The year is 2076.
A woman, frail and old, lies dying in her bed. A well-loved woman, she is surrounded by her children, her children’s children, and even a few great-grandbabies. The blinds are drawn and the mood is somber.
Her grandson, now a strapping man with his own children, leaves her bedside to meet with some other relatives and friends who have gathered outside her room.
“It can’t be long now,” he tells them. “She’s really starting to lose it. She just said something about 8,000 salad plates when we offered her a sip of water, and she’s making up words. I could swear I heard her talking about ‘fractals.'”
The group collectively drops their heads, shoulders slumping as they softly weep and hold each other for support.
Just then, the woman’s daughter throws open the door, beckoning them inside, her voice trembling with panic and desperation. “Something’s happening!” she tells them.
As family and outside light pour into the woman’s bedroom, she sits up, a curious expression crossing her weathered face. “The window is open,” she begins. “So’s that door…”
“Yes, Grandma. We’re all here with you now,” says one of the children. “What are you thinking about?”
“There’ll be actual, real-live people,” the woman continues. “It will be totally strange. Wow, am I so ready –”
“No, Mom! Don’t leave us!” her son cries out. Just then, a group of the smallest great-grandchildren toddle into the room, startled by the noise. “Don’t let them in — don’t let them SEE!”
The woman slumps back into her bed, a pained expression written on her face. “I can’t…” she whispers through gritted teeth, turning everyone’s attention back to her.
“I … caaaaan’t….” her frail fingers clasp into a fist as a single tear creeps down her cheek.
“You can’t what, Mom? It’s okay; you can tell us!” They hold her hand and lean in close.
“I CAN’T GET THIS FUCKING SONG OUT OF MY HEAD!” she bellows. “IT’S BEEN, LIKE, 65 YEARS.”
Her family exchanges worried glances and her son wraps his arm around his mother’s thin, tense shoulders. “It’s okay now, Mom. Whatever is bothering you — whatever has been bothering you all these years — it’s okay. Just let it all go. Let… it… go.”
The woman shoots up in her bed. Eyes wide and noticeably twitching, her lips are pursed. Her breath quickens as she looks around the room, a crazed twinkle in her knowing eyes. “Someone take this pillow and put me out of my misery,” she dares each of them.
“What? No! Are you crazy? We could never do such a thing!” they all clamor. “It’s not right!”
“No right! No wrong! No rules for me! SET ME FREE, FOR GOD’S SAKE!” she cries out. “End this madness!”
Her daughter, visibly distraught, shoos everyone out of the room. She closes the door and climbs into bed with her mother. “I love you so much, Mom,” she says, smoothing the woman’s wispy, white hair. “They keep telling me, ‘Have courage!’ And I’m trying to, really. I’m right here for you. I just wish you would let me in.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me right now,” the woman says. “Is this a fucking joke? Do you think this is funny?”
The daughter presses her finger against her mother’s lips. “Shh, be still. This place is like a kingdom of isolation, Mom. Everyone has left, so please just try to rest,” she says, reassuringly. “It’s just you and me. So what are we gonna do?”
“Don’t even say it,” the woman replies.
“Do you wanna…?”
“Do you wanna build a — ?”
“I’m 90 years old. NINETY YEARS OLD. Don’t even GO THERE right now. Idina Menzel has been dead for, like, a decade!” the woman sobs. “You know what? Let’s do it. Let’s go ahead and do this thing. Just say it. Let’s build a fucking snowman right here, you and your 90-year-old mother. Hell, yeah, I like warm hugs. SAY IT!”
The daughter smiles and cups her mother’s trembling face in her hands. “It’s so like you,” she says. “Even at 90 years old. The cold never bothered you anyway, huh?”
The woman blinks, stares expressionless into the loving face of her daughter, and collapses back into her bed.*
*It was later discovered that the woman had only faked her death at this moment to prevent taking her daughter with her to the great beyond, but she did pass shortly thereafter. Her last words to her family were, “Conceal. Don’t feel. Don’t let it show.” They assumed she was referencing the funeral and subsequent mourning process. She rolled her eyes and found comfort saying goodbye to the pain of the past, knowing she’d never have to feel it — or hear it — anymore.