“We’re going to have to let some of them die,” Richard said. He was over sixty years old, but he looked no more than thirty.
“We have the resources to keep dosing them with the pill,” Wendy said. “They all believe that we can keep them this way forever.”
“But they’re wrong!” Richard argued. He drooped in his seat.
They were in the tallest building in the world, owned by AgeDrop. This meeting room had mostly been unused, because most of the higher-ups saw no need to stay at the company. They were all wealthy billionaires, traveling the world, forever young. They didn’t care what happened to the business now, now that things had really gotten out of hand.
But it wasn’t just the corporate building that was losing control. Everybody was losing control. Human beings weren’t meant to live this long. The cities were all overcrowded, starvation was shriveling entire countries, and there was hardly any fresh water left on the planet.
The population had reached twenty billion, and threatened to keep growing. It was because people had stopped dying.
It had started twenty-five years ago. It didn’t feel like twenty-five years ago, but it was hard to say if that figure felt too long or too short. On the one hand, it seemed that things had gotten too crazy on Earth for only two and a half decades to have passed. On the other hand, it felt like time had frozen once everyone had stopped aging.
“We have to kill them,” Richard said.
“Which ones?” Wendy asked.
“I don’t care. Anybody!”
They were sitting on opposite ends of the long table in the conference room. Richard thought that it was symbolic, showing how much space they had here. Downstairs, in the lobby, you could scarcely move it was so crowded.
“We can use the side effects,” Wendy said. “We thought it was a problem at first, but now it’ll really help. If anybody misses a single dose of AgeDrop, they’ll wither and die. Simple as that.”
“They only have to skip one pill,” Richard nodded. “Killing them will be easy.”
He’d seen it before. He’d seen it many times, during testing. Back then, they had thought that they were geniuses, perfecting a pill that could stop the aging process. Then they’d realized that the body became dependent on it instantly. If you didn’t have a pill every single day, aging would be accelerated.
And it accelerated a lot.
Richard remembered the first time that he’d seen it, down in the lab. That was when the company was only fourteen scientists, excited to write up some patents and get some funding. They had been working out of a basement, in a university, and one of their test subjects had started… changing. He’d stopped taking the pill after having repeated doses for a week, and he’d started coughing. His face wrinkled and contorted. His hair turned gray in a matter of seconds, until it started falling out.
Within forty-seven seconds, he was dead.
But people didn’t care. It was incredible, but people didn’t care. The AgeDrop pill was so cheap to produce, so cheap to buy, that everyone wanted that dependence, gladly. Why would they need to live a long life when they could live a life eternally young? And when their money ran out, and the pills stopped coming every morning, they would die in a minute.
Anything is better than aging, isn’t it?
“We should let the best people live,” Wendy decided. “As for the weak… the unintelligent… the criminals… We can restrict their access to the pills, and the rest will take care of itself.”
“If we restrict pills in any area, it would be anarchy,” Richard mumbled. “They need those pills to live… They’d murder each other over them if we cut the supply!”
“Good,” Wendy said. “Overpopulation is the problem that we’re trying to solve, isn’t it? We need people to kill each other. There hasn’t been a decent war since this company first started, because the whole population is more worried about appearances than anything else now.”
Yes, that’s right. AgeDrop had ended all of the wars. They had brought about world peace. And still, everybody was miserable, because there weren’t enough homes to fit the population into anymore. It was a miracle that science had managed to keep up, genetically modifying crops to produce more food, and creating filters to make ocean water drinkable. Antibiotics had improved, because infections and diseases spread at ten times the rate in these conditions.
Richard looked out the window, out at the city, out at the endless gridlock on the highways surrounding them.
“Who are we to kill so many people?” he asked.
“We have no choice,” Wendy said. “Earth was never meant to sustain this many people. Before we started, it was believed that the planet couldn’t handle over twelve billion. We’ve almost doubled that, and it’s rising exponentially. Something has to be done.”
“We should send them to Mars,” Richard grunted, rubbing his eyes with his knuckles. “There must be something we can do besides a… a slaughter!”
“There is no cure. Their dependence is unbreakable. It would take years of research to find a way to reverse the effects of AgeDrop. We don’t have years. Every inch of this planet is going to be packed like sardines by then.”
“People will starve to death before that happens.”
“They might,” Wendy said. “Or they might not. People are already living on scarce resources, but GMOs are keeping up. And once we can filter ocean water on a larger scale—”
“Why do people still want to live?” Richard asked. “Living on such pitiful rations… Spending hours commuting to work in this insane traffic… And unemployment is through the roof! If we raised the price of the pill…”
“We could raise the price of the pill,” Wendy agreed. “It’s the only thing that we can do. Those who are unemployed will have to face the consequences.”
“I don’t want to kill them,” Richard whispered, shaking his head.
“We have to kill them,” Wendy told him.