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2. THE LAST LONELY MAN
If, by an accident of science, it became possible for the personality to pass at the moment of death into the mind of someone still alive, then the big new problem would be into whom. To foist the wits of a rogue onto an unwilling recipient would be unjust indeed. Any government who could thus cheat death might indeed win a popular vote, but only so long as all was voluntary - mutually contracted.
James Hale is a man of such a society. He has insured against death of his personality by arranging mutual "Contact" contracts with his relatives. He is already host to his late father with whose memories and prejudices he has now learned to live. He himself is a responsible parent of twins whose Contact he will arrange when they are of age. He is also a warm-hearted man who, when he meets one Patrick Wilson, agrees to "take him on until he can can get fixed up with a friend".
When, the morning after, it transpires that Patrick is in fact utterly friendless, James begins to get worried. He has, after all, a responsibility to his other Contacts - as they are quick to emphasise. He must go to the officials and "expunge" this incompatible Contact immediately. But Patrick is too quick for him. Before James can get free, the lonely man commits suicide. Agonising seconds later, James starts to laugh - but with the mirthless bellow of Patrick Wilson.
It isn't all one-sided. There are times when the old James seems quite himself again. But always the lying, the arrogance, the crafty deceit of Patrick are lurking there in the background. Of course the government has installed adjustment clinics. But to adjust to such a schizophrenia as this, it seems, is too much. James is stuck - the victim of one kind-hearted moment too many. All too soon, his sole remaining Contact is his wife. One Contact, whom he must now take desperate steps to retain. One last Contact - in a world where to die Contactless is to die . . . . . . . . .
Written by John Brunner
Dramatised by Jeremy Paul
Directed by Douglas Camfield
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