– So I am a primitive man who does not understand your … progressive relationship, I admit that, said the man unwillingly, just so that he could continue his wandering in this definitely unpredictable future. There is something else that I am obviously not able to understand. Way before your partner interrupts us, you mentioned that you are 50 years old. Truth be told, for the standards of my times, you look no more than 30, the same age as mine, and your girlfriend does not look older than 18 for sure. I imagine this question will sound primitive to you as well but how is that possible?
The girl laughed.
– Darling, will you explain to him? asked her partner, showing no interest as she was walking away.
– Of course, he answered. Indeed I am 50 years old and my partner is 41. Skin aging is effectively treated in the last 30 years thanks to the discovery of the responsible enzyme.
– The mitochondrial complex II, said proudly the woman as if she herself had made the discovery and sat on a grey armchair that had just showed up from the floor.
– Correct. The mitochondrial complex II. The enhancement of this specific enzyme’s activity with special cosmetic creams, pills and radiation treatments has led not only to the preservation of youthful skin but also to the reversal of the aging process.
– If you like, I could give you some of this … magic cream, said the woman again. Imagine how many young girls you could have in your bed, back at your time, if you look again like 20 years old!
– No, thank you, answered the man. I have a wonderful wife who loves every single wrinkle of my skin, I wouldn’t like to disappoint her by disappearing them.
The woman tighten the muscles of her chin without saying a word and apparently annoyed looked towards the big window.
– So you stay young until your old age? he made the most contradictory question he had ever asked in his life.
– Exactly, answered his descendant. Our skin is preserved young until our very last day. People with sagging skin and wrinkles are a rare sight in the big cities.
The man tried to imagine a world with no old people and, much to his surprise, he did not like the idea. He had never really thought about it but he realized at that moment that old people’s look is a sweet reminder of our short yet exciting lives. Every wrinkle on a person’s face is what is left behind by all the worries, the joys, the cry, the anger, the laughter, a result of countless emotions, every mark is a story, every cut is a memory. They are the marks of time but also of life itself, the life of each one of us. These people that have their stories written on their faces did not exist anymore. These faces had no place in a society that accepts nothing less than perfection.
– It seems that along with the forests you drove old people extinct too, said the man joking but sadly at the same time.
– Yes, we did, answered the woman. Forests, old people and babies.
The man was surprised.
– Babies?! I am sorry, I don’t understand.
– Babies. What exactly you do not understand? No woman that lives in the developed society gets into the process of birth anymore. Alas, many of them don’t even get into the process that is necessary to get pregnant in the first place, said and laughed with bitterness.
The man was still staring at here, looking totally lost.
– What my partner wants to say is that there are couples nowadays that agree to have a child together without having any actual love interest for each other. They agree on the common raising of the child, they might even live together due to economic reasons, but nothing more than that. Given the fact that they only need to supply the sperm and the ovum and define the exact age of the offspring, there are many who only seek for the right match in order to produce a perfect successor.
– I am afraid I might need a bit more clarifications on the matter, said the man who once more was listening about inconceivable things.
– There are of course still couples that are interested for each other and decide at some point to have a child together. Then they follow the usual procedure: they provide the sperm, the egg and if they want they fill in the questionnaire regarding the sex, some characteristics that is possible to control in advance such as the eye color and of course the age. In that way, they can have for example a 13-year-old teenager, blonde with blue eyes. That is exactly how my parents requested me, said the man and smiled. However, the corresponding genes for several characteristics have not been defined yet and the only way to control them is the proper selection of the other donor of genetic material. In addition to the appearance, these couples pay a lot of attention to the intelligence, which has not been put under control yet as well, so they do not proceed to any agreement before they confirm the high IQ of the candidate parent first. The offsprings are produced in the laboratory and they grow in special capsules, replicas of a female uterus. When the embryo reaches the desired age, which happens quite fast thanks to the acceleration of cells’ maturation, it is disconnected and delivered to his parents. The appropriate for his age knowledge is of course already imprinted in his brain while he is in the laboratory.
– You see things in this section have also been simplified. Women don’t need to suffer anymore during pregnancy, birth, not even during the first years of the child’s raising, said the woman and got up from the armchair. My partner and I are expecting our first offspring next week. A young boy, 15 years old with black hair and eyes like amber. I think he will be excellent and will match perfectly in our family.
– Jesus Christ! screamed the man surprising the couple. Have you lost your minds? You order children the way you want them, children that you meet only after you have made sure that they are grown enough not to bother you with their needs and you are happy that you will become parents in that way? You won’t be parents, you won’t be a family. You will be just roommates with a teenager who will leave this house before 5 years pass because he will want to stay alone. There will be no connection between you!
The man apparently outraged was walking nervously up and down in the room literally pulling his hair. This was the drop that spilled the glass. He could not any longer pretend the unconcerned guy from the past who does not understand the new order of things. He had to react, he had to wake up in some way those people standing in front of him.
