This story is by Barton K Mann and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Some people believe it is the purity of my love that keeps me alive. Some people think it’s because I’m supernaturally obsessed. Some people say I am in league with the devil. Some people should mind their own fucking business.
It began ten years ago today, on what promised to be an unremarkable Wednesday morning. My wife woke up and went to drink her cup of designer coffee, eat some boutique fat-free yogurt, and read the latest issue of Vanity Fair.
She knew before she began that this routine would not require a single serious thought. She knew that this daily recurrence of these facile acts promised only tedium. Monotony was her number one complaint. She professed she was tired of the years of dreary repetition.
I saw it differently. I liked the security of routines. They were the structure that helped me define myself. And knowing hers made me feel closer to her.
On that Wednesday a decade ago, she broke rank. After she finished her cup of Volcanica Free Range Kopi Luwak coffee, she did something different. She bashed in my head. Then she put me through a meat grinder and fed me to the dogs. It was awful.
To be fair, the part about the meat grinder and the dogs, that was just allegory. I wasn’t actually ground up, flesh, bone, and gristle and churned into mystery meat for the dogs to devour. What she did only felt like that.
But she betrayed me that morning alright. She told me I was too boring, and she was leaving me. I had loved and trusted her, and she stabbed me in the back.
I mean that literally this time. She took my chef’s knife, the one I paid $185 for, and shoved it right between my shoulders. My awareness brightened and focused the second I felt it dip in. The steel blade piercing through the skin, slicing through muscle, sliding between ribs, nicking the spine, and then finally settling into my heart. Blood immediately began rushing into my lungs. I tried to speak. I opened my mouth, but only gore came out. I wanted to ask her why? Why, after all the love I had for her? My legs gave out, and I felt the final giggling of neurons firing in my brain. Then I died.
I woke up hours later in the morgue while they were doing the autopsy. It was the worst way possible to discover my immortality. I felt the scalpel gliding through the skin of my chest. It tickled at first, then it stung. I sat up. I screamed, they screamed, we all screamed for what seemed like eons. I believe the pathologist pissed his pants. He paid $150 for them. They were a light gray gaberdine, and the urine stains were permanent.
“You-you-you’re alive!” said an assistant.
“Yes, I-I-I’m alive,” I replied. I picked up the dangling flaps of skin from the Y-incision and pushed them back up against the glistening striations of exposed muscle. It was as if I thought by some miracle, they would stay put. But blood isn’t glue.
I demanded they sew me back together. The assistant vomited. My hands slipped. Everything was so damn wet.
With unsteady fingers, the pathologist honored my request. I felt the needle threading through me over and over and over again. I guess I was lucky. I had roused before they split my ribcage, so all my organs were intact. I often wonder what would have happened if I came to with my exorcised heart beating on a scale dangling next to my body.
“This is impossible,” somebody in the room said. I don’t know why, but I burst out laughing. The pathologist missed a stitch.
“Now that we have established that I should be impossible, would anyone like to suggest how or why it is that I’m not?” I asked. I got silence. The only sound was the wall clock ticking off time as it passed like water under a bridge. It was time that shouldn’t belong to me.
To my astonishment, shortly after that initial outburst of curiosity, my intrigue dissipated like fleecy clouds across summer skies.
Dying had a profound effect. The mechanics of life no longer concerned me. Questions of why and how seemed like strange fruit, their answers hanging unmolested on the branches of the tree of knowledge.
As time passed. I felt less and less human, and more like I was the lens of a camera. I was becoming an instrument of dispassionate observation. With one critical exception. My feelings for her remained present and palpable.
When I was all put back together, despite the attempt by authorities to keep a lid on things, my story spread like a virus. I became famous for getting murdered and living through it.
The immediate public reaction was startling. That someone had definitively beaten the final curtain enthralled people. A quiet awe settled over the world. People were reverent. At least for a moment or two.
Then the throngs of accidental suicides started, committed by people who thought they might also live through death. They didn’t.
Later, attempts to assassinate me also became popular. People hoping to see if I could really defy death. Once, a rogue group of junior accountants held me down and shoved a dozen or so razor blades down my throat. My neck ended up looking like a warehouse door with strip curtains. I couldn’t eat solids for six months after that.
I had to go into seclusion. People didn’t seem to understand that just because I couldn’t die didn’t mean I couldn’t hurt. I was proof that existence was no longer binary, and that was all that mattered. In their voracious pursuit of immortality, people had no sympathy for the pain or agony they caused me.
They were a lot like my wife. She who started it all. She couldn’t have cared less that stabbing me in my physical heart would devastate my emotional one.
And there I had been, loving her while she wanted me dead. Maybe it was the years of monotony. Frustrations piling up like a giant dust bunny under the bed. Is it possible she told me about her aggravations and I just didn’t hear? Is that a capital crime? Did I deserve a death sentence?
Even she didn’t get a death sentence. She only spent five years in prison. Probation based on good behavior is a bitter pill to swallow for the murdered.
Sometimes I’ve wondered if the love I felt for her really does animate me. How could it? Do I love her even now?
No matter what the reason for my immortality is, she’s why it means nothing to me. Never-ending life may be a dream, but never-ending life with a broken heart is a nightmare.
All of this makes me wonder. In exchange for her sparking my death, shouldn’t I be the one to arbitrate hers? I think so. Immortality leaves me stranded and impotent in a shapeless eternity of time. So, the time I leave her is all I have left to control.
Ten years isn’t even a blink of the eye nor a flick of the serpent’s tongue. And yet here I am making a note of it. A decade’s worth of life without the certainty of death is nothing unless I make something out of it. And I have.
A couple of years after she killed me, when the media frenzy wasn’t cooling down, I dropped off the grid. It forced me to live like a shadow. I thought a lot about her over the next eight years. And I made plans. Anniversary plans.
And now here we are, the three principal players of this little drama. Me, of course, the nowhere man. Then there is the curse of eternity, time’s hollow promise. And finally, there is her. The love of my life and my murderer.
Once I had captured her, I strapped her down on the gurney, gave her massive sedatives, then started the transfusion. My blood into her. My curse into her. The gift of immortality swimming downstream in a river of blood.
Why do I do this? For one thing, I loved her unconditionally. Even after she killed me, I loved her. I suppose I still love her now. Do I forgive her transgression? Should I give her the opportunity to love me in return and spend eternity by my side?
Well, that is a thought, except an equal amount of hate now tempers my love. In fact, my animosity overshadows any tenderness left. I don’t think that makes the foundation of a long-term relationship.
So why do I give her everlasting life? I do this because when she wakes up, I’ll wish her a happy anniversary, and then I’m going to kill her. Like she killed me. Only I’m going to kill her over and over and over again. For all time.