The story is told from the point of view of one of the scientists. He meets the subjects in the experiment as they play in the lab before being put into the enclosure that will become their world/home. They are given injections that cause them to age rapidly, but in their false "world" they go to school, date, marry, have a family and grow old without knowing that it is all fabricated and not real. Their bodies age past age 100, 120, 140+... The experiment is to see what will happen to human beings when they live past what they are currently capable of (105 or 110). It is sort of a quest for the fountain of youth, divine knowledge and/or immortality.

The kids grow to at least 160 or 180 years old... their heads and bodies change drastically as they continue the aging process. The last scene is of the two coupling, then the girl seems to look directly at the scientist as she stares into the camera and dies. The horror of what the scientists have done to ruin two perfectly good lives shocks them and they quietly disband the experiment.

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    I remember this. The enclosure was to prevent the boy & girl from ever contracting any diseases (IIRC the story's premise was that the scientists believed that every time you caught a disease, your body aged a little; if you never had any diseases, you could live forever.) I'm pretty sure I read it in the early 1980s, and I'm certain it was in English.
    – Niall C.
    Feb 24, 2013 at 6:18
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    @neifein Yes, I would have read it in the 80s in Canada, but I'm not sure when it was written. There was a point when one child shouted something in an Asian language and the scientists got excited, because they thought that this meant that the kids were evolving as they aged, but then they realized that the sentence was part of the kids' education. In the end, when they want to abandon the experiment, the lead supervisor doesn't want to and is in denial. Then the person telling the story realizes that the supervisor has also been taking the injections and has made himself age for no reason. Jan 3, 2014 at 6:52
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    "The last scene is of the two coupling, then the girl seems to look directly at the scientist as she stares into the camera and dies." This is very confusing. Is it a short-story or a film (maybe with voice-over)? When the child shouted something in an Asian language, was it written as characters? Jan 3, 2014 at 10:20
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    @MeatTrademark Hi! There are cameras in the enclosure so that the scientists can see what is happening. The shouted language was in English. The short story is told/written/described by a character who is a scientist. The reader knows what the scientist knows... tells us. Jan 3, 2014 at 14:37
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    @Morgan Hi! Yes, the book's setting seemed to be modern day. The time duration of the experiment was not that long. Weeks or a few months, perhaps? Jan 9, 2014 at 5:36

1 Answer 1


This sounds like "The Time Beyond Age" from the short story collection The Bone Forest, by Robert Holdstock.

The day before the experiment was scheduled to commence, Martin and Yvonne, our two MAA-grown subjects, were allowed into the observation laboratory for the last time.


The first stages, of course, were the familiarization procedures, and our two subjects were introduced to the closed environment that was to be their home for the rest of their natural and unnatural lives. There was something almost depressing in watching the children, conceived, grown and matured to the age of six in a Morris Artificial Amnion, now facing an incarceration in a second womb, this time for good.*


A breakthrough into what was difficult to say. The kudos for the original discovery of Chronon was not ours. The chemical of age, the simple protein that accumulates in body cells at a steady rate and dictates the phenomenon of aging, was the discovery of a Swedish biochemist seven years before. The acceleration of development, and of aging, under the influence of artificially high concentrations of synthetic Chronon, was the contribution of a Scottish behaviorist at the University of Edinburgh, four years later.


The excitement of year one hundred passed into our distant past, and over the course of weeks, then months, the enormous ages reached by the subjects failed to arouse even the slightest whimper of joy. We worked virtually full-time countering the efforts of each of their bodies to shift into a disease condition.


One corner of the laboratory was filled with neatly stacked printouts representing the last fifty years of the subjects' lives, and staring at that pile of information I realized that nowhere in its bulk could I put my finger on a single statement of feeling, of awareness. Even the sheets on which were recorded the last living moments of Martin and Yvonne were bare, sterile accounts of failing physiology and murmurings and alpha waves; there would be no account of what they thought, what they felt as death unfurled its protective wings about them.

According to the Wikipedia article, it was originally published in "Supernova" in 1976.

From the Wikipedia article:

This is a science fiction short story describing a scientific experiment in which two subjects’ rate of aging is increased in an environment that is devoid of all disease. The subjects live for the equivalent of centuries and evolve into exaggerated archetypes of male and female. Eventually they die, but not before the perpetrator of the experiment self-administers the life-altering treatment.

  • Hi @Richard, did you find this story uploaded somewhere online or did you copy the text out of an actual printed book? I would like to read it again before I accept this answer, but I can't find it locally in the shops or through inter-library loan :( Dec 17, 2014 at 8:05
  • @CanadianGirlScout - It was on the Internet but not via a legitimate source. That being the case, I've since deleted it.
    – Valorum
    Dec 17, 2014 at 9:58
  • I found a german review here that describes some of the scenes that I most remember :) Marking this as 'answered'. Yaaaaaaa! Dec 26, 2014 at 6:00

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