Work on this on this final book in the trilogy is completed. It was published in May 2014. It is available on Kindle now and will be available as an Amazon paperback by the end of June. Click here to link to Hunter III on Kindle.
I Hope you like it. Send me an email (Re: Hunter III) if you’d like to be notified of the book’s completion or if you have any comments for me. Thanks BS
December 31, 2328 Paul lay dreaming about the day he had found his secret place on the banks on the Clancy River. His arms and body twitched slightly with muscle-skeletal memories of the canoe maneuvers he’d been making.
He had been paddling alone and was not yet an expert whitewater paddler. He made frequent turns into minor eddies trying to be totally technical with his strokes and balance. Just practicing skills needed for the exciting sport.
He was able to nose into the bank behind a boat-sized rock, only to find no bank; just a screen of bushes that masked a side stream entering the Clancy.
It was a flat area. The slow-moving water was crystal clear. Just inches deep with river stones and pebbles strewn across the bottom. Grasses and bushes screened it from sight in every direction. Thick moss covered the rocks on the riverbank.
He liked the place so well that he always, thereafter, paddled there when he was by himself. That was where he and Dahlia had first made love. It was a spot where he almost always exited his boat to sit and dream on the bank. Sometimes he fell asleep…
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday Dear Paul,
Happy birthday to you!
Light applause brought him fully awake.
Paul opened his eyes in surprise. He couldn’t see the singers because his eyes were watering with tears. He hadn’t expected any celebration and was having a hard time getting his bearings. Oh! And it couldn’t be his 150th birthday yet.
Strong, caring hands helped him sit upright in his bed. He pressed his knuckles into his eyes to clear them, but it didn’t work very well. He was so tired. His eyes drooped and the commotion went away. He thought that he had just imagined it anyway. He sensed that both his mind and body were failing in the last few months.
He smiled as he remembered…
Paul was tired. He trudged past the entrance post to the campground and didn’t pause. At the age of 76 he did not walk fast, but he’d covered 20 kilometers since morning. This was the first day of his hike. He considered it a series of 5 klik walks with a rest every hour. He saw a white blaze indicating that it was an official part of the Mountains To The Sea Trail. He had seen hundreds of these blazes but this was the first that had spoken to him.
The soft voice inside his head said, “Hi Paul. Welcome to MTS Dunes Campground. If you are staying for the night just go to camp 3. It is one hundred meters ahead. Your account will be charged for each night you stay. Call 704 555 1515 if you have questions or problems. The Ranger will stop by to say hi at around 6 p.m. Have a good stay.”
Paul’s belt buckle had actually received the message, forwarded the voice via his implant, and paid the bill with a debit to his general account. The implant helped him manage routine parts of his life including financial transactions, health care and communications.
He had his first implant procedure in 2020 when he was 42-years old. A renewal device was put in his brain every few years since then. The current ‘gizmo,’ as he called it, his 8th, was quite advanced over the original. It was recharged, of course, through an induction process from any source in his immediate vicinity. Now, in mid-century, just about everyone in the world was implanted.
Most often the energy recharges came from his hat’s solar collector while he was hiking. The heels and soles of his ankle high boots were a better source of PEE, personal electric energy on dark and rainy days. Selective induction made this all possible. At home, in the city of Asheville, North Carolina, there were multiple recharge points everywhere he went.
He was a vigorous human being despite his age. He just moved slower, tired a little quicker, and held his thoughts a better than he did as a young man. He was here to sort out his life. He needed to get away on his own to make some important decisions. He had plenty of time to think about fewer things, as a famous newscaster once said at his retirement dinner.
A natural multi-tasker, Paul was also writing a book. His memoirs. It would be a picture book featuring his watercolor paintings as well as photos and sketches. His voice monitor made it very easy to do the written part of the work. He just talked about things as he walked and in the evening hours he could lounge in his tent area and see the spoken words as writing on the holographic monitor implanted in his corneas. He could edit his words with his mini board that was a part of the E-package he carried with him at all times, or he could do it with voice alone.
As wealthy man he had the best e-kit available and it weighed less than 50 grams. Other capabilities included a telephone with both video and audio, e-messing, Facebook, Twitter, Jawbreakers, holographic keyboard and a finger-rat. He rarely used the keyboard. All these bits interacted with his belt buckle and implants to perform a large variety of tasks.
He thought that he was a little long-in-the-tooth to be out for a major trek, but the need to occupy his mind was urgent. His youthful dog, Spotty, followed attentively.
The day began with a conversation. “Buffy.”
“Hi Boss. We going somewhere?”
“Yes. We’re going to Jockey Ridge State Park in North Carolina. Power up. Pick up our orders at Mast General and at Fresh Market. They have your code and the orders will be ready you get there.
“Spotty and I will be ready to leave when you get back. Call me when you get to the corner and don’t go into the garage. We’ll be ready at the front door to get in and go.”
“That all Boss.”
“Yep.” Paul replied, and rang off with a practiced but very slight, blinky squint of his right eye. It still amazed him that he was able to interface with his gadgets by simple gestures. Voice commands came long ago but the e-whizes soon enough figured out that human communications were gesture driven as well as voiced events. His repertoire consisted of thousands of facial nuances, hand movements and body and posture signals. His equipment was attuned to him.
He spoke on the phone but without visible equipment. He still used a little hand gesture, pinky out and thumb up, when in public, to let others know that he was not babbling to himself. It was automatic.
Paul was dressed to travel and hike. He figured that the errands would take his ride half an hour at most. So he bade Spotty sit near him while he finished his second cup of coffee and mused about his day.
The ride to the coast in his Buffalo would take 7 hours. Traveling I-26 at a steady 150 kph would be easy. The eastern trailhead for the Mountains to the Sea Trail was about 500 kilometers away. The last 200 klicks would be on slower roads. He would be full out napping for most of the tip. They would stop only for toilet breaks.
He had already packed the vehicle with his tent, consumables, personal toiletries, and clothing the night before. The last minute shopping was to have the freshest veggies possible for his journey and to get another potable water jug to keep him on the trail as long as he wanted.
The first night would be in Nags Head at a bed and breakfast. He’s drive to the trail in the nearby park and Buffy would be stashed at the local police department parking lot.
NOVEMBER 2054 “Paul. Get the hell avay from me!” she yelled, as he advanced on her with a sudden release of Viagra IV as motivation. Dahlia, Paul’s wife of over 50 years, was full of life and very playful. She glared at him in mock anger.
He needed a little help in that department lately. Just out of his morning spa, air-flow dried and powdered, he felt frisky. He caught her leaving the apartment on the way to meet friends for an outing to the Grove Park Inn Spa just down the road. She was dressed in a frothy afternoon ensemble and in no mood for sex.
Dahlia was a very upbeat person. Kind, lively, funny and energetic, she liked taking care of people. Her husband Paul and their children were the main beneficiaries of her loving ways.
She grabbed the towel from his waist and backed up snapping it. Whack! She got a lucky hit near his crotch and he fell back giving her a lead that he could not overcome without going out on the street naked.
Dahlia trotted down the stairs, leaving the towel halfway down and called back to him, “Honey. Remember dat thought and tell me again later. I’ll be back at two.” Her light German accent still returned in times of stress and excitement.
