Liam Terrell sees the beauty of the euthanasia agent when it first enters the sparse room. The agent is a robot and, though not designed to look human, displays an artistic form and grace. It walks on two legs. Its hands are crafted to handle delicate and fine manipulations. The whole body is finished in cobalt blue, which sets off the red of the sensors that serve as eyes.
“I’m so sorry we have to meet under these circumstances,” the agent tells Terrell in a voice that makes him wonder if there isn’t a human under the cobalt blue finish. “But I am here to fulfill your wishes. I assure you that you’ll feel no pain. You’ll simply fall asleep and not sense anything thereafter. That is what you wish, isn’t it?”
Medications no longer block the pain his cancer inflicts on him. He is ready for his life and his suffering to end.
However, he has a couple of questions.
He begins by asking the robot, “What do you think of human life?”
Though assisted suicide is central to the story, the story neither advocates nor condemns it. The reader is merely offered a world where—given the right circumstances, authorizations, and correctly filled out paperwork—it is an option.
More at issue are the differences between a human and a life-like robot. Is programmed material real? What about aspects of life like caring and compassion? Can robots learn such human traits?
The reader can’t expect a happy Hallmark ending, given the topic. Just the same, the ending makes sense and is satisfying.
According to his blurb, author Lawrence Buentello has published over 100 short stories in various genres and is a Pushcart Prize and Edgar Award nominee. His fiction has appeared in Murky Depths, Cover of Darkness, Bete Noire, and several other publications. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.
The story can be read here.
Title: “Death in Vivid Blue”
Author: Lawrence Buentello
First published: October 23, 2020, Theme of Absence