Imagine in the year 2047 that anti-aging therapies have developed so far that wealthy people not only cease aging, but some have begun to reverse. A few have even started to celebrate reverse birthdays in accordance with their rehabilitated age. (For context, please see Part 1 and Part 2 of this story.)
“I found a way to fill the gap on my financial aid and expenses.” Tony was Sam’s roommate on the seventh floor college dorm. Sam had the money to buy a house near campus just for himself, but he longed for normalcy and community. He had lived in a triple his first year, but opted for a double room in this second year. He was trying to make it work with Tony, but it was hard not to begin treating him like a younger brother or his son. Sam tried to make it work by keeping his distance.
“Oh yeah? How’s that?”
“I'm selling my blood!” Tony smiled mischievously. “Apparently, they are willing to pay a thousand dollars a pint if I'm a good match for the receiver. It’s probably some cancer patient, so I’m saving someone’s life while I pay my bills. I can stop worrying about if I’ll be able to come back next year.”
“Oh, okay.” Sam tried to hide his shock. He was sure this was not for saving a dying patient or for scientific research. Tony’s blood was being tested to rejuvenate some wealthy person who wanted a higher quality and longer life—the best that money could buy for a new kind of vampire.
“So, a one-time thing?” Sam tried not to cringe at having his suspicions confirmed.
“Maybe, but if I’m a match, then it could be a lot more.” Tony’s eyes glinted at the thought of cash flow he’d never known in his short life so far.
So, this was how it played from the other side—a great financial opportunity. Women could sell eggs; men could sell blood. Only the healthy and young need apply. No blood from the homeless or handicapped, please.
The grotesque realization hit Sam in a flash—how long would he enjoy youth before the drag of worn-out organs pulled him back toward the grave? He’d gone years without fresh blood and hormone therapy. Was his body really re-set to twenty and the normal rate of aging, or would the loan now come due? What if Sam re-entered transfusion therapy and bought blood from someone like Tony? Vampire.
For Tony, the arrangement seemed a great thing, but Sam felt a hunch that above the science the transaction really was sale of vitality, life of one organism traded to another. Tony was spending his life in blood and stem cells in return for money. A bad trade for him, perhaps; the service of vampires was still in the early phases and no one wanted to see problems with transactions.
Sam now felt that his youth was not delivered brilliantly by science in secrecy; he had purchased life as the cover for stealing it. Why else was it kept secret? Why did Tony not know the truth about his receiver? What could Sam tell Tony now?
It turned out that Tony was a good match for someone. After each pint withdrawal, Tony was weak and weary of continuing. By the fourth month, the pay was increased to two thousand dollars per pint, if he could keep up the rate of one pint every two weeks. Tony seemed obsessed with staying healthy, being sure to get proper sleep and good food so as not to be disqualified from donating. He drank no coffee or alcohol, meditated twice each day to remain at peace, and bought exorbitant European vitamins suggested by the doctor who managed the blood donation. Tony’s arms looked like a drug addict because of the needle scars. Sam watched in dismay. Tony joked that they should just install a valve in his arm.
“I’m too weak to play basketball for fun anymore. I think my body’s working so hard to make blood after I give it away. I’m a blood factory, man.” Tony smiled and popped a vitamin capsule into his mouth.
“How long are you going to keep this up, Tony? You seem to have gotten way ahead in your money.”
“I will do this as long as they pay me.” As Tony said this, Sam winced. There was nothing he could say to compete with the apparently easy flow of money. Tony was his own golden goose. Sam had to try.
“Tony, would it matter if your blood wasn’t saving someone’s life? What if they were doing something else with your blood? What if this was hurting your body in ways you could not recover from?” Could Sam tell him the truth about this? It was science fiction, unthinkable that a wealthy select few could exploit the lifeblood of poor college kids. Did the doctor’s ignore the harms being done to donors of such massive quantities of blood? What if they found a way to harvest hormones and stem cells from willing donors—and such things proved to be superior to synthetic hormones for anti-aging? Would any ethic prevent financially-driven clinics from taking that step also?
“Tony, I think you might be getting exploited here.”
“Yeah, right, for my college tuition. If anyone is exploiting in this,” he pointed to his dimpled forearm, “it’s me doing it to them. I’m getting two thousand dollars a pint for my blood!”
“Tony, listen to me. Why do you think they are willing to spend so much money on your blood? It’s been four months. People donate blood for free. What if there’s another application of a young person’s blood that is so valuable to pay so many thousands of dollars for it? Have you thought of that?” Sam could tell he wasn’t getting through, but his concern for Tony pushed him to the brink. He sucked in a deep breath. “Look, I’ve paid for a blood therapy like this before. I was the guy on the other end of the hose.” He watched Tony’s eyes widen and the blood drained from his face. Sam continued, “For two years I received transfusions as part of anti-aging therapy. It cost me nearly a million dollars, but it worked.”
“No way! You are making this up!”
“It’s true. You wouldn’t believe all that I’ve been through, but this therapy is real and it works, at least it worked for me. They called me a ‘super responder’ because everything they did affected me way more than for other people. It went so far as to make me young again.” Sam heard the insanity of the truth as he spoke it. He felt tremendous relief to finally let the truth out. He felt a little bit more whole.
Tony thought Sam was crazy, but he did let Sam pay him a compensation in exchange for opting out of selling his blood. The decline of his health had begun to worry Tony, but he’d used the money to wipe that concern away. The clinic harassed Tony for three months until he filed for a restraining order and threatened a lawsuit. The blood must have worked really well for some irate old vampire who had begun to feel vitality that only immense money could buy. Sam continued with the haunting feeling that his life had come at the expense of another’s.
College proved to be intolerable for Sam, which was why he never went in his first time through early adulthood. He struggled with guilt of stolen life for many years and this contributed to his rapid aging. The guilt also influenced his surrender to the gospel, so the cost of bodily decay seemed slight.
In ten years after starting college, Sam had aged heavily. His hair had become grey. He looked a haggard late-forties, and others sought to console him for his misfortune. Sam thought it was his due, since he was now past one hundred and ten in absolute years. When his heart stopped during one fitful sleep, his apparently early death was a mystery. A fatal heart attack at age thirty-one (judging by his driver’s license). Even by his looks, a heart attack at fifty was strange. Strangest of all was that the appearance on his hardened face was that he was smiling.