Times have changed. Robert longed for a time past, back before the arrival of the Pill, when life was different.
Robert was consumed by a sense of guilt. As if it was his hand that had willingly torn the face of humanity apart, like some demonic God looking to take vengeance on mankind. His guilt fuelled his insomnia, which only made his mind race more, re-fueling his guilt.
The sad truth is, that Robert really was responsible for what happened to the world. After all it was he who had invented the Pill. Robert was the head researcher for the pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Ten years ago, Robert was heading up a team researching the effects of Oxychloride on the regeneration of body & brain tissue. They said it was for regenerating limbs that had been lost through cancerous diseases. It had the hopes of restoring life to all of humanity, ‘levelling the playing’ field so to say. World equality, and hence peace, was only going to be possible through allowing all countries and all men to have an equal chance at long and healthy life.
This is what Robert told himself day in, day out. The morality of his job had always weighed on his mind, especially when young. It started like any student studying medicine; he had wanted to help the world. His young ideals meant something to him and he thought he could use his intellect to create equality of health in the world. It was these childish ideals that actually lead to the discovery of the base reaction.
Robert was like any cliche medical student. Naturally gifted in intelligence and slightly socially awkward. However being the most chiselled and personable gnome in the garden of awkwardness, he had no troubles making the most of his university days.
“If you applied yourself more to your studies, who knows the difference you could make in the world Robert” his favourite teacher’s chants played through his mind. In hindsight, how naive that advice was, to fail to see the limits to science. Forever pursuing the unknown and the undiscovered, without paying any concern to the human application of this knowledge. For the sake of science man has split the atom, ignorant to who, where or why it is being split.
With time, Robert’s social inclination declined and it was final year when he really started pursuing the regenerative stream of medicine. Seeing unlimited potential in it, he knew how much humans were still prisoners to disease and that life without disease would be one step closer to a world of peace. Robert didn’t ever take this though to it’s extremes. He saw the eradication of disease a force of good, never questioning what Life would mean without Death.
Pfizer snatched Robert up before he had graduated. They started subtle and honest, taking him to humanitarianism events that they sponsored, cheating his brain by playing to his heat. Any doubt Robert had in working for a drug company was demolished by his first year of work in the RND department. He travelled overseas to 12 countries in 12 months, helping local researchers with local epidemics. This year of life taught Robert many things, but most of all it reconfirmed that his purpose in life was to push mankind forward one little step by using the regenerative sciences to eliminate disease.
Robert gazed out his window. The city was alive as always, this hadn’t changed, but the advertisements had. There used to be a purpose to life other than extending it. Now every billboard was for the Pill. People found it difficult to think of much else. What use was a house if you were only going to live in it for a limited time. Cars where only marketed on their ability to keep you alive. Every threat to human life was being systematically reduced to a percentage that could be tolerated. The purpose of Life had not become to live, but to keep living. The Pill had changed everything.
Sometimes Robert thought maybe the effect would have been different if he were able to keep the production cost down. If the Pill had been accessible to everyone it might not have caused the polar separation of mankind that it did. He knew if he had spent only a few more years he could have found a more efficient means of production and that could be done on mass for all. However Pfizer needed a barrier to replication, furthering the science to make mass production easier would reduce the value of the Pill, ergo reduce Pfizer’s profits.
“If this, if that” Robert tried to justify his lack of courage in times past. He could go on wishing things had been different but it was no use. There were now two types of people in the world. Those who could afford the Pill and those who could not. Gods and Men.
The Gods only cared for power and pleasure. They had secured a holding in society that enabled them a continual supply of the Pill. If they bought the right cars and kept away from Men then they were guaranteed an eternal life.
The Men were the rest of us. The ones who based on their social standing would never save enough to get the Pill or if they did it would only be enough to regenerate a handful of years. Despite the futility of extending a life of misery for a few years, many Men still did it. They wanted to know what it felt like to be a God, even if only for a brief moment.
