself, "He didn't have a waiting list. And he wants me to live!" Mulligan scribbled "flagrant disregard of state information," "delusional tendencies," and "absence of praise about The Chosen One" on his pad, and the first volunteer demanded, "Was this guy even licensed?" (Loosely based on John 5).