The Ravages of Not Aging

[Today I worked on next week’s exercise for The Writers Studio workshop. The third-person narrator is supposed to be fond of the main character and less-favorably opinionated toward the other character. I didn’t write a complete story, but I’m giving myself a break today as StoryADay May is coming to an end and I’ve done a lot of writing to date.]

The doctor, or “Specialist Argent” as he introduced himself, stood in front of his patient as stiff as a lord awaiting a bag of gold coins, supplication, and a baldly-stated desire. He belonged in an ancient castle on a hill, not in the clinic, a cutting-edge facility among the few remaining stores open in the strip mall. The facade of the building was modern and out-of-place, and it was not clear patients wouldn’t enter through its crisp sliding glass automatic doors to find an interior in disuse and decay: an old sign cracked and leaning against a corner, old store racks storing pieces of cardboard and rat feces, floors and walls stained and ragged with cracks and holes.

The smartly-dressed and friendly receptionist, though, and beside him a diminutive robot, its duties at first unclear, were more than convincing enough that the clinic was from the future. The smart tile responded casually to expected appointments, their shadow of digital information climbing off the marble slabs of interior wall, rotating forward to lead the patient the last few steps, and finally onto the receptionist’s monitors, one facing him and the other facing the new arrival.Then they were further dazzled by the wall behind the reception as it filled with depth, color, and motion. The prepared introduction interacted with the new patient by reaching forward to magically pull out a sample of DNA from their body like a golden thread. It unravelled macroscopically in the open, lit up in various regions to suggest change, and coiled and shrank as a younger version of the patient was rendered before their very eyes.

It was why patients came here.

Specialist Argent was not in keeping with the hype. When he was in the room, what lay behind its walls could be the sludge of former patients, devoured by experiment, never to be heard from again, except for their ghostly howls from the afterlife. Specialist Argent wore his lab coat like armor; it was tight-fitting and tightly buttoned. He held his left arm up and a wrist display like a shield before him. He was, remarkably, inexpliciably well into middle age.

And Alexander trapped in this laboratory of hidden horrors, sitting meekly on the edge of an expensive looking bed in a space decorated and refined like a five-star penthouse accommodation, nodding as the doctor explained in monotone the three phases of treatment and the protocols Alexander would undergo, and not asking the obvious question about the doctor’s apparent age. Alexander at fifty, nervous like a lost student on his first day of university. He fidgeted eagerly and his excitement and curiosity belied his own aging, the grandfatherly roundness and glow only just pulling at his cheeks, around his eyes, his mouth. His hair handsomely receding and black in color with gray like fresh fallen snow only just sticking. He had worked hard to keep weight off, and what he had gained around his stomach was hidden well behind a nice-fitting dark gray knit shirt that covered the belt loops of crisp black slacks. A nice sense of fashion, even here where he would eventually change into soft clinic attire that would be his wardrobe for the next two weeks. He would have aged gracefully, naturally.

He had come to the clinic instead, like so many of a certain economic class were now in cities and suburbs in the developed countries. The $5000 deposit had made the treatments affordable for a wider segment of the population. Clinics were spreading rapidly, purchasing properties like strip malls at below-market values and transforming the area around them into heath-focused oases. Alexander had saved his money diligently in the five years since the first few clinics opened to the wealthy just a few years after successful human trials that followed a wave of breakthroughs in understanding and treating aging. He had led a financially ascetic existence to reach his goal.

The doctor finished his explanation abruptly. He stared at Alexander. Finally, he indicated the closet. “You’ll find in there clothes to change into. You can use the wallscreen for more information about what I just told you. We’ll begin taking samples this evening.” He turned on his heels and hurried out of the room.

Alexander did as he was told. He had worked hard to get here; there was nothing left to do but go along with everything. He had done his research. The clinic came highly recommended, the protocols were more widely disseminated, and the proof was in five years of before-and-after treatment results and breathless media coverage.

StoryADay May 2016 Day 28

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Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a writer and poet living in Tucson, Arizona. His poetry has been published in Impossible Archetype. His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey and Fairy Tale Review’s “Fairy-Tale Files“.