The appointment was set for 2:30 that afternoon. A government representative was due at Mark and Ellen's home to discuss how they would like to end their lives. It was part of the new Universal Health Coverage Plan, and it was a conversation that was mandated by the government.
This conversation was going to be particularly difficult. Mark had suffered through some painful and degrading medical procedures dealing with his colon and heart, not to mention a hint of black lung disease, the result of a few years working in the area anthracite coal mines. He wasn't happy and was beginning to feel himself to be a burden on Ellen. For her part, Ellen wasn't doing a whole lot better. Crippled with arthritis and asthma, every step, every breath, was an exercise in pain. She too was beginning to feel herself a burden. Maybe today's meeting could put an end to their mutual suffering.
Christian Blessing, at 24, seemed oddly out of place in his job of counseling people old enough to be his grandparents about end-of-life strategies, but that was his job and he was good at it. Christian, you see, had two agendas: to give old folks good information about their options, but more importantly to his paycheck, convincing them that the time had come for them to visit one of the Government's new facilities -- named Pathway Houses. It was all part of a grand new plan to reshape America in ways that it had never been reshaped before. It was a plan that went to the core values of American life and changed them in strange new ways.
It all began during an almost secret meeting in the White House years before when it became apparent that Social Security was on the verge of collapse and the reason was alarmingly simple: improved health care had led to people living longer. In short, there were just too many old people. Loathe to increase taxes the President and his counselors came up with an amazingly simple solution. Just make it easy for Seniors to choose death. To meet that objective people like Christian were recruited, trained, maybe even brainwashed a little, and a network of discreet Pathway Houses was set up.