'Til Death Do Us Part
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“I… I think I want a divorce.”

Elle couldn’t believe the words she heard. It’d been only five days since she and Jonathan flew back from their fiftieth anniversary trip to Peru. They hiked for three days to see Machu Picchu. It looked exactly like they remembered it from their honeymoon. They even had sex at the same camp site, which felt the same because they both got work done before the trip. It was a near perfect recreation of those happy days they enjoyed fifty years ago. Like nothing had changed. In some sense, nothing had changed. Fifty years does little to stone structures and clay houses. It takes centuries to produce any visible decay.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for marriages.

“But why?” was all Elle could manage.

“It’s hard to explain.”

“That’s not an explanation.”

Jonathan opened his mouth to speak, but caught himself. Elle just stared at him. There was a missing line in the script. Jonathan floundered under the limelight, losing the patience of his one woman audience. He looked at Elle with eyes that begged for mercy. Maybe if he pleaded hard enough she could feed him the next line.

Jonathan walked around to take a seat next to Elle, instead of across from her. This wasn’t blocked but Jonathan embraced being off script.

“When I married you, I loved you, and I still do love you.”


“Please let me finish,” Jonathan set his hand on Elle’s shoulder, “I wanted to be with you for the rest of my life, but— but that’s when I thought that meant another sixty years at most. It turns out, our lives are going to be much longer than that. I don’t know but… something scares me about being bound to the same person forever.”

Elle shrugged Jonathan’s hand off of her shoulder. She refused to look at him. She barely heard his excuse. Her head took a trek through the trail of memories she had made with Jonathan. It got lost in the woods.

Jonathan sighed. He stood up and walked away, leaving Elle at the kitchen table.

One statistic that people used to find interesting is that 50% of marriages end in divorce. However, after September 12th, 2020, this statistic changed to 100% of marriages that end, do so in divorce. People don’t talk about the statistic much, since it’s not that surprising. In fact, most preachers who conduct weddings omit “until death do us part” from the list of vows.

People who tied the knot before that fateful day in September approached this change of circumstance in different ways. Some decided to take life by the balls, and begin a string of affairs in hopes that their partner will not notice. Others sat down and talked it out, which occasionally resulted in an open marriage. But most acted like Jonathan. They panicked, and got a divorce.

Experts pointed to the spike in divorce during the year 2023 as evidence that it took about three years for the initial shock of the situation to fade from the public conscious, and for people to accept their new circumstances. However, not all married couples ran for the hills. These same experts used the spread of divorces over the following twenty years as a measurement of the strength of marriages around the world. Some people held on upwards of thirty years. But even in relationships like these, people panic.

Another interesting statistic that changed after September 12th, 2020 is the number of red light districts that cropped up in the following thirty years. Approximately 30% of investment in construction was put into building out 21+ entertainment facilities such as discotheques, bars, and strip clubs (the other 70% was split largely between residencies, and new facilities for expedited food production). A poll taken in 2030 indicated that 38% of people spent more time talking to strangers in public than they did in their houses. That time spent at home was usually dedicated to sleeping, or copulating with said strangers.

Historians deemed it “an age of hedonism”.

And there are few individuals who are more willing to indulge in intense hedonism than the recently divorced.

Even after months of going to these places, the lights in the dance club gave Elle a headache. She pushed through it, dancing among the other young physiques, chasing endorphin rushes. Sweating bodies brushed up against hers in time with the music. But there was an obvious disconnect between certain groups of dancers. Some stuck together in throngs, grinding together like a single cohesive organism, while others separated out into grids or circles, where everyone repeated their one or two favorite dance moves until the song changed.

This is how Elle differentiated between the sheep, and the wolves in sheep clothing. She would usually find a group of younger people to weasel her way into. She'd follow their movements. Feel the friction between them. It gave a sense of belonging, of togetherness. There was no need for communication. Everyone just knew. It’s the closest thing to intimacy Elle experienced since the divorce.

Elle ducked out of the mosh pit after her body could no longer keep up with its demands. She made her way to the bar, where she found an open seat. She waited for about a minute to see if someone would buy a drink for her. Elle wanted a conversation, and it’s much easier to have someone else start a conversation with her. To that end, it’s much easier for a guy to buy her a drink if she doesn’t have one already.

A young man with a bowl cut and a polo shirt that was probably one size too large sat down next to Elle.

“Two lemon sickles,” he told the bartender.

“A lemon sickle? I don’t think I’ve heard of one of those before,” Elle said.

“It’s like a Bloody Mary, but with sprite and lemonade.”

“Huh, sounds interesting.”

