By P. A. Wilson
Rupin Griffith is immortal. Not that being immortal is anything special. Practically everyone is nowadays. Ever since the immortality serum was created and patented back in 2658, it’s caused a host of problems. That’s Rupin’s opinion, anyway.
His hair is slick and black and eases along his skull like oil. This is on account of the hair products he uses, all of which have been recommended by the telecom embedded in his ear. He thinks his hair is attractive. He thinks it will attract that special woman who was fashioned just with him in mind, an Eve that will make his life a paradise. That he has not met her yet does not concern him, for she is out there somewhere.
His eyes are pale grey and round like twin moons beaming. They are innocent eyes, which is to say, they have the light of foolish optimism for his future prospects still burning brightly within them. His chin juts out and forward proudly, and his nose is puggish and squashed, as if he had come out the loser in a brawl. He did, and it is a matter of pride for him. Not that he lost, but that he was man enough to get into a decent scrap in the first place.
Jobs were guaranteed in 2702, the year Griffith was born. He is what is now called middle-aged, deep in the four hundreds, but still as fresh as any twenty-year-old. He works as a cashier in a hardware store, but he rarely shows up to work on time and calls off sick as often as once a week.
Now his telecom buzzes with notifications, and he taps his ear to receive them. News. He has subscribed to all the news channels, and the buzzing is so frequent that it is as if a swarm of bees follows him wherever he goes. It is a comforting sound to him, that regular hum. On a slow news day, the silence nearly drives him static.
“The vote was 8:7 today to repeal the Unwanted Populations Act, and the activities of the Reapers will end after a final day of eliminations. Due to this act’s controversial nature, it has been put to a vote annually whether to repeal it.”
Rupin swears under his breath. He is an avid supporter of the Unwanted Populations Act, which was meant to curb the excess population of the Earth that was the direct result of the immortality serum and its effect on human beings. People had no intention to quit procreating after the immortality serum became cheap and commonplace. The easy availability of abortion and birth control pills did not faze those who believe lives were worth preserving. As a result, cities teem with people, and all the food has to be grown and processed off-planet. There was no countryside anymore, no fields, no plains, nothing.
Rupin believes that some lives are worth saving, others are not. For example, that woman divorced for the tenth time that begs outside the supermarket for transfers of currency to her account. Sometimes she even pleads for food to satisfy her hunger. Once he ate an entire bag of chips in front of her, just to spite her. The woman had been furious at first, like a cornered animal, but then she had wept like an infant. People like that are not worth a smidge. They are only worthy of being fodder for Reapers. That’s Rupin’s opinion, anyway.
Reapers are those tasked with eliminating those of the population considered useless to society. Once they figure a person has had as much life as they deserve, they shoot them with a poisonous dart that counteracts the immortality serum in their blood. They then age rapidly until their heart fails from the stress on their bodies.
It is brutal to watch. And Rupin has watched it, on his telecam. This orb follows him around and projects the shows he prefers to watch on whatever surface is available. He has a blank white wall on his house where he likes to sit on the sofa and watch. The Reaper Cam is one of his favorite shows. He watches it every Sunday at 11:00 AM.
He’s not one of those church-going, God-fearing, natural lifespan advocates that he sees on the telecam. The Reapers leave them alone because they consider them no harm due to their short life spans, and besides, the weapons they are issued only work on those who are immortal. The Unwanted Populations Act explicitly forbids anyone to kill them because, despite being undesirable, they are “beneficial to the environment.”
Rupin squeezes his earlobe. “Call work,” he demands. He is going to call off sick again. He called off sick yesterday, but it’s not like they can fire him. That’s a thing of the past, a concept taught in history books. He only goes to work when he needs money, and he’s a thrifty man. Junk food is cheap, and he is cheap, so he never has a shortage of money.
After he calls off sick, mustering up a convincing cough, he goes into the kitchen. Its Sunday, 10:46 AM. Almost time to watch the Reaper Cam. He takes out a bag of chips that rustles crisply as he pulls it from the cupboard. They are bright orange, almost neon, nacho chips. The same that he had eaten in front of that despicable begging woman. Pulling it open with one sharp thrust, he jams his thick fingers into its depths.
Reaper Cam is Rupin’s favorite show. The best part is the look of total shock on the person’s face when he or she finds out they are looking into the face of a Reaper. Next best is the part where they beg, claiming they have not lived long enough. As if. For people with nothing to contribute to society, their lifespans cannot be short enough. It is good to see people get what they deserve.
That is Rupin’s opinion, anyway.
It is 10:59 now, and Rupin taps the telecam, which springs to life and projects an advertisement on the wall for a new medication that is meant to combat depression. Bringing his orange fingers to his mouth, Rupin begins crunching on nacho chips. They crumble and flake on his pale lips, making him look like he is wearing crumby lipstick.
Then the projection flickers and a Reaper stares directly at the screen, as if staring directly into Rupin’s eyes. Rupin gives a delighted shiver. The Reaper is tall, at least six feet. He wears all black and holds a dart between his fingers.
“I am sorry to say that today is the final day that immortals will be eliminated,” Marcellus, the Grand Reaper says. His owlish brown eyes are void of mercy, as any executioners should be. “Clearly this is a terrible error and a huge step backwards for humankind.”
Marcellus steps on his hoverboard gracefully. Such a feat is not easy. Few could look as dignified on a floating board, but Reapers always look fearsome.
Last week, Rupin had watched them take down a man in Rupin’s own neighborhood. He hadn’t known the man, but he was honored that the grand Reaper would deign to visit the ugly part of the city Rupin lived in. There was always so much noise outside, that Rupin had gotten into the habit of plugging his earphones into the telecam to block out most of it.
“The final immortal that will be eliminated lies behind this door,” Marcellus says.
Rupin’s telecom beeps frantically in his ear. He groans and rises from the sofa, pressing his earlobe again. Dragging his feet, he heads for the door. Opening it, he says, “Who do you think you are? I’m busy, you…”
His voice trails off as he looks into the face of the Reaper, and his words catch in his throat as a dart pierces his heart.
It is good to see people get what they deserve.
That was Rupin’s opinion, anyway.