She left the drive with a burst of acceleration as she went through the light at the corner of their street. She had over-ridden the Autodrive and slid on a patch of ice.
Dahlia had time to observe the rapidly approaching rock wall with a look of surprise on her face. It was a freak accident at a relatively slow rate of speed but it had managed to ram a boulder from the retaining wall through the window and break her skull.
Paul, preoccupied with giving up the chase, and seeking out clothing for his day, ignored the sound of the accident. He found about it when the ER physician from Mission Memorial Hospital reached him several hours later looking for a Mr. Hunter.
He was with his old friend Marty Smith when the call came. His face fell and his shoulders slumped. He collapsed onto a bench on the sidewalk outside the church office where they’d just finished meeting with the Senior Center Advisory Board.
“Paul. What’s wrong?” Marty’s face was furrowed in concern as Paul sagged, hugged his knees and began shaking.
Marty, sitting on the bench opposite, jumped up and reached Paul as he fell to the ground. “Paul. What’s wrong buddy?” He helped Paul get back on the bench.
“Marty. That was an ER doc at the hospital. Dahlia’s been hurt. I gotta go now.”
“Okay. But let me take you. Let’s go.”
It seemed that everyone in his life went away when Dahlia died. Their children, Billy and Janice, came to her funeral, of course. Billy, a veterinarian, and Janice, a surgical nurse, lived far away in Indiana and Wyoming.
Dahlia’s funeral was huge. She got a good send off.
“Mom sure had a lot of friends,” Billy said to Janice. They had come from their faraway homes for their mother’s service. Their children, 5 grandchildren, and an assortment of cousins, nieces and nephews constituted quite a crowd in the apartment. A somber crowd, mostly dressed in fashionable jumpsuits of the day.
The apartment was the place where Billy and Janice had grown from babies to adults. They retreated to Janice’s old bedroom on the 3rd floor to find quiet for a talk.
“What’s Daddy going to do without Mom? What are we going to do without Mom?” Janice slumped into her old armchair as she choked out these words.
Billy stood next to her. “I can’t believe this happened. Why was she even steering that God damned car. Autodrives are so much better than people. Never should have happened.”
“Daddy said they’d been playing and she snapped him with a towel and ran out of the apartment. She must have been feeling excited and happy. You know how much I miss driving these days.”
“The fucking car should have saved her. Nobody dies in car accidents anymore.”
He was right. Eveyone knew that cars and trucks drove themselves and handled navigation, parking, tolls and traffic better than people ever could. They were never inattentive, overtired or intoxicated. There were only a few thousand vehicular deaths per year now in the entire world of 10 billion souls. Before Autodrive technology there were many more deaths than that each week and tens of thousands of injuries every month in just the United States.
“We need to talk to Dad, “Janice said. “He must never override his autodriver. He’s in great shape but it’s 2054 and Mom should never have been driving.”
Everything changed when Dahlia died. Paul had a few remaining friends and as much work as he cared to do. His interior life was rich but he missed the days of plentiful friendships and meaningful activities.
He spent a lot of time alone, sallying forth to church on Sundays and church-related meetings on other days. He did not work much otherwise. His 3 art galleries located at the Grove Park Inn, the Maupai Mountain Lodge in Georgia, and on the first floor of his apartment building, ran without him. University art students kept the places open 6 days a week. The business did more than break even but he didn’t need the income and kept them to preserve memories of his old life with Dahlia. He could have done well by renting the stores but choose to let them go on.
One of the activities he liked was shopping at the old Mast General Store that was within easy walking distance of his home in Asheville. It sold camping gear as well as outdoor clothing. The new-fangled tents, backpacks, cooking gadgets and trail food attracted him every time he browsed the store. Knowledgeable and friendly staffers made this a fun outing. He picked up a book about the Mountains to the Sea Trail there and that spawned his ideas about hiking.
He was lonely for Dahlia and sometimes a little blue. He bought a dog – adopted it really. He named the puppy Spotty and they soon became close friends. Paul spent a not-so-small fortune for his new best friend’s implant. Daily walks were good for beast and master.
Paul’s soul was not happy. Dahlia had passed too early and their children were busy with their own lives thousands of miles away. He was lonely. He had found many friends in life but at his advanced age they were scattered and old. “Or maybe mostly dead,” he thought, “like me in a few years. What do I have to show for it all?” He shrugged his mental shoulders and muttered, “more than some I suppose.”
Deciding to walk parts of North Carolina’s Mountains to the Sea Trail with Spotty, engaged his mind with coordinating details and planning.
He decided that he had a charmed life despite misadventures, misdemeanors, and crimes and resolved to share the story with his descendants and family by writing a memoir he names Paul’s Falls. The walk would be good for him. Help him to sort things out and maybe even find a direction to follow for the remainder of his life.
He eventually completed much of his book while hiking along hundreds of miles of spectacular and challenging wilderness trails. The project took 3 years. He needed to prompt his recorder to begin each session. So he began each bit of manuscript copy by saying, “Dear Diary.” He soon shortened the phrase to, “DD.”
Spotty was a slightly mixed-breed, but mostly Bernese-Mountain type dog. His face had a big black spot in the middle of his forehead, floating on a little pond of pure white fur. Overall it was hard to decide if he was more brown, white or black. Regardless of its genes, it was the cutest animal on record and passersby could not help stopping for a pet and a friendly sniff.
Both pet and master enjoyed a vigorous brushing after each walk. The brushing was needed to keep the mutt’s hair out of the apartment. Dahlia would not have approved of the dog mess but, Paul thought, she would approve of his new friend since she didn’t have to alert the dust mop every time Spotty strolled through the apartment.
Septuagenarian Paul was fit because he never smoked; because he had advanced medical care; and because he possessed great longevity genes. Oh yeah – and that implant thingy too.
His head was shaved and his whiskers trimmed to number zero on his shaver. He looked like an aging Mister Clean.
April 2055 “DD…” His feedback tick told him he was recording. “I am walking comfortably on a sandy path. Rover tent is following me at a precise distance of 5 meters. Its 4 big wheels are good on almost any terrain. The power unit takes care of itself in a variety of ways – sunlight, downhill braking, induction stations and even a little hand-crank. So far, first day of my great walk, I’ve had to use it twice.
“The Rover carries my sleeping bag, a mattress, food, water and my general supplies. Everything is very light weight. It sure is different from my camping out back at the turn of the millennium. In 1999, or was it 2000?…” He rambled on about his youth.
Spotty’s walking order was between Paul and the tent. He sometimes bounded off, full of young canine energy, but his implant was tuned to Paul’s wavelength so that Paul could check the pooch when he wandered or keep him at heel if there were traffic or pedestrian concerns.
Paul had plenty of time to muse about his life and the changes he’d seen over the decades. He had seen inflation brought under better control in 2034 when the world’s great currencies merged into the Universal Dollar – Udol as it was called. The universal digital tagging all manufactured goods and commodities had helped make made that step possible. Improved worldwide transportation, storage, distribution and communications had made the old cycles of punishing inflation and ruinous recessions and booms disappear and they now seemed ridiculous.
“DD. It’s hard for the average person to remember how the Udol related to the value of currencies of yore. For one thing its value has been set to the value of human work in the modern era and that changes, by edict, every year as people became more efficient. It is managed to achieve the greatest good for all. No one actually carries cash or manages a checkbook.
