Reddit Writing Prompt #32: From One Life To The Next

You are immortal. Not in the sense you that can never die, but you remember everything about your past lives. – somewhatusefulkinda

When I was six years old, my memories came back to me. It was like a dam had been broken in the back of my mind, and the boy that I had been up until that point drowned in the memories of hundreds of lives.

It was strange, to be thousands of years old and trapped in a body that was so small. Every time, I think that I would grow used to the feeling, but every time I am reminded of how impossibly small I am compared to what I once was.

As I always did, I tried my best to act like the child I was supposed to be, but people always thought that I was odd. There was something just subtly off about me, and I could see it reflected in the eyes of every child and every adult that I spoke to. Perhaps it was my eyes. People can never seem to look me in the eyes for too long without looking away. I don’t know if they even realized they were doing it, but they kept their distance from me. I was used to it.

As I always did, I lived the life I had been given. I did not stand out from the crowd, opting instead to be simply a face in the crowd. Living so many lives has given me a long view of the future, and I felt it best to remain on the sidelines of history. Even on those occasions when I was reborn into a royal family at the head of the line of succession, I would abdicate the throne. I did not want power. I just wanted to live.

So yes, I was a strange child, who exuded the air of a man far older than I was. In high school, I was the strange young man who could manage to sit by himself while surrounded by hundreds of people. In college, I was a ghost, appearing for my classes and spending the rest of my time on my own, more advanced, studies. In my career, I was a faceless worker without whom the whole place would have fallen apart. As I always had, as I always would be.

It all changed one day on the train. I sat by myself, reading a book that I had never had the chance to finish in my last life. It had been a simple life as a Greek shoemaker, and from my little store I saw both world wars, the cold war, the moon landing. I remember being astounded at how fast everything was moving. Never in all my lives had technology advanced so quickly or so drastically. I was content in my little store, with my wife and two sons.

When an old man sat across from me on the train, I initially only gave him a cursory glance before returning to my book. As the train rocketed forwards, I felt the old man’s eyes upon me, and I gave him a longer glance. I met his eyes, and nearly cried out.

They were the eyes of my son, the son of the Greek shoemaker. In a heartbeat, I recognized his face hidden behind the decades since I had last seen him, lying in my own deathbed. He had been the last of the family I had, his brother claimed by disease and his mother by old age. The last words I said to him, as I felt the familiar fingers of death reaching for me, were that perhaps he would see me again one day.

And I was right. Damn it all, I was right.

My son did not look away from me, his dark eyes piercing from beneath his bushy eyebrows. He stared at me, his gaze like that of a vindictive judge, and then at the book in my hand. The same book I had been reading while waiting for my death as the shoemaker.

The train slowed to a stop, and I threw myself to my feet. It wasn’t even my stop, but it didn’t matter. Fear propelled me to escape, the fear of being recognized by the man who was, metaphysically, my own flesh and blood. I got off the train, only casting one final look back at him through the window, as the train began to move forwards along the track.

Our eyes met again. I wished I could see into his thoughts, to know what he thought of me. I wanted to talk to him, to ask him why he had come to America from Greece, to ask him about how his daughters were doing, to simply spend time with him as I once had as his father.

Perhaps he recognized me, somehow. Our gazes stayed locked together as the train rolled away, until I could see him no longer.

I left the city that day. Gathered my essential possessions, emptied my bank account, and fled to the wilderness. I hid in the mountains, dominated by the paranoid fear that my son had recognized me. I died of a heart attack, alone in my little shack. My last thought before my mind was freed from my body was the thought of my son, watching me from the train.

I had never felt so alone in all of my lives.

One thought on “Reddit Writing Prompt #32: From One Life To The Next

  1. Lord, Stephen, this is so sad. Very powerful and wonderfully written. I am more moved by this than by anything else you’ve ever sent. Wow, you’re good!


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