The Sound of Your Voice
By John C Adams
Dear Mrs Smith,
I have been passed your case file by our Complaints Manager. I am the Managing Director of Farewell Experiences Inc and I hope I’ll be able to answer your enquiries to your satisfaction. I have also sent a copy of this letter to your attorney, as you requested.
First of all, let me say from everyone at the company how sorry we were to hear of your sad loss. Please allow me to extend our deepest sympathies to you and to your family. I understand that you and your husband had three children and I wish all of you the very best at this difficult time.
I am aware that some of your enquiries relate to how we obtain the data upon which we base our Family Goodbye Premium Service. I’m sure you will appreciate that this is confidential and that the algorithm that generates the data for the service is trademarked and forms the backbone of Farewell Experiences Inc’s stockmarket valuation. I can say in generic terms that the algorithm can process up to sixty billion gigabytes of data in only a few seconds. Together with the access we’ve negotiated to the national chain of hospitals where your husband died, this algorithm enables us to capture the last thoughts of the recently deceased. Over the last twenty years, Farewell Experiences Inc has helped over one million grieving families to feel that they have shared the last thoughts of their loved one and to treasure the final words and sentiments of their family members forever.
In response to your suggestions that we are harassing vulnerable patients, let me reassure you that your late husband had signed up to the service of his own free will before he was diagnosed with cancer. In fact, checking his initial contract I notice that he signed up on the eve of his first marriage almost thirty years ago and paid a lifetime subscription at this point. When he married for the second time, I note from our Quality Assurance Checksheet, he updated the next of kin section and opted to have you, as his widow, receive the final message in preference to his ex-wife.
I have spoken at length to the Director at Our Sisters of Mercy Hospital here in the city. He in turn has questioned the nurses and the consultant who were on duty that day in the Intensive Care ward. They all confirm that, in accordance with our standard procedures, your husband’s mind data was gathered promptly and that, just before he lost consciousness for the last time, the hospital’s Farewell Experiences Inc representative checked with him that he wished to go ahead and use the service.
After your husband died, his mind data was uploaded to our server here at our head offices. Your husband’s last message to you was extracted from the enormous quantity of data obtained. It was processed in accordance with our standard procedures. It was also cross-checked with our files by a member of our Quality Assurance Team. I understand that, due to a particularly cold snap around the time your husband died, our team was somewhat overloaded and, unusually, some of our processing was outsourced to another company. As a result, certain of our Quality Assurance benchmarks appear not to have been followed in your husband’s case. In particular, I regret to say, the standard process of checking that the name of the intended recipient matched those of the next of kin appears to have been omitted.
In the decades we have been offering this product we have never previously, to my knowledge, delivered a message to a second wife intended for a first. Let me say again how very sorry I am at the distress this failure on our part caused you. I have reviewed our contracts with the outsourcing provider, Quickly Does It.Com, and intend to ensure that we do not use them again.
If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
James T Sidewinder
Farewell Experiences Inc
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John C Adams is a trainee submissions reader with Albedo One magazine. She was longlisted for the Aeon Award in 2012 and 2013. You can read more of her short fiction in forthcoming anthologies from Horrified Press or for free at her website.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
The Sound of Your Voice
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