“Good. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to drink both myself,” the man shot her a smile. It had that mixture of pride and smugness that comes from pulling off a planned pickup line. Not that he did anything too clever. Elle played into the set up. She’d stopped working against people who wanted to talk to her. Besides, if they succeed, they’ll feel more confident, and that makes the conversation flow easier.

“So, who am I buying this drink for?”

“Elle. What about your name, Mr. Mystery Drink?”

“Jared, but really I prefer Mr. Mystery Drink.”

Elle forced a laugh, “It sounds like something I’d hear out of a spy movie.”

“That’s probably the best thing I’ve heard all day. I was a big James Bond fan when I was a kid.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. I saw The Spy That Loved Me during its opening weekend.”

“You’re letting your age show,” Elle said. Jared cocked his head to the side in confusion.

Elle motioned to Jared’s physique, “You don’t exactly look like you’re in your eighties.”

Jared blinked once, and then turned away, “With the way the world is now, age really is just a number.”

Playing off of age was an important part of the bar game. No one wants to feel old, but it's even more important that they don't feel like they're with someone who's old. There's this self awareness that comes with reminders of age. Namely a reminder that their bodies were not meant for them. It took a fragile combination of ignorance, self-manipulation, and denial to feel comfortable in one's own skin. But facades so haphazardly constructed were bound to fail from time to time. And in the rubble, there was room for exploitation.

“Don’t worry about it,” Elle replied, "I like older men anyways." Jared's smile returned. The fantasy was resurrected.

The bartender set the drinks down between Elle and Jared, “Two lemon sickles.”

Elle and Jared raised their drinks and muttered a “cheers”. They talked late into the night, until they noticed the crowds thin on the dance floor. Jared took this as a cue to invite Elle to his place. She accepted. It was this condo on the sixth floor of a newly built complex, complete with glass walls and one of those elevators with the touch screens inside.

Jared and Elle had sex that night, and in the morning Elle woke up just in time to slip out the door before Jared noticed.

Sometimes Elle told herself that she did this to get back at Jonathan. Other times she told herself she did it out of some self-pity. But really, at this point it became more of a habit. It was mechanical. She spent the night with about one out of every five guys she talked to. And really, that was how it worked for a lot of people. Jared has a success rate of one out of six. The bartender had a three for eight batting average.

Elle sat on the bus back to her apartment in the back, and peered out the window. This was the only time Elle had to think. The rest of the day would consist of working her shift at the barbershop, followed by finding food and then heading back out to the club again. It felt easy. It felt routine. But she couldn’t shake the sense she was missing something. Not Jonathan, the hole he left was shaped differently. Maybe it was her daughter. She hadn’t heard from Stacy ever since she called about the divorce. It ended with regretful things being screamed from both sides, but mostly Elle’s.

She told herself she’d call Stacy anyways when she got home, but forgot promptly after getting off the bus.

One area of study for a number of historians was the effect that the age of hedonism had on the birthrate. Experts at the beginning of that era predicted that the birth rate would have either increased slightly, or drop to nearly zero. The increase would be caused by the additional focus on sex that the western world underwent. While safe sex was often promoted, most methods are not 100% effective. Condoms break, and pills fail. The second option was considered much more likely, since governments around the world were petitioned to regulate pregnancies and births.

But neither of those things happened. Instead, the birthrate decreased, but only by about 60%. Governments did not set their foot down due to lobbying from Pro-Life activist groups, but companies did.

Prometheus Labs, the primary purveyor of cadavers used in their patented brain transplant surgical procedure, noted the danger in letting the world’s population go unregulated. After the procedure gained mainstream popularity, and the insurance firms began covering the costs of the surgery, Prometheus Labs started sterilizing 50% of the bodies they sold to customers.

As to why Prometheus did not sterilize all of the bodies, the answer lies in their business strategy. It is difficult to advertise “Youth for You” if there is no supply of youth to sell. The statistics regarding Prometheus’ harvests are not well known, and it is widely suspected that the numbers were never aggregated in any meaningful way to avoid the possibility of poor optics. Regardless, between medical records and quarterly earnings reported by Prometheus Labs, experts estimated at least 31% of people born between 2010 and 2050 were harvested.

Looking at the pregnancy test, Elle felt a familiar wave of disbelief. It felt like the divorce all over again. A sudden, unexpected change in her life that she would have to adjust to emotionally, mentally, and physically. It demanded an entire change in lifestyle. And just when she had fallen into the rhythm of her hedonistic escapades. That red line in the middle of the apparatus was the universe’s middle finger to Elle.

It’s not like she hadn’t dealt with kids before. She and Jonathan had Stacy, and that turned out fine. Except this time, Elle was alone. Before she could lean on Jonathan, and Jonathan could lean on her. The burden was split between two people.

