Aaron silently fumed. Guilt? No… he couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt that particular emotion. Over the years, he liked to think he’d become somewhat compassionate, so he was doing what considerate people did and helping out someone in need, but Glory was seriously trying his patience. He acknowledged that he was partially responsible for the part he’d played in distracting her while her sister went on a psychotic rampage, but he’d also saved her life. So if he’d owed her anything, he’d already repaid it…. hadn’t he?
He waited almost a half hour before leaving the apartment. If Glory was anywhere near the building, he didn’t want her to think he was following her. That’s all he needed… to start validating her paranoia. He’d forgotten what a pain in the ass it was to interact with people for more than a few hours. And Glory was becoming as boring as the rest with her adherence to her “responsibility” in the death of her mother.
He really needed a drink.
Not that drinking did anything for him; it was more habit than anything. It was funny though. He’d put so much effort into gaining immortality, he’d never stopped to think about what it might mean. He absently rubbed the palm of his hand. If someone had told him that becoming immortal meant he’d never be able to get drunk again, he’d have laughed it off as unimportant. Now… well over a century without getting drunk enough to forget his past was enough to drive any person half mad.
What he’d told Glory about her sister coming on to him had been true. And while he didn’t usually turn his back on a good time, Lori had a reputation a mile wide. Besides, he liked being the hunter, not the prey. Lori really creeped him out… and that was before she’d killed her mother and put some kind of demonic spirit in her body. He comforted himself with the knowledge that it was much worse than anything he’d ever done. The whole thing made him feel old though, even if his body wasn’t showing it.
In another life it seemed, he’d watched his entire family succumb to consumption, tuberculosis. One by one, they’d died in the space of three years. His mother had gotten sick first. The others had followed, dying one by one. First his little sister, then his father, his brother. His mother had lingered, and he couldn’t forgive her for that. Every day, her mewling, wheezing prayers. Her begging. The bloody handkerchiefs and the daily visits to the Church. He hated the Church, and he hated the priests and most of all, he hated his mother. They all saw him as an extension of his mother’s will… his mother’s little helper. He was obligated by blood to care for her and die for her like the others.
He’d finally smothered her in her sleep. Better that she should die than suck the life out of him, just like she had the rest of the family. No one was the wiser, but without her… suddenly he was nothing, no one. With her went his identity. He was a fourteen year old boy alone in a world that was indifferent to his existence. It was at that point that thoughts of his own mortality had come to haunt his days and nights. He would die and rot in the ground along side his family. Worse, if there really was a god as his mother and the priests insisted, he’d be punished for his matricide. The last he doubted, but the thought of just winking out and being forgotten like everyone before him… it drove him into a near frenzy.
Whatever the answer, whatever trial he had to pass, he would not die. Not like the rest. He would live and damn the cost. What remained of his family’s money, his money, a fortune severely truncated by four funerals and his mother’s generous donations to the Church, he used in his search for a cure to his mortality. He learned to fight; he learned how to size people up and not be taken in by con artists; he learned to spend hours in dusty old libraries that smelled of mildew and reminded him of his mother’s moldering corpse in the ground. He became a man, and a hard and dangerous man at that, and every sign of his maturity filled him with dread at its implication. Did he want to find immortality when he was old and gray or while he was still young enough to enjoy it? It pushed him into a new fury of activity.
A decade passed while he pursued each lead to its frustrating end. Alchemy? A waste of time that could ruin your health without ever yielding results. Necromancy? Well the point was not to die, wasn’t it. Besides how could he trust anyone to resurrect him after he was dead? Why not just keep his money and leave him in the ground? His search for golden apples reinvented his fortune through numerous fruiting orchards which never yielded any fruit that lived up to its true purpose. If any god had ever been sustained by such fruit, he did not envy them. He was sick of apples by the time his experiments were done. In his desperation, he even mounted an expedition to find the Garden of Eden and its Trees of Knowledge and Life. But if ever such a place existed, it had long ago disappeared beneath the sands of time.
But it was not a complete waste of time. In Iraq he met a man who claimed to be immortal, who promised him the secret to his longevity if Aaron could beat him in a sword match. Though he disdained the man, a filthy beggar without two coins to rub together, he saw no reason not to humor him. Aaron knew how to defend himself with sword or pistol and carried both on his person at all times. But he was not a careless man. Without waiting to find out where the urchin might carry a sword among his rags, he pulled out his sword and plunged it through the man’s body.
And then stood there wondering why the crazy fool laughed as he fell, catching the sword and carrying it with him. He leaned down in consternation to take back his weapon, but the beggar caught him by the hand. “Your sword has found its sheath in me, now mine will find its home in you.” A jolt went through Aaron. His stomach turned to ice and his breath caught in his throat. For an instant, he thought the man had some how stabbed or poisoned him, but it was too late to ask him. Even as he pulled his hand out of the man’s grasp, a light, a flame, came forth from his palm. It solidified into the shape of a sword, a sword with no weight and no real mass. By the time he was done marveling at the weapon and thought to look at the beggar, the man was dead, and not merely dead, but turned to ash and bone as if he‘d been dead for centuries.
He left his sword embedded in the soil where the man‘s gut would have been. Opening his hand as if to drop the flaming sword, it winked out of existence as if it had all been a dream, but he knew it was there. His arm was not numb exactly, but it didn’t feel as it had only moments before, and he didn’t feel the same, not at all.
It had taken him years to realize that he had attained what he had sought for so long and understand why the man laughed as he died. The sword wasn’t a gift, it was a malicious curse. No one who understood the price of immortality would ever want such a burden. The numbness in his arm crept through his whole body, his heart. Once he had what he had sought since the death of his family, all the savor went out of the rest of his existence. No matter what he pursued, it turned to dust in his hands. Mortality had been an all consuming hunger. Immortality was tedious satiation of all his desires.
Aaron stepped into the bar eager to begin drinking. It was only habit, but it was something to do. Something to fill the time. He’d have to think about moving on soon. He’d been back in Sybar City far too long. Sooner or later someone would wonder why he never seemed to age, even if they initially dismissed it as good genes.
to Book 1, part 2, Page 4