Aphelion Issue 233, Volume 22
October 2018
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The Coma Draft

by Denny E. Marshall

Gloomy, gray, overcast skies have been the norm lately. The dark clouds make the city look black and white, instead of color. Maybe all the concrete, glass, and steel affected the weather somehow.

Willis sits on the roof of his building, although sitting on the roof is not permitted. He found a broken space in the chain link fence that lets him access the roof. From his view on top of the hundred-story building, Willis can see a sea of hundred-story buildings. They go on for sixty miles, just in the direction he is looking.

Willis’s apartment is on the ninety-eighth floor. It is only three hundred and twelve square feet, the maximum allowed by law for a single male. Sitting on the roof makes Willis feel better in his crowed world.

Willis returns to his apartment, walks into the living room and turns on the television. It’s almost seven o’clock and the local version of “The Duty Draft” is on tonight. It is only on four times a year, but it is the only government program people watch. The government calls it “The Duty Draft”; the citizens refer to it as “The Coma Draft”.

It all started about sixty years ago. The population at that time was three hundred and forty seven billion, five hundred and sixty million. There was not enough food to feed everyone, not enough resources to house and clothe everyone, or make products. Nor were there enough utilities to warm or cool the population.

“The Coma Draft” was passed. Running to another country did not help you; “the Coma Draft” is worldwide. In fact, running to another country doubled the time of service. The length of service is three, five, or seven years, depending on the letter of the draft, A, B, or C, if picked.

Seven years after a service-term is over, you can be drafted again. The minimum age for the draft is twelve, and there is no maximum age limit. At any given time around sixty percent of the population is in a coma.

When the draft first started, there were some problems. People would not wake up at the expected time, or, if they did wake up, would not be normal. The failure rate was high during that time, up to twenty-eight percent.

Scientists said the patients needed stimulation during the long periods of induced coma. It took four years, but scientists built a program that fixed the problem. During the long sleep, the patients would be fed the program continuously. The device hooked up to the brain, and would provide stimulation that made the patients feel like they were dreaming, but the dream is real.

The program could compress twenty years of stimulation into three years, or two hours into three years, depending on the settings.

After the draft is over, Willis shuts off the T.V. and calls a few friends. He did not get drafted. Willis is happy. He is also happy that his best friend Andrew will be out of his three-year coma next Monday.

Andrew is allowed to have visitors in the recovery and observation section of the hospital. Willis walks into the R&O visitors lounge and can see his friend sitting at a table with another patients.

Andrew stands up, gives Willis a hug, and introduces Willis to the patients he is sitting with.
“This is Kelly,” said Andrew.
Willis says, “Hello, nice to meet you.” 
After introductions they all sit down.

Andrew said to Willis,
“You would not believe that program they hook you up to; it seems so real. Of course once they remove the program, you start forgetting most of it right away, and your real life and memories come back.”
Andrew continues to tell Willis his experience for the next twenty minutes, every once-in-a-while, Kelly would offer a contribution or experience.

Kelly gets up, excuses herself and goes to the bathroom, then walks back to the table to rejoin Andrew and Willis. After she sits back down Andrew asks her,
“Holly, what was the name of that place we went to while in a coma? I forgot.” Kelly scratches her head, and after a pause said,
“Earth, I think.”
“Earth, yes, that’s it!” said Andrew.

Earth: not a planet, or even real. Just a simulation made by inhabitants from an unknown world.


2017 Denny E. Marshall

Denny E. Marshall has had art, poetry, and fiction published. One recent credit is fiction at Stinkwaves Fall 2017. See more at www.dennymarshall.com.

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