It just spat out a sliver of paper upon which were printed. “OLD AGE.This is a preview copy of a story that will be appearing in our book This is How You Die. This permits this story to be freely downloaded. You could pay someone or you could probably get it done for free. out in July 2013 from Grand Central Publishing. since we had to wait for people to die. and retransmitted in a noncommercial manner.” it turned out. All of the the stories in both books are explorations into this common theme. 2013! This file is released under a Creative Commons Attribution–NonCommercial–ShareAlike license. “OLD AGE. which is open for pledges through March 19. from just a sample of your blood. visit machineofdeath. They were. which introduced the idea of a machine that can predict how you’ll die. This story. The machine captured that old-world sense of irony in death: you can know how it’s going to happen. but you’ll still be surprised when it does. so long as attribution is in careful block letters. It didn’t give you the date and it didn’t give you specifics. how you were going to die. shared. . but testing took time—too much. we shipped it out the door. could mean either dying of natural causes or being shot by a bedridden man in a botched home invasion. In the book. The machine had been invenTed a few years ago: a machine that could tell.” It let people know how they were going to die. There were now machines in every doctor’s office and in booths at the mall. And it was frustratingly vague in its predictions: dark. We’re releasing this story in advance thanks to the kind supporters of our Machine of Death card game Kickstarter. it’ll be paired with an illustration by Danica Novgodoroff. consistent. It’s the sequel to our bestselling short story collection Machine of Death. For more information about MoD.” is by ’Nathan Burgoine. and seemingly delighting in the ambiguities of language. the words “DROWNED” or “CANCER” or “OLD AGE” or “CHOKED ON A HANDFUL OF POPCORN. but the result was the same no matter what machine you went to. After four years had gone by and three people had died as the machine predicted. We tested it before announcing it to the world. SURROUNDED BY LOVED ONES. at least.

looking at the machine. tucking her pricked thumb into her mouth. The needle retracted. For a brief moment. She read them both. she waffled over the decision. but it wasn’t in her nature to be indecisive. ### . and she pulled her thumb away. and then watched as the machine ran through its cleaning cycle and presented her with a single sharp needle. She pressed her thumb against it. and in its place stood a shining silver booth. But even that slight criticism had never been partnered with any real examples of when she’d made the wrong decision. Every performance appraisal she had ever received had said so—though sometimes there was a gentle hint that she didn’t always have to act immediately. Leah got things done. A moment later. The machine beeped. there was a slight hum and a small piece of paper clicked with finality into the tray. there was another hum and a second piece of paper clicked into the tray. that she could allow herself to think things over a little more. they wouldn’t have been surprised. Leah blinked. Leah reached down and picked it up with her other hand. Leah had instinct. She read the instructions. then took the second piece of paper as well.This is How You Die OLD AGE. Leah stopped. SURROUNDED BY LOVED ONES The “Coming Soon” sign was gone. swiped her credit card. Had anyone who’d known her been nearby when Leah Cole stepped into the small booth. fascinated. agreed to the terms and conditions without really reading them. feeling the slight sting of the needle. Just as she pulled the small white piece of paper free.

“Miss Cole?” “Yes. on separate papers. refund your activation fee. The response sent a shiver up her spine. Leah waited. Nicolas transferred her to a woman named Alia. I’ll have my assistant. Brine replied. Her mind spun.” Leah said.” “You’re welcome. if you know what that means.” Leah said. Leah dialed the 800 number on the back of the slips of paper and waited. How may I direct your call?” “I took the test this morning at the new booth in the Byward Market. Leah was growing impatient—not an unusual state—but she forced herself to take a breath and explained everything to the doctor. Then she called Julia. I checked your website—the ID codes printed at the bottom of the paper are identical. he sounded interested.” a gentle-voiced man answered the phone.” Dr. .” Nicolas didn’t sound bored exactly. Audrey.” Leah said. “Alexandria Corporation. “This is Nicolas.” “Identical. “Thank you. Leah obliged.” Dr. “Two results?” “Yes. Brine pressed.” “I do.” Leah said nothing. “This has happened once or twice before. who then transferred her to a Dr. When he spoke next. If you ask your twin to take the test and you get the same results. I’m afraid that’s the only answer we can give you. Brine seemed anxious to end the call.” Nicolas said.” Nicolas paused. “We’re mirror twins. It generated two results for me. Her throat felt tight. Again.This is How You Die After work. “Yes. “Are you a twin?” she asked. Leah swallowed. “In what way do you think there’s a defect?” “It gave me two contradictory results. “But I think your machine is defective. I’d assume?” Dr. but he certainly didn’t sound worried about the state of the machine. Lindsay Brine. “And it wasn’t someone else leaving a copy behind in the machine—they both printed out after I gave my blood sample.” “I’m going to transfer you.

