In the year 2050 scientists developed an Immortality Injection that was guaranteed to keep the body young for centuries. Only the rich could afford the injection, which cost 30 million dollars. But after a few years a path was opened that would allow an average person a small chance of getting the Immortality Injection. That path was a reality TV show.
The show was the ultimate implementation of a “winner take all” concept. The first episode would start out with 50 contestants, and in each show some of the contestants would be killed off – literally. The contestants faced such dangers in each episode that it was guaranteed that some of them would die in each episode of the series.
Ever since the 2030's it had become common for deaths to occur in reality TV shows. Some people still complained about it, but the public had become very apathetic about seeing people die in reality TV shows. The public had become like the ancient Romans in the Coliseum: they expected to see some deaths as part of their favorite entertainment.
The idea of the series was simple: start out with 50 contestants, and expose them to incredible dangers. In each episode, some would die. By the last episode there would be only two contestants left; and after their final competition, there would only be one contestant surviving. That person would get the ultimate prize: the Immortality Injection.
Two friends named Ted and Alex debated whether to apply to be a contestant.
“I'm feeling lucky, so I'm signing up for the show,” said Ted. “How 'bout you sign up, too?”
“Are you crazy?” said Alex. “The odds are 50 to 1 against you.”
“But think of the payoff,” said Ted. “You live forever! What's a matter, don't you have the guts to risk it all?”
“I'm just as brave as you,” said Alex. “Okay, I'll sign up, too.”
The first episode was a treasure hunt. Each contestant had to run around a big field filled with various obstacles, getting each of the items on a treasure list. But there was one little problem. The field was filled with land mines. If you stepped on one, you would be blown up into 100 pieces. Eight of the contestants stepped on the mines, and died. But Alex and Ted made it through with 40 other contestants.
In the second episode each of the contestants was given a car, and asked to drive on one of the most dangerous roads in the world, a road running along the narrow rim of some mountains in the Andes mountain range. Nine of the contestants plunged to their deaths, when their cars went over the side of the road, rolling down for hundreds of meters before finally exploding. But Alex and Ted made it through, with 31 other contestants.
The third episode was the lightning run. Each contestant had to run back and forth down a specially constructed runway. Above the runway was an electrical system that would randomly generate blasts of electricity that could kill you with 12,000 volts. Ten of the contestants died. But Alex and Ted made it through, with 21 other contestants.
The fourth episode was called: “Swim With the Sharks.” Each contestant had to swim though a huge swimming pool, and retrieve a series of items that were either floating about or lying on the bottom of the pool. The problem was that there were also two hungry sharks swimming about. Seven of the contestants died, after being bit by the sharks. But Alex and Ted made it through, with 14 other contestants. Both Alex and Ted figured out that the secret for winning was to swim down to the pool's bottom, and pick up a sword that could be used to defend yourself from a shark attack.
The fifth episode was filmed at Niagra Falls in New York State. Contestants were put in boats and told to row across a body of water near the falls. If they didn't row fast enough, they would plunge down the falls to their deaths. Eight contestants failed to row fast enough, and fell down the waterfall to their deaths. But Alex and Ted and 6 other contestants survived.
The sixth episode was centered around racing. Each contestant was put in a specially constructed car which had its accelerator remotely controlled. The cars were accelerated by remote radio signals to speeds of 120 miles per hour. Each contestant had to drive through a forest, without crashing into a tree. Six of the contestants died in car crashes. The only remaining contestants were Alex and Ted.
There was one more episode to determine the grand prize winner. The two friends discussed their strange situation.
“Let's hope it's some test of skill that we can both can pass,” said Alex. “Then maybe they'll give the Immortality Injection to both of us.”
“Let's keep our fingers crossed,” said Ted.
The final episode took place in a kind of arena with a circular pit at its center. Alex and Ted were put in the circular pit, each armed with a six-shooter. A hungry lion was let loose in the pit. Surrounding the circular pit was an audience of thousands of spectators.
Alex tried to shoot the lion, but it ran around too fast, and evaded the bullets. Alex was soon out of bullets. The lion stood before him, growling as if it was about to charge.
“Kill it with your gun!” said Alex. He knew Ted still had all six of his bullets.
Ted thought about the prize. He knew he had signed a contract saying that the immortality prize would be given to only one person. If he saved Alex, he would lose his chance for immortality.
After hesitating for a moment, Ted put his gun back in his holster. He couldn't bear to see what happened next, so he turned his eyes away. After ten more seconds of Alex's unanswered pleas, the lion charged, and killed Alex.
The Master of Ceremonies declared that Ted had won the grand prize of immortality. But at that moment, Ted felt a great surge of guilt and grief. What had he done? How could he have been so selfish? He thought back on the great times he had as a kid with his childhood friend Alex. They had been through a lifetime of adventures and misadventures together. Now Alex was dead, eaten by a lion. Ted could have prevented it, but he didn't.
Filled with remorse, Ted felt like using his six-shooter to shoot himself. But then someone came and took his gun away. A doctor arrived on the scene, carrying a syringe. It was the Immortality Injection.
After various fanfares and flourishes, the Master of Ceremonies announced what would happen next.
“And now the grand prize winner and sole survivor will be given the Immortality Injection, which will give him the blessing of Eternal Life,” said the Master of Ceremonies.
There was a good deal of exaggeration in such a statement, and the “immortality” would probably not last longer than a few centuries. But this kind of hype was almost standard procedure in this type of entertainment spectacle.
When Ted saw the syringe containing the Immortality Injection, he suddenly got an idea for how he could partially atone for his terrible sin. He grabbed the syringe from the doctor, and walked out of the circular pit at the center of the arena. He went walking into the audience. The Master of Ceremonies and a person with a hand-held camera followed him.
Ted thought to himself: Who can I pick? Not one of these rich spectators who spent $1000 to buy a ticket to watch someone being eaten by a lion. None of them deserve it.
Then Ted spotted someone at the back of the arena. It was a young cleaning woman who was emptying one of the garbage cans. Ted walked up to the beautiful young woman, a complete stranger.
“Hey there,” Ted said. “You wanna live forever?” he asked.
The young woman smiled and nodded. Ted took the Immortality Injection, and injected the entire syringe into the woman's arm.
The audience was stunned by this surprising turn of events. The Master of Ceremonies was at first speechless. But finally he stuck a microphone in front of the young cleaning woman, and asked her: “How does it feel to be the first poor person to be given a lifetime of at least 1000 years?”
Ted walked out of the arena, into the cold of the dark littered streets. All his efforts had got him nowhere. But at least at the end he had got back a little piece of his soul.