In The Land Of Odin
I never wanted to live forever. Truly. “Living Forever,” was not on my bucket list.
Let me explain.
My name is Walter Stone. I am eighty-five years old. I’ve been eighty-five years old for fifty years.
I live in a time when medical advancements are coming at so fast a pace, no one can keep up. There are cures for almost everything now. Almost.
I was actually kind of looking forward to dying. I wanted to see my beloved wife again, who had passed away when we were both in our seventies. I wanted to know what was on the “other side” of this earthly life. I wanted to be free of the aches and pains of old age.
When my memory started to go, I got scared. Alzheimer’s disease is a horrible thing. It robs you of your memory, of your children and grandchildren, of any joy in life, until you are nothing but a shell of your former self, sitting in some nursing home in a wheelchair because you’ve forgotten how to walk.
The very thought filled me with dread.
So when a clinical study began, asking for volunteers to test a new medication that was supposed to cure Alzheimer’s, I took the plunge.
And it worked! Lord in Heaven! It actually worked! After only three injections, my mind was as sharp and my memory as clear as when I was in my twenties or thirties. Better maybe.
No, better, definitely.
As time wore on the memories of those in the trial got better and better until we could remember every single moment of our lives, from the trauma of birth, to the pain of our first tooth, to the first day of kindergarten, to our first kiss, our first broken heart, our first paycheck, the first fight with our parents. Every single thing that had happened to us was available to us.
It was a miracle.
It was such a miracle that there was a rush to put this drug on the market. Such a rush, that long-term studies were deemed useless. It worked, so why withhold it to those who so desperately needed it?
They should have done the long term studies, for as it turns out, the drug had some unexpected side effects.
For example, it did nothing for other conditions a person might have. Diabetes, COPD, arthritis, macular degeneration, muscular sclerosis, post-polio syndrome – well, you get the picture. A person still had all the aches, pains, and conditions that he or she had before taking the drug. But, by golly, our memories were sharp!
It was only about five years into the study that researchers discovered yet another side effect to this wonder drug. The participants in the study didn’t seem to get any older. If your body was eighty-five, it stayed eighty-five. If your body was ninety, or a full hundred, your body simply stayed there.
Or so it seems. It’s been fifty years since my eighty-fifth birthday, and I’m still eighty-five. I still have crippling rheumatoid arthritis. I’m still diabetic. I’m still in pain every day of my life. My bones ache when it rains, and my bum knee still gives out when I climb the stairs. My macular degeneration is such that I can’t read any better now than I could when the study began.
Even now that most conditions have largely been wiped out among the general population, they’re still alive and well among those of us who took the Alzheimer’s drug.
I don’t live at home any more. When the side effect of living came to the attention of the researchers, they rounded us up and put us in various nursing homes across the country.
I’m not sure how many of us there are, but quite a few.
I live in Shady Acres, just outside of Chicago. It’s a nice enough facility I suppose. My son and daughter used to come and visit, but they’ve both passed away now. It creeps out the grandkids to come see me, so they don’t bother to visit. It gets lonely talking to the same old people every day, especially after fifty years and we’ve all heard everybody’s stories a million times.
Rumors swirl around like we were in high school though.
One rumor is that some people in their thirties and forties have taken the drug, trying to stay young forever. Hmmmpf. What foolishness that is! Trust me, living forever ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.
Another rumor is that they’re trying to find a way to kill us without harming us. I mean, nothing violent, for that would be cruel. I’ve heard they managed to kill one old gentleman in San Francisco, but he only stayed dead for fifteen minutes. When he came back to life, he was the same age as when he had died, and still had all his attendant miseries. Only now, he was blind too.
There is talk that using the guillotine and immediate cremation might work, but so far they haven’t got a volunteer to try that. After all, what if your ashes came back together and you became alive again in your grave? I shudder to even contemplate that.
Luckily, they can’t force us. There are laws about things like that.
Of course, the use of the drug has been suspended indefinitely. I’ve heard the scientists are still working on a cure for Alzheimer’s that doesn’t have all the side effects, but so far, no luck.
Maybe that’s for the best, in the long run. At least at some point a person with Alzheimer’s will pass away and their misery will be over. For those of us who took the wonder drug, our misery lasts forever.
In Norse mythology there is a tale about a bird in the land of Odin. In Odin there is a mountain, one thousand miles square. Every million years this bird comes along and sharpens its beak on the mountain. When the mountain is finally worn away, that, to eternity, is only one single day.
From the looks of it, I may still be around when that happens.