Friday, April 29, 2011

#FridayFlash: Immortal Curse

Angela Perry has a little writing contest going: write a flash piece using the prompt “Immortal.” Here’s my shot at it.



Immortal Curse

“Look, you’re the fifth person I’ve ever told,” said Gil. “Sixth. Maybe. It all runs together.”

Jeremy laughed. “You haven’t told me yet. So the count’s still four or five.” He was grinning, but Gil’s reaction put him more on edge than he expected.

Gil grinned. “Yeah. So how do I understand all these things?” He put the grin away. “It’s a curse.” Jeremy frowned, thinking it over. Gil waited. He had all the time in the world.

“Understanding’s a curse?” Jeremy drained his beer bottle, waved at Rhonda, held up two fingers. “I don’t get it. Seems like it’s the key to… everything.”

“The curse isn’t understanding. It’s how I got the understanding. Did you ever think I’m older than I look?” Gil saw Rhonda round the bar and finished his beer.

“Huh. Never thought of it that way. I just thought you were crazy-smart or something. You don’t look any older than me. How old are you, then?”

Rhonda brought their refills over. “You need anything else? Plate of nachos?” Gil and Jeremy were her two favorite customers: even drunk they never tried anything funny, and they always left a decent tip or made it up next time. They didn’t get huffy if she was busy, which meant she tried to make sure they never ran dry.

“Sounds good,” said Gil. “Put it on my tab.”

She smiled. “I’ll have it right out,” and walked away. She knew how they liked their nachos: cheese, tomatoes, and sliced jalapeƱos.

Gil watched Rhonda walk back to the bar, admiring her wide hips and sturdy backside before turning to Jeremy. “Eighty-four hundred and thirty-six.”

“Eighty-what-a-what?”

“That’s how old I am. My curse is immortality.”

Jeremy snorted. “Good thing I wasn’t taking a drink. You’d’a gotten a shower.”

“It’s true. Have I ever lied to you? About anything?” Jeremy shook his head. “So go with it for now. No harm, right?”

“Yeah.” Jeremy gulped half his beer. “Okay. So how did it happen?”

“I loved a goddess’s daughter. Now the goddess in question claimed I kidnapped and raped her, but that’s a damn lie. I might have seduced her, but it didn’t take much. And I married her before we made love.”

“This just gets better and better. Which one?”

“Their names are forgotten, except by me, and I’m not going to speak them. Forgotten gods are —” he waved his hands a moment, then downed most of his own beer — “comatose. Something like that. I might wake ‘em up if I speak their names. But the ancient Greeks knew my story. They turned it into Hades and Persephone. Assholes.”

Jeremy laughed. “So you’re Death Himself?”

“Oh, hell no. I’m just a guy who fell in love with the wrong girl. We married in her grandfather’s temple, boarded a barge down the Tigris to start our life somewhere safe, and her mom caught up to us anyway.”

“And?”

“She gave me a choice: she would either kill me on the spot, or give me the gift of immortality in exchange for renouncing the marriage.”

“Evil bitch of a goddess.”

“Oh, you don’t know the half of it. P— my bride said I would be better off dead than to take that bargain, but I was young and dazzled by the prospect of living forever.” Gil drained the rest of his beer. “She was right.”

“What do you mean?”

Rhonda brought the nachos with two more bottles; Gil tapped his chest. She smiled, nodded, and left. Those guys liked to solve the world’s problems while tying one on.

“Just because I can’t be killed doesn’t mean I don’t feel pain,” said Gil. “I’ve been shot with arrows and bullets, stabbed with just about every weapon you can name, hung, and beheaded.” He took a long drink. “That fucking hurt, and it kept hurting because I can’t die.”

“What? How did you —”

“Science is awesome. It at least let me understand what’s going on. Cell repair: for you and everyone else, that’s how you heal. But sooner or later, it stops working and you get old. Then you die. But for me, it’s in overdrive. Do you have any idea how much it hurts, trying to squirm your severed head back to the rest of you so the whole can heal?” He gulped down his beer and waved at Rhonda.

“Two more?” the waitress asked.

“I need something a little stronger tonight,” said Gil. “You got any half-decent whisky or rum?”

Rhonda nodded. “Sure. And a taxi for each of you, right?”

“Yeah,” said Jeremy. “This is — this is a night for stronger measures.” Rhonda grimaced, but nodded and left. “Jeez. That’s harsh.”

“You have no idea.”

“Yeah. But why don’t you bring her back?”

“Who, Rhonda? She’ll be back.”

“No, the girl. The one you married. Can’t you wake her up without the bitchy mother-in-law?”

Gil cocked his head at his latest friend, feeling the room spin around them. “Wouldn’t work. She musta moved on by now.”

“Why? If she’s been asleep all this time, why couldn’t you two patch things up? Shit. Listen to me. I don’t even have a girlfriend, and I’m advising some immortal about his love life?”

Rhonda brought the bottle and two glasses, filling each before leaving. “You want me to hold your car keys?” she asked. “The taxis will be here when you’re ready.” The boys fished their keys out of their pockets. “Good. Just let me know.”

• • •

Later that night, Gil lit a candle on his kitchen floor, kneeling before it. “Come to me, my love, my wife,” he said, in a language long forgotten by the rest of mankind, “my… my Pyanya. Awaken, Pyanya, my quiet one, from your long slumber, and join your husband in this strange time.”

A sudden draft blew out the candle. Gil lifted his head.

28 comments:

  1. Love the comfortable 'pally'ness here, and Jeremy's complete under-reaction, seems to me Gil wouldn't tell just about anybody, and certainly wouldn't tell anybody that would freak out about it.

