A jellyfish that is immortal. Observed and recorded, lab-tested and peer-reviewed; it exists. Upon reaching sexual maturity it reverts back to its polyp stage, folds in on itself, tentacles sucking up into the head. And then it is reborn.
How old am I? Ah! That would be telling!
You know, in the bible the world was very different. Many of the stories take place before Noah’s flood and the land is no longer the same. Things have fallen under the sea and new mountains have come up. Continental drift, tectonic plates. They find fish fossils thousands of miles inland. The say there’s a perfectly preserved triceratops skeleton right on the edge of an oceanic trench, frosted in place by calcifying coral. Forgive me but I hardly think he swam there!
If you were immortal you could be born, live your human life, the first eighty years, get through all the hard stuff with family and friends and the way things are so difficult, then you shed all that and evolve to a higher iteration, a new version of you emerging through the folds of time unshackled and free. Loneliness doesn’t come into it, not for me.
The jellyfish seldom live forever, they’ve never been observed doing so in the wild. They get eaten mostly, or ill. You have to avoid getting sick. Your cells might not die on their own but if a virus gets in there…
Would time seem faster or slower if you lived forever?
I had a family once. Never again.
Children? No, no children. I was just a teenager when it happened. From that day on I knew I’d never have children. Why risk having them when they can be so easily lost?
A fire. There weren’t enough bedrooms and I was home from university for the summer so they set me up downstairs. The room was so tiny you couldn’t fit a bed in there so I slept on a futon, having to curl my body around a corner at night. I had to pile my books outside the door when I slept and move them back inside come morning when I could fold away the futon and make some space. I hated it and I complained to my parents all the time but if I hadn’t been downstairs I’d have combusted with all the rest.
Ash is a fantastic fertiliser. Birth form death, the carbon cycle goes on and on. Imagine if you burned the whole world away. What would grow in its place?
But there are carbon pools too, carbon sinks, places where carbon is sequestered for long periods of deep time. Coal seams, oil fields. Immortal jellyfish.
I followed them once. I found them swimming in warm waters one bright summer’s day, just at dusk when the sun became Midas and turned the world to gold. They led me into a gully with lots of corners and when we went around the last bend I was looking down on an underwater mountain range. There were millions of the jellyfish, all swimming around or relaxing on mountain faces and I realised: was their spawning ground. Underwater vents, tubular rock formations, blasted hot steam. It was a paradise but there were no creatures other than the jellyfish, save for a green lizard with a red stripe up its back. I surfaced to take air and dived down and put my hand on one of the vents and could feel the rock vibrating. Then I turned my head and surveyed the landscape here, where the vents were, and was struck by the image not of rock but wood. It looked like a huge tree fallen sideways, the underwater vents not spurs of rock but truncated branches snapped near their bases and being spewed from their openings not water but sap.
Sometimes mountains move under the waves, sometimes it is the mountains that survive and make new oceans. Things shift and slide through time.
I think if you see something unhappy it is best to burn it away and let it start over, let it be reborn. This is the stuff of immortality. Technically we all live forever, rising and falling in the great cycle like waves. She was unhappy, her family were all unhappy. She never wanted him, she loved me.
Who knows where the places in the bible are now? Where are the Mountains of Ararat? Where is the Garden of Eden? And the Tree of Life. Where is it? You shouldn’t think me amusing, or mad. God makes and remakes. He does it with the land and he does it with his creations. Mountains push through oceans, men dissolve into the forests when they die and the forests burn to become something new. And yet some jellyfishes live forever.
Not really, they died a long time ago. After a while you stop missing them and understand that what happened was part of the great system.
I don’t miss her either. If she had been with me she could have tasted what I have tasted in the jellyfish paradise. But she chose a different path that needed to be slashed and burned. She wasn’t happy so I gave her another chance.
You can do what you want with me. I will outlast any punishment. Prisons will fall to entropy and when they do I’ll walk the world once more, a free man. I know I’ve done something awful in your eyes but you must understand that to remake someone is the greatest gift you can offer. I know this because I have glimpsed eternity, seen the twinkling dot of deep time, drank from the Tree of Life. I have become a God, ready to make and remake as I wish.
Of course I believe it.
I don’t think so. They say talking to yourself is the first sign and I don’t do that. But you tell me. You’re the lawyer.
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