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Rated: E · Short Story · Fantasy · #2155628
For hundreds of years he's lived, and now its up to his son to find an end.
Victor stood, shovel in hand, at the foot of his father's grave. He looked down into the hole, at the place where a casket would be, if this were an ordinary funeral. This was anything but an ordinary funeral, even an Outsider could see that, though they wouldn't understand. Even Victor himself didn't quite understand it.
Instead of a casket, there was a thick burlap sack enveloping Victor's father's body. Three ropes held the sack tightly closed; one around the neck, one around his arms and torso, another around his legs. Blood soaked through the head of the sack, dry now, only hours after the shot had been fired. There was a sharp poke out of the foot of the sack, where Victor had laid a knife at the foot of his father's corpse. Sighing, Victor took one last look at the corpse, tossed the shovel he held into the grave, and picked up the spare he had laid at his feet, and set to work filling the grave.
When he finished, he wiped the sweat off his brow, and without bothering to mark the freshly dug grave, turned and walked slowly back to the house. Upon entering the old, forgotten farmhouse, Victor removed his shoes and set about building a fire to fight off the chill that always came over him after a burial. Sitting in front of the soothing flames, Victor stretched and, using the key to his father's old Chevy, scratched a tick mark next to the other five on the mantle.
Four years, six burials. How many was it going to take before they found the one?
Victor didn't quite understand his father. What made him live so long? Why was it that while it was a blessing for an ordinary man to live to be a hundred years old, his father had already lived to be three times that? Victor knew even his father didn't know the answer. All his father knew was that he wanted out. So for four years, ever since Victor turned eighteen, the two of them had been searching for a way.
Victor swung the keys around his finger. He knew what to do; he was to wait in the farmhouse for five days, which was the longest it had taken his father to reappear before. If his father didn't reappear after five days, Victor would collect his inheritance, take the old Chevy and go on to live his own life.
And wait until he found out whether he had inherited his father's condition as well.
Of course, he was too young to be able to tell yet. He would know in several years, when he was thirty but looked twenty-two. Or however old he was when he stopped aging. But after his father was finally gone for good, he would remember the method they had found.
He would remember the way out of this world. The one that actually worked for immortals.
Victor reached into the vase that sat beside the fireplace and pulled out the rolled up piece of paper they had been using to track their methods and results. Scanning his eyes down it, read:
1. Hanging oneself. Buried in a wooden casket. Pushed own coffin open and climbed out before burial.
2. Weighing oneself down and jumping into the ocean. Came home sopping wet after two days.
Victor's hands trembled when he reached the third one, the one he'd helped with the most, the one he'd hated the most:
3. Slit wrists. Body burned while still breathing. Appeared sitting near the fireplace five days later.
4. Shot oneself in head. Body chained up and buried. Clawed own way out of the grave two days later.
5. Overdosed on pills. Had body cremated after death. Knocked on the front door of their old home three days after death.
Sighing, Victor reached for a pencil and wrote:
6. Shot oneself with a silver bullet. Buried eight feet deep tied up in a sack, shovel and knife provided in case it doesn't work.
Sliding the paper back into the vase, Victor leaned back, watching the flames until he fell asleep.
***
Two days later, Victor goes out to check the grave. So far, nothing has been unearthed. He sits quietly in front of the soft mound of earth for twenty minutes, watching for any sign of movement. When he sees none, he clambers to his feet and walks quickly to the old Chevy. Climbing in, he starts up the car, and pulls out and starts the drive to the nearest grocery store, which is twenty minutes away in a small town he didn't know the name of.
As he walked through the store, selecting a small portion of food, just enough to last the next three days, Victor keeps his head down, curly brown hair flopping into his eyes. Being among Outsiders (those who did not know about Victor and his father's condition - and very few people besides Victor and his father were Insiders) was always weird. It was best to be as unnoticeable as possible. Kept curiosity away, Victor's father said.
It was when Victor got back to the house that he saw her, waiting on the porch. His grandmother, on his mom's side.
