As I packed my bags for Chrysalis House, I reviewed conflicting reports from staff whose clients, all old, had achieved 100 years or more and begun the change. I make no claim to their veracity. Some on the floors had started a third set of teeth, I read. Two, long bald, were showing the eruption of something between feathers and fur, well distributed and slick. First, though, they had gone through comas from which they were not expected to emerge, each lasting 168 days during which their skin hardened, then cracked, then shed. One young nurse described the effect as “rotten fruit peeling itself.” There had been no reports from the facility since the first awakening and all the evidence I had was from staff who had quit or been released. I understand the objections. My predictions anticipated these events; hence, I fulfill my own prophecies; still, among us now, inconceivable a hundred years ago, are half a million centenarians. They cluster in places like Chrysalis. One-in-a-million events will soon be commonplace there and administrators would be wise to get ready. None of the newly emerged could speak but some, before the isolation floor was closed to any but the most senior staff, had heard coos as from well-fed infants, while others described sounds using animal metaphors. In the end, I was denied access, partly because of the furor my paper had roused at the annual conference. Now I hear in the Balkans there are fresh cases of something not quite us. This time I won’t request permission, but storm the floor. No one is better equipped to describe the shape of what comes next, which parts of it are older than man, which come to replace him, which have never appeared in our dreams they are so new.

Copyright © August 8, 2008 David Hodges

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