Executive producer and director Joe “Joeblow” Adcox fidgeted the corners of his paperwork as the next potential star sat down with difficulty. She was worryingly old, like most of the candidates. A grimace contorted her wrinkled face. Joe sifted through papers and folders and removed a file from the stack. He opened it.

“Ms. Huntington?”

The woman nodded.

“Call me Nancy,” she said.

“Thank you, Nancy. My name is Joe Adcox. I’m a producer and director for Do Your Worst; you can call me Joe. I hope getting here wasn’t an inconvenience?”

They lightly shook hands.

“Oh no, no not at all. The plane ride was—”

“Good to hear!”

He eyed the file, glancing up intermittently. Full name: Nancy Anne Huntington. African-American. 101 pounds. 83. Born in Birmingham, Alabama. Wife of Dale Huntington. She was thin and shaky, but her eyes were sanely alert.

“I’m a big fan of your husband’s work,” said Joe. “My kid still watches reruns of Bobo and Friends.”

“He’d be happy to know,” said Nancy.

She smiled nervously and lightly chuckled. He waited for her to stop.

“I’m glad, now I suppose we should get started,” said Joe. “So, what makes you want to die? Specifically, what makes you want to die on the show?”

“Well ever since my husband passed four years ago, life hasn’t been worth waking up to. I want to see him again, and I’d at least like my death to be worth something to someone. 50 percent is a lot to give for each episode, and I’ve read of all you’ve done for the local hospitals.”

“We do what we can,” he said.

He rummaged through the pile of papers a second time and withdrew a bubble in sheet and an answer key.

“Like we say, every episode, you, the subject, gets to choose how. However, if you’ve seen the show, you know that it has to be…dramatic.”

He slid both sheets to Nancy. Her brow furrowed inquisitively looking at the papers. After intent consideration, she filled in a bubble, signed her name, and passed the sheets back to Joe.

“Ah, The bear! Good choice! He’s usually quite painless.” Joe forced another smile. “The next available arena time is tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. and I think the viewers would love you. Does that sound okay? Does that work for you?”

“Oh yes, perfect! Thank you! Thank—”

“Good. Now just sign here!”

She signed. Joe stood up and helped her out of her chair.

“Nice meeting you, Nancy! I look forward to working with you. Assistant! Come help this kind woman out of the studio.”

“Thank you, but I think I should be fine to walk.”

“Nonsense!”

A service bot with wheels at its base rolled through the door. Two forklift like arms protruded straight from the body and fitted themselves under Nancy’s arms. They lifted. It would have been embarrassing if her dignity hadn’t died already, with Dale. She would join him soon, whatever that looked like, even if it meant being mauled by a bear bioengineered by Hollywood scientists to rage with blood-thirst. She had seen all the episodes—and the hundreds of painfully gory, liquefying ways a person can die on live prime time television—but she still didn’t care. Do your worst. Do Your Worst. The show was called Do Your Worst, and the show did. The profits would help a lot of people. Nancy was carried out from the studio, mechanically set into a cab, and driven slowly to her drafty Beverly Hills home.

That night, the home AI placed meatloaf on her lap as she watched reruns of Bobo and Friends in a comfy chair. Dale had been the director, writer, and star of the show, as well as the voice of Bobo. Bobo was a teddy bear puppet whose hugs magically transformed frowns into joyful, red-cheeked smiles. He lived in the land of Playgrounds and Rainbows and every episode ended with Bobo and his child friends singing about the lesson they had just learned. “Give your friend a hug,” sang Bobo. The TV blared the song in static at full volume, but Nancy wanted to hear every word as she did every night. “Goodbye to the sad bug when you give your friend a hug. Your friend is snug and smiling after a hug, because it’s love.”

Then Bobo gave each of the kids a long, tight hug, and afterward they all held hands as the credits rolled. Nancy hummed along. She talked to the TV occasionally. Dale used to give sweaty, warm, loving hugs that squeezed so pleasantly tight that Nancy felt invincible within his arms. The safety ended when she found Dale dead on a California highway in a black plastic bag loaded into an ambulance. He had tried to restart the battery on an unreleased prototype Lexa Rondo, a gift from the producers for “years of service.” It was completely electric. A slip of the fingers and he was electrocuted to death. One could smell the death. Cars stopped to look and gawk as wide-eyed heads popped around and above steering wheels. Some crossed their chests, but she knew then that the prayers were more so sighs of relief that they themselves weren’t so unlucky, rather than hope for her husband. Why did it have to be so random? She hated the way he was killed, almost more than the very fact that he died. There was no finality. It didn’t end with hope, as if life was ever the sitcom it seemed to be for a while.

She reflected as advertising filled the screen and then changed the channel to five, where a man was about to die by way of a comically over–sized microwave. It was in the middle of a large coliseum like enclosure with ground of blue sand. People packed the stands and the audience shouted “Do your worst!” as he began to spin on the rotating plate for an even cook. Nancy shut her eyes for a moment and did not open them until the episode was over.

