2125 marked the centenary of the entry of the miracle age prophylaxis Chulel into the marketplace. The occasion probably should have been marked by a celebration of some sort, but so few people remembered what life was like before Chulel that it would have seemed rather like commemorating the invention of water or air. So the year would come and go without fanfare.
Two people who did remember life before Chulel were the inventors of the drug, Drs. Max and Emily Feldman, who had lost their only child to Hutchinson-Guilford progeria syndrome (HGPS) back in 1977. “Progeria” referred to a set of diseases that caused premature aging due to a genetic anomaly; HGPS had been its most common (though still extremely rare) form.
The Feldmans had delayed “having a family” as people used to say, until after they both completed med school. Following their daughter’s death, they had devoted their careers to finding a cure for progeria. It had been a long haul. The first significant advance had come from another lab, which announced a promising new avenue of research in 2014. Pharmakon Corporation, and specifically the Drs. Feldman, built on this and in 2017 published preliminary results of a drug they named according to its active chemical components. Nobody now remembers that name.
The drug was ready for human trials by early 2018, and a dozen or so families from around the world came forward, traveling to the Pharmakon headquarters in Atlanta to let the Feldmans try out the drug on their afflicted sons and daughters, who had been diagnosed with either HGPS or one of the other, even rarer, forms of progeria.
What nobody knew was that Max Feldman was also testing the drug on himself. Even Emily didn’t know. Max Feldman was already 78 and although he checked out healthy enough, he had a family history of heart disease and atherosclerosis and there were certain aspects of the lab tests on the new drug as well as its effects on a small test group of bonobos that had irresistibly piqued his curiosity.
By the time the tests on human progeria patients were declared unequivocally successful in 2021, the people closest to him were beginning to notice something about Max. One of those people was the Feldmans’ lab assistant, Winslow Morris.
In the third month of the trials, Winslow noted that there seemed to be a couple of vials of the drug missing. He questioned Dr. Max about it, and was told it must be a mistake. When Winslow re-counted the next day against the numbers in the computer, he found no discrepancy. It happened again a couple of months later and this time Winslow kept his observation to himself. Again, the numbers mysteriously rectified themselves within a matter of hours. Then one day Winslow thought he saw Dr. Max slipping a vial of the medicine into the pocket of his lab coat. That’s when it clicked. Winslow started observing Dr. Max more closely. On the day before the results of the progeria field tests were formally announced, Winslow missed work. And then he disappeared altogether.
Winslow hadn’t needed to steal any of the medicine. He knew how to make it. His destination was China and within six months a new drug started showing up on the streets. It was called “Fontana” and it was touted as the “fountain of youth”. It was outrageously expensive and sold mainly to customer lists Winslow compiled by irrupting into databases of dermatologists specializing in cosmetic surgery. He was an instant millionaire.
Winslow did not know that Dr. Feldman had altered the dosage for his own use. Fontana consumers were overdosing, and before the drug had been on the street for a full year, its reputation went into free fall. People who were self-medicating with this black market miracle potion started to develop strange skin disorders, unexplained neuropathies, and a vulnerability to infection, all of which ended up on the list of warnings regarding possible side effects when the first generation of the real drug went on the market in 2025 under the name “Chulel.”
Winslow was sorry about all this. It cut his income stream down to nothing. But he took his multi millions and his remaining stocks of Fontana and fled.
Keep reading! Get Way of the Serpent now from Amazon!