He woke up thirsty. That was often how Roger started his day. It beat the alternative. In his younger years he woke up sick from the sea. You get used to it, he found out. Now the feeling was so far back in his life he’d forgotten what it even felt like, in the same way one feels long after their headaches cease. He woke up before the sun, although his eyes still squinted open. He fumbled for his water bottle to find it empty. He sighed, forcing himself to the upright position, throwing on a tattered shirt and not bothering with bottoms.
His supply had run low and he didn’t care to waste the warmth when it wasn’t necessary. Clothing longevity was, understandably, last on mankind’s lists of preservation. Roger checked outside the porthole at the ocean. Calm seas reminded him of growing up in the flatlands.
People who weren’t there didn’t seem to understand the appeal, but then again you wouldn’t unless you witnessed the sunrise. A flat horizon made for one so perfect you’d swear it was a cartoon. Roger smiled at his boyhood memory before his quench reminded him of his priorities. Strapped securely both to the wall and the nearby shelf was his purifier.
It was essentially an empty hourglass. The top was only slightly transparent through what looked like a small net. Roger believed the feature was cosmetic. He didn’t know how the device worked, but he was pretty sure the key to portable desalination wasn’t a nanonet. He freed the purifier from its constraints, and held the railing tight as he rose to the upper deck. Despite the settled sea, Roger couldn’t risk breaking the purifier.
Always good to keep routine.
There was also worry of any underwater beasts that may be curious as to what that floating thing is. The floods brought some unknown aquatics closer to the shallow end of the sea. He attached the purifier to a rope and carefully lowered it into the water. As it dipped beneath the waves it bobbed back and forth, like a boxer on the ropes, in the salty sea. When it filled, he returned it to the boat. It whirred and the strength of the device rattled his hands. It’s getting old, Roger thought, unlike me. Just his luck that his race was able to achieve a nearly immortal lifestyle, just before time ran out on a clock that ticked behind people’s ears.
Roger didn’t necessarily have to eat, but it was better if he did, and water had become more necessary than prior to the procedure. When he first underwent the procedure the doctors warned him that diahurretic beverages such as soda, coffee, tea, etc. Would have a larger effect on his “advanced” body, and alcohol would be out of the question. He saw no problem with it. Water was his main beverage of choice anyway. When the floods began Roger didn’t even notice. He was in the Atlantic during that time.
Roger fished for a living, but it was just a ruse to give him a little peace and quiet. Time enough to read and collect his thoughts. He sailed out in mid-march, intent on returning to Boston’s Pleasure Bay in a year’s time, but didn’t find land until all the way to the Sudbury Reservoir. After docking in this foreign land, people explained to him the devastation. He asked what was going to happen next, to which no one had an answer. Scientists who had spent so long screaming about prevention had hoarse voices for treatment. Mankind was lost, and Roger was done waiting for an answer.
What little he had was now underwater, so he traded the goods he’d caught for some tune-ups and upgrades. He didn’t expect to dock again. The years drifted away from him like the shoreline, and some serious sea storms combined with the corrosion of time gave him some intense scares. Even with his procedural enhancements, Roger could still drown. He eventually tried to find land, but to no avail. It was difficult for him to believe the entire earth had flooded, but a compass gave him little aid, so he just floated about.
Once, he saw what looked to be land, but instead turned out to be a field of skyscrapers, poking out of the ocean like trees too close to a lake shore. As he weaved through the Industrial forest, he saw one building finally give in to the tide beneath it, toppling over and creating a titanic wave that nearly capsized him. In the beginning Roger would occasionally see another ship in the distance, but as the years, perhaps decades (there was no real reason to keep track of time) passed they became more and more infrequent.
The sun rose in a red hue across the horizon just as Roger’s purifier finished its cycle. He unscrewed the top of the hourglass and dumped out an enormity of salt, then greedily tilted his head back, sucking gulp after gulp down until it drained. He felt better, but needed a refill. He screwed the top back on and began to lower it into the deep blue sea. It was then that he noticed how deep the hue was.
