Short Fiction by Russell Twyce
A Government Pension at Twenty Five
- A solo short story and included in the Nicholas Flamel’s Humanity Series
“According to this file,” a government bureaucrat set a reverent palm flat on the open folder,
“you’ve been collecting old-age security checks for the past five years. Yet you are obviously a man in your early 20’s.”
Then this has to be either forged or in error.” The government agent stated after he had intensely scrutinized the document. “What year were you born in?”
“I was born in 1940 and I aged normally until 1985, when I discovered the secret of eternal youth. From then to now, I’ve been growing younger, instead of older.”
“My year of birth was 1955.” The civil servant announced in a mocking tone. With grey hair and many facial wrinkles, his physical appearance exactly matched his 55 years of age. “And you are NOT fifteen years older than I am. So let’s get to the real truth of this situation.”
“The honest truth is exactly as I’ve said. You can look into my tax records or you can have the police fingerprint me and compare the result against any government files you can drag up. I was born in 1940 and I am currently seventy years of age.”
“You didn’t invent the secret of immortality.” The pension official scoffed. “I should think that such a discovery, if proven, would’ve made an international news splash. I don’t recall hearing anything about it in 1985 or since.”
“I didn’t seek any publicity and I didn’t care if anyone verified my results or not.”
“Right.” The disbelieving government man said in a sarcastic voice. “So you actually are seventy and you fully expect me NOT to cancel your old age security benefits?”
“And I suppose your cute wife over there,” with a nod he indicated a young woman in the waiting area, “is fast approaching sixty-five?”
“My girlfriend there is twenty-two. My wife passed away awhile before I uncovered the secret of Nicholas Flamel’s philosopher stone.”
“Does she know that you’re seventy?”
“Absolutely.” The young looking old man smiled. “She appreciates my maturity and experience, while still being able to enjoy the physicality and vitality of my second twenties.”
“Philosopher’s Stone and Nicholas Flamel?” The scoffing of a minute ago had been replaced with a pang of envy: whether the old-age pension claimant was 25 or 70, that girl was certainly a knockout. “You’ve obviously been to a Harry Potter movie.”
“JK Rowling didn’t invent either the name of Nicholas Flamel or the philosopher’s stone idea. Nicholas was an alchemist born in 1330 and he returned to his youth after learning of the philosopher’s stone from an ancient manuscript.”
“And I suppose you know this for a fact.”
Definitely. Nicholas Flamel is a friend of mine. He contacted me after he deduced that someone else had achieved his eternal youth secret. Nick is a cool old guy, who looks like he is twenty. He thought it was hilarious that he was immortalized, off camera, in the movies. But the author has no clue that Flamel really is still alive.”
“I suppose he collects an old-age pension too?” The bureaucrat jotted down the name: he would look it up in his files later.
“No. Nicholas is an alchemist. Whenever he needs money, he turns lead into gold.”
“Since you have his eternal youth secret, why doesn’t he give you the transmutation tips too?
Then you wouldn’t need to keep your pension.”
“Nicholas has his thing and I have mine. When he was born, there wasn’t a public pension plan in place, so he needs to make gold. I paid years worth of exorbitant taxes to earn my retirement income, so I’ll use it for my ‘golden years’ and I’ll keep collecting it for a VERY long time.”
“Unless I stamp your file as a fraud and cancel it.”
“On what grounds?” The young man asked in a resolute voice. “The proof of my age and even the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures are iron-clad in your department of motor vehicles. The stored license photos will show me growing older until 1985 and then progressively younger until my most recent one.”
“On grounds that I work for the Federal Government and can therefore do whatever I want to you and your case!”
“With impunity.” The young man added through pursed lips. He bit his tongue from saying what was really on his mind. ‘And that mentality is precisely why I haven’t shared the gift of eternal youth with everyone.’ “But that political superiority will not live on forever.”
“Your life won’t be much longer than mine.” The agent misconstrued the comment as personal instead of global. “How long do you have before a return to infancy?”
“Your facts all seem to come from fiction.” It was now the younger man’s turn for the mocking tone. “I’m not living a backwards life, as the ‘Curious Case of Benjamin Button’. I’ve rejuvenated as far as I want to, so I’ll stop using my philosopher stone. I’ll age normally until I choose to start growing younger again.”
“And then what?”
“I’ll make another philosopher stone.”
“What does an eternal youth granting philosopher stone look like?” The middle-aged man excitedly inquired. He was suddenly buying into the young man’s story – and he imagined himself as becoming the same.
“Exactly like this.” The man with seeming eternal youth pulled a white stone from his pocket. It was of a pyramid shape with rounded points.
“I suppose you’ll want to be eighteen again.” The government guy’s eyes flicked askance to the ageless man’s 22-year-old sweetheart: if available to him, the 55-year-old with lecherous tendencies would want even younger girls.
“Nah. I’m happy now and my looking even younger would present more problems. I went to a bar recently and was asked to show proof of age. The bouncer noticed the disparity between my eternally youthful looks and my official age. It turned nastier when the doorman called over the police who were patrolling. They wanted to charge me with using false ID but their computers confirmed who I was.”
