Immortal

© Gabriel Gambetta 1999

It all began when the man was around 20 and 25 years old, a respectable age in Athens, 200 BC. He wasn’t anyone special, and even a long time ago he could never explain what had happened.

In an instant, nothing; in the next, there was another consciousness in his mind. He could ask for whatever he wanted. He wanted to live forever. Granted. And the other consciousness was gone.

In the following days, he was puzzled by those short instants he had lived (though he wasn’t even sure about it). He forgot about it shortly afterwards.

However, as years went by, he started noticing that most people he knew grew old and died, while he still seemed to be around 20 and 25 years old. When the last of his grandchildren died, he couldn’t help remembering that strange incident.

At that time, his idea of living “forever” had been “around 50 years”. He already was much older than that, although he didn’t know exactly how much. He started living with “living forever” in his mind; he thought he couldn’t die in a natural way, but he didn’t risk experimenting with himself too much.

A long time afterwards, around 150 years, he again became curious about the nature of his immortality. In the last few decades he had discovered the pleasure of knowing new cultures; and since he had time, he had travelled around the world : his birthplace, a cold zone in the north, an interesting culture in the delta of a river in the south, and other nearby places. A terrible storm made his ship capsize, and for several minutes he was underwater; but he finally came out. He found out he could live underwater (it was many centuries before he knew he could live without oxygen).

He reached the shore somehow, and he settled down. The experience of capsizing had been terrifying, and he no longer wanted to travel around the world. For decades he lived a very peaceful existence in a coastal town whose name he didn’t remember. But later the interest in knowing new things returned, so once again he travelled from town to town, until he arrived at a place where people had curiously long eyes. He liked it, so he stayed.

He learnt quite a few interesting things during his years in the far east; he became a cultivated man, a thinker. With over six hundred years of accumulated experience, he was a very, very wise man. He spent one of these decades studying himself; no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t destroy himself. Eventually he accepted his immortality as a fact. He didn’t even need to eat, although he did from time to time for the sake of it; besides, two centuries never went by without a new flavor being discovered.

Inevitably, he ended up bored by China, and again he drifted around the world. This time he ended up settling in a place called Reino de Castilla. He really liked Castilla, so he spent quite a bit of time there. However, its inhabitants (who now called themselves Spaniards) regarded his immortality with increasing suspicion. Never in his sixteen hundred years had he hid his immortality, but then again, he had never been burnt before; the Inquisition did it twice, and as many times before, the experience of what would have caused death to normal people wasn’t enjoyable at all for him. He realized he couldn’t stay any longer, not until the situation calmed down, at least. He heard there was a new route to the Indies; he had had a good time there, so he decided to return.

He found the Indies quite changed; it didn’t even look like the same place, although he assumed it was because of his long absence. Long afterwards he knew he was in a new continent, called America for several centuries.

He spent the 1900 decade quite sad and depressed. For the first time in two thousand years, he felt the need to belong somewhere; he visited Greece, he saw ruins of buildings he had seen being built, but nothing felt convincing; he ended up defining himself as a citizen of the earth. In his powerlessness, he studied history for a long time, until he could fix his birthdate with reasonable accuracy, to 183 AC. In 2017 he celebrated his 2200th birthday alone; his tendency to lead a low-key life remained since the Inquisition, although he wasn’t hunted anymore.

At that point in his life, very few things were interesting anymore. Every two or three centuries he organized a war, to break his routine; and you can’t blame him : for a 3000 year old person, someone dying at 40 or at 90 was more or less the same, in the same way that many people can destroy an ant colony to preserve a plant for aesthetical reasons; he had seen thousands of people die, among them every friend he had met over a century ago, no matter how hard he tried to stop it; and he had reached the conclussion that death (in others) was inevitable. Besides, he had long stopped considering himself human, although his fellow human beings perfectly identified him as a curiously wise and mature 23-year old.

Around 3200 AD he wanted something he was never attracted to before : power. Many decades later he finally established himself as the leader of all humanity, which had extended throughout the solar system. He enjoyed absoulte power for a couple of centuries; but he ended up bored, as with everything else had tried before.

Around that time he lost track of his own age, in part because time started to be counted in a different way than in the past three thousand years. Space-time singularities were being thoroughly investigated by then, and since he had nothing to lose, he volunteered to enter a wormhole. He came out fifteen hundred years before; nobody knew where did he came from, and he didn’t tell. He relived those fifteen hundred years in a different way, for the sake of observing the differences; this time he lead a low-profile life. He was surprised by how little history had changed.

Mankind eventually discovered new ways of transportation, and before ten millenia the entire galaxy was inhabited. Apparently, humans were the only intelligent beings. Far later, the first contact with intelligent beings from other galaxies was made. By then, he didn’t feel human at all, so he didn’t really care when they went extinct. He had learnt to live by himself millenia ago with nothing but a slight nostalgia. He didn’t remember which was his home star anymore.

He finally took a decision he had being pondering from a long time ago. He got rid of his body. He continued to exist just as a consciousness. His perception of time had changed a lot; a million-year wait caused but a slight impatience. Nothing caught his attention anymore; he had fun watching astronomical phenomena such as seeing a star turn into a nova, or the formation of a new galaxy. But after twenty or thirty, he realized they all looked the same, and he ended up losing interest.

Then he decided to think. Nothing but to think. And as time went by, he ended up knowing all, understanding all. The infinite universe was his backyard.

In an instant, he felt something lost in the distant and dark past. His consciousness wasn’t alone. He could ask for whatever he wanted.

He had waited for that moment for countless millions of years, without even being convinced that it would eventually happen. In a last act of will, he wished for what he never had, that which isn’t denied to absolutely anything in the universe, except to him.

Granted.

And he ceased being.