I've read stories of a different world, a world that didn't function like it does today... I've tried to piece together all I have learned, all I have read and all the different stories from the old timers, the real old timers that is. From what I have come to understand it started in the beginning of the 21st century. A breakthrough they called it, a medical marvel, and the key to immortality. It was a chemical miracle provided by a drugs company called Icarus. In a strange turn of events they discovered a way for people to continue living forever, but at a terrible price. It was 2023 when the human trials began, they promised a way to live up to 50 years longer. As soon as the trials were over the product went to market and humanity universally embraced this procedure. Oh sure, there were the usual crowds of crazy religious people and tree huggers that thought mankind wasn't meant to tamper with the natural order. But they were a small minority and overnight, mortality rates dropped around the world. People stopped getting older and for a while everyone gained back years they had lost. The senile became focused, the frail became strong and the rich became young and richer.
It wasn't long until the problems started. The human trials didn't see the side effects since they weren't long enough, but there were side effects... it was 2058 when the first reported case was found. Someone discovered dead with the most horrific look of terror on their face. A gaunt face that looked like the owner hadn't eaten for months, thin fingers and a frame that didn't seem strong enough to resist a gust of wind. At the time it wasn't known what the cause of death was but as the bodies started piling up it became clear. Every single person found with the similar symptoms had taken the procedure, had made their claim on immortality. At first there was mass suing, people wanted to get the honey while the company still had money. Class action law suits and death threats became the norm for the people at Icarus. But they hadn't been idle during the last 35 years since they introduced the "medicine". They had found the problem internally and had also come up with a way to fix it. The problem was that the procedure required an extract from a live subject. And the extraction took... something... from the person they took it from. It was almost like the years gained to one person was stolen from someone else. There is of course more medical explanation, you can even find it easily today, even after all the government bans, some operation in South Africa or in a village in China or where ever, the place doesn't really matter. Only the bodies in the mass graves are left to tell the dead's stories and even those are soon buried.
Before the legislations came into place, more and more companies began investing in Icarus. It looked like they had risen from the ashes of their failure and were once again coming strong. It's amazing how fast people were willing to forget that their loved ones had died horribly if it meant them and their children could live forever. The class actions were dropped as a condition of ever using their products and everything seemed rosy again. They offered a great deal for people to willingly sell years off their lives. It attracted exactly the people you would expect, the poor, the uneducated, and the ones that didn't have a choice or if they had a choice, they didn't really have a choice... if you know what I mean. What can a single mother of two, who just got laid off, do when the food slowly disappears from the fridge, or that guy who played football in high school and then blows a knee, all they see are the dollar bills dangling in front of their faces? You know that old saying, youth is wasted on the young... They have no idea how much their youth is worth right now. The lawmakers finally caught on and outlawed the practice of, literally, selling your body. But there was too much public pressure, everybody saw themselves being one of the lucky few to live forever. So they had to leave some kind of loop hole. And there are those with even fewer rights than the poor. The solution, I'm sure, seems inhumane to you now but you'd be surprised how quickly it was embraced by the world. Convicts, that was the answer. They were basically already slaves, working in factories for cents by the hour. And who really cared about those that had already chosen to not be part of society? Not the majority of people who whole heartedly voted in favor of it. And so it became semi-legal again. It was against the law to go out and try to entice the convicts with promises of wealth and freedom but if a prisoner felt like they wanted to repay their debt to society, they were quickly transferred over to a minimum security prison and after a few years were released. I mean, how dangerous was a man approaching 80 anyway, they were no real threat to society. And those that didn't want to sign up as "donors", quickly learned the consequences of their refusal. Prison guards that were on the take did their best to 'incentivize' the inmates. Stabbings and dead bodies quickly followed a refusal to cooperate. It seemed like the guards were almost on commission, selling someone else's years to whatever company could pay the most. When even that became outlawed, the wealthy moved on to even less empowered prey. Brain dead people, the mentally challenged, they even experimented on corpses. It was all quite distasteful and an ugly period of humanity. While striving for immortality, millions died prematurely so that some could add a few years to their lives. One could almost say it was ironic if it wasn't inhumane to use that word to describe the deaths of all those people.
