Death of a Cell
Fagen slunk into the waiting room. He was nervous; doctors always made him nervous. His stomach tightened and his heart raced. He reminded himself it was just a checkup, but something felt different. The waiting room was crowded. It was like all the others; cold and sterile. All of the furniture was made of brushed chrome with thin black cushions. Fagen was fairly certain he had never waited in this room. He sat next to a tall, dark haired woman. She was beautiful and exotic looking. Her eyes were blank and she appeared to be under. Fagen wished he had came under. However, he wanted to be cognitive of the doctor's report.
Fagen picked up a videozine and inserted some audio buds he had waded in his pocket. He wasn't interested in the videozine, but he wasn't in the mood to chat. Hopefully, the look of being interested would put off any would be chatter bug. As the advertisements and articles played, Fagen saw people around him being summoned back to see the doctors. He grew more anxious. His legs bounced nervously. He was second guessing his choice of not going under. He tried thinking about his upcoming three day vacation, but his mind bounced back to the doctor. A pop up came on the videozine announcing his name. It was time.
He wandered along the narrow corridor to the exam room. The medical droid was waiting for him. The droid blurted, "Hello Fagen. Please remove your clothing and step into the exam capsule." The medical droids sped up the process, but they were highly impersonal. The robotic exam capsule rotated quickly and diagnostic scans are taken from nearly every wavelength in the spectrum. Several vials of blood are also drawn and anti-viral injections were made. The medical droids have enough artificial intelligence to make most diagnosis. However, some doctors are kept on staff to review the droids conclusions and to help with abnormalities. Fagen became worried when the droid requested a number of scans to be re-done. Before he could get too upset, the exam was over. The droid gave him a cold and sterile farewell. Fagen knew his results would be waiting at home in an hour, but he still had a full day of work.
The rain was coming down hard. The acid warnings were at red and would remain that way until midnight. The previous century of irresponsible living had caught up with the global community. The restrictions and swift environmental changes of the last three decades were for naught. The government knew it, the people knew it, and the few remaining animals knew it. None of which were ready to accept the grim fate.
Fagen rushed home after work. He was anxious to see the results. He wasn't sure why, but he had a bad feeling. He opened the door of his dark flat and the lights bubbled on. The house robot had dinner and a drink ready. Fagen was too nervous. He went right to the computer terminal and opened the medical mail. His fears came to fruition. The scans showed a small abnormality; a small abnormality that came with massive and dire consequences. Fagen had a dying cell.
One of the main determinants for medical droids was the advent hibernatory cell growth and development. Basically at the age of 23, everyone was put through a gambit of tests to ensure they were at a proper level of health. If they passed, a series of carbon and hydrogen cryo treatments followed. This allowed for people to maintain a greatly reduced aging process. As long as no viruses were introduced and the cells remained healthy, people could live 300 years and have excellent quality of life. Of course, strict birth control laws were instituted to keep population under control. Also, quarterly checkups had to be done to reduce any virus outbreaks. This seemed a small price to pay for such a long and healthy life. The other caveat was if a virus was contracted in a cell cluster. Then a domino effect would ensue and death would come swiftly. Initially, the virus scenario was predicted to be rare. However, some outbreaks were found to be cellularly responsible; meaning a cell could damage itself and cause the chain reaction as well. This was a surprise to the medical community, but did not warrant a recall of the program.
The animals were all dead. Great measures and pains had to be taken to drink water or to even breathe. No living thing was spared; rich and poor, religious and non-religious, good and evil. Doomsday had arrived. The people left knew how and why. The acceptance of it was difficult.
Fagen knew that his dying cell was a death sentence. The hibernatory program was irreversible. That was another drawback. If he hadn't undergone the treatment the dying cell would have simply been replace with the growth of a new cell. However, he would have already been dead. Fagen was 174 years old. He felt fortunate to have that. He pondered what could have caused the dying cell. Most of his social life was spent under. Most people lived this way. It was easier to deal with the dreary, sterile environment. All of the legal hallucinogens produced in the last few decades had no ill side effects. They were not as potent as the illegal ones, but they were much safer. Fagen had stuck closely with the legal hallucinogens for the last 30 years, but prior to that he had gone with the illegal ones. He wondered if that was the reason for the cell dying.
Fagen was accepting of his fate. He had lived a long life. He and his wife had divorced many years ago. Fagen did not want to go through the arduous process of having a child. His wife desperately wanted to. They could not come to an agreement, but they remained friends. He was ambivalent to dying. He enjoyed life, but was bored. The one thing that tugged at him was the cell itself; the one miniscule cell that sealed his fate. The thought consumed him. He rifled through the images on his medical file trying to find the scan of the cell itself.
Life was over. Everything was dead. Only rocks and pools of highly polluted water were left. The landscape was scattered with desolate, concrete buildings; lonely, asphalt roads; and pockets of fire. The air was full of smog, smoke, and burning red clouds. The silence was deafening.
Fagen studied the three dimensional scan of his dying cell. It looked shrunken and red compared to the other nearby cells. The healthy cells were filled with opaque fluid and appeared vibrant. The dying cell looked dried and desolate. Fagen thought how fatuitous this one cell, in ten trillion, could cause such catastrophe. He read the description of the cell image:
Cell Cluster: Milky Way