The Immortal

“Hey chum. Why so glum?” Harry dropped onto the couch beside me and punched me on the shoulder. “What’s up?”

“Not now, Harry.” I flicked the newspaper, in the hope that it would look like I was reading it.

“No, seriously, what’s the matter?”

I sighed and made a show of folding the paper.

“I’m just a bit down, that’s all. Leave me alone, and I’ll be fine.”

“You? What would you have anything to be down about?”

“I died, okay? This morning, I died again. There, so now you know.”

“Yeah? How?”

“An aneurism in the brain.”

He looked at my head, as though he might spot the wreckage of a burst artery, as though it had punched through my skull like a slow-mo scene in a gore film. “Ouch. Did it hurt?”

I gave him a pointed look, then returned to the newspaper.

“But you’re all right now, yeah?”

“With a bit of peace and quiet, yeah, I’ll be fine.”

“How does that work, then?” Harry recognized hints like a cat recognises quadratic equations. “I mean, does it all repair itself, or does it just carry on around the damage.”

I shrugged. “It repairs itself.”

“Well, what if you got flattened by a truck, I mean really squished, would you, I don’t know, blow yourself up like an inflatable doll, like in the cartoons?”

“I don’t know, Harry, and I don’t want to find out.”

“What if you got cut in half? You know, like if you fell in front of one of them timber production lines, and it split you in half, top to bottom. Would each half grow the other half? Would it like clone you?”

“If it did, at least one of them would be able to get some peace and quiet.”

“Yeah, but would it though?”

“I don’t know Harry. Why don’t you go find one of the scientists and ask them?”

“Scientists!” It was surprising how much contempt he could put into a simple word. “What do they know? They can’t even cure the common cold, never mind pancreatic cancer.”

“Still no news?” I said, hoping to deflect the conversation onto his illness.

“Ha! There won’t be any, either. They keep sticking needles in me, but we all know they’re just counting down the days. They say, if they’d caught it earlier, if it hadn’t spread, if I was younger, but what they really mean is my innings is over.”

“I’m sorry.”

He shrugged, a whole philosophy in a single movement. “You ever gamble? You got to play the averages. Sometimes you come out on top, sometimes you don’t. Some people go early, and then there’s lucky bastards like you. It all averages out. In the end, you play the game for its own sake, win or lose. So how come I’m a cheerful beggar, and you’ve got a face like a wet Wednesday?”

“Well, dying can put a crimp on your day.”

“But you’re immortal. That’s what they call you, don’t they? The Immortals? How many are there of you? Twenty?”

“Twenty-three. They found another in India last week.”

“Twenty-three. Out of how many people in the world? Seven billion? Eight? You know how special that makes you?”

“There may be others we don’t know about.”

“Yeah, but even so. And they still don’t know how you do it?”

“It’s not a conjuring trick, Harry. I don’t ‘do’ anything.”

“No, but coming back to life every time you die, that’s a hell of a trick nonetheless. You know there’s a couple of churches sprung up? You know you’re a god to some people, right?”

“I’m not a god, Harry.”

“Well no, I know that. A god wouldn’t be such a miserable bastard. Ha, priests!” His tone of voice put them in the same camp as scientists. “So, why are you such a wet blanket, then? You can’t die, man. You’ve got your own religion. Damn, just think of the women you could pull, just working that angle alone. You could be up to here in pussy. And smoke! You can smoke and drink your life away, and wake up the next morning fit as a fiddle. You got it made. What couldn’t you do?”

“I can’t leave here, for a start.”

“For real? Why not?”

I closed my eyes and recalled the words of my counsellor. “Apparently, my human rights are subservient to the rights of humanity as a whole. By studying me, the whole of humanity can benefit, and other emotional blackmail, blah, blah, blah, special law passed, national security, etc, etc. The long and the short of it, if I try to leave, they’ll shoot me. And then I’ll wake up in here, only this time I’ll be locked in a six by ten cell. Which means I’ll miss all these scintillating conversations with you.”

“But at least you’re alive.”

“You don’t know, Harry, you just don’t know.”

“Don’t know what? You can’t die. It’s a miracle, a goddam, genuine, no bullshit miracle, regardless of what some priest says. So why are you whining about it? You know what I read? You’re the next stage of evolution, that’s what they say. The law of averages, see. Your sort are going to outbreed us, and even if you don’t, because you live longer eventually you’ll outnumber us. So cheer up. You’re on the winning side.”

“Yep. Whoopy doo. Yay team Immortal.”

“You know what?” He was suddenly angry, his bonhomie evaporated in a second. ” You’re a selfish bastard wallowing in self pity. You got a gift that’s been the dream of mankind forever. I’ve got weeks to live, and you’ve got eternity, but you’re the miserable one.”

“You don’t know, Harry.”

I watched the small entourage in white coats make their way along the corridor towards me. The mourning period for my latest death was over. More tests beckoned. Please God don’t let them kill me again, not twice in one day. I thought back to the sudden sharp pain, the falling into darkness, the overwhelming sense of panic and terror. The silent scream that went on and on until I revived.

“I tell you what I do know,” said Harry. “I know I’d swap places with you in a heartbeat.”

“Me too, Harry. Me too.”

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

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