Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Why Can't I Die?

Why Can't I Die?
By Michael Cannata

Joseph was born to a race of immortals most humans never knew existed. His parents were normal and never lived long enough to discover the secret that their genes had passed on to him. After he had buried them, before he knew that he was blessed with a curse, a stranger approached him in the small village he had once called home. The stranger was also immortal. He told Joseph about his heritage and what to expect as the endless years unfolded ahead of him.

The one thing the stranger wasn't able to tell him was how or why he had been created. The immortals had existed from the time before man had discovered fire; before they wore the first clothes. They were like humans in every way but two. They never died and they never had children. The gene that made a child immortal wasn't carried by every human. The special union between human couples that resulted in a child being born immortal only happened every 100 years. All immortals were males and they were all born unable to procreate.

He'd walked the Earth for over 2,000 years, rarely settling in any one place for too long. Secrecy was essential for people of his ilk. On the few occasions his immortality was discovered, any semblance of a life he had shared with those around him was quickly destroyed. He learned the value of secrecy through painful experience.

In the beginning, when he remained young while those he lived among grew old, he would be considered a god. Slowly, their reverence would turn to fear, he would become a demon in the eyes of the people. In the end, he would be vilified and persecuted.

Over the centuries, he'd been tried and convicted of heresy and witchcraft among other crimes against God or man. He had suffered decades of imprisonment before escaping from the prison or dungeon that held him. When he'd been burned at the stake, the villagers ran in terror as he sat in the flames and laughed at them while the pyre burned down to ashes around him. The executioners ax broke into pieces when they tried to behead him.

Arrows and spears could not pierce his flesh when he fought in battle. Poisons had no effect on him. He ate food only for the pleasure of its taste, not for any need to live. He had any woman that offered herself to him, never fearing an unwanted pregnancy. He even fell in love on occasion, but it was never something he could enjoy. He knew he would always outlive any woman that loved him. Losing someone that loved him was one of the greatest pains he could endure.

He was immortal, and, despite having roamed to the edges of the earth, he was homeless. He never experienced the love of a family or a son. He was cursed to wander, never able to settle anywhere for any length of time lest his secret be revealed. He'd never experienced true love… until he found, Jason, his only "son."

He found, Jason, abandoned in an alley over 80 years ago when he was just a baby. He knew he should have brought him to an orphanage or a church… somewhere where he could be loved and cared for. But as he looked into the child's face, the smile that he was rewarded with made his heart ache. In a moment of weakness, loneliness actually, unable to have children of his own, he decided to raise him up as his own son. Of all the centuries he had lived, none had ever been as glorious as the years they had lived together.

He loved Jason as much as any father had ever loved a son. He taught him all the secrets about how to be the best man possible that he had learned over the centuries. He taught him his skills as a warrior; the trades that would help him build and farm; the way to conduct business so he could become wealthy. He did everything with his son but the one thing he wished for more than anything else. He couldn't grow old with him.

As Jason aged he began to realize that his father never changed. His quiet wondering soon became open questions. Eventually, Joseph had no choice. He either had to leave Jason behind or tell him the horrible truth and risk losing him by exposing his secret. His greatest fear was losing the only person he loved.

When he finally revealed his secret, rather than react with disbelief or fear, Jason embraced him and swore that regardless, even though he wouldn't live forever with him, he would be a both his son, his friend and companion for all the time he had in life. They never spent a day apart from each other.

Now, Jason lay dying of a blessing that his father would never know… old age.

He watched as his son's eyes closed for the last time, clutching his cold hand tightly. He did the one thing he had learned how to do so well in all the centuries he had lived. He cried until he had no more tears.

He'd been left behind, alone again. He had no destiny to meet, just a fate to suffer... and an unanswered question. A question he had asked himself too many times.

"Why can't I die like you?

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