Looking back toward the sun he saw a lighter shade. Terror struck his heart as he quickly tried to reel back his only lifeline, but the beast beneath was much too fast. A gigantic tail-fin flew out in front of him, rocking his ship and knocking him down. His grip released and the purifier sank. He scrambled at the rope, which flailed as it was pulled down, darting this way and that, almost as if it were teasing him. If it had been a more jovial experience Roger would have likened the sight to one of a rapidly burning fuse. His eyes settled on the end of the rope as it came rushing toward him. He made one final leap for a blank sheet of reasons, and missed.
On the deck, looking up toward the sky that matched Earth’s new ground, the rope waved goodbye. Roger jumped to his feet and bent over the grab rails just in time to see the purifier dip underwater. He sped down the deck, grabbing a barely used Jacob’s Ladder and tossing it over the side. Hesitation held him in position briefly as a feeling of vertigo hit. Fuck it, he declared and dove over the side just as the water he plunged toward lightened in shade. The salt water hurt his sore eyes and soon he realized the importance of not swallowing. His body only sank about 10 feet, but the strength he lacked made it difficult to rise back to the surface. Once his head was above water he gasped and it felt as if his lung were filled with splinters. Floating about he saw off in the distance the beast shoot above the water.
It was one of the new ones. It looked like a bird, fins wide and sharp spikes on the end, large tailfin wagging behind like a devil’s tail. It was a bright red, reminding him of the fictional pheonix. Its neck was long and head small and bald like a vulture. The strength combined with its wing-like fins helped launch it so high in the air it looked like it had leaped over the sunrise. Roger was too distracted by its beauty to prepare for its heavy descent, and when the tidal wave engulfed his vision of the hot sun in the sky, he swam desperately back to the ladder and hung on with all he had as he was pushed into the boat. Getting hit was the easy part.
The hard part came when the water subsided, and like a suction cup it pulled him back with it. The rope ladder settled at about a 45 degree angle from the boat by the time the ocean’s pull had ceased. Roger looked about for the purifier; but it was no more. Without context, you wouldn’t think it had effected him that much. He slowly climbed back up the ladder, pausing a few times due to his water weight. When he finally pulled himself over the railing and safely back on the dock, he collapsed.
Roger lay there, more curious about how much time he had rather than worried. He had forgotten what it was like to fear his inevitable demise, but he knew he would suffer. He would suffer longer than his wife did when Boston went underwater. She was probably asleep. They said the first wave came in at four in the morning, and she was far from an early bird. Had she lived, she likely would have divorced his sorry ass, and he knew it. Ever since the procedure he had changed.
They drifted from each other philosophically. Maggie believed it was wrong, and there was evidence to that fact in the recent news reports of immortal uprisings. Suddenly there were mysterious disappearances of high ranking officials and known immortals were taking their place and passing laws that took years, sometimes decades to reap any sort of benefit.
Roger argued that this was how progress was made, but Maggie was concerned about her kind, worried about their suffering for other’s gains. But the procedure was getting cheaper by the year, and many groups were working on age reversal. She didn’t care. Her stance was firm, and Roger felt her hatred. He hoped she escaped the flood. That was no way for a woman like her to go. Although eventually everyone went, so what did it really matter how? He licked his lips, absorbing sea salt and wasting precious saliva. Other possible survivors hadn’t entered his mind until that moment.
Up until then the most he thought was good riddance. Now, though, thoughts of salvation could only be achieved via two paths; being saved and finding land. It was more the former than the latter he was concerned with. What good was land without drinkable water? Survivors were bound to have a purifier. Maybe more than one. Maybe Roger could make some sort of deal with these mythological saviors. But what could you offer without resources and rarities? What counts as currency in an anarchic world?
The mere thought of interaction with strangers was exhausting to him. Had it been long enough for a new language to come into being? Roger wondered. It was either beg, borrow or steal when it came down to saving his own life, though. He licked his cracked lips again with saliva that was noticeably thicker than before. The sun was high in the sky by this point. Roger moved below deck to slow down his inside’s evaporation.