“I’ve lived through times of great change. There are now currency accounts for every human being on earth and it doesn’t matter too much if an individual overspends in a single year or even a decade. Accounts are eventually settled at death. Just as the average man no longer worried about tigers and bears so much in 2000, the citizens of 2050 don’t worry about money. That beast is under control.
“The wars, riots and upheavals of the early 21st century largely resulted from the unemployment and poverty. Religious zealots and political true believers fanned the pains of poverty into flames of change – but the changes followed no ones’ plan. In the beginnings cellphone and internet technology enabled people everywhere on earth see beyond the range of their eyes. They saw prosperity and peace on a large scale and obtained it simply by demanding it for themselves.
“When the ‘Bright Lights’ at Harvard University declared that it was no longer desirable to have class divisions based on wages, since there were not enough jobs to go around, and figured out the Universal Reverse Tax to spread the wealth equitably, crime all but disappeared; poverty and hunger became obsolete. International cooperation became the norm and outlaw nations could not withstand.”
He switched off to give it a rest but thought about the remarkable way things had improved for people. The average Joe in the year 1000, vs the average person in 2000, vs the average man now, only half a hundred years past the millennium.
“DD. The thing with crime was that the incentive to steal was just about gone. Cash was no longer of any use and many possessions, in the face of worldwide plenty, were no longer so desirable.
“As I said earlier, I was sneaky as a youngster – a thief and a liar and my actions were damaging to myself and others. I’ve made apologies and restitution as well as I could and I try to do good in the world now.
“I was out of a job and homeless, living in a tent in the woods – but that’s another part of my story.
“There were many reasons that there were not enough jobs to keep everyone employed in the 20th century model. Individual productivity had blossomed with the marvels of computers, fast communications, modern transportation and robotic factory workers. Automobiles, kitchen appliances, tools and all manufactured goods had advanced in durability and quality.
“There was a green movement throughout the world that preached smaller houses, environmental concern and less waste. The world needed energy to prosper but used so much less to achieve results of decades past that fewer workers produced and distributed more goods at lower costs.
“Farming was no longer a hit or miss proposition. Yields went off chart with modern hydro. Inefficient and cruel meat production was eliminated with manufactured and textured nutritional products. Wasteful suburban living was being replaced with marvelous cities that preserved old treasures while providing a healthful environment. Many, otherwise unemployed people, reverted to small farming in an updated version of earlier eras. The earth seemed happy.”
Paul himself was rich enough and benefited from a much higher than average income. He enjoyed income from both old-age social security benefits and a jumbo variable annuity. In addition, a trusted agency took care of distributing and marketing the art that he had created over the years. That generated plenty of income. He did not need to jobshare and paid no attention to the job lotteries that apportioned available work to people participating in the pools.
He was no longer in love with creating art. He realized that most of the paintings he had produced were not masterpieces either in his portfolio of work or in the world at large. He felt he’d produced a few worthwhile paintings and had been lucky that they were valued enough to make his name known in the contemporary art market. His signature on a work made it salable. He had become well known because he had made so many paintings. The technology of reproducing good copies had made him a lot of money. Now with advanced 3-D printing, it took an expert examination to tell a copy from a real painting.
Despite his success as an artist and as a businessman, his riches were really the result of a few lucky real estate deals. He eased through the first half century of the millennium year untroubled by the unemployment or poverty. Now, as an old man, no one cared if he worked. He didn’t have to pretend to be busy with a career in art.
Perversely, as worker productivity soared, and the economy produced bountiful goods and services, unemployment rose dramatically. Greater efficiency produced enough for America and her trading partners without needing the number of workers once required.
Paul put those thoughts into the record and continued, “DD. At the same time that productivity soared, the quality and durability of the things we used improved dramatically. If one looks at the life of a typical Chevrolet over the decades from 1950 through 2050, the mileage at retirement rose from 125,000 miles in the year 2,000 to 2,000,000 plus at mid-century mark. My big Ford Buffalo had 2,000,000 miles on it when I bought it. It looks and performs better than new.”
Paul tried to be selective in his preaching. He wanted his readers to understand that his life was good before the digital revolution. It was good when he had no money and few needs. At the age of 18 he had spent 2 years living in tents without plumbing or electricity.
“DD. Other factors in the always, ever-increasing, unemployment were the aging of the human race and reduced birth rates. With the reduction of the stigma of unemployment, no one cared. There was plenty money and material goods for everyone. Lots of people worked at some point and unemployed people sometimes sought jobs. Work was thought of as prestigious, fun and interesting. But just taking care of our families, stay at home momming and dadding is way better.” He laughed out loud. “Me? I always liked my jobs. Even when I was my own boss. Just the way I’m wired. I like to work but goofing off is better…” He was interrupted in midsentence.
Lucy Lu’s voice came to his ear. She had a very musical voice but she spoke softly. “Hi Paulie. You awake?”
“Yep. It’s 7 AM here. Where are you?”
“Paris. Having lunch on the Champs. My favorite café – Deux Magots. Just a croissant and coffee. Got to watch my figure, ya know.”
He turned on his eyeshare to let her see what he saw and she reciprocated. She was indeed at the famous café on the Champs Elysee Boulevard. She wore a hat so her face was shadowed and hard to see.
“Wow Paulie. Where are you sitting – in a tent? Is that Spotty?”
“Yep. Paris looks beautiful through your eyes. Wish I was there.”
He laughed softly, “You better watch your figure. I’m working on mine.” He was actually lying on his sleeping bag and mattress in his Coleman Supertent enjoying the closeness of Spotty’s head resting on his outstretched leg. Growing light and the morning breeze flowed through the open flap. He sipped hot coffee.
She gave an audible pause, “…Um… Paul Honey,” she breathed as if in his ear. “When are you coming to see me?”
The phone connection was so intimate. When he had taken the raft guide course at COC, the Caverns Outdoor Center, in mountainous Clancy, Georgia back in ’97 – or was it ’98?-they had not been close. The classmates had sorted themselves into age groups and she was a few years his senior. He had recently graduated from high school and had no career goals. She was a young M.D. of Chinese heritage and a genius too boot. Graduated first in her medical school class at age 25. She was an ER physician at Emory University Hospital with an idea that she could work fewer shifts in the ER an Atlanta and spend time on the rivers as a whitewater rafting guide.
Paul saw her hand reaching for a croissant and then the street scene with pedistrians wearing smart outfits and quiet busses rolling by. She saw speckled sunlight and his hand absently patting the dog.
As personal communications improved in the second decade of the 21st century Paul had reconnected with virtually everyone who had been important in his life. Lucy was barely on that list. The only thing they had in common was the one-week Whitewater Guide Rafting class at the now famous COC. They had only shared a passion for whitewater kayaking. They were not really friends and had not seen each other for in over 50 years. She was a tab on his friends list. When he had sent out the announcement of Dahlia’s death, he had renewed several friendships with people from his past as expressions of sympathy came in.
Paul and Lucy learned things about each other over a series of calls. He knew she was divorced and working part-time as a physician in a French clinic. She said she did not need to work but she had skills that were better used.
She claimed to be as healthy as a horse. She told him once, “Paul. I think that age 80 may be the new 40 nowadays.” She had extended the invitation weeks ago and he had accepted without formatting exact dates.