– You have gone completely mad, he continued his unstoppable assault on the couple that was now staring at him. You destroyed the trees, the most beautiful and strong gift this earth has ever given to us, you killed so many people as if they were annoying cockroaches and you were least bothered as long as you, the “chosen ones”, had enough oxygen to live. Live?! Oh, the irony! he said throwing his hands in the air. What kind of life is this? A life that you want to sterilize from pain and ugliness, from troubles and worries. You don’t want to watch yourselves growing old because you are afraid that there will be nothing left for others to love when your pretty face is gone. You don’t want to feel life growing inside you, you deny the wonder of birth, the true meaning of family because you don’t want to suffer the troubles of raising a child. Your fear of decay and pain and your desperate try to avoid them has turned you to the worst beasts. Can you not see it? shouted the man and grabbed them both from their shoulders, shaking them.
– Don’t you see that you stop living? Pain and decay are part of life. How are you going to appreciate the joys if you don’t live through sorrows? You don’t simplify life, you make it flat. You make life a long easy walk. Life is not a walk. Life is full of experiences, good and bad ones. Life is the world around you, the people, the animals, the plants, life is knowledge, love, compassion and you cannot see and feel all these if you live in a … showcase. Each one of you has built a showcase for themselves and you stand in there waiting for others to come by and admire you. Don’t you see that? he asked one more time squeezing hard their arms.
– Let me go! screamed the woman and pulled away. You don’t know what you are talking about. You have gone mad, not us. Look at yourself. Look at you yelling for no reason. You’ve lost your mind. Look at us. Do we look like we need any of these things you mentioned? I don’t give a damn about the animals, the plants, love and compassion. Yes, I want to live only the good experiences, never get hurt and stay young forever and yes, I want nothing more than to be admired. This is the life I choose and it’s mine. You cannot tell me how to live my life.
The woman stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind her. Her partner hadn’t spoken a word since the man’s outbreak had started. The man now was on his knees holding his face in his hands.
– There is no hope, he mumbled.
His descendant kneeled next to him, put his hand on his shoulder and told him:
– Come with me.
The man followed him. They went down to the garage and got inside the black jeep.
– Where are we going? he asked.
– To find your hope.
The man was not sure how long they were traveling but it was quite a while for sure. During the trip he was observing all he could see outside the car window impatiently. Everything was colorless and monotonous, the grass at the edge of the road was scarce while every now and then the enormous, ugly oxygen generators were coming out of the ground like giant mushrooms. People in the streets were between 10 and 30 years old, no more. He could not see any younger children or old men. They moved away from the residential area and at some point the jeep turned left into a narrow country road. The man could see from afar an open space with wooden cabins and colorful tents. When they reached close enough, the descendant stopped the car and turned off the engine. It was a small settlement, put up roughly by human hands. Young weak trees were planted all around the settlement. People were dressed in colorful clothes and most of them, men and women, had long hair. A couple came out of a tent, holding each other tightly and the man leaned and kissed the woman tenderly. Two kids, around 5 years old, were running with a cloth ball while a puppy was chasing them breathless. A woman came out the cabin on their right, holding a baby in her arms and immediately after an old lady followed with a feeding bottle filled with milk in her hands. In the back yard there was a fat caw and three red hens were clucking right outside the window of the nearby cabin. A hand came out the window and threw some food making them stop. He turned and looked at his descendant puzzled.
– Get out if you want to talk to them. They are the … savages who still live like primitive people, as my partner says.
– They are normal people, he said with admiration and slowly started to get himself together and regaining his hopes.
– As it seems they are normal and we are the savages after all. It is the first time I come here myself. I had heard about this settlement but I was … afraid to visit it. It does not look so bad though.
– Ha! No, not at all! This is what I am talking about. This is life! What you see right now before your very eyes, this right there. Do you believe me? he asked him.
– I do. Your outbreak before helped me realize that we do something wrong. Maybe I want to live all the things you described. I do not want a perfect life. I am not sure yet what I want. I think I might even want that, said and pointed towards the settlement. So, do you wish to get out?
The man’s worries and his anxiety about the progress of humanity were finally settled. He felt satisfied by what he was seeing outside the car window but also by the man who was sitting right next to him.
– What I see is enough. I wish to return to my time machine, he said and touched his descendant on the shoulder. Promise me though that you will come back here one day. And you will talk to these people.
The descendant smiled and it seemed to the man that it was the first time that he was seeing him smile truly.
– There is no need to promise you that, he said and turn the engine on.
The rest happened fast. They reached home, they said goodbye, the man got in his time machine and after yet another strong shaking he was back to his basement, back in 2016. He opened the door of the machine full of joy. Everything was the same as when he left.
– Fatso! he shouted and scared the choppy rat. I am back! I am back Fatso and you wouldn’t imagine the things I saw and learned! The world … he stopped for a while, well the world doesn’t turn out in the best way. But there is still hope, yes, there is still hope!
He ran to his desk and grabbed a piece of paper.
– Now it’s my turn, said and sat down.
He dipped his grandfather’s pen in the ink and started writing enthusiastically:
Welcome to the future!