From the author: This is a very short story, but I hope some people will appreciate it. (Note, it was not actually published in a year's best...the now defunct publisher put that there to try and sell more copies. Not my idea...)
I stood behind him when he did it, when he made the discovery that changed the world. I stood behind him when he lost everything that was left to him, for the two were one and the same thing. It could have happened no other way.
Of course, nobody believed us at first, that the toxin that killed Linton and put me in the hospital for a month was also the cure to all of our problems. If you got it wrong, death. If you got it right, life.
I got life. Should have been him. Should have been the man who gave us immortality, but perhaps it is only poetry that he died on the brink of this promised land.
I remember his graveside and the rain. I wonder what he would think now, as we flee. Flee the world of his making, of our making after we used his discovery. We flee to the stars where there is space, for Earth has none left. Nothing but humans, shoulder to shoulder, struggling to survive.
Oh, nobody starves.We worked that out long ago. But nobody has anything else either. Which is why only our children will go to the new world. Only they will go, and they will go without the serum. We doom them to death so our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will live.
I find a poetry in that too, an echo of an ancient story. For humanity to grow and survive, we must cast them out of Eden and place a flaming sword around the Tree of Life.
This story originally appeared in Dark Stars: The Year's Best Science Fiction Short Stories.