An immortal couple of perpetual immigrants, together with their family and friends, escapes from the dying Earth, migrating from planet to planet on a spaceship short on fuel, oxygen and food.
Chapter 1. Noah.
It’s 2050. I’m one hundred years old, and the number of lit candles on my birthday cake can warm the freezing house or cause a firestorm. That’s the question of luck. So far, luck was mostly on my side. I hope I have accomplished something beyond deserving yet another cake. Namely, I won’t die young or middle-aged. To be precise, I won’t die at all. That’s not an old man’s delusion or a young man’s wishful thinking. It’s much healthier and more consequential than that. It’s simple, but striking.
I’m immortal. And so is my wife.
A few days after my birthday, I stand outside my house, whatever is left of it and the neighborhood, whatever is left of the planet, watching the streaks of angry red light traversing the night sky. They are like shooting stars in reverse. Going up, and up and up. Most of them will never return. My family and I will follow them soon. I’m so ready that it hurts. But I have a high tolerance for pain. Immortality and pain can coexist, and for a very long time.
To paraphrase Graham Greene, the difference between biography and autobiography is that the latter stops prematurely. This story is two autobiographies in one. Not even autobiographies, but confessions of two certified, perpetual migrants. Hannah and I were not born migrants. I don’t think we were born certified either. Most kids’ papers acquired around the time of their birth are not certified by any professional boards. Even a birth certificate is not a statement of accomplishments, but of a fact. The parents and the medical personnel were the people who accomplished the deed.
Like the overwhelming majority of still living Earthlings, I haven’t died before. However, unlike most, I’m not afraid of death. I’m fairly confident I’ll never die, and I have facts to prove it. Despite my age, no stranger, polite or not, can give me more than a young, fit and handsome fifty. That’s what Hannah says. And she’s been honest through our seventy plus years of marriage. She knows what happened to us.
Whoever says I look younger than my age, doesn’t know why. Perhaps they credit my appearance to the mRNA rejuvenation craze that was in high fashion back in the roaring thirties, before everything collapsed. It really may have something to do with it, but not with my longevity, energy, mental abilities and everything else that makes us living humans.
Despite my age and therefore deeper roots on this planet than most, I’m ready to leave the Earth for good, together with my family and a few friends. Not figuratively, by shedding off our mortal shells and ascending our souls into the luminiferous ether, but literally—by leaving the planet on a spaceship.
I’m an experienced Earthling, who has been honing his skills as a citizen of this planet as well as a writer, engineer, inventor and overall polymath for a long time. I was born in the old Soviet Union, the country few people remember, and even fewer admire. As for me, I quit hating it, though it took me a while. I’m glad I did. Hatred smears your soul like hot, sticky tar.
I traveled all over the globe. I know it like the features of my hand, like my backyard, like Hannah’s eyes. Though I’m not yet tired of it, it’s time to depart.
The discrepancy between my papers and my appearance creates legal and logistical problems, like in the airport or in a bank or getting a senior discount. Worse yet, that can be a curse for reasons that have nothing to do with the paperwork.
Now, my ten-year-old twin great-grand-daughters flank me. They are twins by C-section. No pair of siblings can be closer in age. They are tall for being ten, but look like babies compared to me. I carried them both, but put them down on the porch at their request. We can’t see the blackened husks of the forest in the dark.
“They’re Maxi Jumping Jacks,” I say, pointing at a blink in the sky with my not-yet-arthritic finger. I hope my fingers will stay arthritis-free forever. I’ve heard arthritis is painful. “They carry up to 500 refugees each. Our government designed them, but contracted the building of the ships to China. Nothing is built in America anymore.”
“Yes, Deda,” one of the twins, Veronica, says. “We know. Once they clear the atmosphere, they will immediately jump to one of the five known Earth-like planets.”
When she was four, she said, “I made a feather from the toilet paper, stuck it in my hair, and now I look like a lady.”
I’m proud of her. She is a gracious lady. She’s my favorite. So is her sister. So are my other great-grand-kids and grandkids. When you have multiple favorites, no one gets upset. I was never a favorite when I was a child. But somehow I managed to remain optimistic and confident. Perhaps too confident.
There were 31 houses in the development, but most are abandoned and half-destroyed. We set up a mutual defense team with the remaining neighbors against the Crazies. Electronic sensors, mines, night watch, machine guns in the windows. Once our family leaves, the remaining neighbors would have a tougher time defending themselves, but they themselves might leave soon. So I hope. Not everyone gets space on the Jumping Jacks. The leftover people might go Crazy.
Our household robot Rabota stands behind us. She’s uncharacteristically silent, except for humming a tune from Vivaldi’s Winter. No wonder she doesn’t talk—she stands next to two such domineering personalities like the twins. Even a robot can sense that. But I can’t, so I go on.
“We will jump on a different one, on a smaller private jack, the Mini,” I say. “Takes only fifty people, and it jumps to an unknown planet. One overcrowded, dying planet is enough. Let’s have an adventure, girls. Like Robinson Crusoe.”