The reality was that it didn’t feel like anything. Robert walked out into the street. The night was cold but alive with movement. A bunch of Gods walked past, eyeing Robert cautiously as they did whenever unsure of someones race. They passed, high on consumption, laughing not because of emotion but because they were free from fear. Fear was the reason everyone bought the Pill. Despite mankind’s advances over the past decade of Life, we had not yet understood Death. Robert had originally though that it was a love of Life that led us to crave immortality, not seeing that it was really a fear of Death. This fear took on new heights for the Gods. They had finally grasped Life through the Pill, but this only made them more fearful of falling. Like a rich man locking his wealth away in vaults, the Gods seldom used their unlimited Life in fear of losing it.
Amongst the category of Men, there were the younger ones who in their life would become a God but had not yet reached the financial equilibrium required to sustain it. Robert saw these Men all around him, they stood out from the crowd of faces, isolated by their contempt for their current standing, blended with a face of diligence. In a world without immortality, what we call diligence today was called greed. Greed in old times was the excessive desire for things. Excess in itself, is only possible when time is of the limit, with immortality comes the destruction of excess; too much is no longer possible. Diligence was now the human trait above all else; to be diligent was to ensure your own survival — immortality. To be diligent was to preserve life. To be diligent was to ensure the continuation of your species. All things that in times past were attributes of a good social being, one that ensured that good and survival of the community, because being herd animals, we required cooperation to achieve immortality — through reproduction. Artificial immortality had restructured human morality.
The street veered Robert away from the excess consumption of the city and out through east side. The electric billboards for the Pill became fewer with every stride. There was no use in advertising down here. Pfizer had tried to win the hearts of Men, to sell them the dream of eternal life but Men did not buy it. They hated the Pill and what it has done. They would have hated Robert if they had known it he was. When he couldn’t sleep he walked this way; not out of choice but because the pain he saw here was less frightening than what he saw amongst the Gods. Despite the poverty and suffering, the people here were still human.
The buzzing neon blue sign yanked Robert out of his aimless wandering. It wasn’t that he hadn’t expected it, as these Life clubs where everywhere, but the regret of the sign burned deep into his soul. The days when he reached the depths of his bodily despair he went into one of these. Which one, it did not matter. They all provided the exact same escape from reality, an escape that was in part a gamble of Life.
Turning away from the blinding sign Robert walked further into East side. The advantage of the Pill was that poverty looked much better than it had ten years past. Those just in reach of immortality no longer saved to buy houses. For the middle class, to get a continual supply of the Pill required a 50 year downpayment of sorts. And then of course they must continue working to keep the balance high enough so that the supply continued.
“There is only one true God and He shall be your salvation.” a religious preacher’s voice pleaded through the cold night “Look up to the Heavens my fellow Men, for He sees all and punishes with the swift hand of providence. The judgement is coming! Make peace with the true God now or suffer the same fate as the devils who call themselves by His name”. Religion was only around for Men, Gods saw no purpose in it. No religion had every promised immortality, so those who achieved it were above it. Men still clung to the hope of an afterlife. A place where immortality and peace were bestowed to all, not only those of power or wealth.
Robert was now far past east side. Life was truly grim here. Here Men tried anything to be a God. Naturally like any commodity there were the attempts of cheap imitations. Pill alternatives that sold on the idea that ‘Life is for all’. The lower grade Oxychloride that was made in street kitchens had the lasting hallucinogenic side effect . Men here lived high forever, in a constant euphoric state. Living only to please their bodily desires, like the opium dens of times past. But living forever here was the irony. Men overdosed on the cheap alternative hourly and if the dosage wasn’t killing them, the constant high drove them mad. Dead Gods were thrown in empty lots to rot; covered in powder only to stop the smell.
What drove Robert to despair more than anything else was being only a decade into the Age of Life, the worst was still to come. Like the fall of the Roman Empire, greed and excess would eventually destroy this civilisation of Gods. How it was to end, Robert could not say, but day by day, Pill by Pill he swore to watch and endure the torment he had unleashed on the world.