“HONEY?” She had never called him Honey before. Wonder what that meant he mused.
“Uh… Lucy. Soon. Right now I’m on a camping trip. Just me and my pooch Spotty, on the Mountains to the Sea Trail in North Carolina. I’m not sure how long I’m going to keep at it. Right now I’m thinking I’ll be done in about 30 days. I could fly over, say about May 15th and we could do Paris together. Oui mon cherie?”
“That’s a date then. I’ll pick you up at the airgate stop. I suggest you come ‘Comfort Class’ and terminal at Notre Dame.
“And Paul, I …er, have a roommate, so, for your first visit I suggest that you get a hotel room. She is a retired Catholic Bishop and I don’t want to offend her if… if there should be any hint of improprieties…comprendez vous? Can I pick the hotel for you?”
“Yeah. Sure. I don’t need anything special. Quaint and cheap would be all right but if it turns out quaint and Ritzy, I can handle it. Money’s not much of an issue, ya know.
“So okay!” He waxed more enthusiastic, “I’ll make the airline arrangements and let you know ETA and gate. You make any other arrangements you like. Sky’s the limit,” he blurted out.
His vision returned to normal as they rang off.
The gate would be in downtown Paris. The detachable coach pod from the jet would make its way, without a driver of course, to one of several in-town terminals, picking-up and dropping passengers just like a bus. Jumbo jets were the norm now and airport facilities could not keep up with the traffic. The Boeing PodJet left the drawing boards in 2130 and was now the standard of the world for moving people more easily in the air and at both ends of a flight.
He would carry no baggage. He could get resupplied with saniwear, wardrobe items and toiletries as he went. His essential power shoe platform and belt and hat and glasses would go everywhere he went.
Aside from her time as a Caverns Outdoor Center raft guide Lucy and Paul’s life paths did not cross. Something else had sparked their interest in meeting. Curiosity about how they had turned out as mature adults he thought. Perhaps over-ripe adults he chuckled to himself as he thought about it.
After they rang off, he opened his tent flap more fully to let the outdoor air engulf him. He’d slept in his walking togs and felt gritty. He walked a few feet away from the tent carrying his toiletry kit and camping spade. Spotty watched with interest but did not stir from his nest next to Paul’s sleeping bag.
First Paul peed into a bush. Then he dug a smallish hole in the forest mulch close to a tree, stripped, and leaned against the tree trunk to relieve himself. He wiped with his disposable saniwear and put it on top of his pile before covering the hole with a handful of leaves.
Paul fished a large moist folding towel from the bag. He scrubbed his face, underarms, feet and privates with the towel before poking it under some leaves. Out of its pouch it would become brown, disintegrated mulch itself in 24 hours. The saniwear would disintegrate too but on a slightly delayed schedule. He felt refreshed and sanitary. He would brush and floss his teeth after breakfast. He had rinseless shampoo and soaps but he chose not to use them this morning.
The personal sanitation array he used were first developed for military and the old NASA organizations. Boaters and campers loved them.
He actually had a fold-away portable toilet with him but it just wasn’t needed under the day’s conditions.
He had hot oatmeal with ButterX , brown sugar and raisins for breakfast. About 1,000 calories. He’d need a good deal more energy before the day was over. He folded his airbag camp sleeping bag, evicting Spotty who made his own morning toilet nearby. Everything packed easily into his Supertent. His little camp chores included washing a pair of wool socks and draping them over a line positioned for that purpose on the front of the little, superlight tent rig.
Before setting out for the day he popped his Bubble easy chair out of its pocket and let it self-inflate. It was a lightweight but brilliant addition to his camping outfit. It was very comfortable, supporting his back and lifting him off the ground. It was covered in a strong plastic material that he would have difficulty puncturing, even with a knife. Its terrycloth seat and back cover prevented him from getting damp when he sat in it. It was the most comfortable piece of furniture he’d ever owned.
While Spotty ate his breakfast and roamed, Paul sat comfortably and made arrangements. He secured a reservation on the 10 PM Paris flight from Atlanta on the 14th of May. He’d arrive on the morning of the 15th, fresh from a night’s sleep in his airbed.
He arranged for his friend Marty to take care of Spotty while he was gone. He spoke to Billy and Janice. Calling his children with a ‘Wellfare and Whereabouts’ report was a daily routine.
Paul had a hard time explaining Paris to Janice. “Sweetheart. I’m just taking a little vacation from my life.
“I’m at loose ends right now and need to fill the time while I look for a direction. Lucy Lu is an old friend from my days at COC.”
“Daddy. What the hell! I just googled her. She’s a sex therapist!
“What’s going on with you?”
Paul was stumped. “I…I… I didn’t know that,” he stammered.
He thought about it a nano-second and said firmly, “Janice. I might have sex with someone sometime. Not Mom.” Oops had he said that aloud?
“I mean. Things have changed. She has a Catholic Bishop for a roommate and I am not going to have sex with Lucy. I have never seen Paris and this is an opportunity to have a Parisian show me the place.”
Janice laughed so hard she peed her pants. “…Just a little Daddy. I am 50 years old and you don’t have to explain yourself. I was just shocked for a moment.
“I’m sorry. I ve got to ring off now and change my sani.” She disconnected, still laughing.
“DD. We goin’ to Paris!”
APRIL 18, 2054 The morning breeze was chilled by the cold sea. It was spiced with a salt tang. He breathed deeply and squinted at the brilliant sun in the China blue sky.
Paul needed to resupply water, dog food, Paul food, sanis and towels. It was his 6th day on the trail and wanted a restaurant meal as well as supplies. He studied the map of the area on the hi def images supplied by his hi def implants.
Walking the trail was a little complicated. Joining the organization called Friends of the Mountain To The Sea Trail had been a good move. Their website provided detailed information about each section of the trail.
Man and dog traversed dunes, beaches, trails, country roads, parks, highways, villages and towns. Sea breezes and clean air were a part of the daily diet. Mostly Paul and Spotty were by themselves. About once a day a MTS friend would call him to say hello and offer assistance and information. He declined company when it was offered and no one intruded on his solitary jaunt. At his age he felt lucky to have help near at hand.
He tapped into the members list and reached out to the ‘managers’ of the trail sections before he arrived each day. They told him where to camp legally and, if camping was not allowed, they’d tell him where he could crash with nearby ‘friend,’ or even better, told him where he could safely camp without permission, usually just a few feet away from the path or road he was on. Law enforcement in the area and on the subject of illegal camping was very boring. No one bothered him yet he spoke with people every day. The folks he encountered were very interested in his rig and in his story. “Why are you doing this?” “How long have you been on the trail?” “Where are you going?”
Davis, North Carolina was just a ferry terminal. He loved North Carolina’s free ferry service. It tied the Outer Banks to the outside world.
He had ample supplies packed into his Ford Buffalo SUV. Bags of water, crates of freeze dried food, sanis, fresh utilities, and more. He rang up the vehicle and arranged a rendezvous at noon near the ferry dock in Davis. It was currently parked at Jockey Ridge State Park near the trailhead. He used his Google and Apple maps to scout the area. The Buffalo would come to him, be on time, and keep him informed if there were problems.
