“Do you want to live forever, Aurora?” I ask her some time later. Recently, we’ve been talking a lot and I feel that things are slightly better between us, although there’s still something in the air that divides us—something called Genesis. I don’t want to think about it right now—Genesis isn’t going to go away and Aurora will eventually accept it.
“I don’t understand,” Aurora says. She gets nervous and sits down abruptly, showing me her bare back. It’s old, Aurora is old, but she looks good. She doesn’t know what I’m talking about. Without informing her, I gave her something we prepared at Genesis—something that isn’t available to the termites, only to me and her and a few other people. It slows down aging, pushes the cells to work harder and live longer. Thanks to this concoction Aurora feels good, even though she’s almost as old as me. She thinks it’s a matter of genes—and in fact her genes are good. She says her family is long-lived, and it is. So, as far as I’m concerned, I’m just building on her existing potential—I boost it. Aurora can live for about two hundred years, maybe even more if I work hard at it. Of course my goal is eternity, hence the question. Would Aurora want to live forever? Always. Always.
“Would you like to live forever and never die,” I repeat, stroking her arm. The touch of her skin still excites me. Even after so many years.
“For what?” Aurora asks. She lies down, covers her breasts. A pity—they’re really nice.
“So you can do everything the way it should be done.”
“And how should it be done?”
“If you were able to live forever, you’d have time to find out how to do everything just right.”
“Do you regret something? And why are you asking?”
“No, maybe—I don’t know.”
“Thomas, are you dying?”
“Every day, bit by bit.” I laugh, but I feel my throat tighten. I’m afraid, because I know that now my dying has been sped up. My clock is ticking at a frantic pace. My time, my precious time, is running out. I feel worse and worse, and neither Miran nor the others have any idea what to do with me. They had better hurry, because I’ll be really pissed off if I die.
“Thomas, I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.” She turns her face towards me, hugs me.
“Caroline,” I say, because I’ve told her so many times about the problem of time that I don’t want to repeat myself yet again.
“Oh, Thomas…” Aurora sighs. “It would be better to fix it now, today.”
“Today…” I repeat.
“Yes. Hurry up when you’re loving people, they die so quickly,” she says, quoting a local poet. They do die quickly, so true. I’m angry. I hate dying. Fuck, I hate it. Death sucks. There’s been too much death in my life. Too much. I do not have good genes, neither from my mother nor from my father. They were gone before I could give them time. Fuck me.
I went to see Caroline shortly after that conversation, as Aurora had advised me to do.
Caroline doesn’t live in the Ark. She chose a village, some complete shithole. I barely managed to get there—gravitational cars have trouble on the road, especially since the roads are largely ruined. Almost no one travels outside the Ark because there’s nothing there, so there’s no real point to repairing them. We have rail, which takes termites where they want to go.
Caroline looks bad. She’s very skinny. I’m sure she sometimes goes without food. It’s no surprise. Our plants—genetically modified and fast-growing—drove out everything natural. Almost nothing will grow in the village fields, but people like Caroline are still struggle to bring in a harvest. Clean food, uncontaminated by Genesis inventions. Their struggle is like trying to turn back a river with a stick—it’s clear that our GMOs will win the battle, but these people delude themselves into thinking that their plants can survive. They won’t, neither the crops nor the people. They will not survive if they don’t join us.
Caroline is fifty six, but she looks older than me. She’s very pale. She’s skinny. She dresses in strange clothes—no one in the Ark wears stuff like this anymore. The outfit is threadbare, just like my daughter.
My heart breaks. I look at her for a long time, and my heart just breaks. My girl. I haven’t seen her in so many years, and she’s dying. I don’t want her to die—it makes me want to scream.
“How are you?” I ask, hoarse because my heart is breaking. Why does heartbreak cause problems with one’s voice anyway?
“Okay,” she answers. We sit in her house, one from a time before Genesis, as old and as ruined as my child. I feel bad here. It’s dark, we’re on the ground—I can’t live so close to the ground. Literally and figuratively, I need to fly high.
“I don’t think so,” I say. “Are you sick?” I ask directly.
“I have leukemia,” my daughter says. My heartbreak is suddenly complete. I cover my face with my hands. I have to pull myself together.
“I don’t know.” Right, how would she know? How would anyone test her blood out here? Holy shit!
I ask her about the symptoms. I ask if I can examine her. Caroline agrees. I touch her for the first time in so many years. I’ve missed this so much. Her skin is thin and warm. Soft.
“I think you have lymphoblastic leukemia,” I say.
“I don’t know what that is,” Caroline says. I know she’s lying. She used to work with me—once, long ago. Then she left the Ark. She thought we were interfering with matters that man shouldn’t meddle with. At the time I asked: if we have an opportunity to intervene, why shouldn’t we? If god—whom she invoked over and over again—gave us minds able to embrace the world, apparently He wanted us to take the world over. In the end, He Himself said that we should go out and rule it. Didn’t he, Caroline? Caroline! Don’t go, I said. She didn’t listen.
