tick tock

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
in a future where people are living longer, the clock still runs out on everyone.

Submitted: March 28, 2016

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Submitted: March 28, 2016

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 My footsteps echoed off the marble floor as I made my way through the care facility. I glanced at my watch, which also displayed the date. Twelfth of October, the year two-thousand-one-hundred and sixteen. It was my twentieth birthday, but I had no chance of getting the day off. I was due in class in about two hours. I thought about the dark lecture hall, then looked out the window at the flawless day waiting outside and my heart sank. What a waste of such a gorgeous day. First on my list of many errands, though, was visit my grandmother. I reached the front desk and smiled politely at the girl in the nurse’s uniform.

“Addison Montgomery. Here to see Commander Rose Montgomery. I’m her granddaughter,” I said, flashing my Identification Card.

She looked something up on the computer, then nodded in approval. “Have a seat. The doctor will be out to speak with you shortly.” After a plane crash took my parents when I was seven, my grandmother was pretty much all I had left. She retired from the navy and stepped up to raise me on her own. I felt awful that I hadn’t visited much in the last year, but college had taken so much of my time. I was thinking I should make more of an effort to come by on the weekends when a doctor came into the waiting area. She was young and tall with long, red hair and she was donning a white lab coat.

“Are you the next of kin for,” she glanced at a clipboard, “Rose Montgomery?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’m sure you already know your grandmother is unresponsive to the longevity pills.”

There was a time, long ago, when people would succumb to illnesses and disease, even at young ages. Then the Longevity Pill was created. People could take this pill once a day and it would keep them young and healthy for decades. It doesn’t work on everyone, though. In rare cases, the patient is “unresponsive” to the pill. These poor souls are doomed to a life of aging as nature intended, like they did in the old days.

“Yes, I know.” I replied.

“Usually, patients who are unresponsive don’t have any immediate threats to their health, so they still have some time left,” the doctor explained. “In your grandmother’s case, however, I’m afraid there is an immediate issue. It’s called cancer.”

I remembered learning about the disease in history lessons at school.

“You mean like people used to get in the old days?”

“Yes. It’s very a very aggressive one that has spread through her blood cells. This is the reason we called you. I’m afraid we’ve caught it in its late stages.”

Suddenly, it was like all the warmth had been sucked out of the room.

“Are you saying she’s dying?”

The doctor looked at me with sullen eyes.

“She has a few months, at most.” I swallowed through the lump in my throat.

“There’s something else,” she added. “I’m sure you probably already know this, but I would be remiss if I didn’t bring it up. Unresponsiveness to the longevity pills is genetic. One-hundred percent inheritance rate. Do you understand what that means?”

I did. The pills wouldn’t work on me, either. “Yes,” I replied.

“Do you have any questions?”

“Yes. Can I see her?”

She nodded. “Follow me.”

I followed the doctor through a brightly lit hallway until we reached room 212. I walked in and saw a small, feeble figure laying on the bed, wrapped in a wool blanket.

“Grandma?” I asked. She didn’t answer.

“She may have some trouble hearing you,” the doctor said.

I approached the bed and spoke louder. “Grandma?”

When she turned and faced me, I almost didn’t recognize her. It was like she had aged ten years in one. The distinctive green color of her eyes, however, confirmed that it was her.

“Addie,” she said weakly.

“How are you feeling?” it was all I could think to ask.

“I feel about as good as I look,” she replied. The doctor and I chuckled at that.

“I’ll leave you two alone,” the doctor said softly, closing the door.

I dragged a chair over to the bed and sat.

“What are you doing here?” my grandmother asked.

“I wanted to see how you were, that’s all. Has the facility been taking good care of you?”

“Oh, yes,” she replied, bitterly. “I’m getting waited on hand and foot.”

I smiled. This was somebody so independent, she used to scoff if somebody so much as held a door open for her. Do I look so delicate that I can’t lift a thin, wooden door?

“That must drive you nuts,” I said.

“There’s nothing to do here, Addie.”

“It can’t be that bad. On my way in, I saw a game room full of stuff to do. They have TV’s and computers-”

“That’s what I’m supposed to do with my time now? Play games? Do you know how much I used to get done in a day?”

That was then,” I said. “But this is now. You’ve done your duty for your country. Now, you get to relax. I know it’s hard-”

“No, you don’t,” she said, sharply. “You don’t know. But someday, you will.”

