The writing grew more ragged at this point, the previously flawless scribal Latin starting to lose some of its meticulousness.

“I had thought that the cloudiness I detected, the distraction and memory loss, was the real threat to my existence. But I was wrong.”

“I have made a breakthrough that explains the symptoms, and Imust write it down with shaking quill even though I desire nothing more than to scream in terror from te rooftop of my stuffy or to fling myself into the fire, for all the good that would do me. Living as a thousand scattered sentient ashes is only marginally less of a horror that that which I have discovered.”

“Cancer occurs naturally in our bodies over time. We never notice that fact because medicine, for all its advances during my long life, was never terribly advanced and even now people tend to die of other illnesses.”

“But what I have found is that the rate of growth is geometric. The longer a lifespan becomes, the most likely we are to develop cancer. The more likely it is to grow, and to spread. Eventually, even the hardiest person would succumb. But not I.”

The investigator set aside the codex after photographing the final, unintelligible scrawls with her cell phone. She then turned to the alchemist’study, still thick with the newly disturbed dust of centuries.

A misshapen lump of flesh, man-sized but with little recognizably human about it, laying across the floor and swathed in robes so ancient they were beiginning to crumble away. Every few moments, it would pulse, irregularly and weakly.

“He should have done a little more research before using the Stone to become immortal,” the investigator said. She picked up the delicate amber-rose crystal from where it lay on the floor and crushed it in one hand. “Losing his mind to Alzheimer’s was the only mercy this thing gave the most intelligent being on earth.”

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