He was doing the trail backwards. For him it was the ‘Sea to the Mountains Trail.’ He figured that he could build up his legs and wind better on the flatter coastal regions. He knew that he didn’t want to do the entire trail in a single trek but in increments lasting a week to a month. This first outing was a learning experience for him.
His most expensive purchase from Mast General Store was the Coleman self-propelled tent. It had a reputation of being able to recharge its batteries even on overcast days. It used its hub-mounted brakes and a wind powered turbine for energy as well. With 4 over-sized bicycle tires it would proceed about its business even if it flipped. Its primary mission was to follow Paul’s belt buckle at a distance of 5 meters. Paul had a miniature remote control button on his belt buckle to shut it down when he needed it to wait for him. It could roll faster than he cared to walk.
“DD. Before 2020 pneumatic were the only kind available. Tires were noisy. Even out in the wilderness, 30 kilometers from the nearest highway, you could hear motor traffic. Sometimes it was engine noises but it was tire noise too – inflated tires making a ruckus, sucking up energy wearing out.
“Someone, I can’t remember who, solved the noise problem, the inefficient use of energy and the problem or wearing out tires all in oneswell foop. A woman I believe. She figured out wheel geometry and substituted a slightly flexible wheel and rim covered by a solid neoplastic tire, Very energy efficient, long lasting beyond belief, and quiet. She built sound insulation into the fenders and car tires became as quiet and efficient as their engines. She put millions of workers out on the streets. Tire manufacturing, tire repair, tire service and tire noise all gone in less than 5 years.
“That has been the trend my entire adult life it seems. Fewer workers producing more than enough goods with technological unemployment exceeding the need for workers in the new industries and product lines. Old industries and services getting more efficient and reaching more of our world’s population. Sigh…! It wasn’t easy at first…”
Paul arrived at the rendezvous early and napped under a tree while he waited. He was fitter now that his body was readapting itself for daily walking. His legs were certainly stronger and he walked faster than on the first day.
Spotty flopped down in the shade nearby. Paul lay dreaming about the day he had found his secret place on the banks on the Clancy River. This had been a recurrent dream for more than half a century. His arms and body always twitched slightly with muscle-skeletal memories of the canoe maneuvers he’d been making. Sometimes he Dahlia was in his dreams. Laying naked in the sunlight after the lovemaking. Sometimes he was alone, happy as always, in this dream, but thinking about others in his life. Sometimes his brother Mitch would appear and they would reminisce about their boyhood escapades.
Today he was giggling over something when the Buffalo beeped. It had arrived so silently that he had not heard a thing.
He opened his eyes and stretched with the luxury of having time to enjoy the vibe of being. How lucky I am to see clearly and feel so good. The air he breathed was warm and well moistened by the on shore breezes of the day. Life was good.
Spotty sat alert as he loaded fresh supplies into the tent. The tent was plugged into the Buffalo, super charging its batteries.
Paul placed his small amount accumulated trash in the trash compartment of the vehicle. He had about 10-days of supplies now. He sent the Buffalo to the city of Havelock to park in the municipal parking lot. He called the town police department for permission. The female voice asked him for its color and ident signal. She promised, “We’ll look after it for you sir. Let us know when you decide to move it.”
MAY 15, 2054 The flight was comfortable – Paul slept the whole way. So when the wheels touched down with the slightest bump, He was rested and excited to be in the City of Light. The pod separated itself from the airship and trundled away from the airport towards the city center toward the Notre Dame stop.
Passport formalities were largely a thing of the past. His implant identified him for authorities. His passport was not a paper document as it had been in younger days. He remembered that inter city air travel used to require that he be at the airport 2 hours prior to departure to accomplish security and other details. He recalled long lines for customs and immigration at both ends of international flight. Those kinds of delays were no longer necessary. It was a safer world in the mid-21st century.
Paul’s seat neighbor was a University of Florida history professor going to France on holiday. He casually pointed out some of the sights for Paul they passed. Paul had the window seat and took in Paris with appreciation. He had read much but never visited France. He and Dahalia has made many trips to Europe over the years to Germany, Italy and Spain. As an avid reader Paul had been here in his imagination.
They skirted the Montmartre and he glimpsed up the sloping street where his seatmate told him the Moulin Rouge was situated. They circled the Opera house and The Gare du Nord Train Station. At last the River Seine appeared and the pod stopped in full view of Notre Dame. Paul was excited and took the scene in with pleasure.
The Seine flowed just below the old quai where he stood. Vendors and strollers were everywhere along both sides of the river. He could see the massive towers of Notre Dame Cathedral looming above sparsely leafed trees and a short bridge. He had studied maps of the city and knew that the many of the famous places he wanted to visit were mostly within 1,000 meters.
A crowd of 40 or so people milled around the pod terminal. A porter opened the baggage hatch and she was passing out shiny suitcases and plastic-wrapped packages to the passengers. A few people were giving the girl new luggage and boarding. Paul scanned faces looking for Lucy.
No luck. He was looking for an older woman. There were two women chatting by a bench. The younger smaller one was eyeing Paul. She was young and only slightly oriental. The stouter, older of the two sat in a wheel chair. These two were the only possibilities.
Wait. Could she be Lucy or her daughter? She didn’t seem old enough. She vibed European as well as oriental. Paul, moved toward them. The woman jumped up and called out, “Paul?”
She embraced him and, as she reached up, he focused on her face. This was not a girl but a woman of forty. She looked incredibly young due to her slender frame and smooth skin. But she was actually several years his senior if not already eighty years old.
“Why Lucy. You look terrific. How do you stay so young?”
She laughed. “That’s a long story. I’ll tell ya later. Here. Let me introduce you to Polly.
Polly looked up from her chair. “Hi Paul. Welcome to Paris. Sorry I can’t get up just now. I had knee surgery yesterday and they want me to rest the leg for 48 hours. Then, they say, I can go back to playing tennis.”
He shook Polly’s hand and saw a black woman of his own age with a prominent cross chain around her neck. She was dressed in an ordinary jumper. “Pleased to meet you. I’m glad the chair is temporary.”
Lucy said, “Polly is my flat-mate. I told you about her. She’s a retired Catholic Bishop from Ohio. She’s in Europe and North Africa for a yearlong sabbatical studying comparative religions. She’s writing a book and knows everything you can think of about religions except how to convert me to Christianity.” They all laughed at that remark. Paul looked at Lucy in a questioning manner, “Okay my friends. Lead on. I am without knowledge of a place to stay.”
“Not to worry Paulie. We took care of that. We got you the Royal Suite at the Hotel Plaza Saint Michael. We plan to move in with you for a couple of weeks and let you pay the bills. Three bedrooms, decadent dining, en suite spa, and all. And the hotel is easy walking distance to everything. We’ll be pushing Polly, of course.
“As you suggested we booked for two weeks and, Paul, this is very important.” She took of his arm and peered into his eyes, “You must give them your credit number as soon as we get there. If you don’t do it I’m going to have to look for a hovel in the burbs. I won’t be able to pay my rent.
“Paulie. I hope you are as rich as I think.”
Paul grinned at his friends. “I’m comfortable with the arrangement for now. My banker might notice in a year or two but the main thing Lucy is that I’m delighted to be here.” He reached for her and gave her another hug. She was very short and very slender.
He patted Polly on the shoulder and asked, “Polly. Can I push for a while and you can tell me where to go?”