She shook her head, and started getting ready for work. She hated herself for wishing Jonathan was back, which sparked her hatred for Jonathan again. Tracy and Raquel at the barbershop could tell Elle wasn’t totally there. Raquel offered to take over for after she almost cut some kid’s bangs too short. Tracy was waiting in the break room for Elle to arrive with her arms crossed, leaning against the refrigerator.

“Hey Elle,” she said in her signature, sing-songy voice, “how’s it going?”

“Kind of tired,” Elle replied. She collapsed onto the couch across from Tracy.


Elle nodded, and let her gaze wander around the room some more. She didn’t notice Tracy sit down on the couch and swing her arm over Elle’s shoulder.

“Something’s up, isn’t it?” Tracy asked. She raised her eyebrows to reinforce the “gotcha” moment. It was clear that she was expecting some drama, some tea. Something entertaining.

“I’m pregnant.”

“Oh! Well, congrats! Who’s the lucky guy?”

“I don’t know.”

The smile on Tracy’s face disappeared. She slowly took her arm off of Elle’s shoulder. The break room suddenly felt quieter.

“Are you going to keep it?” Tracy asked at last.

“Do I have a choice?”

“I mean,” Tracy let her gaze drop to the ground, “you could get an abortion.”

The break room stirred in its own silence. It was a good question. It was one of those questions that makes people think. But then again, it always made people think. Making that sort of choice for someone else is a choice that’s worth thinking through. The word “abortion” rang in Elle’s head. Elle looked up at last, and she thought it was written in red and pink paint on the opposite wall. She rubbed her eyes. It disappeared. She was just seeing things.

“I don’t think I can.”

“Did you catch it too late?”

“No. I don’t think I could— like, we’re immortal, right?”


“Well, what if the child is already alive? It’s not like I can just kill it. This is worse than killing it. It’s just an eternity of… whatever that would be. I can’t tell myself with ‘well, it was going to die sooner or later’, I can’t say ‘at least it didn’t feel pain’. I— I don’t know if I can do that to another thing.”

"Well, you caught it early, right? They don't let you have the abortion if they think the immortality is going to effect it."

"How sure are they?"

"Pretty sure? I think? I know a friend of mine got turned away because of it…"

"I don't think I'm able to bank on 'pretty sure'."

"Do you think they would have abortions if they were doing that to another living thing? Someone would surely shut down the clinics if that was the case!"

"I just don't know!"

Tracy caught herself before she yelled back even louder. She took a deep breath, "Ok. Yeah. You seem like you're pretty set on it then. I'm sorry I yelled at you."

Elle opened her mouth to say something else, but nothing came out. She didn’t want to cry, so she didn’t. She got much better at keeping tears back since the divorce. Some warm washed over Elle. Tracy was hugging her.

“I’m just tired of shit like this happening to me,” Elle said at last.

The majority of bodies harvested by Prometheus Labs and other cadaver curating organizations were secured between the ages of 18 and 28. A wide variety of curation processes were used to optimize for both quantity and quality, but almost all processes targeted campuses for higher education. After news of early abduction cases spread like wildfire throughout the world, universities were forced to increase security. The exact number of kidnappings is currently unknown, as universities who failed to protect their students would actively suppress any reports of abduction to maintain good optics.

Despite the efforts of secondary education establishments, more and more parents began to send their kids into mentorship programs, or local vocational schools. The number of people graduating with a bachelor’s degree per year dropped by 43%, and the number of doctorates awarded dropped by 68%. The stagnation of higher education led to a lull in technological advancement that the world would not recover from until the 2090s.

Elle got out of her rental car in front of a fifteen-story dormitory. It was the tallest building on the Colorado University campus. Marcus was supposed to meet her out front, but he wasn’t there. Must’ve been running late studying or something. He did say he had a calculus midterm next week.

Elle hadn’t felt this happy in a long time, really. She felt the same way when she visited Stacy for her parent’s weekend. And eighteen years ago, Elle never thought she’d experience one again. She wouldn’t guess that she would have done a half-decent job raising a child on her own. Especially not a child who would get a full ride scholarship (since that was the only way he was going to college on her measly income).

Elle took a seat on a bench next to the sidewalk. It’s funny, after all these years she would’ve thought that colleges would’ve changed more. But there were still kids tossing around Frisbees, walking to class with backpacks, and complaining loudly about homework. Students could choose to shut out the rest of the world to concentrate on their studies if they so liked. Things felt simpler here.

After a few minutes, Elle checked her watch. She decided she’d give Marcus about five minutes before calling him. She was a bit early after all.

“Excuse me, may I sit here?”