According to the weather report on September 7th 2112 it was a cold and rainy day when congress finally passed the "Right to Life" bill. No human could be harvested, at least that's what the law said. The rich played by another set of rules of course, they paid, they schemed and they lived... Longer and longer... It became almost like an inside joke, the wealthy only got younger and younger but without evidence that fact alone wasn't enough to stop them. They would say "Oh that's just good genes" and smile with a face that was twice as old as it looked. Only the eyes conveyed the age, those windows into the soul showed the ugly nature that a young face was trying to conceal. And for those that couldn't afford a butler to send to the crack houses and underpasses, a new industry emerged. "Harvesters" they were called. The people that did whatever it took to get the bodies. During a few years there was a remarkable cleanup of most major cities. Homelessness dropped to record lows, the politicians all took the credit at first, citing this new policy or that attempt to "clean up the streets". But it was the harvesters that did the cleaning. It was when the homeless were gone that the kidnappings started. At first it was older people, the ones that had already had a full life and that weren't missed. But as it became harder and harder to get those bodies, and because an old person didn't have as much to give as a younger person, the kidnappings became more and more frequent. People were afraid to leave their homes at night. You didn't want to be snatched up by some harvester and wake up 90 years old as they sucked the life force right out of you. It was less time than you might think that the unthinkable happened. They started going for children. When the first person that was identified as a 2 year old child turned up, that really shook the nation into action. It took the body of one dead kid to bring a country back to life. With a speed that was uncharacteristic of Washington, new laws and task forces were formed and kidnappings were met with brute force. They didn't completely disappear but they stayed at, what now seems bizarre to say, reasonable levels. Even the wealthy couldn't get away with their "good genes" any more. The world settled back into its rhythm of people dying when their time was up. The "immortality bubble" had finally burst. That was until a Japanese company unveiled their resolution to the "aging problem". Humans grown in tubes. They claimed they had successfully grown a human being from stem cells, completely free of any conciseness. They felt no pain, fear, hope. They were nothing more than a resource. After the enzymes were extracted from them they were cremated and any renaming nutrients were looped back into the system as sustenance for the next generation. Just like that, humanity changed... We transformed ourselves from humans to vampires, living off the energy of lesser beings. As supply increased, the price dropped. It became commonplace to get the procedure, soon you couldn't find a single person that looked older than 30, unless it was a person on the bottom step of societies ladder. And they walked around with their age as a badge of shame, feeling both the pity and loathing of the young and rich people. Whenever someone felt a bit old, they could just schedule a time and come back 10 years younger. Entire new industries spawned from this, and many industries died as well. People held off on having children since there was no rush any more, why have a kid in your natural twenties or thirties when you were just starting to enjoy life if your body would be just as good in 10, 20 or 30 years? Life slowed down all over, as people had a real shot at immortality, the world grew more cautious. Young men weren't as eager to sign up for a war to pad the pockets of older men, since they themselves could live to be older men. The ones that started out life with a handicap dreamt of moving up in the world, and with infinite time, surely there was a chance to find your own place somewhere.
60 years passed in this way, every day millions felt it was time to get younger and went in for their procedure. Walking in as a 30 plus and emerging as a 21 year old or an 18 year old. The more time you took off, the more it cost. But people saved and saved, and with the world a more peaceful place, less and less resources were devoted to conflicts. Crime took a natural down swing as well since laws quickly changed so that convicts are not eligible for the procedure. In a 10 year window, violent crimes became almost non-existent, no one wanted to risk their everlasting life to steal some cash just to be able to buy a nicer TV or a better stereo. It seemed like we had finally grown up, as if the world was becoming more decent to each other. This, of course, is not in our nature and could not last. It only took a little to shake the balance that was resting on the edge of a blade. The news that finally came after those 60 years of tranquility changed everything. The "livestock", the home grown humans, were alive. In a yearly inspection it was found that several of them had brainwaves that matched actual thought. No one knew how it happened or why but there it was. They were alive. No longer just meat used for our own consumption, like cows were up until the early 21st century. They were alive, and by law had the same rights as everybody else. Hell, if they ever got out of there they would be entitled to sue the company that had made them. Again the world reacted and the procedure was shut down. All avenues were exhausted now, there was no magical trick left. People spent years trying to figure out how the lab grown people acquired sentience but they never found out. Some other scrappy startups started experimenting with extracting what they needed from animals but the results to the humans foolish enough to test was... disturbing.
And so it's been 113 years now since the last person, officially, got the procedure. Of course there are ways around this, I mean the technology isn't dead. It's just outlawed, under the penalty of death. As you might expect, the world didn't take the news well. Wars erupted within weeks of the news. People behaved like animals, just because they suddenly had the same deal as all of the generations before them. And that's the end of it, that's the story of how we reached for the stars but ended up in the mud. My wife and I moved away from the city we lived in as violent crimes skyrocketed again. We now live out in the middle of nowhere, just the two of us, supporting ourselves off the land and dedicate our time to learning more about our world. There is so little time to learn all that we want to learn, there are so many things yet to discover. But there are ways around it... We've found a way around it. It took me quite some time to find a place where the rest of the world wouldn't intrude, a place where we could do what we wanted without prying eyes, a place where we could set up a small lab and learn how to do the procedure ourselves... We're just missing one thing now and we'll soon have that... In about 3 weeks it's time for my wife to deliver our child... our 5th child. And soon we will have more time again...