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art by Melissa Mead

Longevity, Inc.

Geoff Porter has been developing computer based war games on and off since his teen years (www.legionsofterica.net). Mr. Porter has enjoyed pursuing a writing career for the last six years. He studied English and literature for four years at Sinclair Community College. Mr. Porter has written over forty short stories. Eight of his short stories have been selected by various markets for publication. Geoff is editor-in-chief of Untied Shoelaces of the Mind.

Jill smiled at me and rubbed her knuckles on my cheek. I smiled. She said, "We should buy mice."
I shook my head back and forth.
"They just cut the price by 20%!" Jill said.
"I heard."
"It'll be fun! We get to watch the mice on the net."
My eyes naturally squinted as I thought of the words. "Yeah, I've seen the brochures conveniently located on the dresser, the mantle, and the kitchen table."
She gave me a raised eyebrow. "A lot of couples who are getting married are doing it."
"I'm not saying I don't want to," I said.
Jill showed off her teeth. I shrugged.
I said, "I just don't know how accurate I believe it is."
"The accuracy has gotten so much better over the last ten years."
"Doesn't it take like six hours to fill out the forms?"
Jill shook her head. "It'll only take one hour."
I caved. She knew I would from the beginning. It was just a matter of time. I said, "Well…. There doesn't seem to be any harm in it. We can afford it…."
"We can do it then? Buy a pair of mice?"
"We have to wait so long for the results. It'll be two or three years before we find out."
"That's not that long in the grand scheme of things. Don't you want to know?"
My eyes started to wander around the room from place to place as I thought about it.
She said, "Can we? Please!"
I nodded. "Yes, let's."
Her eyes lit up the same way they did when I showed her the engagement ring on her finger. "Tonight? Now?"
I closed my eyes and nodded. She kissed me on the lips. We locked up the house and hailed a transport. Soon enough, we were outside Longevity, Inc.
We stepped through the glass doors, and an elderly man wearing an impressive brown and tan suit with a red and blue paisley tie approached us. He had a communications headset on, and he smiled a warm Santa Claus smile.
The Longevity, Inc. office was square with booths lining each of the four walls. Here and there, individuals and couples sat at tables with cold or hot drinks next to them.
The old man said, "My name is Mathews. Do you have any questions? You're aware of our pricing? How many mice are you interested in?"
Jill said, "Oh, just one mouse each. We've researched your pricing."
Mathews said, "Do you have questions?"
Jill and I shook our heads and smiled like idiots.
Mathews asked, "How will you be paying?"
Jill said, "Visa rings."
"Apply your fingerprint and step onto the white platform."
We looked at him, confused.
He said, "The platform is a DNA scanner as well as a physiological scanner. It'll determine if we have any mice which are a match for you."
Jill went first. She put her pinky finger, with the Visa ring, down on the payment scanner, and the thing beeped, "Authorized."
She stepped onto the scanner, and bright lights shined from above and below. It beeped, and she stepped off.
Mathews said, "We have mice in stock for you, madam."
I repeated the process.
Mathews said, "We have mice for you, also, sir. Right this way…."
We followed him to an empty booth and sat down.
He said, "Coffee? Tea? Party sandwiches?"
I said, "Coffee."
Mathews said, "Cream and sugar?"
"Yes, please."
Jill said, "Mint tea with honey."
The elderly man nodded his head up and down smiling wide. "Splendid. I'll be back shortly. If you have any questions about the forms, please be sure to ask."
The terminals in our booth were already displaying the first form, and I started reading. The forms asked basic questions about dietary habits. I reached the coffee questions and laughed out loud.
I said, "The coffee thing is hilarious. One of the answers is, 'I drink more coffee than I drink anything else.'"
She smiled. "That isn't that funny."
The drinks arrived soon enough.
I said, "I love funny surveys."
She said, "You love surveys."
I started answering more questions. When I got to the smoking question, I laughed again. "Who on Earth smokes 2-3 packs a day?"
Jill looked down at her hands. "My uncle used to…"
I shrugged and went back to answering questions. I reached the section on sleep disorders, and I looked up at Jill. I said, "Some of these sleep disorders would suck."
She nodded. "Yes, I would be especially annoyed if I slept for 16-18 hours a day."
"Oh, this one answer is, 'I sleep for 2-4 hours at a time, then I'm up for 2-4 hours.'"
"That one is for online gamers I think."
Jill waved down Mathews. He came over to our table.
Jill asked, "How do you enforce the sleep disorders on the mice?"
Mathews smiled. He rubbed his chin a bit as if thinking of the answer. "Well, our genetic matching is good enough that the mice will often mimic the human. If that fails, we use a combination of bumps to their cages and periods of light and darkness."
Jill nodded.
I said, "It asks me about music and video use."
Mathews nodded and wandered off.
I said, "Hmmm…"
We answered more questions. They just went on and on.
From out of nowhere, Jill said, "Are we going to have kids?"
She smiled the same smile she uses when she plucks wings off flies. "My form. It wants to know if we want to have kids and how many."
I started to rub my chin and stare off into the distance with a broad hope that she'd answer her own question.
She didn't say anything.
I continued my stare off in the distance routine.
"Two," she said.
I nodded. "Two is fine."
She laughed a quick little laugh. "Oh, look, there is even an option where we can have our mice get together, and we can watch the offspring."
"That's so cute!"
We both clicked a few more times, and our terminals flashed, "Finished."
Mathews joined us. "The mice will eat how you eat, take whatever medicines you take, and exercise if you exercise. When the mice die, a necropsy will be conducted by a robot. You'll know the cause of death and age estimate within hours after the mouse expires as well as a full review of all organ tissue and toxins present."
Jill said, "Great!"
We went home. We watched our mice. The two mice lived in three basic chambers. Each mouse had its own nest, food, and water, but sometimes the mice were allowed to interact in a common area. They would run together on the exercise wheel built for two. They took little naps curled up together. They ran around the room almost seeming to compete with each other.
Two years passed.
Jill got an email that her mouse developed cancer. Jill lay next to me that night in bed and gave me the news. She whispered, "That's how my grandmother died."
I finally understood. "That's why you wanted to get a mouse."
Jill nodded. She opted for surgery to treat the cancer, but it came back, again and again. My mouse turned up dead of dehydration a few days after Jill's died.
We played the video of the mice back again. My mouse stepped into the common area and nudged Jill's mouse a few times. The dead mouse didn't move. My mouse just sat there unmoving for the longest time.
Jill said, "Aww… He died of a broken heart."
"That's a rip-off! I'm not going to die of a broken heart!"
Jill gave me this glare that has ever since given me nightmares. She said the words slow and loud, "You're sleeping on the couch!"
The End
This story was first published on Monday, October 18th, 2010

Author Comments

I got the idea for this story when a friend of mine told me he needed to buy a mouse for his snake. I take a unique assortment of medicines, and it just sort of hit me, what if I could buy a mouse and put it on the same medicines I take, and see how long the mouse lives.

- Geoffrey C Porter
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