Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sample Sunday: "The First Seven Millenia"

Sample Sunday: "The First Seven Millenia" is a story available in my collection, "Show Me the End of the World."

I’d wondered once, what it would be like to be truly alone. I never imagined that it would be quite like this, of course. I thought to be truly alone would be like suffering from some kind of intense emotional wound, a trauma like someone had dug a hole right through my innards and kept on going and going and going, and nothing could ever, ever fill it in.
But really, being alone is much more like an intense boredom.
I’ve spent much of my life alone, in one respect or another. But this, this is absolutely terrible.
This morning I woke up, and, much like days previous, I did nothing. Now, it used to be that when I say that I did nothing, what I really meant was that I’d sat down and pretty much wasted the day by watching television or playing games or some other nonsense that didn’t involve any real stress or human contact. That’s what “nothing” used to mean to me.
These days, when I say nothing, I mean it in the very truest sense of the word that a human being is capable of. I mean that I opened my eyes this morning, awoken to a new day, and I lay in bed. All day. I didn’t get out of it. Ever. I’ve lain like that every day for the past forty-seven years. For as long as I’ve been alive, forty-seven years seems like, well, nothing, if I might apply a different meaning to the word.
To date, I have lived for seven thousand, three hundred and sixty-two years. So forty-seven, from a perspective such as mine, really is quite an inconsequential amount of time. To me, forty-seven years is a span of time somewhat like what a month used to feel like. I still keep track of my years as though they were my days. I keep track of my days as though they were my minutes. It’s bizarre, and slightly discomforting when you really think about it. I have dismissed time as most people think of it. It means nothing to me.
There’s that word again.
I suppose I ought to tell you just why and how it is that I have come to such an extreme age, especially looking as well as I do – that is, as a twenty-nine year old man in pretty decent physical condition.
I was born early on in the wonderful decade of the 1980s. I remember it like it was seven thousand years ago, which is pretty sarcastic of me to say. I remember it pretty well, as well as any normal man might remember his first few years, even though it was much, much longer ago for me than a normal man’s life span. I grew up as any child of the 80s might have, watching TV and playing Nintendo games, reading comic books, playing sports, riding my bike and playing with friends when the weather was nice, staying in when it wasn’t. It was, to put it mildly (and in perspective, considering the events later in my life) a rather uneventful childhood.
I like to think that my parents instilled in me a decent sense of right and wrong, and how to be a generally good person. You can see where I’m going with this, that is, that I was a very middle-of-the-road human being, with no distinguishing characteristics to my life at all.
I went to high school, dated girls, got drunk with friends, experimented with marijuana, all the things high schoolers do. Then college, a small liberal-arts institution in the American northeast. You can see how dreadfully boring it all is, a slice of Americana apple pie. Lots of TV, lots of videogames, lots of simply lounging around without contributing much to the world at large.
This was, of course, the time of the great technological boom, the growth of the Internet, 9/11, and all those things that made the beginnings of my life an exciting and unique time to be alive. But my life itself was not exciting, despite the grand surroundings. I was not famous, I was not a genius, or a star athlete, or anything else that got one noticed in that world so obsessed with success and celebrity.
All this is not to say that I didn’t want success or celebrity. Indeed, I desperately desired those things, just like anyone else of that entirely materialistic age. I wanted to be a writer, of all things. I wanted to make waves; I wanted people to notice me, to like me. I wanted to entertain people, and at the same time, I wanted to make embarrassingly large piles of cash, cash, and more cash – which, I learned, is something few writers actually manage to do. But I’d have been damned if I wasn’t going to try.
But that was not where my celebrity or my success would come from.
One thing that always struck me as being so bizarre during that time period was how obsessed people were with looking young, with staying young. We desperately craved to keep that youth that seemed so fleeting, even though it lasted so long. I never really cared, knowing that, yeah, guess what, people get old. Watching television became a practice in wondering how many new “rejuvenating skin crème” ads would come on during a particular commercial break.
A journalist once asked me when the first time I ever noticed I wasn’t dying was. This was sometime around age one hundred and twelve, give or take. I couldn’t answer him, at first. Eventually, I told him that it wasn’t like I had flipped the “on” switch to my magical immortality machine. It just happened. I thought I was born this way, since I could recall nothing so bizarre happening to me in my lifetime that I thought I had been bestowed immortality. I just was.
The interview took place just after I’d published the first volume of my memoirs, rather egotistically entitled “The First Hundred Years”. I was one hundred and twelve, and I had still not done much of anything. But it was around then that I realized that I wasn’t doing anything, but I was seeing everything. I noticed that I was in a position to offer a unique perspective on the world. I thought maybe I could teach people about the things I had seen, and maybe, for some reason, they would listen.
In my pride, I thought they would connect better with a living storyteller than some dusty history text. And unlike those books, I told myself, my memories were not skewed the perspective of the victor. I was an observer – I could tell them how it was, now how the people who won wanted them to see it.
I began speaking at colleges and universities around America, telling stories to history classes about what my mundane existence had been like a century prior. After I had done countless lectures, TV interviews, and dozens upon dozens of magazine and newspaper articles had been written on my life and times, I came upon a singular realization that changed my life absolutely forever.
They didn’t care.
I wasn’t teaching them, at least not anything important. I was two hundred and thirty years old, and all they cared about was the origins of television. I was quaint, a museum piece that people walk past and say, “Oh, wow, look at that!” and then move on a moment later.
I published “The Second Hundred Years”, selling only half as much as the first book. My status, and my celebrity, were wearing thin after two and a half centuries of life. The world at large did not care about me, that weirdo American who wouldn’t die.
It’s not for lack of trying, either. In those first two and a half centuries alone, I would have no less than fifteen attempts on my life, mostly by bizarre religious nut-jobs who thought I was the anti-Christ. Imagine how surprised I was when bullets didn’t hurt me, or knife blades, or firebombs or any of the other millions of ways human beings have devised to torture and maim each other for less than no good reason. When that little nugget of information got out, I thought it would stop the attempts, but it actually seemed to encourage more of them.
People actually were trying harder to kill me than those that had come before, and were using it as a sort of litmus test to gauge their own strength and cunning against their competitors (or even their friends). And each time someone tried to kill me, it got just a little bit more public.

"The First Seven Millenia" and the rest of "Show Me the End of the World" is available now at