By Ed Ahern


“These people are already dead.”

“How can you say that , Sarah? They breathe, eat, watch television. Some talk.”

“But what they were didn’t survive- the victories, the thefts, the love, the infidelities- all gone.”

“Nonsense, they have their memories.”

“Do they? Can you swear to me that this woman with the vacant eyes and drool from the side of her mouth is thinking? Or remembering?”

“You can’t prove she isn’t.”

“I think I can, Marty. Everything she was capable of, good and bad, is gone. What we do is who we are, we lose that and we’re just pickled vegetables. Ask her a question. Hold her hand and see if she squeezes back. Yell in her ear and see if her eyes move. Who she was didn’t survive.”

“That’s evil. What about the soul, the experiences of those who love her?”

“If there is a soul it took the last shuttle flight a while ago.”

“And the people who come to visit her?”

“Oh, they experience present sadness. But their tempering experience is of who she was, not what she’s become.”

“That man still talks.”

“He parrots words. But you can’t tell me they make sense. Or that he can tell us how he’s human.”

“Will you think that when it happens to you?”

“When it happens I’ll be past thinking, beyond experience. Mentally, or if you insist, spiritually dead. I regret telling you this because I know how much it bothers you, but I can’t take it back. ”

Silence for a few minutes.

“You’re wrong, Sarah. But I think it’s worse than you describe. They’ve physically and mentally shrunken back into their own bodies, back into a womb of time’s making. They survive in a lightless, soundless waiting room, in fear they will never again know motion or emotion, and waiting of an unknowable departure.”