” “I don’t want to know what either of them says.” Leah crossed her arms. “I don’t know why anyone would want to know. What if it said something like ‘childbirth. looking at her sister with the same mix of feelings she always had: love. And no. throat. right?” “No. holding up a hand. protectiveness. “So. frowning with distaste when Leah had begun the tale and then glaring by the end of the description of what had happened. Leah decorated her ears. And still the waitress had exclaimed. and fingers with simple silver pieces she’d had made personally for herself. “And that’s the problem.” Leah had frowned. unlike Leah’s chic Hepburn style. Knowing ahead of time at least meant you could live accordingly. which would mean that one of them is for me. so the doctor asked if I was an identical twin. “You two are twins. “I’ve got two results.” Julia snapped.” Julia put her coffee down with finality.” Julia had listened. Julia had given Leah a rare smile of conspiracy. and they’re mutually exclusive. “It helps you plan ahead.” Leah had shrugged and then launched into her reason for calling. and while that hadn’t bothered Leah.” The waitress had flushed and stammered and taken their order. it had driven Julia crazy.” “Well.” Julia said. thinking that Julia was missing the point entirely—you couldn’t avoid death. I don’t. Leah sipped her latte. wrists. Julia wore no jewelry aside from her wedding band. she felt.This is How You Die ### “Not on your life. “You don’t?” “Don’t sigh at me. “You’re terrible. “The doctor said that if you took the test and . and total frustration.” “Some of us like surprises. “This is my girlfriend. and one is for you. Now that they were adults. Julia’s chestnut hair fell just past her shoulders. Julia wore soft pastels where Leah favored rich jewel tones.” Leah had said.” Leah said. Julia had kept her hair long once the twins had been old enough to make their own decisions. Leah sighed. Here’s what happened.’ Tristan and I are trying for a child— you know that. Their mother had always dressed them in matching outfits and given them the same short haircut. It’s…morbid. It would change everything.

what if there was something horrible that was going to happen to me before our baby grew up? And then I thought about how our dad died when we were little.” Julia hadn’t taken any time to ponder the question. and then I started wondering. “Being pregnant suits you. no one had ever managed to avoid what was printed on the little pieces of paper the booths handed out. “But I can’t do it. Just in case. Leah jumped up. ### Left with no way to confirm a flaw in the machine—or to confirm that she’d have to be happy with two options for her life’s ultimate end— Leah had gone back to work. But if that particular result was hers. then I’d know that this was the reason for the two results. she decided to stop drinking alcohol. embracing her sister out of habit.” Leah said with a smile. “I just…I just can’t do it. Leah immediately bought expensive clothes that Julia insisted were too much and too stylish for a baby to wear—especially since the baby would grow out of them so quickly. wiping her nose. Her sister and Tristan had her over for dinner for the big announcement and then e-mailed her pictures of Julia’s everexpanding belly over the weeks that followed. She decided to try. “I kept thinking about what we talked about. As she shut Leah down. and how horrible that was…and I couldn’t help it…” Julia sniffled. tucking the two slips of paper into her purse and pulling them out every now and then to look at them.” . After they’d finished putting up the borders. They were always right. Life went on. and tried not to comment too strongly on the stereotypical blue color or the cowboy theme. “I took the stupid test!” Julia wailed.This is How You Die it gave the same two answers. Leah helped her sister decorate the nursery. the two sisters had moved to the kitchen and sat down at Julia’s table. there was no way to know if she could at least delay things. Leah couldn’t help but think that this was one instance where they were indeed identical. squeezing Julia’s shoulders tightly. “What’s wrong?” she asked. though the rational part of her mind reminded her that so far. but lost as to the cause. once they’d learned they were having a little boy.” She sighed. Julia burst into tears.

It wasn’t a chore. and they don’t say anything about dying young. “All I want to know is that it has nothing to do with being pregnant. Graham was born. The phone rang harshly on one of those nights. All I want to know…” She swallowed and handed the envelope to Leah. Then she nodded and put the slips back into the envelope.” Julia kept repeating whenever Graham was sleeping in her arms. “It gave me two. the baby monitor tucked on the table beside her. “I didn’t look at them. “They’re the same as mine. Leah began grow hers out. and she scooped it up.” Leah bit her lip. they’ll refund your test payment. pulling out an envelope that she’d obviously gotten from an ATM.” From her sister’s lips. Neither of them is about pregnancy. but she didn’t say anything. “And don’t worry. She dug inside. Leah felt a surge of fierce love for her sister. and Julia had never seemed happier.This is How You Die “I don’t understand. And that it doesn’t say I’ll die before I get to see my baby grow up. “I’m a mother. then looked up at her sister. and the two were closer than they’d been in years. spending more time together than they had since they were teens. considering. Leah generally read a book. Julia must have noticed. Tristan was a natural at being a dad. “If you call the company and tell them what happened. Leah thought this sounded like the highest accomplishment of humankind.” Leah said. so her sister and Tristan could enjoy an evening out—usually just dinner and a movie.” she said. She took a shaky breath. “I’m a mother.” Julia said.” she said. even when Graham was grumpy and refused to sleep. I just put them in here.” Julia said. annoyed at herself for forgetting to turn off the ringer and hoping that . Julia pulled out her purse and opened it. and Leah found out that she did have a mothering gene after all—though she truly enjoyed handing Graham back to her sister when she was ready to go home and have a long hot bath. “I never want to think about that again. and found herself feeling oddly content. When Julia bobbed her hair short. In fact—” “Stop!” Julia raised a hand. “I don’t want to know.” Leah opened the envelope and pulled out the two slips of paper. Leah babysat on Saturday nights.

