On this Leap Year Day, here’s a piece of flash fiction based on this temporally-relevant writing prompt from Reddit’s r/writingprompts board. Enjoy!
Prompt: “You know the problem with immortality? Eventually you just stop caring.”
by Brett Caron
Live long enough, you start to feel dead.
A life spanning so much further and deeper than a normal person, it’s a kind of death. There are stages of grief. Am I really immortal? I don’t know. I haven’t lived long enough to know that yet. But I know that the length of my existence has changed me. The person I used to be is gone, dead, and I suppose that I grieve him in my own way.
When I was born, life held more mysteries. It’s cliche to say life was simpler back then, but live as long as I have and everything seems cliched. I still haven’t decided whether humanity knew more then than it does now. Personally, I have a hunch that in another thousand years the insights now will look just as primitive. If my life has taught me anything, it’s that I’m not equipped to know whatever fundamental truth there is to this universe. No human is.
Another cliche would be to say that I didn’t ask for this. None of us asked for this. We’re all strapped into a roller coaster at birth and we ride it until it’s time to get off. I’ve been riding it for one thousand, three hundred, and forty-two years, going by the current calendars. I haven’t decided whether I still want to get off, or if I just can’t imagine what it’s like to not be on it anymore.
For a while, the roller coaster is just as exciting as ever. Then it becomes irritating. Every sudden swing to the side is like a drunk shoving you in a crowded bar, and because you know it’s coming you can only purse your lips and lean into it. The drops, which used to make you feel like falling in love, the feeling like your heart is plummeting into your stomach, it fades. The brain rationalizes it, strips away the special feeling layer by layer until nothing is left of the wonder or fear but echoes.
It actually doesn’t take very long, relatively speaking, until you want to get off. Make it stop, just for a second, so you can catch your breath. A few hundred years of ennui will do that to you. That feeling comes and goes, but it too gets fainter each time. A gripping terror that it won’t ever end becomes a wistful desire, and eventually a grudging acceptance.
So here I am, my arms and legs inside the car at all times. Moving through space and time, watching the world whip by me at incredible speed. The ice caps melt. The deserts grow, the oceans swell. People, so far away they’re like ants viewed from an airplane. Here this century and gone the next, bright smiling faces waiting in line to get on after the people riding with me have all gone.
I hear their screams, their laughter. I watch them squeeze a hand with their own until the skin goes white with tension, or smile, or kiss each other. I watch the wonder in their eyes, the fear, the joy, and tell myself that those feelings are in me, too.
It isn’t the grand march of time that killed me. It doesn’t matter that nothing lasts, that nothing is special. Inconsequential doesn’t mean meaningless. There is beauty in everything, the wondrous fractal reality around us all, there for any of us to see. I just don’t care to look.
Thanks for reading! The original entry in the thread can be found here.
My addition to the thread can be found directly here