“That incident landed you on my scope. The cops were not pleased with the outcome, so they furthered the information up the line. And as a fraud investigator, your case landed on my desk.” Then the government official stressed a sentence. “Where on my whim, I can approve or deny the status of your old-age pension.”
“I see that.” The young pensioner said flatly.
“But I am interested in learning more about your philosopher stone.” The agent lightened the atmosphere with a perky voice. “How does it work? Do you use it continually? Is it fully automatic?”
“When I sleep, I have it nestled somewhere against my body. During the day, I put it in my pocket but I cut a small hole inside the material. The stone functions when it is touching skin. And there is a mental component too.”
“You have to spiritually bond with the philosopher’s stone. It is called a philosopher stone and not an eternal youth stone because the real trick is in knowing that the stone will bring eternal youth. Then the stone activates a gate into the quantum universe: more precisely, the stone is that quantum gate.”
“How do you spiritually bond with a philosopher stone?”
“That is as easy as feeling that it is there.” The young man explained. “I reach into the stone with my imagination – for lack of a better word.”
“This is a product of your imagination.” Said the investigator in a disillusioned way.
“Quantum space is all about possibility and that is formulated in an imagination. Then with a gate open, quantum space manifests the mind’s possibility into reality. I am youthful beyond my seventy years, and that is my fantasy’s possibility transformed into my physical reality – and your reality too. Because to your eyes, I am twenty-five years old, when all your files show I’m nearly three times that.”
“The commercial prospects of a bona-fide age reversing product would be huge!”
“I have personal reasons for not wanting to do that.” The young man’s statement and the abrupt delivery left no invitation for further discussion.
“Then let’s get back to your pension case.” The middle-aged bureaucrat said aloud. But his mind was exploring what the personal reasons might be. Perhaps with some sleuthing might uncover a past tidbit that could be used to exert leverage. Having a cut on the sale of eternal youth could be worth a vast sum of wealth. All he had now was a cloudy issue of the rather small federal pension – but he could milk it for what he might get from it. “Why should we continue to pay a pension, when you are so obviously capable of being a productive contributor to the national product?”
“I worked my allotted years and a percentage of my earnings went to pay pensions for those who retired before me. Why should I be required to continue slaving in the anthill, just because physically, the years have been extraordinarily kind to me?”
“Why indeed?” The sly functionary softened his tone in preparation for the ‘hook’. “The federal pension is a universal benefit and revoking it in one instance might be politically sensitive. It would also likely mean public disclosure of your philosopher stone and seemingly, we both need to weigh the desirability of that eventuality.”
“What are you proposing?” The stone’s owner was not as naive as his youthful look suggested.
“If you give me your philosopher’s stone,” again, the slippery government agent glanced lasciviously at the girl in the waiting area, and he subconsciously licked his lips in prurient anticipation, “I’ll deep six this file until I’ve seen the stone in action. Then after I’ve consulted with my superiors, we can discuss the matter further.”
“I’m done with it now anyways.” The young man pushed the pyramid shaped item across the desktop. “You may as well use it. I’ll make another in ten years or so.”
With exaggerated theatrics, the ecstatic bureaucrat stamped the papers with ‘No Further Action’. And the deal was done with a final handshake. The aging agent’s pulse thundered, as his mind’s eye conjured up a bevy of nubile beauties frolicking nakedly in a lavish suite littered with piles of cash. He barely noticed the young looking man rejoin his girlfriend and leaving the building.
“I saw you give him the stone,” the gorgeous young woman said after her boyfriend had told her what happened, “and I observed that dirty old man’s creepy looks. Your giving him a philosopher stone doesn’t seem to match your character. And how can you know that you can even trust him over the long term?”
“He’ll be dead by tomorrow.” The seventy-year-old man in a 25-year-od physique laughed. “Or geriatric and senile as the average 100-year-old person. A philosopher stone acts as a battery that stores age and mine has 45 years worth in it. As soon as the bureaucrat bonds with it, the stone will start unloading – and fast. Nicholas found that out by accident after a supposed friend stole his first stone.”
“You didn’t offer that information.” The girl giggled.
“And he didn’t ask about any possible complications either. Now I’ll be back to flying underneath the radar and you’re correct about my moral fiber.” As they walked he gave her waist a squeeze. “I wouldn’t turn someone like that loose on an eternal future. Graft-taking government agents like that, their power-hungry political employers, and their greedy corporate sponsors are why I won’t put my philosopher stone onto the general market.”
“Maybe in twenty years,” she returned his hug, “when I’m ready to use a philosopher stone, the world will be ready for everyone to share in the gift of eternal youth.”
“Is it really a gift,” he asked in a wry voice, “or is eternal youth a curse? Flamel has been waiting 700 years in the hope of seeing a society that is worth enduring.”
Author notes: This story is fiction but I sincerely believe that a true philosopher’s stone is possible and that Nicholas Flamel could’ve produced one even with the technology available in the 1300’s. I’ve written a few opinion articles and blog posts on the topic of eternal youth and the theory under a philosopher stone.