“Tristan?” Her heart began to pound. but—” Leah’s eyes blurred.” Leah frowned. Leah rose. Julia had been in surgery for nearly three hours. “Tell me. Once she’s well enough for surgery again. Leah sat beside him. his face said it all. The doctor repeated himself. When the doctor came in. it was so ragged and raw. We had to remove her spleen and one of her kidneys. Graham was bundled in a carrier and fast asleep despite the background noises of the hospital.” Tristan said. But her remaining kidney has also been damaged. staring out the window of his room into the night. Julia watched him frown at the candle and laughed when Tristan tried to get him to blow it out. And the other kidney…” He took a breath.” he said. then spoke. None of the children really seemed to understand what the party was about. She gripped the arms of the chair and tried to hold on to consciousness. thank God. waiting for the doctor to return. and his eyes grew wet.” The doctor regarded her a moment. Tristan’s head was wrapped with bandages. Tristan was crying quietly. and he was covered in small scrapes and cuts. “We had to stop surgery. This couldn’t be happening. “Leah?” Leah barely recognized the voice. “What did you say?” Beside her.This is How You Die it hadn’t woken Graham. “—would be the preferred option. At Graham’s first birthday. coming back. “There are some major internal injuries. two cracked ribs were bundled tight. “Hello?” she asked. but the parents had . Tristan lay in his hospital bed. She lost a lot of blood. “No. “What’s wrong? Where are you?” “We’re at the hospital. Leah made a decision.” A truck had run a red light and slammed into the passenger side of their car. we can go in and we might be able to correct the damage. “Oh. ready to tear out the throat of a telemarketer.

which he would have been happy to play with for the entire afternoon. and the cleanup wasn’t so bad. I never thought I’d wish with all my heart to be the one getting the second result. Her sister’s perfect penmanship had always annoyed her as a child. The difference between certainty and a chance is love. The doctor said he could operate on your kidney and he might be able to save it. and Julia knew she’d probably end up throwing most of it out—assuming her husband didn’t eat it all in the next two days. Kiss Graham for me. The presents had all been opened—an excruciatingly slow process given Graham’s preoccupation with the shiny red paper on the first gift. but I know what it might mean for you. she slid open the envelope and pulled out the letter. I know what that might mean for me. The letter wasn’t long. Love. I’m going to give you one of mine. she thought. Open Me at Graham’s First Birthday. For a long moment. Tristan said she should have been a doctor. Now or never. I hope you will understand why I’m doing this. She pulled the sealed envelope from her purse and looked at the handwriting. Julia swallowed when she recognized them. and I hope that you’ll read this someday. Leah’s impulsiveness seemed at odds with her perfectly crafted letters. and Julia was dreading it with her entire being. None of the kids had much cake. Finally. which both relieved and saddened her. she wondered if she should just throw it out. I promise you that I thought this decision through. and Julia’s own handwriting was terrible. Or I could give you one of mine. But Tristan took Graham for his nap. Leah . but she knew she wouldn’t. the envelope said. There was only one thing left. too.This is How You Die fun. and she was alone. Julia. but right now I do. which were folded in half. It was a single page alongside two small pieces of paper.

AND DAVID MALKI ! AND DAVID MALKI ! EDITED BY EDITED BY in sT o r e s e v e ry w h e r e JU Ly 16 . Julia felt her eyes brim with tears and allowed herself to cry. surrounded by loved ones. MATTHEW NORTH. She opened the second. Infallible. MATTHEW BENNARDO. Inescapable Machine of Death Inescapable Machine of Death RYAN NORTH. Kidney operation. Stories of the Inscrutable. “Thank you. It | @nathanburgoine THIS IS HOW THIS IS HOW YOU DIE Stories of the Inscrutable. Infallible. Story by ’Nathan Burgoine | nathanburgoine. Old age. and then went to kiss her son. it said. and then opened the first. She sighed.This is How You Die Julia swallowed a lump and then fished out the two pieces of paper. RYAN BENNARDO.” Julia whispered. closing her eyes for a moment.