He sat on his bed, staring at the shelf where his holy grail once sat. Beneath it were a slew of books he’d read an indeterminable amount of times.
Is an immortal life worth it?
Taking the pill: so to speak
Hybrid Marriage: How to raise a child with an immortal parent
A Life Less Lived.
He stood and picked up A Life Less Lived. Maggie loved this one. Written by Walter Cronkite (not the same). He was the only immortal on record who felt he’d made a mistake.
Walter underwent the procedure at 72, only to come home to a wife overcome with grief. Walter’s only son had been murdered by a burglar, along with his live-in girlfriend. Shortly after, Walter’s own wife suffered from heart failure in her sleep. Stricken with inconsolable grief, Walter no longer had the solace that his pain and loneliness would soon end. He became the face of the mortality movement. Maggie and Roger frequently argued over the content. She called him heartless for shrugging it off as merely a series of unfortunate events.
At one point she became so flustered she demanded Roger open his chest to prove it wasn’t empty. Despite Roger’s rapid dehydration, a tear tore through his eye and onto the book. He tossed it across the room. He went through multiple scenarios in his mind. He didn’t want to die in his bed, but he also didn’t want to die in some pathetic, one in a million search for other people, presuming they’d even share. He ran back to the upper deck, grabbing his spyglass. One scan, and if I see no one, then I’ll jump, he thought. He didn’t want to go out any way but his own.
Through the spyglass he scanned his surroundings, slowly spinning around in baby steps, searching for his only possible salvation. Nothing. He wasn’t surprised. Roger’s mind went back once again, this time, to the story of Colby Taylor, a young immortal thrill-seeker. He swore he’d be the first to travel the world on foot, but the African desert was far too harsh. Immortals soon learned that such a dry heat was as good as instant death.
They found Colby’s body shrunk and suctioned to his bones. He jaw open and his tongue shrunk. His eyes were shriveled and looked like dried gumballs some punk kid had desecrated the skull with. Roger shuddered at the thought of Colby’s final moments. Then again, since when did life become the sum of its parts? Didn’t the immortals creed that it was more than just the endgame? That final 1% never comes.
Suddenly Roger was dizzy. The seasickness he had grown so accustomed to was making a strong comeback, like bacteria adapting to an antibiotic. He laid down on the deck. His throat grew increasingly dry and his fingertips felt like sandpaper. His stomach churned and his heart ached. He missed Maggie. He also missed those city lights. The grounded stars so many dared to demonize with the phrase “light pollution”. The sun was so harsh and excessive, and the stars of the universe were just another reminder of our limits and ignorance. But a panoramic view of a well-lit harbor into a major city was welcoming.
It invited you to a world that mattered. That world no longer did, however, and Roger wondered if waiting for a rebuild was worth the time. He shut his eyes before the sun that was high in the sky with no intention to open them again. Had he the resolve of a mortal, however, Roger would not have given up. He would have jerked to his feet, determined to search until the mere act of breathing would scratch his throat.
He would put a deep impression of the spyglass in his eye, fighting his urge to throw up what little water he had left. In what would feel like his final moments, Roger would find a mountain turned island and steer toward it. He would fall unconscious before docking, but would wake up in a strange room nonetheless, with a tube inside him. He would have been explained to how lucky he was. How he was on the brink of dehydration.
He would be welcomed into a primitive society with modern tools made up of mortals, who worshiped him as a god. He would be the last man standing generation after generation, and become the biggest building block in human history. He would tell everyone of the importance of literally reaching for the stars. Colonies would be sent to orbit after a mere 500 years. Within a millennia Mars would become the planet next door. Mankind would have ascended to a new plane of existence thanks to the ageless man and his knowledge of humanity’s previous faults. Unfortunately Roger had not the resilience of a mortal. Fleeting life is the only thing that makes it so valuable. A tit-for-tat of the self-aware. So, with that lack of a desire to press on until you were pathetic, Roger shut his eyes and let his body decay rapidly in the sun, still proud. The last immortal on Earth.