Expiration Date (a Short Story – Part 2)

Here’s Part 2 of a soft science fiction short story about a society where everyone knows exactly when they’re going to die, and the man who threw chaos into the system. In the previous installment, the narrator discovers even the powers of modern science fail sometimes. This second part is about 550 words and has an estimated reading time of 2 minutes. Let me know what you think!

The man from the government was named Kadar Afzal, and he had a surprisingly bright smile, along with his pot belly. Not all government men were mean, but most weren’t this personable.

“Just relax, Mr. Hines,” Kadar said as we sat in the living room. “This is quite extraordinary, but I’m sure there’s an explanation.”

The night went by quickly; the government agents came in and out and canvassed the house, trying to figure out what went wrong. I was still in complete shock, and so were Claire and my parents. We answered all the investigators’ detailed questions, and as the sun began to rise, they decided to take me to the regional headquarters.

By then, our neighbors had discovered what happened, and I was told that internet message boards were going crazy. How could it be possible? people were asking. He’s the first human to ever live past expiration.

Kadar Afzal quickly became my closest government friend, ushering me from one meeting room to another at the headquarters. They ran medical tests, psychological ones, all sorts of things. They didn’t tell me what they were thinking, but I could guess they couldn’t figure it out.

“So, Mr. Hines,” Kadar said during a quiet moment. “What is it that you do for a living?”

“It’s in my file,” I replied. “I thought you’d know that by now.”

“True. I do know,” he said. “But, to pass the time, tell me more.”

I was majorly sleep-deprived, and I suppressed a yawn before saying, “It’s boring work. I’m a city planner. I mostly talk to construction companies and architects about building permits.”

“Interesting.”

“You think?”

“I do!” Kadar laughed. “To think we still need humans to do this work is fascinating. Our AIs can do everything now. But I suppose some of us still need to occupy ourselves with work, right?”

“Well. The AIs were wrong about my expiration date. What else are they wrong about, Kadar?”

His face turned serious. “Yes, yes. This will be the main question now. I’m afraid all of this will cause quite the stir.”

We were quiet for a moment, then I said, “So what do you think happened?”

Kadar lit a cigarette and leaned back. I was surprised he was a smoker. “Hard to say. The AI’s have always been right, haven’t they? Could there be a glitch in the algorithm? Could this be a terrorist attack? Was this the result of a group of hackers gaining access and altering the codes? It could be many things.”

“Indeed.”

While Kadar did seem serious, there was also something whimsical about his personality. Like many government agents, he had utter confidence in artificial intelligence. And like many regular people, I had my doubts.

“Mr. Hines?” a middle-aged woman walked into the room, carrying a small computer. I acknowledged her, then she continued, “You’re free to go now. We have yet to determine what happened, but we will not need further tests or questioning for the moment. Kadar here will be your personal assistance and liaison from henceforth.”

“What about my neighbors?” I asked.

“We’ve taken care of it. The neighborhood is secure and will continue to be. We have agents stationed around your home.”

I took a deep breath.

“Well, Mr. Hines,” said Kadar, stubbing out his cigarette. “Shall we?”

To Be Continued


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