“Sure,” Elle replied. She looked up from her watch to see a woman in her late-forties. Elle could’ve sworn she’d seen her before. It took a few moments to place it. The blonde hair, and the brown eyes. The dimples in her smile. She started to ask a question.


But she stopped herself partway through. Her mind finished doing some mental arithmetic. It didn’t match up. None of it matched up.

“Are you ok?” the woman asked.

Elle said nothing. She just stood up, left the bench, and got back in her rental car. She sat in the car and stared blankly into the steering wheel. A sound played over and over again in her head. It was the sound of something breaking. Shattering even. It was one of the many casualties made by the war between the human mind and too much time.

A knock came at the window.

Elle looked up. It was Marcus.

“Sorry I’m late!” he said after Elle rolled down the window.

“No, it’s fine.”

Marcus got inside and put on his seat belt.

“Um, mom? Are you ok?”

Elle smiled a little. It was a funny question really. If he had asked if she was “good”, then the answer would be no. If he asked if something was “going on”, the answer would’ve been yes. But after she thought about it, Elle realized she was ok. She was only ok. She didn’t know if she was able to be anything other than ok ever again.

“Did I ever tell you that you have a step sister?” she asked Marcus.

“Once or twice, yeah.”

“You want to hear some stories about her?”

“Um, yeah. Sure.”

While certain statistics that came out of the early stages of ΩK were unexpected, there were also a number of statistics that surprised no one. Mental health saw a large decline in the population during the Age of Hedonism, mostly in the form of clinical depression. It is believed that this rise in clinical depression is responsible for the end of the Age of Hedonism, as more and more of the world’s population no longer expressed interest in the activities found in the red-light districts.

A number of mental health campaigns began to combat the world-wide epidemic. The results were hit-or-miss. People are not entirely sure how the global emotional slump resolved, or if it resolved at all. Due to the takeover of cybernetic enhancements in favor of the old transplants during the late 2120s, it has been difficult to differentiate between symptoms of clinical depression, and the restrictions caused by living within these new mechanical bodies.

The Age of Hedonism was an intriguing time. It was reminiscent of a resurgence of the Roaring Twenties. It was a time of self-indulgence, and a time of morally questionable practices. While we may still have an eternity to experience, until significant advancements are made in biotronics or neuro-robotics, it is quite likely we will never see a time like this again.

Elle hated nights like this. Nights where she would just look at the phone, and debate if she should call Jonathan. She didn’t miss him anymore, but there was this itching curiosity. An undeniable pull of the question “what is he up to now?”. She never gave into it. But that didn’t stop her from sitting in a rocking chair for thirty minutes, just glaring at the landline.

She’d just got back from a trip to Macchu Picchu she took with Marcus as a graduation gift. When they reached the ruins, Elle went around and compared pictures she took from her honeymoon to the way the place looked now. She could actually see some evidence of decay in a few places. The wall wasn’t quite as tall here. The edges on the stairs were a little sharper there.

“I mean, aren’t you more than a century old? Of course, this place would look different!” Marcus said at one point. It made Elle laugh. Maybe it was different when she went up with Jonathan for the second time. She didn’t bring the pictures then, so maybe she just couldn’t tell.

That’s what brought her mind back to Jonathan. That’s what brought her back to the phone. And now she was having one of those nights.

Except, this time, the phone rang. Elle picked it up, out of instinct more than anything.


“Hi, umm… is this Elle?”

“It is. Who are you?”

“It’s umm… it’s Jonathan.”


Elle rocked in her chair with the phone pressed up against her ear. She didn’t say anything, because she couldn’t think of a single thing to say. There were too many options. She didn’t know if she should be friendly or standoffish, if she should be upset or glad. All her emotions balanced each other out, and left her in a state of silence.

“How are you doing?” Jonathan asked.

“Ok. What about you?”

“Ok. Well, honestly, I’m surprised. I expected you to be more upset.”

“With you?”


“Honestly? Me too.”

The silence settled in again, but this time Elle was the one who broke it.

“Is there a reason you called?”

“I guess I wanted to check in. I wanted to know if you were ok. I do still care about you, you know.”

“That makes one of us.”

“Are you sure you’re ok?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this past, like, twenty-five years, it’s that things get a lot easier when I stop caring so much about myself, and the things I can’t control.”

“That sounds unhealthy.”

“It’s quite liberating really. I’m less angry, less sad, less stressed out. I’m ok.”

“And you’re happy with that?”

“I’m ok with that.”

“I think that’s all I can hope for I guess.”

“It’s kind of late. I should probably be going to sleep.”

“Alright. Well, it was nice talking to you again.”

“Nice talking to you too.”

And Elle hung up the phone.

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