Like many avid readers, I harbor some small secret desire to live forever. Maybe not forever-forever, but enough time to get through that growing stack of books on my bedside table, y'know? And my Amazon wishlist. And maybe catch up on Doctor Who, and... Look, long story short, I always kind of identified with those fantasy villains who are, shall we say, in it for the long run.
Feeling that kinship, I started to wonder at some point how many immortality seekers in a given fantasy world might have succeeded. Statistically, some of them had to, right? And what happened to them? I figure, under all the skull fortresses and forbidden tomes and dramatic armor, deep down they're really just people like me with too many good books on their bedside tables. So what would I do?
I had all that in the back of my brain at the start of the yearly Weekend Warrior flash fiction contest in the Codex writers group. One of the weeks, I got the prompt, what if everyone in the world had the same super power? I thought about immortality, and realized that even if only a handful of people had it, eventually they would be everyone. I remembered the character Ed the Undying from the online game Kingdom of Loathing, and then a friend of mine's father-in-law who retired from business only to start fights in his homeowners' association, and it all kinda clicked. The story came together quickly as a series of mental images of people thrown together by virtue of being the only ones left, lonely and bored and ornery and just sort of making do. As I jotted them down, I liked the effect, and with some polishing and going back-and-forth about a few passages, I wound up with something very close to this end result.
I guess "At the Old Folks Home at the End of the World" is at its heart a "be careful what you wish for" story. Even so, I think some of Old Folks aren't yet all that sorry. As they might say, it beats the alternative.
--John P. Murphy