This story started with its title. That, and the thought that a short story collection called Random Precision ought to have a story so named.
“Random Precision” was slightly inspired by a 1989 film, Millennium. Rather than repopulating the distant future, my about-to-die time travelers are drafted as workers just a few decades down the line. In exchange for their services, they’re granted a three-year, comfortable reprieve—after which they must be returned to the moment of death. They can, of course, choose whether to take the three-year offer or be returned to face death immediately. No surprise, nearly all take the offer.
The real motivation for this story is the human obsession with avoiding death. We all face it at some point, but we also do our utmost to dodge it, sometimes at the cost of others. “Random Precision” is a metaphor for the American health care system—if you’re rich enough and wily enough, you get the best care. If you’re not, illness and death are much nearer.
But what’s the point of gaining a longer life at the expense of someone else, only to lose your own in the end?
Lorelai cheats the system for a few years, but in the end she still faces … well, the end. And not just any end, but perhaps the most horrifying in modern times.
“Random Precision” is a line from the song “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd. The song was about former bandmate Syd Barrett, who suffered mental illness. The story goes that the day Pink Floyd recorded that song, Barrett showed up at the studio—so out of shape, with his hair and eyebrows shaved, that no one recognized him for a long time.
That said, I think the line also works with my story: Well you wore out your welcome with random precision/Rode on the steel breeze/Come on you raver, you seer of visions/Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine.
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[Note: The music and lyrics for “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” were created by David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Roger Waters for the 1975 album Wish You Were Here, produced by Pink Floyd and owned by Pink Floyd Music Ltd.]