The client opposite the man in the EXITS office was what was called a waif, a woman who, at some point, had chosen to reverse the aging process. Some women halted their aging or reversed it to what they felt was their peak of desirability, perhaps 18 biologically, perhaps older, but, given genetic suitability -- small size and slender frame -- waifs retreated to a younger age.
It was somewhat of a fetish.
Melpomene looked perhaps 16, maybe a bit younger. She was on the short side, of course, thin, wearing what would have been, in another age, school clothes, a white blouse, a plaid skirt, calf length white socks, and shoes known for some reason as "penny loafers," complete with what could be genuine antique copper coins. But then, today anything could be fabricated -- or "fabbed" as it was said -- for the cost of a few raw materials and a little cheap power.
"I see you've left the way you want to Exit blank, Melpomene," the man behind the desk observed.
"Please, call me Mel. That's 'cause I'm not sure."
Mel had the lingo, all the moves of a waif down pat, the awkwardness, sitting on her folded legs, fidgeting, the chair too big for her, hands twisting in her lap -- she even bit her fingernails. "I've been discussing it with my friends. They want to see something exciting."
"I see. Are you sure you want to do this yourself, not just to please your friends?" he asked. According to her psych profile she was sane, healthy, not clinically depressed. But even pretending to be a child can become boring after a century or two.
She bobbed her head, maintaining her facade of youthful innocence. "But I can't decide how."
"Well, let's get a few particulars and perhaps we can settle on a means," the man suggested, his fingers playing over his desk to bring up a questionnaire. "I gather you want your friends present to witness your Exit?"
She nodded. "Uh huh. We've been friends for ever so long."
"How many will be there? I need to know that to reserve a venue."
"Uhm, 'bout fifteen, I think. Yeah, fifteen, and me makes sixteen."
"Refreshments?" He could have asked if her friends were all waifs, but felt that might be intrusive. Some waifs associated with older men -- known as "lechers" or "leches" -- who had a penchant for waifs. Perhaps her choice of refreshments would be a clue.
"Oh, the usual," she answered. "Snack foods, and soft drinks. No alcohol or drugs. We don't want to dull the senses. Maybe a cake. We could make it a birthday celebration."
"Very well." He made the notation. "Now, let's get a bit more personal. Do you want to Exit quickly, or slowly?"
"Oh, uh, well, I don't want to just go poof. We want it to be a sort of a play, or something, maybe a costume party, or a game."
"Of course. But do you want the Exit process itself to be drawn out? Do you enjoy pain?"
She shook her head, her lustrous black pigtails with their pink ribbons flipping. "No, don't want pain. Though some of my friends might like to see it, I don't want that."
"So that means a quick Exit, but you want to build the anticipation toward it," he concluded.
"Uh huh. That's it."
That immediately eliminated a number of scenarios, such as Joan of Arc. He had yet to find anyone interested in that one, of course, but maybe someday...
"Swift but painless. That suggests we're talking an execution scenario," he decided. "Do you have any historical period in mind? We might use that to suggest a method."
"Something with interesting costumes," she answered.
He had the desk produce some foot high holos from various historical periods, from ancient Rome up through to the present. The girl -- he found it hard to think of her otherwise, even though he knew her real age from her records exceeded his by a factor of two -- indicated a set of images from late 18th century France. There were costumes ranging from aristocratic elegance to rabble rags.
The French Revolution. Perfect!
"How do you feel about decapitation?" he asked.
She cocked her pretty head. "You're thinking the guillotine."
He nodded. "It is quick and presumably painless. At least we've never had a complaint afterwards," he added with a wry smile.
Her giggle was infectious. She clapped her hands, delighted. "Yes! I could be an aristocrat being led to the guillotine! Marie Antoinette! Some of my friends could be fellow nobles, while others are the mob!"
"Very good!" he agreed, recording her selections. "Are any other of your friends interested in joining your Exit?"
"Not that I know of, but I can ask," she responded. "But there is one other thing, if it can be arranged."
He thought he knew already, but dutifully asked, "What's that?"
There was almost always a sexual aspect to any Exit scenario.
"I want to Exit at the peak of sexual pleasure. I guess you could say I want to go out with a bang." Mel giggled.
"Do you want to Exit during intercourse?"
"If possible, yes, I do. It's also a favor my lover has requested."
"That's easily arranged. As we finalize the plans you can decide between a rape or something more -- uhm -- consensual."
"Consensual, I think. Paul is such a sweetie."
"Now, this is a popular Exit scenario that would do well on The Feed. Would you be willing to share your Exit?"
She nibbled a fingernail. Her deep blue eyes sparkled. "Yes! The idea of millions of people watching me is a real turn on. Yes!"
After working out details, such as arranging to get costume fittings, he finalized the scenario on his desk and requested a time-line from Citybrain, based on the availability of facilities and production time for the needed props and costumes.
"How does two weeks from today suit you?"
"Excellent." She rose as he did, and shook his hand and, for a moment her carefully constructed persona of waif slipped, revealing the world weariness of her true age, quickly masked again by a look of excitement. He knew she'd spend the next fortnight in a steaming froth of anticipation. It was safe to assume from her mercurial nature that her hormonal balance had been reset to her apparent age along with everything else.
The irony of the search for death as a reason to live wasn't lost on him.
Come the day, the frame of the guillotine loomed over the festivities like the gateway to Hades. It was black, save for the razor sharp steel blade, already raised, ready to perform its grisly task. Just beyond the tower that held the blade a lined, woven reed basket awaited the head of its victim.
On the near side, beside the guillotine, was a large rectangular woven basket, big enough to take three or four bodies, historically accurate given the setting for the party. The only thing missing from the 1790 Parisian scene was the muddy street.
Revelry had been promised and revelry there was. The waifs were true to character, alternately bashful and coy, teasing and playful. The men, on the other hand, were lechers, physically ranging from their late thirties to perhaps early sixties, probably chronologically a century older at least. They dandled the waifs on their laps, teased the girls' with tickles and pinches, their hands exploring youthful thighs, modest bosoms.
They were seated on benches around a table laden with the remains of a lusty meal. They had abandoned the "soda and snacks" menu in favor of a more period appropriate fare of wine, cheeses, meats and platters of fruit, spread along the rough trestle table.
As she lounged back in Paul's arms, Mel let him feed her a grape, then made a show of sharing it with him, lips to lips. The sharing, of course, became a deep kiss.
Mel was the star of the show, wearing a full skirted lace gown of ivory and gold, with a low bodice that exposed her budding breasts, barely concealing her nipples. A necklace of gold, diamonds and pearls embraced the slender column of her neck, trailed down the satin expanse of skin above the dress. Her beau nibbled on her ear, making her giggle, one hand exploring the top of her dress, but she captured his fingers before they could slip under the rich cloth to tease her nipples.
Meanwhile, one of her less modest friends, dressed as a bawdy peasant, was letting her escort's hand venture under her full skirt, her peasant blouse already loosened to expose her bosom with berry pink nipples capping breasts more generous than Mel's. She threw her head back and laughed as the rudely dressed lech licked her throat, his graying stubble rasping her skin.