A lark called out from a far-off canopy in answer to the strident tone buzzing from the grasswhistle between Jacob’s lips. Emily collapsed in heaving giggles next to him, his face a mask of surprise at the curious thing he had just brought to the world through his sister’s instruction. Twenty paces away, their mother and father chatted idly beneath a lemon tree, its golden prize hefty, its perfume swept across the field by a kindly breeze plucking a humble tune in its course through leaves and reeds.
Ernest drowsily surveyed his grandchildren from the umbrage of the porch, gently swaying in the same chair that his grandmother would take each night of his childhood to recount stories of simple folk doing right by their communities. He would pass one such story to Jacob and Emily this evening, he mused, but better to leave the two lights of his life some more freedom to rollick and dream. With the clattering of a door and a few creaky footsteps, he noted the arrival of Jane, the holder of his heart, the beacon of his life. She said nothing, but placed a warm hand upon his shoulder. Ernest gave a meaningful and weary look up to her precious face, then out to his child and grandchildren, then the vast family estate and the forest that flanked it. This was the happiness he had found. This was the treasure for which he had toiled. He noted a cooling shift in the breeze that had been caressing his face, and his lips drew wide and his eyes drew shut as the weariness of a long day took him.
“As you can see, my esteemed guests, it’s another resounding success.” Vera gestured to the slumped form in the chair behind her. “Ernest Galloway could have only dreamed of such a farewell.”
The attendant removed the syringe from Ernest’s arm, then the helmet enveloping Ernest's head, which rolled abruptly forward onto a feeble, concave chest. A few of the invited patrons gasped, as two more attendants entered to assist in the removal of Mr. Galloway.
“I assure you,” Vera continued as what had been Ernest was taken behind a pair of swinging double doors, “that this is the ultimate gift you can give to your loved ones. No pain. No struggle. Only love. Warmth. Acceptance. As you saw from the display screens, Mr. Galloway died a fulfilled man with no regrets. Instead of his last moments here being plagued with sickness and isolation, he was exactly where and who he wanted to be.”
Murmurs trickled from mouths to ears behind discreet hands. Vera raised a stern one, silencing her clients. “Here at Terminal Fulfillment, we provide the rarest, most gracious of services. Ladies and gentlemen, if you would be so kind as to step this way to where our Fulfillment Consultants are awaiting your loved ones’ needs. In fact, we are currently running a promotion for clients who would like to plan their own ideal departure...”