Polly looked up and challenged him to a race. “I can get over the bridge before you my son.”
It turned out that the chair didn’t need pushing. Its systems included a strong propulsion unit and all that Paul needed to do was stroll along as the women told him every detail about the things he was seeing for the first time. He was impressed by their knowledge and was falling in love with the city. It was so damn old! So much had happened here. Not all of it good.
Paul was amazed by the amount the hotel charged his account. He figured it as over 3 years of work at minimum wage. He didn’t share his shock with his companions. Their quarters were splendid. The hotel manager accompanied them on a tour of the suite. It included a generously equipped workout room and spa containing a steam room and hot tub. There were 3 bedchambers, 4 bathrooms, and a modern kitchen. The large living areas had glass doors leading to a large balcony. The furnishings were modern with many little nods to the history of France and Paris. They had a butler and 2 maids at their beck and call. There was a concierge on duty outside their door 24 hours a day. They were introduced to the staff as a part of the tour.
“Mesieur et madams. S’il vous plait. Please do call on us. We want to be of service. The complete list of services is in each bed chamber. You will like our bicycles and access to our free auto rental fleet. You, of course, will have a driver at your disposal. The vehicle is automatic but he will serve you in many ways to make your visit pleasant and productive.
“By the way. There will be no extra fees for services or meals, unless something major like a private aircraft is desired.”
Paul thanked Monsieur Vale with a handshake. The quietly thanked God that there would be some freebies thrown in. The bill didn’t scare him but it got his attention.
The hotel was only 30 years old. It was built of modern materials but it had many touches of the grand turn-of-the-century style that typified his American stereotype of France.
The 3 friends sat in their grand saloon and formatted a plan for the remains of the day and the next few days as well. Frank the butler brought them tea and cookies and retired to the kitchen to await their pleasure. He would be on duty until 6 PM. A single maid would stay until after the dinner hour to give them turn down service and freshen the bathrooms.
“Tell me what to do Lucy. I’m in your hands. And your’s too Polly.”
Lucy took charge. Her plan was simple enough. “Paul. Polly and I have discussed this at some length. We have 2 weeks to fill and we have decided that at our ages and because of Polly’s knee, we don’t want to be full time tourists. So maybe we could plan for just one event each day and dinner together, and a little free time for us all. Except for today and tomorrow.
“We’ve got that all mapped out: tonight Notre Dame. We’ll follow that up with dinner at the hotel. Tomorrow afternoon we’ll go to the Musée d’Orsay
“The D’Orsay is my favorite. They are having an American art round-up. Twenty first century artists. We’ll venture out for breakfast at the crack of noon, or whenever we get up. We’ll stroll along the quay on the way to the museum and wander les arrondissementsafterwards. That means the neighborhoods.
Notre Dame is only 200 meters away and we’ll go there tonight. Polly has arranged a VIP visit. The hotel dining room is on the roof, sunset starts after eight. So we have time to rest, walk and visit Notre Dame today. I’d like a nap and I know Lucy wants one too. Let’s leave for the cathedral at 5 o’clock. Oui?”
“Sounds good to me. I’d like to freshen up and snooze too.”
Paul turned to Polly. “Polly. How do I address you? Mother. Your majesty? Your Reverence?”
“Good questions Paul. I am one of the first generation of female Catholic priests. Early on we decided that Mother was a little confusing as the title Mother Superior was already in use. Sister might have been good but that was also taken. We finally decided that Pastor was appropriate. When I was promoted to bishop, and I was not the first, it was decided that Holy Pastor would suffice. Most Reverend is okay for written letters. As a friend just call me Polly. If you introduce me to someone in a formal way you can say Bishop Polly or Most Reverend. It’s confusing. Yes?”
“Yes. How did you become a priest?”
“Well. I did not start life in that direction. But I was a serious student at Loyola and my bishop was an old renegade who was seriously interested in bringing women into the church. He felt it was a necessary but not recognized way for the church to survive in this century.
“Despite the resistance of centuries, the church was desperate for priests by the year two thousand. I studied comparative religion and my seriousness of intent was recognized by the first generation of female pastors.
“My ordination just before my 28th birthday. It turned out that I was a better administrator than a teacher. I served a series of churches in Baltimore, Washington and Indianapolis before my elevation to Bishop. It was a great career. And yes. I did miss the company of men and children but I saw the opportunity to progress in the church as something good for mankind. I sacrificed. Now I’m a retired warhorse.”
Polly looked ready for a rest so Paul excused himself and they all retired to their chambers.
Paul thought that the tour was terrific. Because of Polly’s rank, they received special attention at the church. They were met at a side door by 2 young priests named Sean and Nancy. One was Irish and the other American. So there would no difficulty for Paul’s understanding of what they were told. The American escorted Polly to a wheelchair ramp for an informal meeting with Monsignor Gotti, who was Rector of the Cathedral, and other visiting dignitaries.
The climb to the tower was interesting in several ways. First, it was a 400-step climb and he and Polly handled it easily. Sean, in the lead, looked back at them frequently, saying each time, “Please help me set the pace,” with his charming Irish accent.
“Step it up a little Sean,” Polly replied each time. “I’ll let you know if the old-timer back there gets winded.” She looked back at Paul each time to make sure he was keeping up. He was.
Paul brought up the rear as their party climbed. Polly’s jumpsuit, following the fashion of the day, was blousy on top, snug in the hips and had bell-bottom cuffs. It was a pretty blue color with very little ornamentation. There were, however, a pair of colorful peacock patches made to look like the back pockets used 40 years ago. The birds danced as Polly lifted her legs for each step. They hopped and jiggled and he realized that the birds’ motivation involved Lucy’s very active butt underneath. There must be some horsepower there he mused.
Sean said. “Well. Here we are in the footsteps of the Quasimodo and Esmarelda. You are seeing a modern version of what he and Victor Hugo might have seen in the 1820’s. His Paris was much different than ours however. And the construction on this beautiful church was started in the 12th century, 700 years before these fictional icons haunted the shadows here.”
Paul shivered thinking that 700 years after his visit, which would not be commemorated, his bones would be gone but this building would live on with the help of constant maintenance. He was interested too in thinking that the church had been building places of worship for over 2,000 years.
How long, he mused, could I last with good maintenance? I might be gone at this time next month.
He was interested in the idea of flying buttresses. The external supports that had not been a part of the original plan. When the walls began cracking under the stress of the weight of the roof, the ancients had devised a support system that now looked like a part of the original plans to the uninformed person. Thanks to Sean he now knew better.
Sean droned on about the architecture of the structure, the history of Paris and his reason for being assigned to France. “As ye most likely know, the priesthood is in trouble. Our numbers are declining despite the ordination of women and the reluctant move of the holy mother church into the 21st century. I had a gift for language as a lad and I’m here to improve me French.
“So I work like a dog 8 days a week mostly climbing these friggen steps. Oops. Excuse my French.” Sean laughed heartily at his own jokes.
“Nah. Truth be told I love me job and I have strong feelings of purpose around this cathedral. My French is improving by leaps and bounds. My duties require only 40 hours or so each week. So I spend time in cafés and mingling with people. I’m taking classes at the Sorbonne too. I’m only 32 years old and I have the best legs in the archdiocese. I’m moving to Africa in the fall and will likely finish my career there. Teaching as well as pastoral duties.”
