by Courtney Seyl
For as long as I remember I’ve been searching for answers. But maybe I should start at the beginning.
I was born December 31st, 1858 in a rural English town. I was sick, born too early and too late into the winter, and my mother was desperate to save her only son. She went to every doctor, priest, and charlatan, but at that time, little could be done to save a sickly babe. So, she did what she had to do: made a deal with the devil. Not the actual devil himself, more of a lesser demon, but still someone with immense power.
My mother was given an opportunity to save me. Every fiber in her being told her not to trust this man, that he was a liar. I don’t know if it was of her own volition or if something in the way he spoke or looked at her gave her the hope she was looking for.
In order for me to live, someone had to die. Not a cow or a goat, but a person. A living, breathing human had to be sacrificed so that I may prosper.
She was a godly woman, but her fear of failing me had cost her her sanity. She wasn’t going to die, she had to make sure it wasn’t a scam like all the others. Instead, she went back into town and grabbed the first child she saw alone, brought it back to the man who claimed to be able to save me, and watched as he was sacrificed.The knife sliding easily into his young chest, draining his life and allowing me to live.
Mother recounts how much I cried that night. She saw how a small symbol was burned into the skin behind my ear, the smell of burning flesh lingering on me for weeks. Watching the boy die, smelling his blood on her hands, kept her up many nights over the years. In an almost Shakespearean fashion she would wash her clothes and hands nightly for hours before finally being able to sleep. When I asked her why she did this, she would only say “It was for my safety”. It wasn’t until much later that the truth of it came to light.
When I was eighty-seven, I tried to kill myself.
It wasn’t a planned event, the trigger being a morbid curiosity: would I be affected the same?
I hadn’t considered the consequences and I hadn’t considered what would happen if I had lived or died. I watched as the cold razor slid easily across my pale skin. Deep red lines formed, the blood spilling slowly at first, then at an almost unstoppable rate. The sound of screaming filled the air, but I have no recollection of the sounds coming from my own mouth. Immense pain filled my body as the life my mother had sacrificed so much for was drained onto the cold bathroom floor.
I remember looking at my face in the mirror, a face that should have been old and worn but instead had the look and life of a twenty something. The only hint at my real age was hidden in my eyes; their dark interiors gleamed even as the skin around them became purple and slightly sunken in.
The next morning I woke up in a pool of my own blood, the marks on my wrist nothing more than white, slightly raised, lines. I wept. This hadn’t been the first attempt, but it was the only one where death seemed certain. It was after this attempt that I decided to find the person who had cursed me.
My first wife died long ago, my children grew up, had kids of their own, and now their kids have kids. Yet, I’m still here. I left England in 1943 and came to America. It seemed promising: it was such a large place, I could travel around, no one would notice my peculiar feature. I moved to New York first, got a job as a banker. Money was good and I spent almost every penny of it investigating demons and curses, trying to find people who could help me. I traveled to Asia and Africa, to small towns and villages where some revered me as a god and others saw the mark on my neck and banished me, saying that I was cursed for eternity.
In 2003 I made the choice to marry again. The next year, after our wedding, we found out we were expecting a child, a little boy. I was terrified and ecstatic at the same time. It was a way of starting over; it was also a reminder of the family I had left behind decades ago. I couldn’t let that happen again. Years of searching couldn’t end in history repeating itself. This would come to an end before it was too late for me to grow old with the woman I love.
One night, while lying in bed, a peculiar thought occurred to me: what if the demon came to us? The only reason my mother had found the one that had cursed me was because she was desperate and needed someone to help. All I had to do was create that same desperate nature in myself. My thoughts turned to my unborn child: could I somehow fake his being sick in order to bring the demon to me? He was due any day now and the plan seemed sound enough.
A few days later my wife gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby boy. I was so torn. Every part of me wanted this child to be healthy, but it also wanted him to be sick in some way. My desperation was beginning to take hold of me as it did my mother. I wanted answers, I wanted to know if my son would grow old and die before I would.
A year passed. Still nothing and, as though it were some kind of punishment, my wife fell ill. I was devastated. Cancer. Something that we could have caught had I not been so absorbed in my search. My journey for answers for myself were put on hold as we went through rounds of surgeries and chemo. Almost without realizing it, I began my search anew.
One night, as she lay in the hospital, her lips blue and her skin pale, a young doctor I had never seen walked in. He seemed new, like he didn’t quite know what he was doing or why he was there, but he was friendly and we started talking. He looked at my wife, saw her lying there as still as stone, and something flickered in his dark eyes.
“I can help her, but it will cost you something dear,” he said.
“Are you her new doctor?” I asked, not quite looking at him.
He walked behind me, leaning over my shoulder.“For one to live another must die,” he whispered. “Do you want her to live?”
I stood and faced him. “Who are you?”
“You know who I am.”
“Take me.” My heart was racing.
“I cannot, you are marked.”
“Please,” I begged, tears in my eyes. “I have lived too long there must be a way.”
“There is one.” The demon smiled. “Do you wish for her to live or die?”
I looked at my wife. She had so much to live for. We both did. I nodded.
“There is a way to end it.”
“How?” I could feel desperation entering my voice.
“You may be killed by another mortal’s hand, but only if they are able and willing to do it for you.”
“Any mortal who hasn’t been marked as you have. Even if your wife were to live like you, she would need to die by another’s hand, not yours.”
“And her?” I looked at my wife. “You will save her?”
The demon nodded. “There is an old woman down the hall who hasn’t got much time left. She will die, so that your wife may live.”
“Thank you,” I whispered, tears running down my cheeks.
That night, my wife was marked as I was so long ago, to be forever stuck at the age she was, never dying, never growing old just like me.
My wife and I watched our children grow up and have children of their own before leaving for a new country.
You may ask us why we want to die. The answer is simple: when you live for as long as we have the only adventure left seems to be in the afterlife.
That is why we have come to you, answered your calls and told you our story. You said you would do anything in exchange for the knowledge we have given today, told us you were desperate to prove your theories. I know it isn’t the story you wanted, but it’s the one I have. I have provided the proof. Now, take this pistol.
And shoot me.