Tensing, Victor swung out of the truck with his groceries, trying to keep calm. His grandmother, Margot, as she insisted he call her, was one of the very few Insiders. And she was the only Insider he knew of who very much disapproved of her son-in-law trying to end his long life. The other Insiders Victor knew of (who were still alive) didn't understand, it's true, but they accepted it.
Margot, not so much. She was still slightly aggrieved that she hadn't know about his condition until after her daughter died in childbirth. She never seemed to accept Victor's father's apology that not telling the mother of his child his condition was his biggest regret.
She crossed her arms in front of her chest as he drew near. "Did he try offing himself again?" She demanded. After a moment of silence, she snapped, "answer me!"
"Yes!" Victor nearly shouted. He tried to push past her into the house, but she stepped in front of him, her amber eyes narrowed, her lip curled.
"And I suppose he made you help him again, did he?"
"Yes. But I want to help."
"How can you want to help someone end their own life?"
"Because I may not understand what it's like to have lived that long, but I can understand that it may happen to me as well. And I can imagine how tired I would be of living after living so long!" Sighing, Victor flung the grocery bag on the porch and slumped down onto the steps.
"Oh, Phineas," Margot whispered, and for once she didn't spit his father's name out like a curse. "Look at what you've done to this child." She sunk down to sit beside him. "I don't disagree that maybe it's time he find an end," she began, "I just think it's not something you should have to watch. It's something he should do on his own, without making you or anyone else help him. It does damage to your mind, watching someone die does, even if it's watching the same person over and over."
Victor blinked, fighting back tears. He hadn't cried over his father's deaths, not since he first told him his plan and asked for his help. "I just don't want it to happen to me," he whispered. "And if it does, I know I'd like it if someone would help me."
Margot placed a hand on his shoulder. "I know. But I hope you can realize that it's cruel to force someone into it."
Shaking his head, Victor brushed her hand off and stood, picking up the groceries. "My father never forces me to do anything," he said coolly. "And I have three more days to wait for him." Opening the door, he strode into the house, but when he tried to close it, she stuck her hand out and stopped it.
"Most people only get one death, Victor. You may think you're prepared for it to be your father's last death, but I don't think you are." Her eyes searched his face as he struggled to keep it blank. Sighing Margot finished, "I've got a buddy who's a stonemason. We can have a headstone and funeral arrangements ready in a matter of days, should this be the end." With that, she let go of the door and walked quickly back to her car.
Victor shut the door and sagged against it, hanging his head until he heard her drive away.
***
On the fifth and final day of waiting, Victor sat on the couch, his head in his hands. When he looked up, it was because he heard a clanging sound.
Shooting to his feet, he stumbled out the back door, looking up to see his father, fresh out of the grave, struggling to get the burlap sack off from around his waist. He was covered in dirt and grime, and the shovel and knife lay at his feet.
A conflict of emotions rose in Victor. For one, he was sad that this hadn't worked for his father. But on the other hand...Margot had been right. He wasn't ready for this to be his father's last death.
"Father!" Victor cried out, running towards him. Victor's father looked down at him glumly.
"It didn't work," he whispered as Victor pulled him into a hug. "It was supposed to work this time."
Victor pulled away, Margot's words echoing in his head. "Father...what if I can't help you to - to end it anymore? What if I don't want to help you anymore?"
For a long moment, his father stared at him with wide eyes. Finally, coughing, with tears forming in his eyes that were the same shade of blue as Victor's, he managed, "Then I'll go without." Swallowing, one tear escaping his eyes, he moaned, "I hope you don't feel I've been forcing you to do this. I haven't - I never meant to force you into this. You don't have to. You never had to." Wiping his face his father sobbed, "This was supposed to be the last time you had to see this."
Pulling his father back into a hug, Victor whispered, "It's okay. I know you never forced me. And we'll keep trying. We'll find a way." Pulling back a little, he looked his father in the eyes. "Together, until we find one that works."
Smiling, his father squeezed his hand, saying, "But maybe I can wait a while longer to search for it." and together they walked back to the farmhouse, just a very old man and his very young son.
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