She turned on her side and faced me, looking me dead in the eyes.

“Did they tell you the pills won’t work on you either?”

I nodded.

“I would do anything, Addie, anything, to keep you from laying in this bed one day. Slowly losing what makes you you. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.”

“That’s not true. You’re still you.”

“Am I? Laying here all the time, needing everybody’s help for every little thing. Watching each day pass me by, one after the other after the other. Is that me now? If it is, I wish I would have died on the frontlines when I was your age.”

I shook my head, about to object but she cut me off.

“Don’t tell me not to talk like that, it’s the truth. Those who die young are lucky. They don’t have to watch themselves wither away.”

“But-”

“But, nothing,” she snapped. “That’s what I’m doing, Addie. I’m withering away. I’m disappearing. In this new era where people are living well into their hundreds I’m dying at sixty-five. It isn’t fair and it doesn’t make sense, but it’s happening. And all I keep thinking is, what am I leaving behind after I go? And you know what the answer is?”

She reached over and put an icy hand on my cheek. “It’s you,” she said. “You are what I’m leaving behind. You’re my legacy.”

She took her hand back and faced the wall again. Suddenly, the door opened. A nurse came in.

“Rose, would you like to sit in the quad for a while?” she asked, her cheerful tone cutting through the tension in the room. “It’s a gorgeous say outside.” Suddenly, she looked at me, concerned. “Sweetheart, are you alright?”

I didn’t understand why she was worried, until I caught sight of my reflection in a mirror hanging on the wall. Tears were streaming down my cheeks. I didn’t realize I had been crying.

“I’m fine,” I replied, mopping my face with my sleeve. My voice came out more strangled than I meant it to.

“I’m too tired to go outside right now,” my grandmother said. “Check back later, please.”

The nurse nodded before turning back and shutting the door behind her. For as long as I could remember, my grandmother had been like a rock. Unshakable and strong. But that wasn’t her anymore. Now, it sounded like she was giving up.

“You’ve changed,” I told her.

“No, I haven’t,” she replied. “I’ve just stopped caring enough to lie, that’s all. That’ll happen to you, too. When you get older.”

Then it hit me. As I looked at her laying there, grey and bone-thin, I realized I was looking at my future

. “Addie, if you learn anything from me, I want it to be this,” she said, suddenly. “Hours turn into days, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months and months turn into years faster than you will ever fathom. Every single second is a gift. Figure out what you want to do and do it, because the clock runs out on everyone and it’s going to run out even faster for us.

I wish I would have died on the frontlines when I was your age.

As I walked out of the care center, I couldn’t get what my grandmother said out of my head. I had known, of course, that one day I would die. Death is an inevitability for everyone. But now I had stared my future in the face. Slowly losing what makes you you. Nothing could be worse than that. That wasn’t the only thing ailing me, either. I had always thought I had decades ahead of me, but what if I was wrong? There was no magic pill that could keep me healthy for decades to come. I could wake up tomorrow morning and find a lump in the back of my neck. What then? Suddenly, I felt dizzy. The hallway I was walking down began to spin.

When I had woken up that morning, I was looking towards the future with excitement. I found the idea of not knowing what the next twenty years held to be thrilling. Now, not knowing what the future held made me sick to my stomach with fear. The future was no longer a bright, vast horizon. Now, it was dark and filled with monsters hiding in every corner, just waiting to take me out. The overwhelming feeling of dread stopped me in my tracks. I realized then that I had been circling the same floor of the care center over and over again. It was eighty degrees outside, but my arms were covered in goosebumps and I was shivering. My eyes fell onto a sign on the wall, hanging above a door. ROOFTOP ENTRANCE. I glanced quickly to my left, then to my right, just to make sure I wasn’t being watched by any doctors or nurses. When I confirmed the coast was clear, I sprinted through the automatic door.

I climbed the numerous flights of stairs until I reached the roof. It was deserted, apart from a flock of birds perched on the perimeter of the rooftop. I walked out towards the edge and looked down. Cars were speeding down the expressway below me. It would be so easy, I thought to myself. All I would have to do is jump, and there would be no more worrying about how I would die or when. I could go now, on my own terms. I wish I would have died on the frontlines when I was your age. I put one foot on the ledge, then the other, glancing upwards for one final look at the sky. Shutting my eyes, I took one last breath and filled my lungs to full capacity. I wish I would have died on the frontlines when I was your age. I clenched my fists, and jumped.


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