The intercom in Death’s office buzzes. With a slightly frustrated sigh, Death lifts his skeletal head from the newspapers he was reading, takes a puff of his cigar, stretches out a little, and presses a button on the intercom.
— I swear, all this work is going to kill me one day. I said I didn’t want to be interrupted, Miss Coffins; what is it?
— I’m sorry, Mr. Death, but Mr. Aging insists that he needs to see you right now. He says it’s urgent.
Death looks up with a smirk.
— Mr. Aging! My biggest supplier and greatest friend! Please send him in at once.
— Very well, Mr. Death.
Aging storms in, short of breath, as Death puts his hood back on, gets up and pours himself a cup of hemlock.
— Hello, Agey. Always a pleasure. Some green tea?
— I’m in no mood for jokes. Antioxidants are the least of my problems right now.
— Of course, of course. Would you like a smoke? A bacon cheeseburger? A nice strawberry shake with lots of sugar?
— You’re still teasing me; fisetin can be isolated from strawberries.
— Right, whatever that is. What can I do for you? Miss Coffins said it was urgent.
— It’s a catastrophe, is what it is. They’re getting closer!
— Calm down, Agey. Sit down and start from the beginning. After all, I’m nothing if not patient.
Aging sits, visibly shaking.
— Relax. You look like you’ve got Parkinson’s disease.
— Not for long, Mr. Death! That’s exactly the problem, you see!
— Oh? How’s that?
— The humans are trying to kill me!
— And I’m sure you expect me to be upset about that. Talk about stealing someone’s job—you do realize, don’t you, that this sounds a little, uh, strange?
— Yes. Well, I can see what motive they would have—you have been making sure that each and every last one of them dies within a hundred years or so, which I am most grateful for, so it is understandable if you didn’t quite manage to get in their good books, but… how, exactly, are they going to deliver you to me?
— It’s all over the Internet!
— Yes, well, I’ve received quite a few people who believed everything they read on the Internet… You’re old enough to know not to do that, right?
— I am not ‘old’, I am experienced!
— Sorry—I always forget this is a touchy subject for you. Anyway, let’s get this over with, shall we? Where did you read this thing?
— Google ‘life extension advocacy foundation’.
— Come off it, you know I only use Yahoo Search.
Death goes back to his desk, sits down, connects to AOL with his 56k modem, and reads for a few moments on his Cyrix computer.
— ‘Crowdfunding the cure for aging‘… Hmm. Rejuvenation biotechnologies… Senolytics… Well, I’ll be… AGE breakers, allotopic expression… Yes, all right, but is any of this actually… Okay, their scientific advisory board looks legit—hey, I wonder how I would look with a beard like that?
— You understand my problem now?
— Sort of… But you know what humans are like—when it comes to doing what’s best for them, they always find a way to postpone it for the sake of “more urgent problems“. (He air-quotes exaggeratedly.)
— Yes, yes, but this time they seem serious! These LEAF guys are not the only ones working on this, and some companies even have some experimental drugs in clinical trials already! What happens if they are successful?
— Aren’t your ad people working against this? You have more of them than I do; funny thing, that, as they’re really working for me…
— Yes, they’re working night and day! The appeal to nature is a classic, overpopulation is all the rage these days. They’re saying that living too long would be boring and that rejuvenation would be just for the rich. They’ve been selling the idea that you and I are generally good things pretty well for millennia!
— So, why is this is a problem now? Humans are a little squeamish about “premature” deaths and stuff like that, but they’ve always found ways to rationalize their way out of it and say that we’re necessary evils. It’s much easier to accept this than to question it. Even if rejuvenation biotechnologies actually work, and even though this would actually be a good thing for them, because they would be healthier for longer and live for longer, they will find all manner of excuses to demonize the technology and say that it’s a bad idea and that everything should stay the way it is. Do I have to remind you just how many times this has happened over and over again during the course of their history?
— (Stuttering.) Y-yes—but these LEAF guys, for example, spend a lot of their time and energy addressing these kinds of concerns and objections… I’m not sure this strategy will work. Maybe if they could be distracted with something more pressing…
— Oh? If you’re looking for War or something, you’ll have to talk to him, although these days, the kids are more interested in playing games about him than actually engaging in the real thing. (And those games usually come to me after a few years, or even fewer…)
— Don’t joke about this! This is the end of me we’re talking about!
— I think you’ve forgotten what I’m all about, Mr. Aging. It appears that the humans will be rid of you soon enough; twenty years, or a hundred. Makes little difference to me, although it makes a great deal of difference to them.
— What?! Over the course of history, and especially recent history, deaths from most causes have generally been going down, except deaths caused by me! You’re being hedged out, Mr. Death!
— Oh, I know. Famine is a shell of his former self, Pestilence usually needs people to be weakened by you first these days, and War got too big for his britches and nobody who’s remotely civilized really wants to mess with him on the large scale anymore. Yet, I still get about 50,000 of them every day even without your contribution, so they’re not that good at staying alive, are they?
— B-but I get you a hundred thousand human deaths every day! You can’t afford to lose me!
— Of course I can. It’s the nature of business. You win some, you lose some. A lot of animals and insects die every day anyway, that’ll do.
— (Trying to sound intimidating.) Well, for your information, rejuvenation is in the works for pet animals too, and I wonder just how you’ll keep going once humans get real good at this!
— Sorry, Agey. I can wait forever, you know, and this universe is built in my favor, after all. I never get tired or bored, but I think I’ll play some squash while I wait.
— Excuse me?! Squash?!
— I get it—you’re more the knitting type, aren’t you? Did you expect chess? Plenty of people have been challenging me to it…
— But think of all the jobs that would be lost if you take me!
— (Scoffs.) That’s the nature of the job market… You know, continuous learning, flexibility, and all that stuff that the companies of today are nuts about. Don’t worry. In these strange aeons, I’ll be seeing you again soon. (Pushes Aging out.)
— No! Please!
— Do you have any idea how often people say that to me? Good day, Agey. (Slams door on him.)
Death looks around, pleased with himself.
— Squash, or… Scuba diving. Yes, I’ve always had a thing for that too.