He questioned them about their lives and was delighted when Paul reported himself as an artist.
“Artist now. What do you paint?”
“Yes. Watercolors. I’ve done a lot of landscapes and impressionistic work. I’m retired now. Mostly I just sell prints of my work. In shops in Asheville, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia. And Amazon, of course.”
They finished their climbing lecture a little after six o’clock. Paul noted that Lucy looked fresh while their guide leaned against the wall resting. As they eagerly examined the exhibits, the bell mechanism and the view, he stayed at her side. “Should we think brief,” he said, “so we can back to Polly before she gets too tired.
“Besides. I’m hungry and I can’t wait for dinner. Eight o”clock reservation. Yes?”
The three friends arrived at the 10th floor entrance to the hotel’s Restaurant Europa at eight o’clock. Dressed in a tux with tails, Maître d’, Monsieur Viktor Hakl greeted them with a flourish, “Madames et Monsieur. Welcome to our establishment.
He led them through the spacious dining rooms and galleries to a table nestled into a bow window overlooking the twinkling lights that were beginning to make their presence in the deepening twilight. Paris’ treasured Eiffel Tower was lit in alternating hues of red, white and green. Inside the restaurant, only a few tables were occupied.
Monsieur Hakl gave them menus and then presented his staff. The waiter and his assistant were introduced in person. The Maître d’ invited them to visit the rest of the staff on their menu screens.
Under Viktor’s tutelage they met the chefs, the dishwashers and other back staff in the kitchen. Each of these persons was working but, alerted by a tone, they each looked up from their tasks, in turn, and said Hello or saluted Monsieur Hunter and Madams in accented English.
The waiters were dressed in Tuxedos but the kitchen workers were in traditional kitchen attire with their tall toques giving them an august presence.
They studied the electronic pads and saw not only a written description and explanation of each menu item but, if they wished, could see a list of ingredients and a video movie of the actual preparation.
“Ladies,” said Paul, “This is not MacDonalds.”
Paul looked at Viktor and his companions and announced, “I worked as a cook and waiter in my youth. I loved the work and,Monseur Viktor, if you permit, I would like a tour of the kitchen one day soon.”
“Of Course monsieur. Do not call or make an appointment. Just come at your convenience. Perhaps it would be most interesting in the evening when we are busiest. If I’m not here Henri will escort you.”
They chose crudites for the hors d’œuvre course, medaillons de boeuf for the plat principal. They opted for the fromage de maison and fruit to complete their meal. Paul asked for regular and the women for petite portions.
They all knew, of course, that the meat was textured soy protein and that the veggies had not been grown in the bountiful soil of France. The French had opted for the efficiencies and other benefits of modern hydroponic farming, but had maintained their long tradition of fine, inventive cuisine. The food was delicious.
Paul was starting to get a little jet lagged. He said, “Thank you my friends for a delicious day.” All agreed on escape to their apartment for a nightcap and a good night’s rest.
They sat on their balcony a short while later and watched the city from above. The Eiffel Tower was bathed in lights that changed hues every few minutes. It was about 3 kilometers away, sharp and distinct in its blinking colored lights against the dark sky. After a while, Polly said goodnight and rolled away.
“Tell me about your work Lucy. My daughter Janice googled you and told me you are a sex therapist. Is that true?”
Lucy looked directly into his eyes. Her large, unblinking dark eyes were riveting. “Well. Yes and no. I do physicals for a clinic that specializes in sex therapy. Mostly we work with older men. We do not supply surrogates, but we are very, very effective. I know all of the methods,” She grinned impishly.
“Paul. How are you getting along without a woman?”
“How do you know that I haven’t found a woman?”
“Face it Paulie, if you had a woman she would be here. You wouldn’t have come without her and she would not have let you come alone. Also, you said yes as soon as I asked you – no consultation. And, of course you haven’t mentioned anyone.”
“Wow. You don’t need a detective Lucy. You are very smart.”
“Paul. Now that we’re alone, I want to tell you more about my work. For me it’s not an interest in sex. I am interested in modern medical science’s ability to prolong life.
“Paul. How old do I look to you?” Lucy stood and pirouetted several times. She stretched her arms twirled to display her body through the thin fabric of her garment. She rolled up her loose sleeve and displayed a thin arm with well-defined biceps and triceps muscles clearly defined under unwrinkled skin. She rolled her forearm to show the muscles there. A few blue veins showed too – making the arm look strong.
She moved close to him and put a foot up on his chair. “Here. Feel my leg.” He complied while looking up at her mischievous face. She took his hand and raised it higher along her thigh under the loose pant leg. He felt smooth female skin with firm muscles underneath. She lowered her foot and seized his hand, spread his fingers and pressed his palm to her belly, leaning her slight body weight against his strength.
“Well. Paul. How old do I look?”
“Damn it. I don’t know. Maybe forty. But, really, you look good. How do you do it?”
Laying facedown was good. Paul rolled over reluctantly when ordered to do so, because he was self-conscious about his fledgling erection. As soon as the back of his head hit the pillow, Lucy slapped his belly button with the flat of her hand. Hard. It made a pop and he rose up only to have her push him back with her hands on his shoulders.
“Paul honey. Relax. That was just a fun pop to help you calm down.” She draped a small towel over his groin. His hard-on declined and he mumbled. “Thanks. I needed that.” It was an hour after midnight and he was pleasantly fatigued.
She laughed because his eyes were as wide as saucers. “Here sweetie. Slip this under your tongue and let it dissolve. We’re not going to have sex. This is just part of your first anti-aging treatment.”
Paul recognized the familiar taste and mouth feel of Viagra 4. He swallowed and immediately felt a flush on his face and shoulders. He closed his eyes.
“Just breathe. Relax a little. We’ve got all night. The day won’t begin until you’ve had your beauty sleep Hon.”
Lucy had begun telling him about her anti-aging program on the balcony when Polly wheeled herself off to bed. Then she surprised him by saying, “Paul. Would you like to experience anti-aging?”
“Well I guess so!” he said emphatically. But what are the side effects? Does it hurt?”
“No darling it won’t hurt. You’ll enjoy it and the benefits will come quickly. The main effect is that you will live longer, feel younger and require less medical support. You’ll probably want to work more and try to hook up with chicks.”
“When can we start then? How is it done?”
“We start tonight. It’ll take a little time but you can rest while I’m working. And the major side effect is death – but not until you enjoy a longer and better life. Some system in your body, perhaps your brain function or liver, will suffer damage, eventually, and bring the rest of you down. Those ugly events will have nothing to do with your treatment. It is just still our inevitable fate. We humans do not last forever.
“Lucy. I remember you as the smartest person I’ve ever met. I know that you were a brilliant student and the youngest ever Fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Room Physicians. I trust you with my life.” He stood and drew her onto her feet and embraced her.
She hugged him back and said, “Paul, You will remember this night for the rest of your sorry life.” They both laughed.
“First let me give you a physical.” She took a mini scanner from her belt and made him bend so she could reach his head and passed it over his implant. “Good. Got it. Sit down a moment honey.”
She sat and leaned toward him, looking intensly right into his eyes.
“There’s another thing Paul. You must agree to keep our program secret. Not even your family and closest friends can know about it. This will involve a big undertaking from you in a few years as your loved ones age and pass on. Your life arrangements must be thought out to deal with your longer life.