She couldn’t sleep afterward. She would die gruesomely like the man on the television in a little under twelve hours, and though peace was made with this reality weeks ago and she wanted death, it was still a scary idea. She would probably last for at least a few seconds. One. Two. Three. Seconds. It was in this moment that Nancy regretted never having children. Dale never wanted to adopt; even after trying, they never…no, stop now. There was no reason to even think anymore. Last year, they told her she had dementia, and that she still couldn’t even take care of a dog. This was five days after she had been deemed mentally safe and independent a few years after the tragedy. They cheated her. They. There was no one to love now. She sat, flipping the channels, not caring what was on.

A limo arrived the next morning and she was already awake. An android entered the house. It lifted her from the comfy chair in the living room and deposited her into the limo. The automated driver confirmed the child lock with a bell-like chime over the passenger speakers. “To Broadway Studios,” it said in sterile, metallic voicing. She felt the cool black leather of the seats and actually took pleasure at the sensation. This was a surprise, bringing back a few memories of love and tuxedo premiers. An Alabama girl among high fashion stars and cocktail dresses. She cried. After 15 minutes, the limo stopped and she was carried into the studio. Joe greeted her.

“Good to see you again, Nancy,” he said. “Let’s go over a few things and introduce you to the bear.”

She was led down a long, white-walled hallway and showed into what seemed to be a doctor’s office with a medical bed and a large wall of drawers. Joe took out a large metal spray bottle from one of the drawers. Before Nancy had time to protest, he pressed the bottle against her chest and out came a foul-smelling misty substance, staining her sweater.

“This is a target scent so that the bear will correctly gore you and only you. He has been conditioned to hate the smell of it. Now, let’s introduce you two.”

She was led further down the hallway until they stopped at two massive metal doors with a fingerprint scanner to the right. Joe inserted a thumb and pushed open the doors. They both entered. Immediately inside was a large glass enclosure containing a sleeping mound of fur and metal attached to tubes hanging from the ceiling. It was rising and falling with breath.

“This is the bear,” said Joe.

The massive mound rose up on all fours within the clear enclosure and looked upon Nancy with beady red eyes. It was drooling from a metal jaw of razor-sharp machete like teeth and began to sniff vehemently. It roared and clawed the ground in ferocious fervor, pounding and pounding the clear walls.

“Hold on,” said Joe.

He took out a small remote and the bear collapsed in electric shock within the chamber, completely still and silent except for a guttural whimpering. A smell filled the room like charred flesh. Nancy recoiled in horror.

“We have to do that every once in a while, or he’ll break the cage if we’re not careful.”

“B-b-b,” stuttered Nancy.

“I know it seems scary, but it’ll be quick,” said Joe. “I promise.”

“B-b-Bo-b-Bobo!”

“Oh, you poor woman. Let’s get to the arena. You’ll see him soon, yeah?”

She was told to walk to the center of the circular coliseum and just stand motionless.

“They don’t want conflict,” Joe had said. “This audience just wants shock and bloodshed, so stay completely still. It’s live! You’re doing great, Nancy!”

The blue sand was hard to stay steady on, but she amazingly made it to the middle without stumbling. Thousands of people lined the stands of the coliseum. They cheered when she planted herself in the middle of the arena

“Do your worst! Do your worst!”

Nancy felt sick. She could barely speak.

There was a sound of speaker static and the show was starting.

“Welcome to Do Your Worst, where death is for the whole family! Tonight, we feature a very special subject: Nancy Huntington, none other than the wife of the late children’s show star Dale Huntington, or as some of you older viewers may know him, Bobo!”

“B-b-b-b.”

The crowd went wild and resumed their chanting.

“Ha-ha, we hear you, so without further ado, the Bear!”

A panel began to slide open on the coliseum wall.

“B-b-Bobo, what have they done?” muttered Nancy. “Get back in the TV, Bobo, please.”

The panel was opening and for reasons tangled tight within her mind, she did not want to be killed by “Bobo,” no matter how broken he had become. She screamed, took off her sweater, and flung it to the wind. The bear was out now, barreling towards Nancy, but abruptly turned towards the sweater tumbling in the blue sand. The crowd stood up in uproarious applause. Nancy couldn’t move, but her lips trembled. Once the bear finished destroying the sweater, it fearfully crept towards Nancy’s standing body and nudged her bare chest with a wet nose.

“Oh, Bobo,” said Nancy. She touched the mangy fur. “Oh, Bobo I knew it was you. What did they do to you? What did they do to-?”

The bear roared upon the blue sand in shocked suffering and Nancy fell, eyes wide open, smiling, dead. Her hand was frozen straight, pointing towards the sky, and a tuft of hair remained in between her fingers. The coliseum was silent.

The next day, executive producer and director Joe “Joeblow” Adcox fidgeted his new watch as another potential star pulled a chair from the large mahogany desk and sat down in front of the executive’s tombstone smile. Joe passed the papers across the desk and watched as the bubble pertaining to “death by one weaponized body of sweet old lady” was filled in.