Sick Day


Dear Great Great Grandpa.

I know you will never read this letter, because you are dead. You died of heart disease in the year 2043 and I never met you. I'm writing to you because this is an assignment in my level 12 English course. I'm not sure if you had computers back when you were alive, but now instead of going to an old brick building to learn job skills we do it at home on the computer. The computer also makes food, and it's also where you put your head when you want to go to sleep.

I was having trouble thinking of what to talk to you about, because the only thing I know about you is that you are dead and that you died of heart disease. I don't know anybody that's died or anybody that's had a real disease, so I guess I'll talk to you about that. Also I asked my dad about you and he said he never met you, but that he hated his grandpa. That's your son. I could talk to you about why did you raise a son that my dad hates, and accuse you of being a bad dad to my dad's grandpa, but I won't. Because you died. You died when my dad's grandpa was a baby and that's why he grew up to be a sour-puss that was to be hated by my dad.

In the world I live in no one dies from heart disease, because disease has been eradicated. Humans are born perfect and healthy, genetically guaranteed, and live easy lives; never worrying about lung cancer or anthrax or restless legs syndrome. And when someone gets an injury: a chopped off arm or leg, a burnt eyeball, a intestines getting vacuum-sucked out -- we can simply fix it with nanobots. Nanobots are seriously great. They build all of our cities, they eat all of our waste, and they live inside of our brains. That's why we don't worry about psychological scars. When Janice Toaster dumped me so she could focus on running track, and also to date that guy Pete who runs track, my brain told me to be sad. But then the nanobots went to work and told my brain to stop telling me to be sad. Now when I see Janice and Pete running track I just smile, even when I don't really want to.

I said before that I never knew anybody that's had a real disease, and that's true. But I have known lots of people who have had fake diseases. You see, Great Great Grandpa, in the current time, since we don't have illness, sometimes people go to a Sickness Engineer -- which is a guy who designs special drugs that make you feel like you have a specific disease -- and they pay that guy, and then they take those drugs and then they feel sick.

I imagine it might sound strange to you since diseases used to kill everybody, but it's regular for us. When someone wants to take a day off work and relax they do a "Sick Day". That means they stay home and take drugs and feel sick for 8 to 12 hours. They lay in bed and moan and hold their stomachs and heads and drink chicken soup. It's a restorative experience, and the next day they're ready to go back to work and be productive.

The computer told me that back when diseases were free and everybody had them that no one realized how lucky they were. Getting sick was an excuse to stop working or going to school, and you could just lay around wallowing in pain and let your body die. I don't blame you, because I know you had no choice, but if you stopped working and died now, in the present, everyone would think you were an awful person. Like a bum or a thief. Somebody who got to live in society for free and then clock out before they've paid off their birth-debt.

That's why when my dad wanted to take a Sick Day he had to schedule it three months in advance and before that had to make an appointment with the Sickness Engineer to talk about the kind of illness he was interested in having. He thought he wanted schizophrenia or rabies but the Engineer talked him down to getting low blood sodium. My dad asked if he could get hallucinations with that and the Engineer said sure. Then when the day finally came my dad diarrhea'd and vomited a lot and saw evil shadows crawling around the house. It made him really happy.

I think when I get my first Sick Day I'll try the flu, or maybe food poisoning. Those are pretty common for first-timers. I don't think anybody ever does heart disease, sorry. I know it was popular as an actual disease, but I guess it's just not an interesting enough experience to bother with as a fake one. Plus it's one of those things you can't really do in a single day. You'd want to set aside a week or two to get fully into it, and who has that kind of time?

I do know one girl though, a friend of Janice's named Gwen, whose family is super-rich and last year they took an entire Sick Month. Their whole family got cancer of the gallbladder and went through all the stages together. They were all bone-thin and shaking and crying and wouldn't shut up about all the cool lessons they were learning about mortality and stuff. They took staged photos where it looks like a surgeon is removing a tumor from their gallbladder. But that guy isn't actually a surgeon, and they never had any real tumors. One day I saw Gwen at the mall and she was wearing a wig and it fell off to reveal her bald head, and then she bent over and vomited blood. I was so jealous.

But when I think about the time you lived in where diseases were common I have to remember that it's a trade-off. On one hand it would be nice to get sick once every week or so and have a day off, but on the other it would be a drag to get heart disease and then die. I bet if you had a choice you would rather live in my time, huh Great Great Grandpa? But you might not like it. My dad told me that back when you were alive people could take off work even if they weren't actually sick, that sometimes people would take off two days a week even if they felt fine. That sounds crazy to me, and I guess that's why your society collapsed. I think overall it's good that it's illegal to stop working, and that when you take a Sick Day the police come and make sure you've taken your disease pills -- that way people don't abuse the system.

Now the computer is telling me that my dad is a liar and that it's time for me to stick my head inside of it and go to sleep. I surprisingly enjoyed writing this letter to you, even though I hated it. I guess that's the nanobots again. Talk to you later, Great Great Grandpa. I hope you enjoy being dead and I hope someday I will be dead too.