In the old west, there was always some punk kid who thought he could outdraw the local gunslinger and who didn’t live to regret it. That’s because the gunslinger was really good at what he did and punk kids are idiots.
I’m not a gunslinger anymore, but I’ve still got young punks lining up to try to take me out. The outcome is always the same.
My name is Samuel Kane. Well, that’s not the name I was born with, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve lost count of the number of names I’ve lived under over the years. I speak dozens of languages, many of them dead, have seen empires rise and fall, seen commoners become Kings, and Kings fall to ruins at the hands of barbarian hordes.
In other words, I’ve lived too long to be impressed by much anymore.
It’s that damn wizard’s fault. Actually it’s my fault, but I blame the wizard for actually giving me what I asked for. He should have just killed me. Instead he did the opposite, which is much worse.
Back then, I was just some punk kid with a sword and an attitude. Heard of this wizard who could grant any wish. I went to look him up. I got lucky. I had plenty of competition but the wizard and his traps took them all out or scared them off.
I happened upon the old gent just after he’d successfully fought off a massive attack by a small army. The army was dead, the old magician lived, but he was drained of energy or magic or whatever he used.
I crept into his tower in the dead of night, you should pardon the expression. After all, I was a thief. I captured him while he was sleeping.
Of course he refused to grant my wish, so I tortured him. Like I said, I was a punk kid who didn’t know any better. I didn’t know the value of human life. Now I do, well, other people’s lives. People are so fragile.
Anyway, finally the old guy was this close to bleeding to death. I didn’t know enough about torture way back then to be able to inflict maximum pain while keeping my victims alive.
So he said if I’d stop hurting him, he’d grant my wish. He knew he was dying. He could have used the same power to kill me and put me out of my misery too, but he was an evil old bastard who believed in cruel revenge.
He granted my wish. I’d live forever. But there was a catch.
Which brings me to the present. Samuel Kane has a reputation, which means I’ll soon have to change my identity again and disappear for a while. I always have to do that once people start to figure it out.
Samuel Kane is supposed to be “the man who cannot die.” Just like the gunslingers in the old west, and I used to be one back in the day, the punks come around to test your rep.
At least a dozen gambling syndicates have a price on my head. Anyone who can actually kill me will collect and collect big. Not only that, but the guy or gal who manages to off me gets the rep for doing the deed. Somehow, no matter how stupid it sounds, they all think they’ll acquire my ability to live really long.
So here I am. I agreed to meet jerk face in this underground parking garage at an hour most sane folks are asleep. He’s not original. He’s got a gun. I’ve probably been shot thousands of times since the invention of the firearm. He’s just one more bullet I’m going to have to take.
“I know you’re here, kid.” I’m talking to the shadows but it’s not a guess. Most of the time, my rep draws them in rather than scaring them off, although occasionally a few are smart enough to get cold feet and run for their lives.
“I’m here.” The voice comes from behind me. Honestly, where’s did integrity and professional pride disappear to? You’d think he’d at least have the guts to come at me face to face.
I turn around. He’s in the shadows so I can’t see his face, not that I really care. He’s got his handgun pointed at me. 9mm Glock. Nice piece. I might take it from him when he’s through with it.
“Anything you want to say?” He’s giving me a chance to say some ‘last words.’ How cute.
“If you put your Glock away and walk out of here now, you might live a longer life.” He thinks I’m threatening him. It’s just useful information, not that he’ll listen.
“You’ve got nothing on me. Try for your gun.” Typical punk kid language. He thinks he’s tough. I pretend to reach for a weapon. Of course, I don’t need one. It would defeat the purpose.
The kid pulls the trigger once, twice, three times. Hell, he empties the clip into me. Predictably, I fall like a sack of dead mice into a pool of my blood. I can hear him laughing, but it’s like hysterical laughter, like he’s both elated and terrified. He should be terrified.
I can hear him starting to choke. My wounds heal and my blood replenishes just as the holes in his chest open and he starts to bleed out. I manage to sit up in time to see him crumple to his knees. He’s dropped the Glock and is trying to hold his insides together with both hands.
He stays alive long enough to give me that shocked look I’ve seen who knows how many times as he mouths the word, “How?” He can’t actually talk with his lungs full of blood.
He falls face first on the concrete. He’s gone and I’m here. I’ve earned another lifetime, whatever amount of time he would have lived.
That’s the curse of immortality. I get whatever lifetime from the person who tries to kill me. As long as I get my rep as being “undying” every fifty years or so, as long as someone tries to murder me every half-century, I really could live forever.
That damn antediluvian wizard made sure I could never die, but only if people keep trying to kill me. One of these centuries, I’m going to hide so deep that no one will be able to find me. Then maybe I’ll just die of old age like everybody else.
You’d have thought I’d have done it by now. I’ve learned about everything you can know about human nature. But the desire to survive and to keep going is still too strong in me.
Doesn’t make sense, I know. I’m really not the man who cannot die. I’m just the man who can’t be murdered.
Try it if you don’t believe me.