“I can cure you,” I tell her.
“At Genesis. I can cure you, or at least get you into remission.”
“Caroline…” I can’t finish what I want to say.
“I don’t want that,” says my daughter.
“Caroline, stop talking nonsense.” I use the old saying, but there’s no humor in it this time.
“It’s your fault that I’m suffering,” my daughter says angrily. “You and Genesis did this. You and your digging into the world. If it wasn’t for you, if it wasn’t for Genesis, none of this would have happened. Everything that’s going on—the end of the world.”
“It’s not the end, it’s the beginning!” I raise my voice. “The beginning! Don’t you understand? If you come back with me, you’ll see that what you’re saying is complete nonsense.”
“Nonsense?” Caroline shouts. She gets up, then sits down again because she isn’t able to stay on her feet. “You’re killing me. Me and the others. You’re killing us!”
“Come back with me,” I say, completely calm. There’s no point arguing with her now—I’ll explain later. She’ll understand everything, but it’ll take time. Understand that we, humankind, have to move forward. This lifestyle that Caroline’s used to is outdated. Now it’s time for the Ark. Now eternity is born.
“No!” says my daughter. “Get out. Don’t come back. There’s no point. I won’t go with you. Never. I’d rather die. I don’t want to live there—it’s not life. It’s not the world. You’ve destroyed everything.”
Genesis found a solution. As usual—I never doubted that it would. Faith helped me survive the period prior to the transplant, when I felt really bad. So bad that I was afraid I’d never make it. But I made it—the will to live is strong within me. I want to live, I want it more than anything else.
The solution is based on my own DNA, from which the talented geneticists removed the fragments that came from the pig donor. Inside a capsule, in a liquid suspension, they grew my new lungs. I checked on them almost every day.
The surgery was easy. I didn’t even tell Aurora that it was happening. Besides, we quarreled after my visit at Caroline’s. I said that our daughter was a moron. Aurora said she had the right to live the way she wanted. I don’t think so. I think I should bring her here. Bring here, heal her. Feed her—she’s so skinny. She’s an adult? So what! I’m still her father! I still have a duty to care for her, and with that obligation goes the right to impose my will on her. Aurora screams that I’m a tyrant. A mad tyrant who wants to control everything, to dictate terms. I agree, but it’s only because I’m angry with her.
After the treatment, I feel great—so much better. The pig genes were bad for me—my own are the best for me. Once again I have energy for my work, and I work as much as possible, from time to time using stimulants. I’m addicted, and Aurora yells at me about that, too. She doesn’t understand that just about everyone takes them—not just us, the core of Genesis, but the termites too. If you can, why not?
Aurora can immediately tell that I feel better. As usual, she has questions about what I did.
“What did you come up with?” my wife hisses. “What devil’s trick?”
“There is no devil,” I answer. I don’t like these reproaches, with the bizarre epithets, and she knows it, so she inserts the word “devil” whenever she can.
“You sold yourself,” she says. Another old, hackneyed trick. Aurora wants to piss me off. No way.
“I sold my soul to the devil, and you know what?” I ask. “I feel great about it”
I win. Aurora is a very, very angry. Good. She shuts up for the moment, stops talking. Also good. I don’t have time for bullshit talk. And everything I can’t change is bullshit—things I can’t change are irrelevant. And no one can change the fact that Genesis has once again gone several steps forward—we’ve set up the next stage. There’s nothing to talk about. Nothing can stop us.
I’ve gone too far. When I come home from work—after saying that I sold my soul—I find Aurora in the dressing room. She’s taking her stuff from the cabinets and putting everything in a bag.
“What are you doing?” I ask, as if I’m an idiot—I can see perfectly well what she’s doing.
“Are you leaving?” I wonder where. After all, everyone is here, in the Ark—a short ride away on a fast-moving walkway. Or in our vehicle— as privileged employees of Genesis, we have one available. Or maybe she’s come up with a holiday somewhere a bit further away?
“Yes,” she responds.
“Where? When will you be back?” I sit down on a chair.
“To Caroline. Never.”
She’s fucking lost her mind, is what goes through my head.
“Aurora, you know that makes no sense. You’ll die there.”
“I will somehow manage to accept that fact.”
I ignore this—it’s just intended to piss me off.
“There’s no one there. Everyone’s in the Ark. There’s nothing.”
“Better to bring her here.”
“Thomas,” my wife says, “fuck off.”
She leaves the same day. Her disappearance is, of course, recorded by the ubiquitous camera. Not surprisingly, the next morning, Miran invites me for an interview. I assume he’s heard our conversation. Whatever. I have nothing to hide. But I hide a lot from Aurora and I tell that to Miran.
