Life Loves Death, Chapter One (Unedited First Draft)

Twenty-two hours into NaNoWriMo 2010, and I’m off to a roaring start with a word count of 2714! A quick trip to my calculator tells me that puts me 5.4% of the way towards my goal of 50,000 words in just 3.3% of my allotted time. I can feel the urge to go back and rework what I’ve done, and I know from past experience that that means I’m probably not going to get any new prose down on the virtual page today. As promised, I’m going to put up the first chapter here—unedited—for the interest of anyone who actually has enough free time to review it. I can’t promise to write the second chapter any time soon, but I imagine I will post other excerpts at some point during the month. For the sake of post-November readers of this blog, the full edited manuscript will be posted on my own blog sometime in December.

I’m feeling pretty good right now. The words are coming pretty easily. I’m sure there are many roadblocks (and writers’ blocks) ahead, but I made a good beginning. Enjoy!

Life Loves Death, Chapter One
by Geoffrey Micks

I have a secret to tell you, my friends: There has never been someone quite like me. You are hearing the voice of a man who should not be.

I suppose that is a bad way to start, but every journey begins with a single step, be it tentative or confident, halting or bold. Is any beginning truly a bad one if it leads to greater things? There is probably a better way to set my story in motion, but let us not dwell too long upon my first words, for there is much to say and little time to say it. Indeed, I may not be able to finish this last task I have set for myself.

You will soon come to understand what an amazing thought that is for someone like me. It has been my gift —my special blessing and my loathsome curse— that I have always had enough time to do anything I wanted, absolutely anything at all.

I have memorized the complete works of Shakespeare because I had nothing better to do. I have mastered throwing decks of cards into a top hat across a room blindfolded for no better reason than because there was a period where I thought that would be a fun trick to show off at parties.

I have had such an abundance of what is commonly called a precious commodity that minutes and hours and days and weeks and months and years and decades have been mere pocket change to me for as long as I can remember. Now I know that there are merely a handful of moments left to me —they fly away into nothingness even as I speak— and a new sense of urgency is creeping up upon me that I have never felt before.

Despite my need for haste, I know I must slow down. I must be calm and clear, for I want to leave something to posterity before my time is up. This thing that I am doing now is to be the last thing I ever do, so I must do it as well as I can with whatever time I have left.

When I say there has never been anyone else quite like me, I do not mean I am unique in the way we all are unique. My mere individuality is not what sets me apart from the rest of humanity. I am different, separate, and apart from you in a very real and very frightening way.

As I said, I have a secret. I must confess I hesitate to say it aloud even now, for in the few rare instances in all my years that I have shared this truth with someone, I have inevitably and inexorably been doubted, derided, mocked, scorned, envied, feared, even hated. I have been driven from many homes and communities for the thing that makes me different. I have lost the love and friendship of countless people I cared about because of something that is beyond my control and almost beyond my ability to explain.

That is why I’m speaking into this microphone. I know this recording device will not judge me. There will be no tears, no accusations, no stupid questions or demands that I speak sense. No one will strike me or shake me or try to punish me or take advantage of me in some way. You will hear this, dear listeners, outside of my presence and long after I am finally gone, and so your feelings towards me are of little interest to me.

That’s not true, really. Being unique is a lonely thing, and the thing I want most is your acceptance, your belief that I am what I claim to be. However fantastic my declaration, just give me a small fraction of your time on this earth to listen to what I have to tell you.

It is a secret, and people love secrets.

It is a story, and people love a story.

It is incredible, but I beg you to credit it.

It may take some patience on your part, but I know I can win you over. I hope that by the end you think well of me and remember me fondly. I would like to think someone will do that for me in the end.

Enough of this preamble! I have screwed up my courage enough to say the thing, to share my burden with you. Just let me take one deep breath and say it…

…I do not know exactly where I was born, or when, but I have seen pictures of the Black Mountains in Wales, and I know I spent my childhood there. They looked different then. They were not so green and lush as they are now; they were not dotted by sheep, and oak trees, and rustic country cottages. When I was young they were brown and barren, as the steppes of central Asia appear today.

As I said, I do not remember how long ago this was, but I will always remember my first glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea: It was the same heart-achingly beautiful blue it is now. My great secret, in a nutshell, is that I did not have to get on a boat at any time between my birth and the day I sank ankle deep into the sand on the beach near where the great city of Marseilles now stands. I walked. I walked the whole way. There was no English Channel when I made that journey, and that means I must be between eight- and ten-thousand years old…

…Funny, even the steady red light of this machine seems to glare at me in crimson disbelief. No one ever accepts me when I say this thing, but it is true: I have been alive since before recorded history. I have wandered the earth and sailed the seas since the last Ice Age. In my life I have stood on every continent. I have gone by more than a hundred names. I have lived and loved and laughed and cried speaking scores of languages, most now long forgotten by everyone except me. When the gods made each of us, they made me different. They made me wrong. They made me to go on forever, while all the people I care about have forever stopped and left me alone to continue without them.

I am not crazy. I am just who I am. Take my words with a grain of salt for now. As I said, time is of the essence: I will prove myself to you soon enough, but first I should get into some specifics.

I appear to be in my late forties, although the sun and the wind have browned and dried my skin and bleached my hair and beard so that those who have known me for much of their lives think me a spry seventy-something, and I am content for them to think that. I lived my childhood as every child does. When I was five, I looked five. When I was ten, I looked ten. By the time I was thirty I still had all the strength and stamina of a teenager, and that was a wonderful thing for a man living in that time: I was a mighty hunter then, much coveted by the tribes and clans of what would come to be called southern Britain and northern France. I did not keep a good reckoning of the years, but I know I outlived fifteen or twenty wives before I came to look much as I do now, and I have looked this way ever since, without change.

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