by Diane Root
“You realize,” He said, managing somehow to look both benevolent and no-nonsense. “that you will have to die first before we can make you immortal.” It’s the kind of thing that would give anyone, save the feeble-minded, pause. The hesitation in her eyes prompted His reassurance. “Don’t worry, it’s entirely painless. You won’t be aware of anything. You won’t even be afraid.”
“After all,” He continued, “you are the last remaining mortal on this planet. Besides me” He added, smiling. That clinched it. She stretched out, closed her eyes and proffered her arm for the lethal injection.
The world had become so overpopulated, that something had to be done. The planet was decimated of sufficient crops, the seas nearly barren of fish, even the birds, now rare, could barely fly. Science, as always, came to the rescue. A new serum, painlessly injected, insured Eternal Life… to the “Chosen”.
They weren’t the only ones. Silence was the badge of honor among the ever-growing members of the Immortality Police—though that wasn’t what they were called to their face. They wore their Immortality badge inscribed with that single magical word proudly. In bars and brothels, rest stops and restaurants, stores and shops, squares and stairs, cities and citadels, farms, fields and forts, ports and prairies—wherever there were people, all of whom greeted them with open arms. Here, they thought, were the walking, talking promise of paradise. No one in their right minds would refuse an offer of immortality, after all.
Of course, what they didn’t know was that anyone not in their “right” minds would not be admitted through the future’s earthly Pearly Gates.
The Project, as it was innocuously called, took astonishingly few years to accomplish, thanks to the legions of enforcers, all men and members of a tentacular and hidden society, sworn to secrecy on pain of death without the redemption of immortality. The Society, as they soon became known, spread far and wide as fast as wildfire. Their members were quickly and thoroughly indoctrinated by their youthful “elders,” a quasi-military group of unusually handsome men, convinced that they were doing nothing less than purifying the species and creating Heaven on Earth. It was indeed a heady perfume to all that succumbed to its pervasive and an unperceived poisonous potion—a draught of delight devoid of deadly intent on their part, merely a desire to make the Earth a perfect place and its inhabitants a perfect people. Who, They thought, could disagree with such a noble cause?
It soon became apparent that virtually no one did.
Trillions had to be “treated”. There was little protest: the lure of immortality overcame the fear of a “temporary death.” They followed the “righteous” path like lemmings: Immortality forgave all, they thought, be it malfeasance or murder.
Besides, the ones who were chosen to be permanently dead wouldn’t know of The Ultimate Decision, nor did they know that there was an alternative. After their demise, they certainly couldn’t tell the living. Those who expressed doubts, mainly on the grounds of religion, were coerced.
Under this regime, pregnant women were euthanized; babies, supposedly immortalized, were killed in their cradles. Entire close families met a similar fate, but those deemed eligible, were brainwashed, so that they no longer harbored any memory of their offspring. After all, the Immortalists reasoned, what intelligent adult would want to care for a baby forever?
The same fate was allotted to all those below the age of reason, deemed to be at least 21. And even so, that unwitting majority, if judged unfit, met their doom without redemption. So were the ill and the old, the dense and the defective, the parasites and the paralyzed, the fearful and the ferocious, the religious and the rebellious. For that matter, rebels of any kind, likely to foment a revolution against the Society on what was considered spurious grounds–there were no non-spurious grounds–were also among the condemned. Imperfection would not be tolerated if it could not be eradicated by one means or another. The recalcitrant, of whom there were few, were told of a mysterious and deadly disease purportedly decimating whole districts of the unvaccinated, incurring unspeakable deaths. Once informed of the possibility of a terrible demise, the reluctant relented. The malevolent malady supposedly rampant was, of course, another fiction, promoted via means of the media, by now in the hands of the Immortalists. There came a time when resistance was nonexistent.
Not a moment too soon, as far as the Powers That Be were concerned. Saving the planet was primordial, overriding pity or compassion. Paradise was an undisputed primary goal. What’s more, in Their view, there was no alternative. The Society’s hemlock was a heady drink indeed, one of unrelenting power all in the name of perfecting an imperfect world. Intoxicating.
The doomed were led to their demise like lambs to slaughter. What’s more, neither a whimper nor a wail was heard throughout the Realm.
In short, there was no way to escape the Immortality Police. Few even wanted to and those who originally rebelled were soon persuaded not to in view of the so-called plague about to descend upon them. Eventually, all subjected themselves willingly, convinced that they would escape the jaws of Purgatory or worse yet, Hell. Little did they know. Better that way, They said. What they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. Not at all, They said with a smile.
The “rejected” approached death with hope, similar to that of the ancient Egyptians, but without fear. Their souls would not be weighed in the balance of Fate, nor would they have to scale the hurdles along the highway to Heaven. They would not be lost in Limbo. Theirs would be a direct path back from whence they came. The Earthly heaven would embrace them. Once again.
Ignorance provided nothing less if not a merciful demise.
The “chosen” ones were either beautiful or handsome, brilliant, altruistic, generous, all endowed with just about any other wondrous attribute known to humanity. After the Immortal injection, they were excised of any and all faulty attributes, whether in their brains or their DNA. In short, they were perfect.
The Earth flourished. Tended carefully, the fields yielded, the brooks, rivers and seas were bountiful, the seasons beautiful. Nature’s past anger with mankind apparently abated, the disasters of epic proportions disappeared. Wars were abolished, evil was eradicated, whether between nations or individuals. The planet was no longer Earth. It was Eden.
Not unlike the image of Henri Rousseau’s painting, it became a Peaceable Kingdom. Man and beast, devoid of hunger or lethal intent, lived together, now nourished by plants that grew in abundance, cultivated by tireless hands. Lions and tigers, giraffes, goats, grasshoppers and iguanas, elephants and elands, bees and buffaloes, whales and wombats—all manner of creatures—lived and slept beside humans, since they, too, were immortal. The carnivorous became vegetarians, thanks to Immortalist engineering of DNA and the eradication of predatory instincts. Nothing that could devour, dismember, maim, mutilate, sting, or strike could do so any longer.
There were no longer any barriers. All things in this kingdom were woven in one cloth–kindness.
Fear and sin of any kind, of course, were unknown. Nor was courage. There was no need.
In this heavenly habitat, this paradise of plenitude and perfection, this plain of platitude, an unrelenting realm of an alternate reality, the estate of Eternity in which they lived, the Immortals became restless. Devoid of conflict or confrontation, battle or bereavement, guilt, greed, or grief, the Immortals were soon overcome by what the Good God Doctor had not anticipated.
Boredom. Ad infinitum.
Evil and the myriad scourges and sins of humanity had been abolished, but His joy of their eradication was soon eliminated as He beheld its ultimate outcome.
The Immortals, condemned to live forever, yearned to die.
Too late. Eternity has no end.
The Good God Doctor, the last mortal left standing, committed suicide as did His predecessors. The vial of Immortality serum, however, was found beside His body.
To Him, Paradise had become a bleak and barren land.
Diane Root, a dual-national, was born in Paris of an American father, the journalist and writer, Waverley Root, and a French mother. Primarily known as a painter, she is, as she describes herself, “an accidental writer.” She never sought to be published but that notwithstanding, she was nonetheless published in the New York Times Magazine (“The Artful Dodger” about lunch with Picasso) and various other venues. View her art: http://matakia.com.