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Stainless steel surrounded most of the room. In fact, the table and two chairs shared the same substance. The only things that weren't steel were the missing ceiling and the floor which shined with wood polish. A desk lamp and tablet resided on the table. Save for the lamp, darkness shrouded the place. A door opened and a woman named Donna Beck aged thirty-five-years-old sat down at the table. She engaged with the tablet. A few minutes passed and the door opened again. This time, it was a one hundred and two-year-old man named Horace Maddox who used a cane as he walked, slightly hunched over and with slow and steady paces. He sat down at the other chair.
“Do you know why you are here, Mr. Maddox?”
“Yes, I think.”
“What is it then?”
“I’m supposed to be transferred to another facility with better accommodations and care.”
The woman flashed a quick smile. “No, sir. We’re going to introduce you to a new program.”
“What’s that now?” Maddox turned the knob on his hearing aid.
“We’re going to involve you in a party of sorts.”
“Yes, today’s your birthday, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but I don’t celebrate my birthday. I haven’t in decades. Not since my parents passed away.”
“I'm telling you right now that you’ll have a new reason to celebrate.” Donna motioned for the walls of the room to be removed and the entire space lit up and showed an arena packed with close to eighty thousand people.
“These people represent every person that you have ever known in your lifetime.”
“The living and the…”
“The dead, yes. They’re all here. But you can interact with them. Go on. Enjoy your birthday, sir,” Donna retreated to the door which was actually the exit to the arena.
Maddox looked around. He saw hands waving and people stamping in the seats. Though his memory had faded some, he could still recognize these people. They were the age of the time that he last remembered them. The entire arena sang the Stevie Wonder version of “Happy Birthday.” Maddox looked around at the people bursting nearly through the rafters. Each person that he had befriended, slighted him, became his enemy, embraced him, and ever called him to see how he faired in life remained in the building.
“You probably don’t remember me but we…”
“You’re Freddy Guile. I remember you. I wish that I could forget you, but you’re here now. What do you want?”
“I wanted to apologize for all of the stupid mess I put you through. Will you forgive me?”
“No. What you did to my friend…” Maddox looked around for Carver Cole. “Now I must go.” He left Guile with his hand sticking out.
Cole came over and hugged his high school buddy.
“It’s a wonder to see you, man,” Cole said.
“Likewise, old friend.”
The singing soon died down increasingly. Portions of the crowd began disappearing in bits and pieces like figures and letters being erased from an electronic board.
“Cole, where are you going? What’s happening?”
His mother and father, three sisters, two sons, and his wife who all preceded him in death, came up to say happy birthday.
Maddox hugged his sisters and parents and shook his son's hands. He then held his bride’s hand tight.
“It’s so very nice to see you again,” Kelly Maddox said. She slipped him her wedding band that he had thought he lost so many years ago following her demise.
Maddox became overwhelmed with joy and longing as they too slipped into nothingness.
Before long, Maddox was just standing there in a room full of seats and benches. The arena became as quiet and empty as a day without laughter. Maddox looked at the door that Donna had entered and exited. He walked as quickly as his century plus old bones could carry him. A voice stopped him.
“Mr. Maddox. The simulation is over.”
“Simulation? But it felt so real.”
Donna reappeared through the single door.
“It’s time to go back to your room, sir,” she said.
He clutched the wedding band. “Happy birthday to me,” he said.