Author: Xiaochen Su
Wolfgang wiped off dripping sweat from his forehead as the bell rang across the factory to signal the end of the working day. Thus marks the end of Day 153,168 at work, just another busy day repairing industrial equipment, like many days before and many more to come.
Wolfgang doesn’t feel particularly tired. Despite being over 500 years old, he feels like he still has the energy of a 20-year-old. Or so he thinks, if he can still recall what it was really like when he was still 20. It has been too long. Maybe he is glamorizing a youth that he hasn’t experienced for centuries.
But Wolfgang does feel bored. He knows that the state’s decision to invest in continuing his life by centuries shows his skills remain valuable. But no matter how many machines he repairs in the name of helping his country, he cannot help but feel that he is becoming just like the machines he is fixing, a tool to get things done, not a unique individual to be cherished.
His endlessly continuing life has made him numb to human emotions. Too many family members and friends, of less value to the state, are allowed to die of natural causes, as humans normally did before the advent of manmade immortality. Watching them age and perish has made Wolfgang unwilling to open up to a new crop of humans in his midst. What’s the point, he wondered, if he will just outlive them all?
He is not even interested in making friends with the new crop of humans anyways. It isn’t just that conversations are difficult with those with much less life experience than him. Most of the youngsters these days are just so lacking in ambition. They know that the skilled jobs will go to the immortals who have been doing the same thing for centuries. So why try hard? They’d rather enjoy the fruits of the immortals’ labor and skills, going through a regular life of growing up and getting old.
Wolfgang doesn’t blame the passive attitude of today’s youngsters. If he was born after the age of immortality, he too would have just given up on his studies and enjoyed life to the maximum. It sure beats having the government dictate that the sole purpose of your still being alive is to provide your skills for an eternity while new generations don’t even see the need to take over from you.
As his life grew longer and longer, he became less and less in control of it. Fellow immortals have tried to kill themselves, only to be brought back to life. The state stipulated that they are just too valuable to die, and medical technology is too advanced for any grisly means of death to be fatal. Wolfgang has already resigned to his fate, knowing that he cannot die even if he tried.
“See you tomorrow, Wolfgang.” A coworker blurted out as they both walked out of the factory’s front door. See you tomorrow indeed, Wolfgang thought, and the days after that, until the end of human civilization.