Author : M. Irene Hill

“The Nation’s Ethics Commissioner has released her public disclosure statement after completing a probe into whether a company providing Assisted Ersatz-Suicide services has contravened laws in relation to assisted para-suicide. The Commissioner has concluded that individuals do have the right to para-suicide, within the parameters of Immersive Simulation in Virtual Reality, as outlined in the Right to Liberty and Life Acts.”

Para-Death doulas in the employ of Thanatos, Inc. clapped their hands when Rose finished reading the newspaper’s front-page story. They had a waitlist of clients wishing to procure their services.

First on the list, Collin Herschel – a thirty-seven year old arbitrarily successful writer from the west coast, diagnosed with several concurrent disorders, including depression, anxiety, and cannabis and alcohol dependence. Years of addictions counselling, biofeedback, medication and psychotherapy produced little to no improvement.

Collin paid Thanatos Inc. $879,000 for his right to have assisted ersatz-suicide.

Rose was Collin’s assisting para-death doula. She spent the last month counselling and preparing him to receive immersive simulation. He was now gowned and ready.

“Thanatos utilises the most technologically-advanced health-monitoring and support systems to keep your body at homeostasis. We will use established protocols to manage your body’s cannabis and alcohol withdrawals. You will receive the best medical care of your life.” She chuckled.

“You will be given a sedative, and then your brain will essentially go offline once you are hooked up to our VR system via a catheter in your spinal column. Immersive Simulation will ensure you experience a brief and pain-free symbolic death. We’ve discussed the procedure a number of times, Collin, so I know you’re prepared for what’s to come. As per your wishes, your cerebral cortex will be in a death-like state for six months, at which time we administer anti-simulation serum which will bring you back to Present Reality, then we will follow established procedures to coach you for your next level of emotional awareness.”

“Thank you, Rose. My death angel.”

“Thank me later, son. Okay, I need you to sign here and here first.”

She administered the sedative and inserted the catheter. Collin looked at Rose with child-like trust, before his eyes drifted closed. She prepared the intravenous ports for managing nutrition, electrolyte balance and hormonal levels.

Collin’s body was ready for the next six months, but nothing could have mentally prepared him for what happened in VR.

For the next six months, Collin’s cerebral cortex was assaulted with images of his sobbing, mournful family and friends. He saw the mortician preparing his cadaver for burial. He looked pale and gaudy in his casket. He saw his aging mother collapse during his funeral, and medics took her away in an ambulance. Collin’s distraught editor hung himself in his apartment. Collin’s part-time girlfriend, whom he truly cared for but didn’t know how to do it properly, took up full-time with his best friend. He saw them having sex, repeatedly. He felt the heartbreak of his mother’s passing, and his sister’s subsequent collapse into addiction. He was suffocated by darkness. Worms. Regret. Heart break. Eternal damnation.

The simulation looped until one day, it was interrupted by the following message:

“Thanatos Inc. is pleased to have fulfilled your deepest wish for Assisted Ersatz-Suicide. With your financial contribution and help from sponsors like Titan Pharmaceuticals, we were able to make your wish a reality. We hope that you enjoyed your time here as we have enjoyed serving you. Experienced counselors are ready to support you when you return to Present Reality. You will be disconnected from our VR server in 60 seconds, but first, another word from our sponsors.”