Chapter One: Year One, Part One
"I don't believe one grows older. I think that what happens early on in life is that at a certain age one stands still and stagnates."
- Thomas Stearns Elliot
Mist Poisoning. When the doctors told me those words, I knew. I knew it was over. Of course by then my right leg had been paralysed from the knee down for a year. And I had been blind in both eyes for nearly a month so I had a pretty good guess I was dying. The disease caused cells to mutate, slowly shutting down nerves in the body from the bottom up, like the ones that are connected to my legs and eyes. After a while, you'd get this nifty ability to stop feeling pain.
By the time they diagnosed my condition, it was already too late to treat. It wasn't like there was a cure either, so it was more about buying time with therapy and medications. I had, according to the specialists, about three weeks left to live. Time suddenly became as precious as family to me. I couldn't imagine living without it. Given my situation, I don't think I can.
For the first few days, I had resigned myself to living without my sight and had accepted my death. But from out of the blue, my family and I received a sponsorship from a government affiliate for bionic implants. I went through emergency surgery and got a new pair of robotic legs and a new set of mechanical eyes wired into a hard drive and processor in my brain that reworked the information into optic nerve signal. That same hard drive is responsible for what you're reading now as well, as I can record thoughts as texts straight from my mind to it. Of course, I was still dying. The Mist Poisoning can't be cured. But I can at least see the faces of my family and friends in my final days.
And that brings me to my predicament. As I sat in my clean, white hospital bed after the surgical transplant succeeded, enjoying colours after a month of darkness, I had expected my family to be the first by my side. My wife, Joan, and my beautiful adopted daughter, Leila. Of course, that was not the case. If it was, I wouldn't be recording like this.
Beside me sat a bald man in a black suit lying against a chair, wearing sunglasses despite being indoors, soaking in the bright, white fluorescent light of the room. Everything about him screamed of 'government agent', like the ones in those classic 2D spy films I watched as a kid.
The entire room was empty saved for the two of us. No nurses or familiar faces. Just me, the bald man-in-black, and the beeping of my ECG. I could not tell if the man was awake since his sunglasses covered his eyes. So I just stared at him, pondering my next move. There were no buttons to call for assistance either. No windows to open or curtains to draw. Just a small, white, clean, empty hospital room with a door in the corner.
Suddenly, the man spoke in an expected gravelly voice. "Milton Jones?" His lips barely moved. The man's body, still as a statue in his seat.
"Yes?" I answered to my name. That's right, I haven't introduced myself yet. Milton Jones. I'm thirty years old this year. Geography teacher.
"Son of Stella and Jason Jones? Grandson to Sally Sparrow?" the man asked again.
"I am." I wanted to ask 'What is this?'. But I felt that I would find that out eventually in this strange conversation. Everything felt like a dream, the whiteness of the room disorienting for my newly reacquired eyesight. The smell of alcohol disinfectant punching into my nose.
"My name is Agent Matthews from the East Forum Administration," the man introduced himself. "Our files says you're not a man to beat around the bush with so I'll get straight to the point. We need your help," his voice was as rough as sandpaper, if sandpaper had a voice that was.
"The E.F.A?" I replied, slightly surprised but still collected. "What do you need my help for? Learning how to write better introduction speeches?" My mother always said I was a lot like her father. Witty in the face of dangerous and odd circumstances, never knowing when to keep my mouth shut. I'd like to think that I'm just really stupid at conversation-making and very good at pissing people off.
Agent Matthews sat silently, my ECG beeping the seconds away. Breaking the silence, he said, "I did not expect this."
"Witty banter," the man took off his sunglasses, revealing his jade green eyes. "For a man on the edge of death, you have a sharp sense of humour."
"Gotta have a little whimsy in life," I replied, adjusting my seating. I don't know what for though. Ever since the poisoning spread to spinal nerves two months ago, I stopped feeling any pain or discomfort in my body. Perhaps it was just muscle memory, doing stupid things. "So, what does the E.F.A wants with me?"
