By Viviane Morrigan
At first, it had been exciting. But last time, Eve had forced herself to go, unsure why she was reluctant. And today she’d woken with a knot in her gut, even dry retched over the toilet bowl. Perhaps this was a long-term effect of the treatment.
Yet here she was again. Remnants of optimism and a desire to just get it done had propelled her out of the house this morning. But now a confusion of unnameable tensions stormed within, and a scream threatened to break through her aloof demeanour.
The lift stopped, and a woman who looked about the same age as Eve entered, head bent over her handbag while she scrabbled for a tissue. Eve noticed grey hair near her scalp, and her cardigan was inside out. A fleeting memory of perfume escaped from the woman’s handbag, only to vanish into stale antiseptic, residues of dirty mops.
The strangers’ eyes met. A smile flitted across the other woman’s lips only to become a grimace.
“This isn’t such a happy place.”
“You’re right,” Eve said with compressed lips, as she steadied herself against her walking stick, its stout wooden handle reassuring her.
“Not long now for my hubby,” the other woman sighed, shaking her head. “Bob’s cancer’s eatin’ him up, and the doc says there’s no cure. So, Bob, he says to me, ‘I ain’t having no treatment, and no rejuvenation either. Juve can’t cure me, only slows down the disease. Maybe I’ll feel better for a while, but I don’t want to sit around with a fake smile on my face, waiting for the cancer to return.’ ‘Now, Bob,’ I says to him. ‘That flu back in 2020 killed most of our young’uns, and it stopped anyone having any more, but then they discovered Juve, gave people hope again, we got a future.’”
The woman paused as the lift doors opened, and another person entered. Eve mused on how a stranger can share personal details when it’s unlikely they’ll meet again. The woman’s disclosure irritated her. Really, it was inappropriate in such a confined and public space. The tiresome woman didn’t respect privacy. Eve took a line of least resistance.
“Yes, Juve’s given us a biblical length of life. And they say that’ll be long enough for science to discover how we can make babies again.”
“Yeah, that’s right, honey,” the other woman said. “So, I don’t understand my Bob,” the woman demurred. Unobtrusive tears ran down her cheek. “And how will I manage without him? It sounds selfish, but I don’t want to get old on my own.”
She dabbed at her eyes, loudly blew her nose.
“Yes,” Eve conceded again. “It’s lonely when you lose someone you love.”
Eve paused, aware of her own acute sense of loneliness. She still missed Anna after all those lifetimes ago. Was it really over two hundred years since she’d died? The accident had spoilt their dream of Juving to extend the long life they’d enjoyed together. She wondered if it had been a good decision to continue with Juve on her own. But the shock, the guilt of surviving, her own lack of physical injuries—all had tricked her into ignoring her shattered heart. It seemed easier to not give in to the grief. Simpler to focus on the future, remake herself, her life.
“And Juve seems so full of promise,” Eve found herself saying. She didn’t want to get involved in someone else’s drama, but the woman’s pain rubbed against her own rawness. “You know,” Eve continued. “With Juve, it’s easy to say to yourself, ‘This time will be different. I’ll find happiness, find someone else, become someone I want to be.’”
The other woman’s face lit up.
“But when things don’t change,” Eve said, “promises become burdens. Our bodies might look young again, but we still carry the old stuff around inside. The emptiness doesn’t just disappear. Chasing this dream can turn Juve into a nightmare.”
Seemingly unaware of the silent crowd pressing them into a corner, the woman exclaimed, “But who wants to get old and lonely? Most people are Juving instead.”
Eve shrugged. “Mm. But everyone’s still alone. That’s been hard for me to accept. And I’m tired of waiting for some scientific miracle that can help us have children again. Life’s become sterile in other ways—a repetitive and meaningless existence.”
The other woman recoiled.
“Now, don’t be like that, sweetie! Juve doesn’t just make us look younger and live longer; it boosts our energy enough so we can succeed at a whole lotta new things. Anyway, family means more than children. This time I’m gonna find me a community that works for a better world. That’ll be my family, and I won’t be alone.”
“I’m not so sure I need that anymore,” Eve replied. “I’ve played my part long enough, learned enough about myself and the world around me, given and received enough, met most of my needs and obligations. I guess generational change isn’t just new kids being born, it can happen when people die, too.”
“Level 63,” the lift announced.
The other woman turned to pat Eve on her arm.
“Looks like you could cheer yourself up with some Juve, sweetheart. Now, if you’ll excuse me,” the woman said as she moved forward.
“Thanks for our little chat,” Eve said to her retreating back. “You’ve helped me make a difficult decision.”
Eve pushed the Ground Floor button.