“Think it over for a bit and let me know if you can do it. You will be a member of a small club who know the score, and I will undertake to guide you as long as you need me or for as long as I am able.”
Paul leaned back and thought about his children and friends, his circle at church and his self-imposed charitable obligations.
“Lucy. Now that my dear wife Dahlia has passed on, I need to reshape my life. That’s what I’ve been doing with my hiking on the MTS Trail and why I‘m here visiting you in Paris. I need change to reinvigorate myself and regain my joie de vivre.
“So. Yes. I’ll keep the secret and I understand the big changes in my life that it will entail.
“Lucy. Can I ask what led you to choose me for this honor?”
“I was rather taken with you when we met all those years ago. You were so different from me. I found you very alluring but I was too shy to anything about it.
“I was a little jealous of your ability to seek your way through life without a big plan. I was so opposite in that I had my entire career mapped out by the time I was twelve. I was chomping at the bit to escape from the life I had been crafting for myself. I wanted to be you and live in a tent eating beans and rice and PBJ sandwiches.
“And I’m still envious. I wish I was an artist without a care in the world.”
She gave him a big smile. “Paul. Go take a bath and meet me in the spa room at midnight.” She was studying his implant health data output on her device as he left the room to do her bidding.
When they met in the spa room in the quiet of the midnight hour, he was dressed in a hotel robe and his sanis. Lucy was well covered by a hotel robe. She made him discard his “rags” and lie face down on the massage table. “Don’t be shy Paul. I’m just your doctor tonight and you have nothing to hide from me.”
He lay down bare-assed with just a towel between him and the table.
“Paul. Tell me about your diet and exercise regimen. Whatever it is, you look good for an old dude”
He explained that he mostly ate in restaurants and leaned toward lots of greens and vegetables. That he had a daily routine involving a 40-year-old Total Gym system, the stairs in his apartment, and walking all over Asheville. “I run up and down the stairs between sets on my Total Gym.. Up one flight to the top floor and then down one flight to the ground floor. It’s totally private and I figure that it is a perfect aerobic excercise between sets of arm, core and leg strength work. I stretch before and after I start the workouts.”
Lucy began rubbing an ointment into his skin.
He told her about his therapeutic walk on the Mountains to the Sea Trail. She murmured approval. “I’d love to do part of the walk with you one day. Is that possible for you?”
Paul nodded assent. “Sure Lucy. I just have to ask Spotty.” They laughed.
“Very good regimen Paul. This is about your skin now Paul. We have learned that the skin, your body’s largest organ, does a lot. It is a sensory organ that helps us understand the world outside our bodies. It does more than keep bad stuff out, grow hair, regulate your temperature and secrete yummy odors to attract females.
“Its most important role is to secrete chemicals supporting the vigor of the major organs of the system including, your blood and connective tissue.
“As your skin begins to fail on the outside, getting wrinkled and dry, becoming thinner, the rest of your body suffers from the loss of a host chemical compounds, once produced by the skin. The body loses abilities – like superman in the presence of kryptonite.
“You lose your ability to live without the chemical support of your skin. Vision, hearing, muscular vigor, sexual prowess, ability to resist microorganisms, mental acuity, etc. The effects you experience from aging will be a growing frailty and eventual death – probably before your 100th birthday.
“DNA damage, stem cell replacement decline, slowing rate of cell replacement, frailty, accelerated aging and death. Failure or your cellular metabolism, reduction of growth factors gradually get us us all.
“Paul. My chronological age is 79 years. I test as a fit 40 year-old woman. I can have babies and jump fences. I feel wonderful. Sadly, it won’t last forever. Not only is it expensive, but there are side effects of the treatment. We don’t know enough to live forever and eventually something will fail and suddenly cause us to die. It seems that the treatment may be more effective if started while we’re young. So the primary side effect is death. Also, there is the psychological considerations. You will outlive your family and friends.
“So Paul. Can we continue with the treatment? Would you like to add some good years to your life span?”
He nodded and emitted a muffled yes as she did her work. The bottoms of his feet were a little ticklish and he definitely noticed when she inserted a finger into his rectum to supplement his physical exam. “Damn Paul. Your prostate feels good. I can tell you are a lucky guy.”
Lucy worked the heavy ointment into his skin – every square inch.
She droned on, “Science has been working on the ‘Ponce de Leon’ effect for centuries. In the last part of the nineteen hundreds they began to understand hormones like testosterone and estrogen. You’ve heard of them – but many other chemical factors have been discovered which control the reproduction of cells, growth, and metabolism. These factors change as we progress through infancy, childhood, puberty, adulthood and old age. Old age can be divided into early, middle and end stage, as frailty takes over and robust energy dwindles.
Paul had not been aware while he was on his stomach with his mouth and nose pressed into the breathing-mask hole, but Lucy had slipped out of her robe and was naked. It had happened quietly while his face was pressed into its depression on the table. He saw her when she bade him to roll over. She was a small woman with dark pubic hair and little pointy breasts. Only her face looked a little oriental.
Her glistening body would have placed her as a beauty anywhere in the world. She had ample padding in her hips and rear end, as he had noticed while climbing the stairs of Notre Dame behind her. She seemed muscular and fit. Her thighs were very feminine but well rounded with muscles. He tried not to stare but pretty much failed, straining to see her golden skin from of the corners of his eyes while she moved up and down the table.
She had explained, “Paul. In this program to rejuvenate your body, fixing your skin is the first and most important step. It is the largest organ in in our bodies and far more integral to the aging process than we imagined until the last few years.
“I want to take a little time tonight, as I work, to explain that a lighter diet, rich in raw foods, heavier exercise, and use of sun blocker creams on your face, hands and every part of your body exposed to the sun, will be good things. By the time you wake up tomorrow, and over the next few days, you will be feeling better and better.
“I don’t know what your effective age will be when we are finished, but I suspect it will be about a fit forty-five.
“Congratulations on keeping yourself as fit as you have.” She worked the gunk, as he thought of it, into his front from the top of his head to his feet. She pumped a little into his palms and said, “Paul. It is probably better if you do your own genitalia, I’ll do it for you if you like, but I think, in the end, it’s better if you do yourself. Work around your anus too.”
When he was done, she gave him a one-liter bottle of little pills and a booklet. “Read this tomorrow. You’ll dissolve the pills in water and spray your entire body with the solution a few times a week and air dry. Begin the day after tomorrow and keep it up forever. This bottle of pills will last for 2 years and I’ll ship you a real supply after you go home. Maybe I’ll deliver them in person.
“And take this now. It’ll help you sleep.” She placed a tablet on his tongue and offered him a sip of water.
She shrugged on her robe, letting him see her jiggling breasts on purpose. She took her time and enjoyed watching his eyes wander over her body.
“Wrap yourself in sheets tonight so you don’t mess up your nice bed too much. God only knows what the maids will think.”
They parted with a little kiss and hug. Paul was exhausted.
I hope you enjoyed the beginning of Hunter III. The work will take surprising and fun turns. The situations described above are under constant rewrite.
I Invite you to contribute.your ideas about the end of this century. Will things be better or worse? What inventions will benefit us? Where are we going?
Contact me at Bill Serle @ aol.com.