It’s been chased after by so many. Cortez hunted through the swamps – excuse me – the wetlands of Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth. And remember the woman who bathed regularly in blood (not her own) to preserve her youth? The Countess Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed. Convicted of killing 80 virgins, and was thought to have murdered more. And for what reason? Immortality. Ironically, she died at 54.
In fantasy writing, there are so many creatures that tend towards living forever. Vampires, elves, dragons – those are the more common ones. Interestingly, no one ever attributes a ceaseless life to werewolves.
Imagine, if you will, that there is a sub-segment of the world’s population that does live a much longer lifespan. It doesn’t have to be immortality, per se, just anything longer than 150 years or so. Now imagine that one of these people lives in your town. If you live in a small to moderately sized city, it probably wouldn’t take the residents of said town to notice that the person in question still looks 25, despite teaching at the high school since 1953. Even if that person is a near-total shut in, someday someone’s going to notice that there’s a person in town who’s 130 years old. At some point, an official agency will probably investigate. And, one of two things will happen.
One, it will be assumed that the person who appears to be 25 years old is, in fact, 25 years old and running a scam. The immortal person will then be cooling their long-lived heels in a place where the term life-without-parole would take on a whole new meaning.
Two, Willard Scott or the Guinness Book of World Records will come knocking, looking for the oldest documented person in the nation. Just imagine that 25 year old face, captured on film in a moment of stunned shock, depicted on a Smuckers jar during the Today show.
It would have been relatively easy, 50 years ago, to pick up and disappear to a different part of the country, then reinvent yourself as someone new. Every couple or three decades, the immortal picks a city at random from the Atlas, packs up the belongings, and heads out.
These days, everything is a lot harder. Ever been arrested? Fingerprints on file. DNA is being collected and filed. For an immortal, it must be difficult in the modern era. The immortal one moves to a new town and decides to buy a house. Great. Can you get a mortgage if you were born before the Constitution? Even if you pay cash, there’s the tax paperwork, legal filings, and various other sundries requiring a valid ID.
What’s an immortal to do? As time passes, it’ll become increasingly difficult to restart life with a new ID, unless you’re part of the government. Perhaps immortals could band together and moonlight for the government in exchange for relocation help. Vampires undertaking missions for the CIA. Elves used for survivalist training. Shapeshifters going undercover.
I’m imagining a story where the evil scientist is detailing his master plan, and the parakeet in the corner is a shapeshifter in disguise, writing it all down using a pen crafted to look like a seed and the newspaper from the bottom of its cage. Polly want a cracker? No, but those blueprints would be nice.
Do you think we’ll get to a point where identification is so secure, that the idea of an immortal hiding amongst us will seem campy and implausible? And if so, how long until we get there?