By David Flynn
John Berne jumped off the 50-story building. Below he saw the sidewalk with people, the street with cars, and the concrete plaza where he was going to splat.
What he didn’t see was the drone.
The Anti-Suicide Patrol drone swooped automatically from where it had been hovering for days, grabbed him in its metal talons, and flew toward the waiting emergency personnel in the Municipal Hospital parking lot. He squirmed mightily to fall, but the drone wouldn’t let him.
“You son of a bitches,” he greeted the nurse, who held a needle filled with drugs.
When he woke up, a smiling male nurse was changing his pillows in the hospital.
“Welcome back, Mr. Berne,” Jack said. “Congratulations. You now hold the record.”
This was John Berne’s 20th suicide attempt from the Kempton Building. The Salvation System worked flawlessly every time. Anti-suicide drones hovered near other tall buildings downtown.
“But I truly want to die,” he told Jack.
“I could give you the Kervorkian bundle,” the nurse said, kidding. “One needleful and you’d be gone. Or you could take a pistol and put it in your mouth, pull the trigger. Or you could jump in front of a tractor-trailer train on the interstate freight lane. Or you could take a hundred Narcopian sleep lozenges. Or . . . well, you get the idea. But no, you are the most famous suicide in town, and I know you want to stay that way.”
“What’s that piece of human crap Floyd Johnson doing?”
“He’s in the next room. Nineteen for him today.”
A week later, cleared by the doctors, Berne was back in his flophouse hotel room. The rug stunk. One burner waited on top of the chipped dresser, but he never cooked with it. The bed had no sheets, just a stinking pink cover. The room, too small for him to lie down on the floor—he had tried—seemed ancient, like fifty years before. No holographic TV, no air cell phone, just dirty wallpaper. So John Berne entered the doors of the Kempton Building and crossed the marble floors to the security desk.
“How are you, Mr. Berne? The security officer, in his dark blue and white uniform, said cheerfully. “Sign in please.”
As always he wrote his name in the book, the current time, and in “Check Out” he wrote: “You’re damn right.”
Up the elevator to the fiftieth floor, and out onto the observation deck.
John Berne climbed over the low wall, waved at the security camera, and jumped.
Below him, were the sidewalk with the people and the street with the cars, and the concrete plaza where he was going to splat. He waited for the drone. None came. He screamed, and the last thought he had before he did splat was “I love life.”
Back at the Anti-Suicide Patrol hangar at the airport, the technician put the final touches on the Second Avenue drone. The annual check-up, oil change, and realignment of the rotors was complete. From the control monitor, he uploaded the controls, pushed enter, and the drone began to whirr. Slowly the machine rose into the city sky.