“He’s real,” said Freddy.
“Death. The Grim Reaper.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I saw him, Dave. He was just as I pictured him.”
“The Reaper,” I said with some irritation. “Death himself.”
“Yes! He’s real! Are you listening to me?”
I was used to Freddy’s little jokes and this was not one of his better ones. When I turned to look at his face I expected his affable grin. Most of the time he can’t keep himself from laughing. He wasn’t even smiling and his face had a wild, intense look to it.
I replied, “You’re not making any sense. How did you come to this conclusion?”
“The climb, man. I was halfway up on Cannon when my carabiner malfunctioned. I was toast.”
“You fell off of Cannon? Weren’t you locked in?” I asked. Of course, I knew the answer. Fred had long ago dispensed with the safety protocols. He had been free climbing for years and this was not his first serious accident. I sat down, prepared for yet another of his narrow escapes from the jaws of death–except that there was no death anymore. There hadn’t been one in 340 years and for that reason his embellished stories were not the exception; they were fairly commonplace.
With a life expectancy of well over a thousand years, humankind had grown bored. Nobody died of old age. Our everlasting bodies were full of tiny Nanobots, their sole purpose to seek and repair cell damage at the molecular level. Accidents were rare due to electronic surveillance that reached even the most remote locations. Our microscopic caretakers operated as a single entity, communicating instantaneously over great distances. Death had been conquered, or so it seemed.
With a lifespan that stretched out infinitely before them, humanity had lost their sense of urgency. Generations of comfort had dulled our survival instincts, bringing progress and innovation to an interminable crawl.
The majority of mankind now fell into two categories, those who sleepwalked through their idyllic life seeking constant entertainment, and the StimSeekers who sought out physical risk, always on the lookout for dangerous experiences to make them feel more alive. Some of these adventurers found their way off-world, bound for the outer limits of the galaxy where unexplored planets were being colonized. As you may have surmised, Freddy was a Stimmer. He was always finding himself a new and ever more dangerous playground.