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END OF? AN INTERVIEW WITH HAROLD SALT • by Rupert Merkin

End Of?
An interview with Harold Salt

By Annealing Wright

Ever since the VGRP (Valter Gene Resurrection Program) came into existence we, the people, have become a nation obsessed. For those few who do not know, the VGRP works by extracting cells from the brain within a few minutes of death. These cells are sent to the labs where the whitecoat bods do their genetic thing. Once the cells are ‘ready’ (whatever that highly secretive process entails) they are linked into a VGRU (Valter Gene Resurrection Unit), an imposing black box the size of a filing cabinet, from which comes the voice of the recently deceased, speaking from beyond the grave. At first it was thought that this miracle of modern mankind would remove the mystery from death, but that is far from the case. We are now more curious than ever.

And this is because every afterlife story is different; no two experiences are alike. We all know the account of Tommy Liddle, the serial killer, who says death is like an oiled path that he has to run along – he is always falling over painfully. I’m sure the families of his victims are happy to know he is suffering. We also all, I’m sure, know about the Rev. Jessie Noyan, who did so much for the starving children of Africa. He claims to experience every moment of death as if he is a bright flash of sunlight.

But what of the ordinary man? The restrictive cost of the VGRP means the treatment has never been applied to an everyday person, someone like you and I. That is until now.

Harold Salt lived an uneventful life. For thirty years he worked as a milkman in the Yorkshire town of Bingley. In 1972 he married Nettie, and they were together for over fifty years before his death. He fathered two children – Alice and John. According to his friends and family, he was a man of simple pleasures and few vices.

This is his first newspaper interview since completing the Program.

AW: So Harold, welcome back. How are you feeling?

HS: Okay, I guess. Bit strange this, though. Like I’ve got a spring in my head.

AW: Do you still have a head then? A physical body?

HS: Aye, I do. I think.

AW: So, what is death like for you?

HS: In a word, boring.

AW: Boring? No one else who has been through the Valter Gene Resurrection Program has said that death is boring. Please, tell us about it.

HS: What’s to tell? I’m here with all the other dead lot. It’s like the city of the dead. It’s a pretty dull place, could do with a bit of life.

AW: How is it dull? Can you elaborate, please?

HS: Dull, you know, boring. I can go to the pub, drink two, four, or four thousand pints, but it does nothing. They taste of nothing. Same with a cup of tea – it’s like drinking water, but without the flavour. Pies and all. I can get pies everywhere, but they taste of nothing in my mouth. Same for everyone.

AW: So you are with other people, then. Until now everyone has claimed their afterlife experience to be solitary and unique.

HS: Poppycock. Everyone’s down here and there’s nowt to do.

AW: But we’ve spoken to others. We’ve spoken to Tommy Liddle, the Rev –

HS: They must be lying then.

AW: So what you’re saying is that everyone’s experience of death is the same, and it amounts to a very dull version of life.

HS: That’s right. That’s exactly right.

AW: But I’ve read the transcript of every person who has been through the Program. No one else describes it as you do. Are you saying that they are all lying? What would they achieve by that?

HS: People are always saying, “I did this” and “I did that” to make themselves sound more interesting.

AW: Well, maybe they are interesting.

HS: Rubbish. We’re all the same, aren’t we? We all get up in the morning, we eat, we go to the loo, we go to work, then we go to bed. End of.

AW: Did you never think of doing something exciting? Going skydiving? Or flying an aeroplane?

HS: I never went in for any of that nonsense. Waste of time.

AW: How about this, Harold. What was the most exciting moment of your life?

HS: That’s quite a question. I’ll have to think on that one.

(pause)

AW: Take as long as you want.

HS: I’m thinking.

(pause)

AW: How about getting married? Or when your children were born?

HS: They were good days.

AW: Is that it? Just good days?

HS: Okay, they were great days. I don’t see what you’re getting at.

AW: Tell me about a typical day in your life. What did you look forward to most of all?

HS: Look, I don’t get what you’re saying. My day was a typical day. My life was a typical life. I had no hidden lives. I got up, did my job, came home. End of.

AW: Do you not think how you lived your life may have something to do with how you are experiencing death?

HS: But everyone’s here. We’re all experiencing the same!

(the connection becomes fuzzy)

AW: I think I’m losing you, Harold. One last question – what do miss most about life? Your wife? Your children?

HS: They’ll all be here soon enough. You live. You die. End o–

***

Annealing Wright left The Daily News after filing this article. The last we at the paper heard from her was after she finished a successful climb of Mount Kilimanjaro. She was preparing to embark on a solo mission down the Amazon.


After leaving Manchester a lifetime ago, Rupert Merkin has now settled in London with a quill, two dogs, and a monkey. But sadly no ink.

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END OF? AN INTERVIEW WITH HAROLD SALT • by Rupert Merkin, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
Posted on January 11, 2009 in Science Fiction, Stories
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  • Gerard Demayne

    I rather liked that.

  • Roberta SchulbergGoro

    The meaning of the story is so obvious, I’m ashamed to mention it as a comment, but anyway, I am sad at Annealing Wright’s rash capitulation to dullness and congratulate Rupert Merkin on his exciting pen.

  • http://www.erinmkinch.com Erin

    Thought provoking story. I’m glad I read it.

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