The first was titled "The 3D Dead" the account of how the discovery was made and "Right to Die" an anecdote about how a dead man found himself tormented by his new station in the world as a ghost and his family's inability to let him go. The following is another story about what happens when our cherished civic institutions finally had to decide how society would face a new world where the dead are never really gone.....
The studio was a carnival of human misery where anonymous spectators filled the seats to entertain themselves with the worse aspects of the human condition. The producers fished out the most depraved and shattered souls from the stagnant pond of decaying humanity swallowing society. Drug addiction, child abuse, and the worse deprivation of poverty were crafted into a spectacle for the world that had otherwise forgotten about the millions trapped in these circumstances.
The newest stage props for a midmorning talk show were the Swanson's. A Midwestern family, whose oldest son Chris, had committed suicide at the age of 18. He had been gone for more than six years but a recent technological breakthrough that gave that gave the invisible molecular remains of the deceased holographic form made it possible to resurrect him in front of his family for a nationally televised confrontation the show's producers cynically billed as “closure for a distraught family.”
Chri's parents and his younger sister were sitting center stage, under the bright studio lights while a studio audience viewed them from their elevated seats. There was less than a minute before they went live and in a process as meticulous as the countdown to a shuttle launch assistants and technicians were conducting a thorough and methodical check of all their systems and equipment.
The show's host Lisa, a full-bodied Asian woman who through a careful regiment of makeup, surgeries, and supplements had managed to mitigate and conceal the eroding effects the passage of time had on her body and face.
Her designer suits and deep ebony eyes conveyed the image of a bullish business woman. Whose capacity for cold logic was exceeded only by the cruelty of her pragmatism, but her message and tone were that of a guidance counselor from an after school special.
Her legions of followers saw no contradictions in the purported values of the media personality whose motto was“With love there is room for all people” and who was recently quoted as saying “When you're at the bottom you are a perfect vantage point to strike at the soft underbellies of the fish swimming above you.”
She emerged from behind the curtain and flashed an ivory white smile and waved to her fans. She planted herself in a seat a few feet away from the Swanson's but didn't bother to look their way. She smoothed out her lapel, adjusted her clipped on mic, ran her fingers through her hair and took a deep breath.
The producer gave her the signal; the camera started rolling, and the applause signs hanging above the audience lit up. The scene was set. One camera panned over the jubilant crowd, and another rested on Lisa whose carefully constructed smile was now the focus of millions across the country.
“Hey USA how are we today?” Lisa asked. The audience answered with another round of ecstatic cheering.
“Awesome!” Said Lisa. “Ok, now I have to bring the energy down here for a moment. We deal with a lot of tough issues on this show because we know the only way to solve a problem is to confront it! Isn't that right?
The signs lit up again, and the audience took their cue.
“There is a silent killer in this country. You can't see it, but it's always there. Every year it takes the lives of thousands of beautiful, promising young adults and leaves in its wakes countless broken families and shattered lives. I couldn't stand idly by while this was happening and that's why here today we are going to stand up and say no more to suicide!”
The applause signs lit up again, and the audience delivered a thunderous standing ovation.
“Joining me today is the Swanson family who six years lost their only son Christopher became another victim of this out of control epidemic. Everyone, please give a warm welcome to the Swanson's.”
The cameras were now turned to the bereaved family. They stood in stark contrast to Lisa. Mr. Swanson and Mrs. Swanson now in their early fifties had aged well beyond their years. The stress of many years of uncertainty had dimmed their eyes and withered their faces. They both self-medicated with heavy amounts of alcohol that bloated their bodies but left their limbs thin and feeble.
Chris's younger sister now 21 named Katie was settling into an equally uncertain life. Her heavily tattooed arms and dyed hair were an outward symptom of her constant identity crisis and ambivalence towards a nonexistent future. The acceptance of a day to day existence had left her nihilistic. Her young body also bore the scars of chemical dependence.
“Thank you for joining me today,” Lisa said warmly
“Thank you for having us.” Mrs. Swanson politely replied.
“Now Katie from what I understand you and Christopher were pretty close.” Said Lisa
“Yeah, I thought I knew everything about him but, to be honest, I guess I had no idea what he was really dealing with,” Katie said somberly.
“You mean you didn't see any signs Christopher might take his own life?” Lisa asked.
A large screen behind the family cycled through images of Christopher throughout his life. Photos of the boy as a toddler were the most prevalent.
“No, I don't think so. I guess looking back you can always look for signs or clues or whatever but at the time I was totally taken by surprise.”
“I see, and how old were you when this happened?” Lisa asked.
“I was fifteen,” Katie replied.
“And how did you find out about your bother's tragedy?” Lisa asked as she elegantly strutted across the stage.
“I saw his Facebook post,” Katie replied.
“Really?” Lisa replied feigning surprise.
“Yeah.” Katie reiterated.
“What about your parents. How did they explain what happened?” Asked Lisa pacing across the stage again.
“My mom and dad didn't, I mean they couldn't talk about it and after awhile I just stopped trying because I saw how upset it got them when I did.”
