Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at Opednews.com and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: http://www.mach2.com/williams/. Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email DonWilliams7@charter.net.


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Don Williams comments

A new millennium fable in two voices
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   12/29/2000)

Dec. 29, 2800

Now, Ms. Livingston, you say your husband, Sterling, has been behaving neurotically?

That's putting it mildly, Doctor. He's been reckless beyond belief. Last Friday night he took a walk in the neighborhood! An actual walk! On foot! Scared me to death. Why would Sterling, or anyone else who's lived to be 812—and stands to live virtually forever—risk his neck to actually get out of the house and walk down a sidewalk? He's actually been out shopping, like one of those Mortality cultists you see on TV. Risking everything. And just Saturday, Doc, he asked me to go dancing!

What's wrong with that? Maggie and I dance virtually every night.

I'm not talking about virtual dancing, Doc. I'm talking about going out! To one of those public halls where awful people go to waltz and jitterbug and slam. I just can't figure it. I mean, what does that say about our home? Isn't our Dream Room good enough? Aren't Virtual Vacations exciting enough? What does it say about our relationship that hes engaging in such risky activity?

I'm, uh, not sure.

But the scariest part, Doc., the part that really has me questioning our marriage after all these centuries, is that last night he said he's decided not to make The Transition.

You're kidding. I thought we had worked all that out?

Says he doesn't like the idea of spending eternity in a cyber-pod. We had agreed to do it just after New Year's. Or at least I thought we had. We're aging so. You know what they say. Once you turn 700, it's just patch-patch-patch. New joints, lower back. I'm on my third heart now and my fourth liver. Even with the gene therapy, natural bodies wear out just from things like friction and poor diet and drugs and alcohol.

I wouldn't know.

Of course not; you're not a real doctor anyway. And you're still a youngster. How old are you, three… four hundred years?

Five-hundred-forty-seven actually. I spent a couple centuries practicing out at Moon City —New Manhattan they call it there. Gravity therapy is marvelous, you know. Keeps the skin from sagging, the heart from wearing out. But enough about me. You were saying Sterling refuses to make The Transition. This is troubling.

He's so old-fashioned, Doc. He was against cloning ourselves for spare parts. We were the last ones in our neighborhood to sign on. He resisted turning off the aging-genes. He practically led the movement to limit the intelligence of machines. Said they were becoming our masters and soon we'd seem like insects to them.

Some people believe he was right…

Whatever. Anyway, Sterling says when he was a kid, back in Tennessee, the Old USA, waaaay back there in the 21st century, that to say somebody had made The Transition was a euphemism for saying they had died, and that's what The Transition means to him.

Quaint concept. Did you explain to him that the contents of his cerebral cortex will be downloaded directly into virtual memory and that the cyber-pods you'll be transiting to are indestructible. That they'll last virtually forever in a warehouse on Mars, and be maintained by state of the art Artilects? That he'll never again age a day?

Sure, Doc, I explained all that to him. We ran the tapes, took the info injections, studied the holograms. You were very thorough. But none of it registered. He's always been stubborn, you know. We met in 2563, just after my 17th facelift. He'd been through a divorce, his eleventh, I think, and I was just recovering from my fifth, which should tell you something. We were happy until he started after me—you won't believe this—to have a baby.

Have a baby? You mean order a child from the DNA catalogues?

No, Doc. I mean have a baby. You know, breathe hard, now push…

Didn't he know that, under the law, you'd both have to schedule a termination date for yourselves if you had a baby? In other words, you'd have to die someday?

It's hard to say. He keeps dwelling on this time he spent in Tennessee as youngster. He talks about lying in fields looking up at the clouds, and sitting with his first girlfriend, Jane Ellen and weaving daisy chains. And running through actual grass in his bare feet. It was before the great ozone depletion, and the robot wars and all that business. I shudder to think about it. But he says there was something comforting about the notion of holding a baby and teaching it things—how to count its toes and, later on, to read and go fishing and toss a baseball, and to drive, whatever that means. He said he wishes he'd just made a family, watched his kids grow up and then lived a few more years and died gracefully like his parents and grandparents did before him, to make room for somebody else on the planet. He says growing old gracefully keeps the tree of life green and new, and that there's something to be said for seeing for yourself whats on the other side. He's such a romantic.

I know. I know. Take it easy now.

I mean, how morbid can you be? Why wouldn't anyone want to live forever?