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The Forever Young Tithonus

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I was born in London in 2012. We... didn't exactly live as a typical family, so to say. Ever. My mom met my dad in India, her home country. He was a scientist working on some project there. She abandoned everything to move back to the UK with him. There they got married and had me.

I don't remember much, if anything, from my early childhood, but I assume my mom loved me. She died when I was five. I think my dad loved me too. I remember him much better than her, mainly because he was one of the people who worked with me. I don't know if I had any siblings, but I'm pretty sure there were none. I believe that if I had any, I would meet them during the Tithonus project.

Going with what I'd seen as the second generation of Tithonus happened, I will assume that my early years were the same as theirs. Since I can't remember them anymore, I will translate what I know about generation two and tell my story as I know theirs.

My mother must have been observed during the entire pregnancy. My father would take her on weekly examinations, and she would undergo procedures of being injected with something he claimed to be 'vitamins'. She'd have all the care and medical attention a laboratory rat should have. The 'vitamin shots' she was getting weren't injected directly into her, but directly into the fetus - me. Everything would go smoothly up until the eighth month of the pregnancy. Her belly would suddenly grow unexpectedly, the stretch marks would burst on her hips and abdomen to the level when her skin would actually bruise, and she would start having contractions as if she already was in labor. It would seem as though she was supposed to have at least quadruplets. One day the bleeding would begin. Her husband would behave very calm during this entire time, as if he expected all of it. He would be prepared, and as soon as the bleeding starts, he would take her to the experimental research hospital he works for. The baby would be taken out by Cesarean section. It would be older than it should be. I don't really mean older looking, it would seem to be an almost one-year-old baby, hair and everything, not a newborn. They would take it away from her and she would get another 'vitamin injection'.

I wasn't the only one in the Tithonus project. In the beginning there were hundreds of us. Each one of us had a name and a number. My number was 234 out of 647 other subjects. Our numbers, which I always found creepy, haven't really started at 1 and continued to 647. Many numbers were missing and some were reaching over the digit of 900. I knew what it meant because they told us. There were more subjects in the project but not all of them survived and not all of them had even been born. And as the years went, more and more numbers were missing.

I was the last one left.

Every day, ever since I can remember, they woke us up, dressed us into comfortable white uniforms and lead us into a dining hall where we ate. Then there were the lessons, starting with elementary education and, later on, continuing far over doctorates. The first ten years went alright, except for maybe some of the other children getting very sick and disappearing. Not all of us were mentally and physically as perfect as I was. I've never questioned it while living there, because it was normal, but looking back I think I can say that I've seen all the limits of how damaged human body and mind can be and still go on and breathe.

Today, when I walk on a street and I see a paraplegic, all I can think about is that you need neither legs, nor arms, not even the whole torso, to live. When I see a mentally ill person, I remember that for the scientists in Tithonus, if you can breathe on your own you're still considered alive. There is no need for anything else to be present. But lets leave this topic. It only brings back nightmares.

I remember exactly when we started to question things about ourselves. We were fourteen and had just started human biology at the tutoring lessons. We were being taught about puberty and I know we all thought the same thing but no one actually raised their hand to ask for a long time. Then, amazingly, one of the girls did.

“I have a question.”

She spoke out with a silent and confused voice. The teacher frowned, obviously troubled ahead of the time, worried about what was going to come up.


“You said that girls start going through changes before boys, around the age of ten to twelve.”

“Correct, the hormonal changes start happening around that age, followed by changes in growth, appearance-”

“And boys start feeling these changes around the age of eleven to thirteen, right?”

“Yes, sometimes even a little later.”

“We are all fourteen.” She whispered. My heart was beating fast and as I looked around I realized that everyone stared at the girl, thinking the same. We were waiting for her to say it. She breathed out, slightly shaking, you could hear it in the complete silence of the room as we all held our breath.

“We are fourteen... we are...fourteen.” She sat down, head hanging, shoulders loose, her hair covering her face. Her body presented complete resignation. Our eyes turned to the teacher. She looked away for a moment. Then put down her textbook, reached to the desk and unlocked one of the drawers. She took out bunch of thick white books with the word 'Tithonus' written on them. She began to slowly walk among our desks, putting exactly one book in front of each one of us.

“We had planned to start educating you on this topic after the biology lesson was done, but since you already opened this topic, we may as well get into it now.” She walked back to the front of the class and sat on her chair, hands folded on the desk, fingers clenching around her fists.

“You all are a part of project called Tithonus. Tithonus was a Trojan man, kidnapped by his lover, a Titan named Eos. Eos wanted her lover to be her equal and be with her forever, so she asked Zeus to make Tithonus immortal. Zeus made her wish come true and granted Tithonus eternal life, but not eternal youth.” She took a moment to rest her voice, while some of us were mindlessly leafing through the book she gave us and some just stared at her, hearts beating painfully in anxiety and confusion.

“You, children, were... modified to live a very long time. Much longer than I or anyone in this facility would ever dream of. You will live when my children's children are old.”

“And you will not age the same way we do, because the human body decays. The cells stop reproducing at some point and we just slowly die or we are eaten away by some disease. This will never happen to you.” Her face was brightened by a large smile, her eyes widened, her voice cheered up.

“You will live, maybe not forever, but for much longer than the human race has ever dreamt of. And you will always stay young.”

Always stay young. Always... young. It's more of... that we never get old. We stopped aging at ten. Most of us, at least. Some stopped much earlier. Some decayed away much too fast. Some were never really affected by whatever we were injected by as fetuses. Those died. They died... horribly.

Many others died, too. Most died from side effects. Some didn't survive the nature of their physical or mental abnormalities. Some died by their own hand. Many of them, in fact. Until I was the only subject left in Tithonus. That was one hundred and forty two years ago. 

When you live for four hundred years, always ten year old, people around you change so fast you don't even bother to remember their names anymore. There are things lasting longer than nurses, doctors, scientists, teachers and even you focus on, because they represent something which will be here twenty years from now. And since you will be here too, that's something you have in common. I don't have anything in common with someone who will be here for seventy years. Not anymore. How can I, anyway?

I've seen the Earth change, I've seen the politics change, the countries divide and unite. I've seen what the world turned into and what made us change the way we lived. 

I am the forever young Tithonus.

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