Interview of a Lifetime

cancer short story
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Short Story


Grant slides his tie into the nook of his collared shirt. Looking at the mirror, he makes sure it is placed perfectly. He runs his hand through his hair; it is crisp. His cheeks are baby-smooth, and he smells sweet and musky. Looking good, kid, he says to himself. He checks his watch; it’s 5:30 a.m. The moon peeks through the window.

“Honey, are you going to come down for breakfast?” his wife asks.
“Today I will. Can you swing a bagel and orange juice … oh … and a thermos of coffee?”
“Wow, I usually ask this as a courtesy, because you usually say no.”
“Not today, babe. I have to be in tip-top form.”
“Well, I hope you aren’t disappointed.”
“Me too.”

Grant steps into the studio at 6 a.m. The bright lights where the morning program “Good Morning U.S.A” is recorded, of which Grant is the lead anchor, are what is in order for a day like this. In the hallway behind the main stage is where he will do the interview of Dr. Ronald Bergman. His assistant falls in step with him; they briskly walk. He is informed of the doctor’s preferences of what they can ask on air; what he would prefer them not to ask.

One left and they are in the pre-interview room. Grant can’t suppress his glee at meeting the doctor. He smiles like a school boy meeting Michael Jordan. Dr. Bergman rises out of his seat to greet them. He stands a head higher than Grant, with piercing brown eyes that are so dark that they look black. Grant can see the mind spinning behind those eyes as if points of light dance in them, lit by a diesel engine. What a mind, he thinks.

“Hello, Dr. Bergman. It is my pleasure to meet someone like you.”
“Thank you. It is a pleasure to have news like this.”
“I am actually looking into the face of the man who has virtually eradicated death.”
“Shall we work out the logistics of this engagement then?” asks Dr. Bergman, returning to his seat.
“Of course.”

Grant feels transparent. A man with Dr. Bergman’s IQ must know it all.

At 7 a.m. they are on stage on an oversized couch, a huge studio audience peering at them. They had to put up a gate and call in extra security to make sure that no one storms the stage and puts Dr. Bergman in danger. This detail was missed on the “Tonight” show. Dr. Bergman was almost stripped naked. Some think he is the second coming of the Christ. Grant is signaled that the cameras are rolling.

“Dr. Bergman, it is such an honor to have you. Words cannot express how much of an honor it is.”
“Thank you, Grant, it is nice of you to say that.”
“You have met with President Barack Obama, you have been on the ‘Tonight’ show with Jimmy Fallon, and now you are gracing us. First, let’s just get it out there. What have you done in the area of extending our lives?”
“The technical language would do nothing but confuse you. To make it simple, we have put together an elixir, made from the sap of a newly discovered tree called the grey sequoia, and from the flowers surrounding its base — the flowers are symbiotic to the grey sequoia and called silver lilies — and, put together, they have the power to strengthen the immune system to the point where no disease, bacteria or virus can harm human beings.” There is a collective gasp from the audience; the ones who are hearing this for the first time.
“To be specific, Dr. Bergman, I know you can’t give an exhaustive list, but what is this elixir’s reach?”
The Dr. smiles. “Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, paranoia schizophrenia, any and every illness we know of can be killed off in the body, and — when introduced to the body — the body can successfully destroy it 100 percent of the time.”

Dr. Bergman relaxes in his chair. Clapping erupts.

“So, what you are saying is you have eradicated death.”
“Yes, it appears that way.”

Tears form in Grant’s eyes; he cannot will them away.

“You … are … regarded as … the … most intelligent man … in the world … how did you do—”

He starts sobbing like many in the audience. Dr. Bergman remains composed, but is glowing.

“Son, it is a true miracle. I have taken the drug myself and I am getting younger and more intelligent every day. We call the elixir ‘New Hope.'”

Grant gets himself under control.

“This discovery is obviously going to change many lives. It also raises many questions: Were we meant to live forever? How would we control the population? Will we get bored? So many questions.”
“There is one you haven’t asked. I can see it in your eyes.”
“It is a rather personal question. I did not think that it would be right to take this moment for myself.”
“We will save it for last, then,” says Dr. Bergman.
“I will ask some of the popular questions. ‘What if you get shot after taking New Hope?'”
“It has amplified the regenerative powers of the cells so that they repair themselves almost instantaneously.”
“The number one query is how much is it?”
“I have signed a contract with the United States government to start delivering New Hope at no cost. That was a consequence and condition of my revealing this secret to the world. It will be available by the end of the year. It is being produced in mass quantities.”
“Why no cost? You could be rich.”
“This is something people would kill for. It only make sense to give it out to stop mass hysteria. Can you imagine what would happen if we withheld it from other countries, or even our own, and they know it exists? I would not keep it a secret, so it has to be free.”
“The world is buzzing like crazy as we speak, Dr. Bergman.”
“Ask your question, Grant.”

Grant takes a picture out of his wallet. It is of a little girl with bright green eyes and a huge smile.

“I actually have two.”
“What is the meaning of life? You have the most brilliant mind ever to walk the earth since Jesus Christ. You must know.”
“I will answer this question with the answer to your next question.”
“Can you regenerate the cells, if you have the DNA of someone who has already died?”
“You miss your little girl, don’t you? The meaning of life, in my estimation, is to live. To live a happy, healthy life with the freedom to explore this green earth at our fullest potential. No limitations, save being God, himself. I believe that God created us to live this way. What would you do with forever? Love and be loved. You love hard, Grant; I see this in you. As long as you don’t exploit your fellow man, living forever is a gift of love we lost a long time ago. We have been graced with another chance. Yes, we can raise your daughter from the ashes. That void will be filled.”


more by RAJ DAVIS

photograph by Rafal Buch

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