They say that immortality is a curse.
They say that living forever is torture.
They say that being perpetual isn't worth it.
And for the first thousand years, I actually believed them.
I did a lot of bad things in that first millennium of my life, abusing my gift to return from death to wage wars and destroy wherever I could. Looking back, I did not deserve immortality back then, seeing all the harm I caused to the world.
That changed around the time mankind first took notice of the many uses of iron. As philosophy became more and more popular, I put down my weapons for the first time in my life. The pursuit of knowledge became my new purpose. I began to travel a lot during that time, visiting the city-states of Greece, the kingdoms of the Indian subcontinent, the Chinese states and the various tribes, kingdoms and empires in between. I sailed to the Americas a couple of times, but there wasn’t really anything exciting going on there yet, except for a few hunter-gatherers and farmers. I stayed with them anyways for a few decades, learning and observing as much as I could.
I saw many wonders and met many great people, but I also witnessed many terrible atrocities that made me feel sick to my core. More and more often, I lost faith in the future of man, a trend that only worsened over the centuries. It seemed as though the more advanced my people became, the more destructive they got. So by the time a little thing called Rome had come into existence, I was nothing but a disgruntled old man stuck in a unageing body with nothing but two millennia worth of knowledge, experience and terrible disappointment in my own species.
In an attempt to clear my mind of all the troubles of the more "civilized" parts of the world, I journeyed to simpler lands. I visited nomadic tribes in Africa, where there was no concern about empires, dynasties and the like. I stayed there in peace for a century or two before I felt that I was ready to travel again.
Once again, I went on a grand tour of the different nations of Europe and Asia, even taking a trip to Australia and the many islands of the Pacific for a decade. But that journey was different from my first one. It was not one of wonder and knowledge, but one of increasing depression at the state of mankind.
The ones who say that being immortal means being lonely are right, you know. While connecting with regular humans becomes easier and easier the longer you live after a certain point, it is still an ever-present truth that all of your friends will eventually die and be forgotten, except for those who made a large enough impact on the world. No one remembers the family of farmers I stayed with for ten years in the deepest south of sub-Saharan Africa, while the work of my old friend Aristokles, nowadays more famous under his nickname Plato, is still talked about to this day.
I was in a pretty bad place mentally for a couple of decades, even trying to kill myself a couple of times, which ultimately proved to be an exercise in futility.
But then I met her.
I was roaming around the large island east of the Han Empire, a place some called the “Isle of the Rising Sun”, when I encountered her on some remote forest path.
She recognized immediately what I was and just asked me, for how long I had been travelling alone.
“Between one-and-a-half and two thousand winters,” I had stammered, not really knowing how to handle something like her. I knew that she was old the second I looked at her.
She was beautiful beyond measure, with long black, vivid golden eyes and two pointy ears on top of her head. Her elegant orange dress was decorated with various gold ornaments that shimmered with each movement. She tried her best to hide her tails, but I noticed them anyways.
Despite all of my knowledge, I couldn't explain how a being like her could come into existence, but that mattered little. After all, I couldn't really explain my own existence either.
“Seven hundred years,” she had whispered, before pulling me into a tight embrace and starting to cry tears of joy. I felt the same. There was someone like me, someone who knew what it was like to see all the mortals wither away around you. I was convinced that fate had led us together that day.
I soon learned that she was not exactly like me. While I was perpetual, meaning that I could return from death, she just didn’t age. She could not put herself in danger like I could, as she could, in fact, die permanently.
Her partial mortality however did not stop her from being the most optimistic person I had ever met. She believed in mankind. Her ability to always show positivity and see the best in even the worst of people slowly helped me to restore my faith in humanity. Once again, there was hope in my world.
We travelled together from then on, improving the world as we went. We did good wherever possible, helping as many people as we could.
Her plan was to reveal ourselves to the people of the world once they were ready so we could to guide and help them. I liked that plan. I had sometimes thought about using my gift to become some kind of god-emperor of the superstitious masses and then unite all of mankind, but that seemed like it could only end in disaster. Her plan offered a much more elegant solution for a better world.
At some point, love between us was inevitable.
And so the two of us marched towards a bright future and brought salvation.
Except we did not.
This world was not saved.
We had already spent a thousand happy years together, when on that fateful day we were travelling through a forest in a land now forgotten by history.
We had set up camp for the night when we noticed the hunters. We heard them coming long before they were even aware of our presence. They were armed with bows and arrows, but they were just simple hunters, so we considered them harmless. We figured that they were just looking food. She was even ready to invite them to stay with us for the night as she had always enjoyed exchanging stories with as many people as possible.
She stood up from the fire and walked the few steps towards the path to greet them.
Then I heard her scream as an arrow pierced her chest. She staggered a few steps before falling over backwards.
I immediately ran over to help her. Almost three millennia of experience with injuries made this attack seem like a minor inconvenience. I was not even mad at the hunters. Humans sometimes got startled and did things they regretted later. I assumed that they would just notice their mistake and that they would come to help me.
However I was struck by two more arrows in my back. I tried my best to keep my composure; we had been attacked before after all. But the pain was too great. I fell to my knees next to her.
I will forever remember the look of despair on her face as she realized that I would not be able to save her.
She twitched a couple of times before the light in her eyes vanished. That empty stare towards the sky…
Then they came like a pack of wild animals. They pulled me back by my shoulders and forced me to watch as they tore open her dress.
I do not dare speak more of the acts those monsters committed that night.
My memories get hazy after that point anyways. I only remember myself dying for the four hundred and second time while holding the body of the only person I ever truly dared to love.
I cried for a long long time before razing that entire nation to the ground. Their sin could not be forgiven.
It took me a decade to regain some semblance of sanity. A mortal mind can't comprehend the amount of anguish I felt from a love of a thousand years destroyed like this.
You had betrayed us, but you were not beyond redemption.
I gave you a final chance, one more chance to make her dream come true. For five hundred years I waited and watched to see if you would see the errors in your ways.
But you failed me.
I tried for so long to love you, but I realized that you simply are not worth the effort.
You are worse than animals. Given the chance, you consume without any regard for the lives of others. Everytime you encounter beauty, you find a way to destroy it. You destroy not out of necessity, but because of greed. You kill for fun. You are a cancer on this world.
For a long time I had believed that my destiny was to save you, but now I have realized the simple truth: I am here to save this world from you.
By now, you should be beginning to see the fruits of my labor over the last half millennium.
Is distrust rampant? Have facts lost their meaning yet? Is your world starting to crumble apart?
Your end won't be fast, I made sure of that. You will feel my pain before you go.
So goodbye it is. There is no hope for you now. My plan has been in motion for a little over five hundred years.
But do you want to know the funny part? You had the opportunity to stop it anytime along the way. If you had only stopped being a herd of egotistical monsters, you could have easily survived.
Why is there no hope for you, you ask? That's because you took the person who believed in you the most and shot her through the heart before defiling her corpse. You do not deserve hope.
I for my part will be leaving this world. Immortality, as it turns out, is quite useful when you want to freeze yourself for travelling long distances.
I will find other people worthy of salvation.
You, however, are doomed.