Story Go Round 12/09/2006, round 2, #4

The Fear of Forever

(pre-titled by Kevin)

The world is changing quickly around us. time does not stand still. The real question is: how do you keep up? Peter repeated this to himself as he approached the water station. The nameless, selfless water flinger did her thing as cameras panned over the both of them. He dashed down a second cup of liquid, wiping the rivulets from his eyes. How do you keep up? Or can you run forever And should you? Would you if you could? He could only philosophize this way during marathons.

Pacing himself according to the regimin he and his trainer had worked out, Peter ran on, still thinking, but also focusing on his breathing and gait. Technology advances were an obvious place of concern, as whole new strata emerged from a generation below him, but there were manifest social and academic spheres he worried about even more.

For instance, the perpetual motion machine. Its labelling as a "problem", in fact as an insoluble and impossible problem, was something Peter found unfortunate. He wheezed his way past the horde of screaming people in blue tshirts that marked the fifteenth mile. The cared. But could they not see this for waht it was? Entropy. Time was passing.

Julie hated him.

Peter threw himself into life, experiencing every new thrill as it came to him. Marathons, mountain climbing, extreme mountain biking, kayaking, skydiving - it was all a game; an effort to stay young. Was it really working? Was he keeping himself young and staring off his age? Could he forever defeat the laws of thermodynamics? Temporarily, perhaps, but - forever?

He passed the sixteenth mile, and found a second wind coming on, making it even easier to contemplate the big questions. If I'm going to age and die, I should just accept it with grace - but can you help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, you might make it to the point where experimental medicine or technology will take a jump, and you could be one of the first generations to live well beyond a hundred? You don't want to foster a defeatist mind-set either...

And could one really consider grace and wear biker shorts and a number at the same time? A number... why did sports both celebrate the individual and force everyone into numbers? Why not name tags in Dayglo Orange?

Why even worry about mortality if on's identity was meaningless even inlife? Who cared about the end of all things when they were happy? Which brought him back to Julie.

Maybe she would be here, with her camera.

Maybe, even though he wouldn't know, wheezing as he was and with his peripheral vision narrowing with each mile. The camera always obscured her face, anyway. And waht did it matter? Sports photography meant you were here today, gone tomrrow. Event after ephemeral event. Nothing could last in that kind of universe.

He passed out at mile 22.

* * *

An envelope came for him in the hospital. No plant, no mylar balloon; just a stiff piece of cardboard backing a photo. A red faced, emaciated man in biker shorts falling into a road barrier. The faces of fans around him, some exuberant, some horrified, most bored, a few- was it bloodthirsty?

The back read "Pete - I'm putting this in for a Pulitzer. Thanks."