Author’s Note: Still struggling to find a concept I believe in enough to write about. So trying to start small and see if anything comes from these short stories.
Kufa and Kuto lie in bed together, ready for sleep.
Kuto says, “Just think of it. Today, we would be lucky to live another forty years. With a little genetic magic, tomorrow, we can live forever.”
The enthusiasm in his voice cuts her. “Not forever,” protests Kufa. “We will all die eventually, one way or the other—maybe a car crash, drowning in a lake, or falling off a ladder.”
“Yeah, but wouldn’t you prefer to die in a car crash as a young woman in a couple of hundred years rather than pass as a senile old lady in forty?”
Kufa grudgingly acknowledges with a half-hearted nod of her head. She rolls away from Kuta and stares into the night, unable to sleep.
It’s not like she is terminal with a life-threatening disease unless you consider life itself a disease. Nevertheless, her struggle is existential. It’s a matter of life or death. If she accepts the genetic treatment, she will stop aging. She could join her friends and the rest of the immortals, but immortality comes at the cost of children. Scientists and governments have fixed the population to a sustainable size, and only those that chose mortality are allowed the possibility of breeding.
It used to be that when she walked by a playground with those ladies sitting on the bench, all she saw were the tired faces and senescent skin. She laughed at them with her friends, who had all chosen the treatment.
But one morning, she saw something she had missed before. A mother hugged her young daughter for no reason. The child rewarded her with giggles and a cry of “Mommy. I love you.” And the mommy had a faraway look that Kufa could only imagine as a satisfaction more profound than any she had experienced herself. The image has haunted her ever since.
In the late morning, Kufa sits on the couch with the curtains drawn and the lights not turned on, still in her night clothes.
Kuto approaches the front door from another room. He does a double-take when he realizes she is sitting in the shadows. He stares at her through the darkness for several seconds before saying, “Why aren’t you dressed? We are supposed to be at the clinic in an hour for the first treatment.”
Kufa doesn’t move.
Kuto shakes his head and scowls, “We’ve been over this so many times. I thought we agreed to it.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I’m having second thoughts. What’s the point of living forever if your life has no meaning?”
“No meaning? What are you talking about? I have important work to do and will have all the time in the world to do it. You can learn the piano like you’ve always wanted. We can travel the world together. We could make every dream we ever had come true. We would live happily ever after.”
“Happily ever after only happens in fairy tales. Those stupid books never explain what those people do that makes them happy ever after. Getting together is the easy part. The happily ever after is the hard part.”
Kuto hits the switch.
Kufa averts her sleepless eyes from the searing gaze of Kuto in the unwanted light.
“It didn’t sound hard when you said it before. It’s what we’ve talked about since we first met. You and me strolling down the boulevards of Paris. Sipping wine in a chateau in Italy. Elegant dinners in India. South Africa. Japan. Australia. The world. Maybe even beyond.”
She stammers, “Forever is a long time. I think there are so many divorces nowadays because we already live so long.”
“What are you getting at? Don’t you love me?”
“Of course. I could, and I would love you for a lifetime. But a normal lifetime, not a forever lifetime.”
Kuto raises his voice, “What the hell does that mean? Is our love on a timer now? Conditional love? That sounds more like something I would say. What is this really about?”
Kufa hangs her head, knowing Kuto will not like her answer. “I want to have a family someday with children,” Kufa pouts.
Kuto says, “Children? If we have children, we give up the opportunity to live forever. And even if you decide not to take the treatment, there is no guarantee that you can become a breeder. It’s up to Population Management to decide, not us. And the longer we wait, the greater the chance that something irreversible happens. We could be throwing our lives out the window for nothing.”
“I’m not going,” Kufa declares while defiantly crossing her arms.
“You are talking like an ass. If we blow this appointment, we’ll have to wait another year.” Kuto walks toward her and stops. Then he walks away from her. And then back again, as if measuring the consequences in steps. Finally, he stops and says, “You changed. Do you want to give up on our dreams? On our careers? On our friends? I can’t believe how f**king selfish you are.”
She says, tears streaming down her cheek, “I want to have a family. Is that so much to ask? People have been doing it since the beginning of time.”
“This is on you. If you want to live like a Neanderthal, well, good luck with that. I’m going. And if you don’t show up at the clinic, we’re done.” He turns and walks away. He doesn’t look back.
She buries her head in her hands and sobs.
Cover Image by Craiyon