[This story is also available in the collection, It's Always the Apocalypse Somewhere]
"Hey, Mac! Great news!" Bobby Turner bounced into the room, his freckled face split in a wide grin. He held up his phone towards me.
"What is it?" I peered at the tiny screen. "I can't read that little thing. Why can't you kids just read newspapers like back in my day?"
"Come on, Mac," said Bobby, sitting down at the table with me, and sliding the phone over. "This is still your day."
I grumbled and chewed my buttered toast, and glanced down at the screen.
Immortality is Here! read the headline.
I scoffed. "Immortality."
"It's true, Mac. Read it." He reached out for my cup of coffee, but I swatted his hand away.
"You're not old enough."
"I'm ten years old, Mac. Geez. It's only coffee."
"That stuff'll kill you."
"You drink it."
"And look at me," I said. "I'm dying."
"But look at the article. Immortality is for everyone." He thumbed across the screen, zooming through the text. "Here. See?"
I scanned the article at the place where Bobby indicated. I read aloud. "Beginning today, a simple shot available at medical centers around the world will be all that is necessary. Doctors and nurses are standing by, on this most historic of days . . ."
I pushed the phone back across the table to him. "Bah! Sounds like science fiction."
"Oh come on, Mac. You gotta go."
"Oh yeah? Why's that? 'Cause I'm old?"
"Well," said Bobby, shrugging. "Yeah."
"Bah." But I smiled.
I put the last bit of toast in my mouth and chewed. Bobby and I stared at one another. When I had swallowed, I sipped my coffee and leaned back in my chair.
"Well?" I said.
"You want to be immortal, Bobby?"
"Of course I do," he replied. "Who doesn't?"
I put my hands together on the table and wondered how I could tell him. The things I'd seen in Europe during the Second World War. All that had gone on since then: Korea, Vietnam, Nixon, The Cold War, 9/11, Terrorism. So much terror. Who could stand to see it all the time? Until the end of time?
"It'll be great!" Bobby continued. "Oh you gotta do it, Mac! We can play chess every day, until like, forever!"
"Yeah. Can we? Can we? Can we?"
"Alright, Bobby. Slow down. Your mother said this was okay?"
"Yeah, she's going with some of her co-workers right after work. She said I should just go myself, but I want you to come with me."
"Alright," I said, standing. My knees and hips screamed as I stood. That would be fun, I thought, for all eternity. How many hips could a guy go through over the centuries? Or maybe they'd make them better and better until they eventually lasted forever, too.
"Just let me get my coat."
"So," I said, as we drove towards the medical center, "got any big plans for forever?" I looked over at Bobby, who was staring out the passenger window.
"Oh yeah!" he said, turning towards me. "I wanna go to Mars!"
"Mars? Why the heck do you wanna go there?"
"For the adventure! And think about it—now that everyone will be immortal, we can travel all over space, and when we come back to Earth, no matter how much time has passed, all our friends and family will still be alive."
"I guess so."
"Yeah, and I wanna be a pilot, too. And a race car driver. And a fireman, too. When I'm not racing or flying. Or on Mars."
"You've got a lot of plans."
"You bet I do!"
We stopped at a red light and I looked over at Bobby.
"You're not worried about life becoming boring?"
"Why would life ever become boring?" He looked out the window and then back at me. "I mean, look at it out there. It's amazing. And so big! You know I've never even been out of the country. I've never been almost anywhere. There're so many cities in so many countries all around the world. When I'm immortal, I'll be able to visit them all. Everyone will have the time to go everywhere and do everything and meet everyone in the whole world! Isn't that cool?"
The light turned green and I pulled forward.
"Sounds like you've got it all—"
I saw the guy at the last second from the corner of my eye. Heading right towards us, towards the passenger side door, towards Bobby. He must have run the red light.
I remember bracing for the impact, but not the crash itself.
I woke up on a stretcher, in the back of an ambulance. A couple of young medics were in the cabin with me. I blinked and took a long breath. One of them noticed I was awake.
"Hey there," he said, leaning forward. "Can you hear me?"
"You know what happened?"
"I, uh . . ."
"You were in a car accident. You're a little dinged up, but you're gonna be fine."
"Bobby?" I asked. "The boy?"
The medic looked down.
"Is he okay?"
"The guy who hit you," said the medic, raising his head and meeting my eyes, "ran through a red light. He got you right in the passenger side door. I'm afraid . . . I'm afraid the young boy didn't make it."
"Didn't . . ."
"Was he your grandson?"
"He didn't make it?"
"I'm afraid not. I'm sorry. We did all we could. The trauma was . . . too great."
"But . . ." My vision blurred. I squeezed my eyes shut and the tears streamed down my face.
"I'm sorry," the medic said. "Is there someone we can call for you?"
"But . . . he was going to do so much."
The medic nodded.
"We were going to get the immortality shot right now," I said. "He was going to do so many things." I made my hands into fists and banged on the frame of the stretcher. "We were going there, right now."
"I'm sorry, sir."
"He was too young." I began to sob. "Too young."
I sensed the medic stay by my side; my eyes were shut tight. I lay on the stretcher, body wracked by sobs, and wondered how anyone could want to feel like this—this agony—for the rest of time. This was just the last in a long life full of deaths and farewells and horrors and terror. I didn't want any more.
Beside me, the medic said quietly, "I can give you the immortality shot right now, sir. We have it here with us."
"No!" I howled. "No!"
[WP] Mankind is on the precipice of worldwide immortality. Tell a story of one of the last people on Earth to die.