An elusive death

Category B: Highly Commended (2021) Monash Short Story Writing Competition

Author:  Sarah Brugman

Title: An elusive death

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Those who live until eternity will never know what it means to be ‘human’.

And since I no longer know any immortals, I suppose I am the only one who doesn’t know the true meaning of humanity. If there is one, that is. I choose to hope that there is, otherwise, everyone would be as miserable as I am.

Throughout the history of literature—much I which I witnessed—there has always been someone who longs for power, and they seek that power through the ability to live until the end of the universe. Those people are morons.

The common misconception is that immortality is a wonderful, breathtaking adventure. Immortality is torture. Oh, but when you’re immortal you can do things that no ordinary person gets to do in one lifetime: another misconception. Instead, you get to watch your parents grow old and die, along with everyone you’ve ever known and loved.

I should never have accepted immortality.

It was fun for the first couples of decades. That excitement started to wear off when my brother died. He died of old age. I attended his funeral, hoping to pass as a great-niece. It worked. My own sister, aged and brittle, told me all about our late brother in his youth—as if I hadn’t grown up with him. She told me I reminded her of someone.

She told me I reminded her of her sister.

She died a few years later.

I didn’t attend her funeral.

My family slowly leaving the Earth made me realise what I had done. I missed the ability to get injured, to form bonds with other people, to cherish every moment as if it were the last. It’s hard to cherish things when you have forever left to live.

Despite my better judgment, I have never longed for death. I’ve wanted to long for death, to want to put an end to the unsure, bland existence I’ve been condemned to, but, alas, I am too afraid. The only thing I fear more than living forever is not living forever. One may say I am, therefore, living a nightmare. 

I agree.

There are, mercifully, some pleasures to being immortal. These pleasures lose their novelty faster than a boredom-inducing dad joke. But that doesn’t mean I don’t abuse them.

“Greeting and salutations!” I beam at the owner of a two-in-one second-hand bookstore and café.

She smiles at me awkwardly, not expecting such bravado. “What can I do for you?”

“I was just wondering if you stocked any of my father’s work,” I say, a maniacal grin plastered across my face.

“Is your dad an author?”

“Of sorts. His name is William Shakespeare.”

The owner stopped what she was doing to glare at me.

Now for the fun part.

“You don’t believe that my dad is a famous playwright who lived centuries ago?” She then ignores me, pretending I’m simply not there. “I’m sure you think it to be impossible, but I’m special; I’m immortal. Let me show you,” I say and grab a fork from a patron at the café. “An immortal can’t be wounded like any regular human.”

And with that, I plunge the fork into my hand.

Nothing.

I feel nothing, as per usual. You see pain as a blessing when it’s taken away from you, but the shop owner can’t see that. How she screams. She’s realising that, since I feel no pain and can heal my wound instantaneously, my claims about Shakespeare must be true. I smile angelically, pulling out the bloodied fork and discarding it. She continues her hysterical reactions.

Oh, to be so oblivious to the supernatural.

I’ve had enough of being special. I want to be free, and I want to be like everybody else, to die like them. Ordinary people die, but I am not ordinary. That’s something I know all too well. 

*

The beach is silent, whips of haunting wind are all I hear. Shaking with fear and the cold, I make my way to the cave by the rocks. I take a sharp breath, absorbing the smell of the sea and the burn of the freezing air, savouring it. The last time, I tell myself. This is the last time.

And there they are, sitting there and waiting as if they hadn’t moved in the last 600 years.

“This is the last place you should be,” they say.

“I should have been here centuries ago, like the others.”

They smiled. “The others were ready, you are not.”

“How could I not be ready?” I ask, clenching my fists. “I’ve had no real reason to live in centuries, I’m done! I’ve had enough! I want to be with them!”

They stand up and walk towards me. “The others were ready because they used their immortality, unlike you.” They spat the word. “You’ve not used your immortality to live but simply to exist. You must live before I let you die.”

“No,” I say, “don’t make me keep going, I beg you.”

“If you want to die, I will not deprive you of that. I only insist that you try to experience the world before you plunge into the unknown.”

“Your ‘blessing’ cursed me, you destroyed my life by making it last forever,” I snap. “I’m certain that I want it taken from me. There isn’t a doubt in my mind.”

“So be it.” They sigh and hug me. “Go to the beach.”

I hug them like one would hug a mother and leave the cave. The beach is horrifying and serene, the thing I fear the most in the world and the thing I welcome. Ditching my shoes, I lie down in the water and submerge my face. This is it. This is the last thing I will ever feel. I let the sand abuse my skin and the water to wash by like silk. And then I feel myself let go.

The water washes me away.

I am with them.

 

 

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Last updated: 02 September 2021