“Apologies, but I cannot renew your identification because it would appear that you are dead,” said the voice emanating from the speaker above the computer hub at the National Identification Department.
“What do you mean I’m dead?”
“According to our records, you are deceased,” it said in a male voice that was programmed to be friendly, but just didn’t quite pass the uncanny valley.
“This must be a mistake,” I laughed. “I’m standing here.”
“We plan perfectly ma’am, we do not make mistakes,” said the voice.
“But I’m obviously not dead, look this is me,” I said as I held the card up to the camera above the screen and mimicked the awkward smile in the hideous picture that adorned my ID card.
“I cannot renew the identification of a deceased person,” it said. “Please proceed upstairs to the Office of Records to further pursue this matter. Apologies for any inconvenience.”
“Apologies,” said the female android sitting — well, ‘perched’ would be more appropriate, as she was only a torso set on a bar bolted to the floor — behind the counter in the Office of Records. “But our records indicate that you’re dead.”
“Yes,” I said. “That’s why I’m here, to fix this mistake, because I’m obviously not dead.”
“We plan perfectly ma’am, we do not make mistakes,” it said in a voice that was supposed to be soothing, but was just the tiniest bit robotic.
I sighed. “Okay, well, I need copies of my birth certificate and this death certificate so I can sort this out.”
“Certainly, please present your identification.”
I put my ID card in her hand and she scanned it with her palm. She immediately handed it back.
“This identification is expired. Please proceed to the Identification Department and complete the renewal process, then you may return to complete your task.”
I pressed my lips together in frustration. “I can’t renew my ID because the computer says I’m dead. And they won’t renew the ID of a dead person. Can’t I just…talk to a living human being about this?” I said, with annoyance.
She was silent for a moment, as I watched her empty robot eyes twitch just the slightest bit while she processed the information.
“Please proceed upstairs to the Office of the Adjudicator to further pursue this matter. Apologies for any inconvenience.”
“Apologies,” said the real woman sincerely, standing behind the counter. “But I’m afraid the deadline to appeal your death has passed.”
“The thing is, is I didn’t know I was dead. Because it never occurred to me I might be dead. Because I’m alive.”
“Yes, but I’m afraid the law is airtight on this,” she said with deep sympathy.
“How can there not be a way to fix this? I’m standing here in front of you, you can see me with your own eyes. I’m obviously not dead! This is a huge mistake!” I screamed the last part, finally losing all ability to be diplomatic.
The crowded room went silent as I felt the eyes of all the other people bore into me while they went about their perfectly planned and efficient business.
She was silent for a single beat.
“We plan everything perfectly ma’am, we don’t make mistakes,” she said, her tone still friendly but forced, her smile twitching ever so slightly at the corners of her lips.
“Obviously. You. Do,” I said.
She looked back at her computer and typed away, her brow furrowed, her warm demeanor cooled. After a few moments of monotonous tapping of keys, her face softened again and her smile returned.
“Please proceed upstairs to the Office of Administration to rectify this matter. Apologies for any inconvenience!”
“Apologies,” said the well-coifed man in the sharp suit sitting behind his desk. “I see there was an aberration in a clerical algorithm in the Office of Information.”
“It’s such a relief to finally talk to someone who can fix this mistake.”
“I’m certain this has been a very frustrating experience for you, ma’am. We always strive to deal with matters such as this as quickly as possible.”
He printed something up and handed me the paper. I looked down at it and saw my first and last name, my identification number and a bar code.
“Please proceed downstairs to ‘Operations and Protocols’ to rectify this matter. Apologies for any inconvenience.”
The waiting room in Operations and Protocols was bright, cozily decorated, and comfortable. I’d been told by the android that escorted me here that the wait wouldn’t be long.
A soothing female voice called my name through the speaker, and I went through the door to what I’d expected to be another office.
Instead, I found myself in a white, shiny, windowless room.
“Uh…where am I? I was sent up here to fix the mistake made about me being dead.”
“We do not make mistakes, ma’am,” said the voice. “Your situation is currently being remedied.”
A pleasant smell filled the room and my mind started to grow fuzzy. I could feel my heartbeat slowing as my breathing grew more labored.
The last thing I heard before I closed my eyes was the soothing female voice.
“Apologies for any inconvenience your death may cause you.”
Jennifer Milne has been writing short stories and novels for ten years. She has been published by Rogue Phoenix Press and multiple literary magazines. She lives in San Diego with her family.