"Straight to the point. Okay. Long story short, the world will end in about a hundred and thirty-nine years and you are the only person capable of stopping it. Possibly," he paused, as if to emphasize the word possibly. "So we're offering you the chance to be cryogenically frozen for that period of time."
Wait? Cryogenically frozen? "As in, like, an ice pop? For over a hundred years?"
"What in the world would make you think I'd do something like that?"
"It's actually a pretty good deal."
I cut in quickly. "How? How in the world could being frozen for a hundred years be a good deal?"
The agent leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. "You're dying."
"You have less then two weeks to live," Agent Matthews said without pause, preventing me from replying. "You can't feel it right now because your nerves are all fucked up, but your body is breaking apart. You have a daughter. She's ten. You'll never even make it to her wedding at this rate."
An anger rose up within me. I could not feel heat, but I'm sure I was boiling with it. Gritting my teeth, I replied, "What's your point?"
"My point, Mr. Jones, is that you have at best, fifteen days to live. Aside from the ten or so days we'll take for maintenance and possible emergency situations, we're giving you a chance to live the remaining five at any time of your choosing in the next one hundred and thirty odd years. Who knows, maybe there'd be a cure in that time. But in any case, you can be there for your daughter's graduation, her wedding..."
"Her death?" I cut in.
The agent took a deep breath and sat back up straight. "If you so chooses, yes."
Time was precious to me, I knew that the moment the doctors diagnosed me with my own death day. But now, it was a commodity. It had a value of quality and quantity, and I'm being given the chance to trade one for another.
Agent Matthews continued, "The freezing process has been refined. We can guarantee a ninety nine percent success rate. The only thing that can prove lethal to you are freak accidents and your own illness. You won't even feel a thing. In fact, once you go under and wake up, it'll be no different from a nights sleep."
My mind felt blank, stunned, unresponsive to my thoughts. Hazily, I slowly pulled away the blanket that covered my leg. A new bionic leg, covered in attempted skin coloured plastic, moulded to the shape, but not the look of a human leg. I instinctively tried to wiggle my toes, but found none, as my feet was replaced with just a rubber piece resembling a shoe.
I asked, "Did you guys do this?"
"We paid for this," the man replied. "But in general, yes, we did. The leg's a little off in colour and too solid in looks, but the eyes turned out pretty good."
From his shirt pocket, he took out his glass phone. He tapped on it and slid his index finger in a zigzag pattern across the screen and the back of the phone slowly turned reflective. He held up the device to my face height.
Faced with myself in the mirror, I realized just how pale my skin was. My short, messy hair, usually maroon, had half of the strands greyed out. My eyes, once faint teal, was now dark black, the lens of the implanted cameras adjusting faintly where my pupils once were. Their movements were unsettling, but proved they were real, functioning bionics, and not just my eyes miraculously healing themselves.
After staring at my reflection for what felt like hours, I asked, "What if I refuse your offer?"
"You go on with what's left of your life," he replied matter-of-factly. "And we'll still let you keep your implants as well, if that's what you're really asking. No catch. We're asking you to do something no one else has ever done before in the history of the human race. At least, not for as long as you are about to."
Matthews lowered the phone and I met his gaze. I sized him up. A well-built but not too muscular man, the agent had the rough and rounded head you'd see on stereotypical soldiers. His jade eyes being the most prominent of his features. They were piercing, but honest and strong. Like that of a teacher. I thought the man would have made a fine educator had he not chosen his current profession.
I said, "Okay, I'll take it."
"Five days in a hundred and thirty-nine years to the end of the world. I'll take it." I paused, my mind suddenly remembering something important. "To go of course," I added the take-out joke. No point facing the apocalypse without some witty one-liners.
Author's Note: Hi everyone! Thank you for reading 139 Years to the End of the World. This story is a re-upload of the original serial on JukePop Serials that ran in 2015. If you like what you've read, you can help me continue writing simply by liking, reviewing, and sharing this story and others that you enjoy. If you want to do more, you can support me on Patreon or check out my website where there are links to buy the self-published versions of my stories which includes additional materials and edits not found here.
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