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Excerpt from On the Origins of Joy Boy's Chasm
How Nuntius regained his old self; how he learned that man will soon molt like lobsters; and how he perceived the negative effects this would have upon his life
The unforgiving hardness of the compact molecules in the concrete steps pressed into Nuntius’ vertebrae in no less than five places. As he lay he felt as if his muscles had been disconnected from his brain, unable to move, whilst he baked like a pancaked frog on an Arizona highway. He felt the skin on his forehead heating up like a flapjack on a greasy, backstreet diner grill. With each passing minute his delivery was becoming later, and he was sure that he was going blind as the sun rays pierced through his closed eyelids. And while closed, before those eyes passed blurry passages of light, while into his ears entered the foggy sounds of honking horns, loafers, high-heels and cap-toes, and into his nose wafted drafts of fat, salty pretzels and dirty-water dogs. In his hazy paralysis he tried to figure the amount of time he had been lying there – was it closer to a minute? – or closer to 10 minutes? Had it been an hour?
It was a dreamy, cloudy, lightning-lit stormy sea tempest inside his head when a soft, beaconing sound drifted into his right ear, accompanied a moment later by a familiar scent which triggered an electrifying jolt that proceeded to course through Nuntius’ comatose body. He popped his eyes open, and his pupils dilated instantly, filling the space in his sockets as the bright sun shone directly down, and he squinted. The sweet scent grew stronger and Nuntius rolled his head over to the right to see the source: a copy of the International Herald Tribune.
Somebody had carelessly tossed it onto the sidewalk next to where he was lying. Nuntius reached over and picked it up. It was opened to the Health and Science section, and Nuntius read the first headline: Science is Warming to Intimations of Immortality. The blood inside of Nuntius began racing through his body as he read the news, darting through his veins and arteries with such vigor that he thought he might burst. He was propelled to his blades on the sidewalk, and continued reading the article as he began to blade:
The upper limits of what we thought to be the cellular life-span – about 120 years – will be shattered in the 21st century when medicine will have advanced to the point at which every 10 years or so, people will take a regenerative dose of ‘stem cells’ that can restore the various organs.
Nuntius paused from the reading to look up as he crossed 52nd Street, simultaneously concocting in his head a story as to why his delivery was so late. He took a sip from the straw at his shoulder, felt his pulse beating rapidly, and looked back down to the paper as he bladed on:
These stem cells, the basic building blocks of life, will build new heart and lung cells.
“Amazing,” Nuntius said to himself, looking around in excitement for somebody to share the news with. He took a right on 50th, and continued reading:
‘We will molt like lobsters’, replacing tired old cells with vigorous new ones, predicted Mr. Hasettine, a prominent scientist who once headed the pharmacology lab at Dana Farbes Cancer Institute in Boston, adding, ‘This is the first time we can conceive human immortality."
“Incredible,” Nuntius said aloud, folding the paper in two and stuffing it into his backpack as he continued west. “Man, these stem cells are going to be the most precious item man has ever known,” he thought to himself. “But wait, I’m screwed!” he went on. “It’s going to be just like with those insurance policies! All this great technology, and all it does is keep screwing me! These things will be so expensive that only the rich will be able to afford them – and they will live on, forever young. Flashing, at 180 years old, their comely, 25 year-old physiques, as if flashing some new coattails from Barney’s. And the poor, oh the poor! The wretched, the weary, who wear their rags today, will be wearing their sick, oozing, virus-infected bodies tomorrow! Soon after, hospitals will begin shutting their doors, closing up shop as they will no longer be making a profit since their sole clientele will consist of poor people who can’t pay their bills. They will live on the streets, as no landlord will rent to them unless they pay the full year’s rent in advance, and they will have no doctors, no diagnosis, no hope, while the members of the Forever Young Billionaires Club will be wading through their sea of decrepit bodies. Oh, this is bad,” Nuntius thought, entering his delivery destination at the World Wide Plaza. “This is bad.”