Summer, 2007 / No. 18

Late twenty-first century. Scientists discover

longevity’s hinge, the sleep hormone

melatonin, a treasure trove of anti-wane

buried in the pineal gland.

First subjects to react:

insomniacs. Given supplements

to realign circadian rhythms, they exhibit

side effects of cell regeneration, an increase

in long-term potentiation, memories

of inconsequence given the force of real-time

experience. Most describe the sensation

as an excitation in the brain, the welcome

resurgence of circulation that comes

with shaking out pins and needles

in a limb. Theorists liken

the new consciousness to autism

with none of the overload.

Poets write of wholeness, the womb,

self as a mansion with infinite rooms.

Drug companies profit. Philosophers reaffirm

the death of God in all His forms.

On her fortieth birthday, Meredith is deemed

memory-worthy, celebrates with a party,

customary for the preliminary prescription.

She jokes that she’s always had

a fear of the dark, secretly hopes

she’s making the right decision. Presents

include double-lined blinds, infra-vision

lenses, novelty scrapbooks and photo albums—

empty, of course, more for the symbolism,

curios of recall. “Seriously, though,”

she says, “I will be remembering you all.”

Rubs her son’s hair, kisses his brow,

downs the first pill to applause, well-wishers

slightly in awe at the birth

of another eternal. Meredith

has joined a populace who deny the past

its place. A permanent state

of life-before-their-eyes stockpiles

sentience until they feel old

beyond their years. By fifty, Meredith’s ego

has outlived her body threefold. She’s

awake no more than two hours a day,

increasingly weary of supplying

the store in her brain. Time

bows. Seasons pass. In a last act,

her son parts the curtains before she,

satiated, relinquishes her grasp

on an average lifespan.