The Cost of Immortality

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It was the colorful 2050’s when they discovered the Pill and the world embraced it. Contexin Phosphorexia Dichloride Isotype IV or, as it was commonly known, “the Pill” cured everything. Well, it did not actually cure anything, but it did prevent everything. It blocked all viruses known to man, it stopped cancer from forming and, yes, it even prevented natural death.

The Pill did all this by freezing you at a cellular level and locking each cell into place forever.

The chemical was a rare and rather accidental by-product of research into cryogenic stasis sleeper cells. While quite useless for what it had been designed for, the chemical in small amounts froze living cells and left it in a kind of waking-stasis that made the body immune to all non-violent threats. You could still die from car crashes, being shot or stabbed, or other such violent ends, but cancer, viruses and old age would never get you. You would stay exactly the same as the day that you took the Pill.

It was the 2050’s and old North Korea and war was forgotten. Technologies that had long since thought to be beyond the reach of man were appearing daily across the world. Cold fusion was being commercially refined into a nearly infinite source of power for the planet, the genome was being tuned like a common guitar string–though full human cloning remained strangely elusive–and even strides in inorganic teleportation and brain-internet interfacing were happening in leaps and bounds.

In this euphoria, the Pill was readily embraced by enthusiastic masses, despite its one, single, permanent side-effect: infertility. Once the cells were trapped in eternal stasis, no procreation could take hold within the now solid-state biology of the individual.

While a small number rallied against this side-effect, the vast majority considered infertility a minor price to pay for a chance to be immortal. Some even applauded this side-effect as a solution for global over-population. Whatever their reasons, justification, and rationalizations, men and women everywhere were taking the Pill.

Mankind would never be the same.

***

The death count was higher than the world had seen for many decades, but the ironically named Living terrorists were successfully contained and their remnants exterminated or incarcerated. At the time, this was for the betterment of the majority, but in the end, this was actually the beginning of the end.

By now the vast majority of the global population had taken the Pill–or their children or their children’s children had taken it–and their immortality had brought unfounded wealth accumulation over their long lives. Death was expensive as knowledge and experience were lost and taxes triggered while empires were taken over by inferior heirs.

The Pill had solved all of this as even the lowliest person now could accumulate wealth and even minor savings would compound into great fortunes over enough time.

This was a good thing for the majority of the global population that had taken the Pill, but the opposite was true for the small percentage that had decided not to take the Pill and retain their fertility.

Growing immortal wealth had driven inflation while the normal frictional costs of life, death and children ate into the so-called Livings’ savings and saw them increasingly marginalized in a fast-changing global economy.

Humanity had two classes: the immortals were both the majority and the have’s while those that had chosen to be mortal were the minority and the have-not’s.

What happened is what always happens when the well-resourced majority have a conflict with the poorly-resourced minority: laws were passed and events smoothed over to favor the majority and the minority was more and more marginalized over time.

And then the bombings started.

The majority of the world may have been immortal from natural causes, but they could still die. They still feared their ultimate end and, when the bombings started, the panic was palpable.

It all ended up in the military and police rounding up the Living around the world and either killing them or placing them into prison for life sentences with no parole. There were questions about the guilt of all the Living picked up but many of these were smoothed over by fearful courts and the majority consensus.

Then, after a hundred years had passed, the end result was the same: no one in the world was fertile anymore. Not one single human being could bear or produce a child.

***

No matter how small the probability of a fatal accident, a violent end or suicide, if a human life is given enough time these same odds rise to a near certainty. Eventually, something will happen somehow and somewhere, and the person will die.

In the thousand-odd years that passed after the final Living had passed in prison and mankind had become infertile, the eight billion immortals on Earth were whittled down to a handful of survivors.

Leading up to this, over the millennia, some immortals died in car accidents, some were mugged or murdered, some died in freak accidents while a good number just eventually committed suicide. Finally, there were even a number of small skirmishes that killed a number but that was the exception.

The vast majority just died in statistically probable accidents or suicide. Mankind’s end came slowly and with great attrition that saw the species slip slowly into oblivion.

The great cities of the world were all self-sufficient with cold fusion power grids and autonomous AI and robots running everything. No new skills or knowledge were introduced into civilization and, slowly, those who knew how died and their knowledge left the world.

Eventually, no one knew how anything worked. They only knew that it did. And the cities and, indeed, entire countries and then continents ran themselves.

The few surviving men were but ghosts in the great machine that they had constructed and the chill winds of hollow movement scattered them like Autumn leaves before the Winter.

At first, the few survivors each had an entire city to themselves, but, eventually, it was an entire continent.

And then, eventually, even they disappeared. One killed the other and was then, in turn, killed by the next. One crashed their car while drunk, another blew their brains out while the next one overdosed on narcotics.

Eventually, the last one climbed up the greatest of mankind’s towers. From the top, you could see the electric wilderness of man stretching out before you like some empty, blinking machine that had long since lost its purpose. And, to the dripping crimsons of mankind’s last sunset, he leapt.

Medical bots scampered forth and emergency lights blinked, but mankind was no more. The funeral bots took the body, labeled it and buried while admin bots updated the official records.

And then the City–as all the rest of the cities in the world–carried on running itself on sustainable energy with AI and robots scurrying around its corners.

But there were no people anywhere anymore. Mankind was no more. It had paid the price of immortality.

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