The State of Dying

burned house

© C.E. Ayr

“This is the perfect place.”

“But it’s just a burned up building, Grandpa.”

“Exactly, Amy. Bring your brothers and sisters. Tell them to have their squirt guns fully loaded. We’re going to have a supersoaker blast playing “spy” in here.”

The eight-year-old grinned as she ran back next door to his house. His neighbor’s wrecked home reminded him that he needed to move out soon too. He’d turn seventy next year, and the state’s ridiculous “right-to-die” law for the terminally ill now allowed legalized murder of anyone over that age, whether they wanted to go or not.

Their bloated environmental laws worked about as well as their population laws. The government had killed 75% of the native plants and animals, and now they were working on the people.

He turned as he heard five pairs of running feet approaching. “You better get going, Grandpa.” At ten, Chad wasn’t the oldest, but he was the ringleader.

“Unless you want to get soaked.” Five-year-old Emily had that “killer” gleam in her eye.

“I’m running.” Mitch dashed into the ruined structure. He had to move the family to one of the free states before the jackboots came after them all.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of June 3, 2018. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 196.

For some reason, the image reminded me of both Florida and California. I chose the latter since I used to live there, and “Googling” the search string “California dying,” I came up with plenty of information on that state’s “right to die” law at both The Los Angeles Times and Death with Dignity. I also found an article about the demise of California’s Sierra forests, which are perishing in spite of all the tax money California’s state senate can throw at the environment.

I know “dying with dignity” is a controversial issue. People of faith tend to believe that giving and taking life should be left to God alone, but it’s hard to watch someone slowly dying and in great pain when you could ease their suffering.

Also, I actually do have a great concern for the environment. One of the reasons I like living in Idaho is because of the vast areas of wilderness, the mountains, rivers, and lakes. But something obviously went wrong in California’s case, because people from that state are moving here in droves.

Anyway, putting that all together, I authored today’s wee dystopian tale.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit

13 thoughts on “The State of Dying

  1. This is so touching. Heartwarming and scary at the same time. To think that this could very well be the future what with the California law and all…


    • I remember when former President Obama first suggested regulating health care, conservatives were very vocal about their fears the law would mandate withdrawing all medical care for people over a certain age. It didn’t happen like that, but in dystopian fiction, something like it has been suggested for decades. There was even a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode called Half a Life about a society that mandated the death of everyone age 60 and over. Yikes! I’ll be 64 next month.


      • It is really scary that something like that could’ve happened, or could very well happen. After all, dystopian fiction is merely just a dark mirror of the reality…
        Thankfully the real world has yet to be as terrifying and perhaps will never be.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, there is the argument that the real problem that affects everything going wrong with our world boils down to overpopulation, and it’s only going to get worse. Perhaps this is one answer…


    • Overpopulation isn’t distributed evenly over the planet. Also, according to Wikipedia:

      For the world as a whole, the number of children born per woman decreased from 5.02 to 2.65 between 1950 and 2005. A breakdown by region is as follows:
      Europe – 2.66 to 1.41
      North America – 3.47 to 1.99
      Oceania – 3.87 to 2.30
      Central America – 6.38 to 2.66
      South America – 5.75 to 2.49
      Asia (excluding Middle East) – 5.85 to 2.43
      Middle East & North Africa – 6.99 to 3.37
      Sub-Saharan Africa – 6.7 to 5.53

      Excluding the observed reversal in fertility decrease for high development, the projected world number of children born per woman for 2050 would be around 2.05. Only the Middle East & North Africa (2.09) and Sub-Saharan Africa (2.61) would then have numbers greater than 2.05.

      My wife also has heard that in developed nations, male fertility is decreasing generation over generation, probably due to a number of factors including increasing toxins in the environment and decreased nutrition in our foods.

      All that said, giving the State the power to execute you just because you turn 60, 70, or 80 is a terrifying idea. You may feel relatively safe now, but I assure you that as you approach the “magic age,” you wouldn’t want to die anymore than I would.


    • In some ways, I envy my parents. My Dad died last year and Mom is now 86. They’ll miss the worst of it as our world becomes increasingly hostile toward common sense and humanity.


  3. Something going wrong in California, as you say… my perception is the cost of living, or primarily housing. I lived in California a while too. After my first child was born, I couldn’t be satisfied with an apartment or condominium. I wanted my child (later, children) to have a yard that wasn’t tiny. If we had bought a home as soon as we had gotten to San Jose, a few years before, it would’ve been affordable (and not only that but very lucrative). My husband didn’t have the background to understand real estate as an investment. (His dad had been career military — an officer — and housing was provided.) Prices rose quickly in Silicon Valley, and it made more sense to move back to the midwest. (From descriptions at other times, James, it sounds like affordability is even greater where you are.)

    I had my own personal population explosion (after my own conservative mother limited herself to one child so she could basically be the spoiled sister figure). The boys [I had all boys]. got a lot of mileage out of our acre yard and the neighbors’ yards and the parks. (My oldest son and I did enjoy the local parks in California for his first two years. And our condominium grounds. But there’s only so much sticking to the sidewalks and sliding boards that seems healthy… or nurturing enough. Yet we did still seek out every variety of playground, too, within an hour or so driving radius of our newfound home.) Yeah, I think people need to figure out how to function together and not how to stifle and get rid of each other. Another important feature of moving was seeing more of Grandad and Grandpa.


    • Once upon a time, California was a wonderful place to live, but like most popular places, people kept moving in and moving in, and with an economic boom, housing prices and everything else soared. Now California is collapsing under its own weight and a lot of them are moving to Idaho. Already our cost of living has gone up.


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