    Really, REALLY want more... such a tease of an ending.

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  2. I want the plate of nachos to someone solve everything. That bubbling cheese to deliver an epiphany.

    For John Xero's concerns, Mr. FAR, you were already straining to tamp this down into one flash. Surely if there's public demand you could let it spill over into a few more posts?

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  3. This was great! I love the reality of the immortal stuck in the modern world. I can only hope I'd handle immortality with that kind of equanimity.

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  4. The one thing I will take away from this post is how rounded Rhonda was.

    A well-drawn character that *enhances* the piece. Good writing.

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  5. I like this one a lot, FAR!

    I'm with the others, though. A follow up or two would be fun to read. Marriage is challenging enough without adding a few thousand years between greetings. It would interesting, I'm sure. :)

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  6. More, please. Very fun story. I hope he can ditch the MIL ...

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  7. That really touches the heart. What good is immortality without someone to share it with.

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  8. Hi all!

    JohnX, we don't know how many beers they'd had… maybe Gil's tongue was loosened? Jeremy too. Maybe he's trying to emulate Gil's aplomb.

    JohnW, the nachos were another thing that got caught in the strainer. :-D Sounds like there's some public demand going on, I'll say more after the shouts here.

    Tony, remember that Gil's had a LOT of practice. He might say that people as a whole haven't changed much over recorded history.

    Ian, Rhonda's one of those minor characters that really want more attention. I'll be interesting to see what happens with her further on.

    Chuck, it might be easier if they're not around to get on each others' nerves! :-)

    PJ, I think awakening a god (or even a demigod) would be a tricky thing. And let's hope the daughter-unit doesn't wake up Dear Old Mom too!

    Raven, that's really a good point. How many friends and loved ones has Gil oulived?

    A lot of you want more, and who am I to deny you? It might not be next week, but I can kind of feel how it's going to continue, if not (yet) end.

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  9. You can't end it like that! What happens next??

    I actually was very amused by the whole beheading imagery -- trying to crawl towards your head. Should be gross but I found it funny :-P

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  10. Well done, Far! That was a tease of an ending. More please, sir!

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  11. Hey all! The Readers Have Spoken, there will be more.

    A.M., I was imagining Gil's dragging his head to his body using his jaw muscles… in pain all along.

    Boran, it will happen. Like I said above, maybe not next week, but soon.

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  12. Great story. Love what you did with the prompt. Poor guy! Glad there's going to be more.

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  13. Great story FAR, I like the dialogue exchange between the characters.

    As has already been said, Jeremy's underreaction, and possible inability, or refusal to comprehend.

    You could imagine overhearing this conversation at a bar, and thinking..
    "Hmmm, those two have had enough..." :)

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  14. Morning!

    Thanks, Maria. Yeah, immortality looks pretty good from this end of the stick, but (like everything else) has its drawbacks!

    Steve, notice how they got quiet whenever Rhonda was around? Not that she's paying attention to their conversation anyway, but they taking at least some steps to avoid being overheard…

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  15. Love the interaction between these two and the juxtapositioning of the ancient and present, though as others have alluded to, it doesn't quite feel complete yet. :)

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  16. I second ibc4's comment about Rhonda too... very nicely written.

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  17. I really liked it! To be honest, I think it's fine as it is - not every flash demands "more" (and of course once it strays beyond 1000 words it's no longer a flash, it's a serial) and sometimes just leaving the story to the imagination renders the original work more powerful.

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  18. That was good fun - loved the way the conversation slipped back and forth between the supernatural conversation and the everyday, ordering of more drinks. Also liked the ending, just enough of a hint about what happen next.

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  19. Hi all, and welcome to the free-range insane asylum!

    Lee-Ann, like I said in an earlier comment, Rhonda was originally part of the background and insisted on getting more attention. I had a character do that in White Pickups (novel, 1.5th draft serialized, look for the link at top-right) too.

    Icy, thanks for that. I do like short stories where you can imagine for yourself what happens next too.

    Aweeadventure, thanks — that's the feel I wanted to capture, the conversation about the fantastic juxtaposed with everyday drinking (and snacking). Good to know I got it right!

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  20. I loved this, the dialogue was fun, the idea of an immortal travelling through changing times really appeals. I liked the ending too, it leaves you wanting more, but more might just be too much. Now I am left with my imagination to visualise what happened next.

    Nice piece of flash.

    The nachos made me hungry!

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  21. For an immortal story, I found this very believable and touching. I'm hoping for more actually, maybe a series or novella? Romance and ancient forgotten gods... What's not to love?

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  22. Sometimes it takes an outsider to see clearly. I enjoyed the beats you used with the dialogue.

    You know, you haven't truly convinced me that immortality is a curse yet. ;)

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  23. Hi all!

    Thanks, Helen. It was fun to write too.

    Ganymeder, I'm fooling with a couple ideas along those lines. Here's hoping the mother-in-law doesn't wake up too!

    Thanks, Aidan. The rhythm isn't one I ever tried before, it just came out — and felt right for this story. But as for convincing, if surviving getting beheaded doesn't convince you… maybe I should have left in the part how he had to dig himself out of a grave?

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  24. Rephrasing what John said: more, more!

    And please pass the nachos and beer. ;D

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  25. Such great conversational feel to this story, capturing the close friendship of two mates.
    Adam B @revhappiness

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  26. I love the idea of forgotten gods being comatose. And it works so well as the set up for the piece. Nice.
    ~jon

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  27. Thanks much, Jon, and welcome to the free-range insane asylum!

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  28. The thing is, how many beers have they had already? I mean, I really want him to be the immortal guy, but what if this is just a wheeze?
    Great flash though, and love Rhoda.

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