“We just didn't know how to explain it to her.” Mrs. Swanson said in a trembling voice. “She loved her brother, and it just didn't seem right to tell her how it happened.”
“Communication during tragedies like these can be difficult but it is important if families are to work through the pain,” Lisa said breaking into a sudden editorial.
“Mr. Swanson, why couldn't you talk to your daughter?” Lisa asked slowly approaching him.
Mr. Swanson hesitated. “Well, this was something that really cut deep, and I had trouble processing, and my wife had trouble processing. It's hard enough to explain to kids why you have to put a dog down nothing could ever have prepared us for this.”
“But your son is not a dog.” snapped Lisa.
“What? I never said he was.
“You've always had issues talking to your son haven't you Mr. Swanson?” Lisa interrupted “In fact, he even mentioned you in his suicide post on social media.”
an excerpt from Christoper's suicide Facebook post appeared on the jumbo screens and Lisa read it aloud.
“My dad doesn't give a shit about my dreams or my future. I Might as well accept I'm stuck in this town. This is the end of the road for me. This is it.”
The audience gasped.
“What happened between you and Christoper?” Lisa asked in a matter that was reminiscent of an interrogation.
Mr. Swanson sighed and accepted what he had to do. “He wanted to go to an expensive art school in Chicago. I had been laid off that year, and my wife was working two jobs to help us stay above water. When he told us he wanted to go to this school, I told him we couldn't pay for it, and maybe it would be best if he just did a year at the community college first so he could figure out if this is what he really wanted to do.”
Lisa crossed her arms. “Uh huh, and you didn't believe your son's lifelong dream was really what he wanted to do.” She said making quotations in the air.
“He was only 18 people think they want to be all kinds of things at 18.” Mr. Swanson said calmly.
“Well, maybe it's time Christopher set the record straight about what he wanted to do with his life before it was snuffed out by an uncaring world. Give a round of applause for Christoper!”
The audiences rabid applause was like a seance to bring forth the dead. A translucent holograph of a young man manifested on the stage, and the crowd erupted.
Christopher's digitally rendered form was illuminated by millions of LED lights, each one smaller than the head of the pin. He looked exactly as he did the day he died. His preferred method of suicide has been by overdosing, so he didn't appear particularly ghoulish. He was the same slender dark haired blue eyed boy his parents and sister remembered him as. His family could not contain their excitement. They didn't think they would ever see him again.
His sister and mother were sobbing uncontrollably. Even his dad couldn't hold back the tears. They sprang from their seats and rush over to Christopher only to find out they couldn't embrace the mechanically generated spirit. The show's security detail rushed to the stage to restore order and with hand motions resembling those of a musical conductor Lisa silenced the crowd and ordered them to sit back down.
“I can't believe it's really you.” Mrs. Swanson sobbed.
Despite his family's very emotional reaction, Christopher kept his poise. “Hello,” he said flatly.
“Son whatever happened I'm sorry. This is a gift from God, and I want to work this out.” Cried Mr. Swanson.
“Come home Chris!” Begged his teary-eyed sister.
Chris still appeared unmoved. “I know it's been a while, and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't missed you guys, but there's a reason I never tried to come back to you guys until today.”
His family appeared dumbstruck by the cold reception. “A fashion designer dad I wanted to be a fashion designer, but you didn't give care you didn't even give enough of a shit to remember that's what I wanted to go to school for!”
“No dad!” Chris interrupted. “I want you to tell everyone what you said when I asked you to help me realize my dreams!” Chris demanded.
Mrs. Swanson was balling too hard to be coherent. Mr. Swanson took a deep breath. “Chris please can we talk about this later?” He implored his angry teenage son.
“Mr. Swanson you have been brushing this boy of his whole life and look at what the results where now you will finally have a dialogue with him!” Barked Lisa.
Mr. Swanson swallowed his pride and proceeded at the behest of the ring master. “I said maybe you should think about pursuing something more realistic.” Mr. Swanson muttered.
“See America? See what happens when we deny talented young people the opportunity to follow their dreams?!” Lisa shouted “How many other promising young individuals lives were wasted because they didn't have the support they needed? Well, I'm putting a stop to it. Christopher, I'm sending you to New York where you will work closely with the nation's top designers to put together a piece for fashion week in Paris!!”
The crowd rose to their feet. The studio shook with their approving applause. The smug ghost waved to the audience and jeered at his distraught family. The Swanson's lost Christopher again. The boy was now a brand that belonged to the same conglomerate that owned Lisa. The teenage ghost was now a public figure, and his family suffered because of their relationship to him. They received hate mail and death threats, digital pundits ridiculed them and opportunistically profited from the idea Christopher was killed by small minded cretins who didn't understand him, or his complex artistic soul. Christopher all too eagerly traded his family for notoriety and fame that was based on the narrative his parents and small town and done everything they could to destroy him. For millions of young people around the world, the ghost of Christopher Swanson now a fashion designer who could not even pick up a needle and thread was an example of what you could achieve if you follow your dreams.