“She doesn’t know anything,” I assure him.
“Maybe she’s guessed?”
“I don’t think so”
“What if she has?”
“I don’t know. If she had some idea…”
“Would she tell anybody? About us?”
“No. And even if she did, those guys out there aren’t a danger to us.”
“True. But they have contacts with our competitors, who are eager to take advantage of the people outside the Ark to achieve their goals.”
“Aurora has no idea about genetics.”
“If she does, you’d better get rid of her.”
“No worries,” I say. I try to relax, although I’m scared—scared that something bad will happen to Aurora. Miran never hesitates. If he thinks that she’s a threat, he’ll kill her. Without emotion. Without remorse or hesitation. The success of Genesis in based on these traits of his. I admire them, and at the same time I feel overwhelmed by them.
Aurora called me. Unexpectedly. She had sworn that she would never talk to me again and so on, and she wasn’t one to make empty promises. When Aurora makes a decision, she never wavers from it. If she says she’ll do something, she does it. Until now.
Today she calls me and she’s crying. She says that Caroline is dying.
Without hesitation, I order a heliplane. It lands with a thud on the roof of my Hive. I get on. From the plane I call Miran and describe the situation. I ask for permission.
“Bring them here,” he tells me. I know that this isn’t because I suddenly touched his heart. It’s just convenient to have them under supervision. But Miran’s reasons don’t matter—what matters is that I bring them here, to the Ark, to the only place where I’ll be able to help my daughter.
We’re flying. I look out the window. Below I see empty spaces—the only green fields are ours, the ones belonging to Genesis. Below there are empty cities. Below us there are roads, destroyed by the roots of our plants. Below us there’s gray and brown. Below us it’s fallow. Everything needed for life is consumed by the Ark.
We land and immediately I’m running. I carry Caroline to the heliplane in my arms and Aurora follows me. She begs me to save our child. I feel a certain satisfaction. In the end she’s admitted that I should do it. I want to point out to her that I was right, remind her of all the times we argued about whether what I was doing was right or wrong and point out that only now does she understand what I said over and over. I told you so! But this isn’t the time—we’ll talk later. When Caroline gets better.
Caroline is so light, like a feather. People say that the soul weighs the most—maybe she doesn’t have one. What a ridiculous thought! I push it away angrily, put Caroline in heliplane, plug in the equipment that I have on board, and begin to analyze what’s going on with my daughter. The heliplane takes off, stirring up dust. Aurora is crying, repeating the same thing over and over.
“Save her. Thomas, save her!”
I do what I can. As soon as we reach the Ark, I move Caroline to our clinic. I connect more devices and remotely run the cross-simulator. I view the results in my daughter’s room on the small screens they have there. We don’t have the equipment here in the clinic that I use downstairs, and the tiny screens make my eyes hurt. I prefer light curtains, but I don’t want to leave the room, leave her alone.
I analyze like crazy, and the cross-simulator warms up.
“Count—count, you bastard!” I say to it. It listens, it counts. It sends the results to the gene editor—let it clean up my daughter’s DNA, clearing out the rubbish that’s killing her. “Come on, bitch!” I say to the editor, trying to make it work faster, although the conversion and sequencing of DNA doesn’t actually take long. “To the capsule!” I order.
New bone marrow will grow in the capsule—perfect marrow! This, unfortunately, will take a bit longer. Unconsciously, I pray.
“God, if you exist, give me some time! Give me time!”
But God doesn’t exist.
I don’t get time.
Before I have the marrow, my daughter dies.
My daughter dies.
I can’t begin to describe the rage that fills me. I want to destroy the fucking cross-simulator, the gene editor, the capsule. But I don’t. Because there’s her DNA, right in there. And as long as it’s there, Caroline isn’t gone. My daughter. My child.
Less than a year later, Aurora dies. She stayed with me after Caroline died, or at least her body stayed. Her mind went somewhere else. Aurora couldn’t cope with the fact that Caroline was dead. She said it was her fault, and she was right. We should have done something sooner. She says she was stupid.
“You were right, Thomas,” she said. So what? It thought that I’d feel satisfaction when she finally admitted that my way was the only right way. I didn’t.
I think she died of despair, I really do.
But I have her DNA. And I have Caroline’s DNA.
And I’m still alive. I try to stay in shape until I’m able to create them both anew, marinated in chemicals specified by Genesis. I take more and more stimulants. I work more and more. Miran works with me, on the same process I am—cloning a human being.
I have the DNA from Aurora and Caroline.
I’m alive. I’m fine.
I have time. I have my time.
Sooner or later either Miran will find the solution or I will. Then I’ll create Aurora and Caroline once again.
And then we’ll live our lives as we should.