The Undying

gunfight

From the film “Gunfight at Red Sands” (1963)

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.

Dumbasses.

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.

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9 thoughts on “The Undying

  1. Clever idea for a truly unsympathetic anti-hero…but no goals but to live? No quest, no ideals? The Casca series of books at least was a curse by Jesus from the Cross, and Casca just healed, found out inconvenient it is to never be able to get calluses, form a long lasting relationship, or even manage friendships, leaving him sadder, wiser, and stuck until Jesus comes. Otherwise, your guy Kane wins the day for being totally without personal merit, for had he wanted to save his attacker an awful death, he wouldn’t have allowed the kid to met him. Consequently, nicely horrific.

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  2. After all those thousands of years, he’s become quite jaded. He has no reason to live, but can’t face dying yet.
    If someone used a car, as long as there’s a human intent behind it, Kane would heal and the driver would be crushed or receive whatever injuries Kane originally received.
    On the other hand, he could probably commit suicide and have it be successful, die in an accident, or die of old age. If he died in a war, the soldier who killed him would die and Kane would live. On the other hand, if Kane stepped on a landmine, which is purely a device, he’d most likely just die.
    I guess he’s had a certain amount of luck, but as long as he arranges to get murdered every fifty years or so, he’s golden.

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    • Interesting thought, Q. I hadn’t considered that. I suppose it means if someone used a remote controlled drone to kill Kane, the person controlling the drone would cash in his chips, even if he/she were miles away.

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  3. This is an interesting concept.

    I always get bogged down in the intricacies and technicalities of things like this. Shouldn’t he just get in the situation where a lot of people try to kill him in a short space of time? Then be set for a few hundred years?

    How is the length of life he is given calculated? If he can only not be murdered, and he can die of old age, does he look younger after every attempted murder? Does this have a bottom limit?

    Really good read!

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    • Greetings, PD.

      It’s not additive. He gets the lifespan of the person who most recently killed him. The length of time is calculated by magic. That is, in some realm, it is known how long a person is supposed to live. As far as his appearance, if he approaches the end of his lifetime, yes, he starts to look older and he does get renewed, and the change in his looks is part of what helps him construct a new identity.

      That’s for the complement. Hope you’re reading some of my other stories.

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      • That makes sense, but surely over the thousands of years he would, at some point, have been killed by someone with only a short time left. Or is he just that lucky?
        If Kane is a young “relative” age, the equivalent of being twenty again, and the attempted murder is by a child with 80 years left to live, how far back would Kane regress?
        The only sensible answer I can think of would be him reverting to the age of the person that last killed him, but then this links back to my other point. If he’s killed by someone much older, then would he age to that level?

        Sorry for the endless questions, I’m finding this a really interesting thought experiment as to how to make this work with different stipulations!

        And yes, I’ve been reading through a few of your stories having jumped in with one of your Camden Rod tales, not the first one as I realised at the end!

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      • To be honest, I didn’t give it all that much thought. I knocked the story off in a couple of hours including editing, so I didn’t fully explore all of the ramifications of what I was creating. It would make an interesting story if Kane were killed by someone destined to die a short time later. That would make the character really vulnerable. Actually, given the length of his lifetime thus far, statistically, there should be a significant probability that he’d have been killed in some accident by now. I’d have to give the character a “sense” of the lifetime he took so he could know how long he had until he needed to be “killed” again.

        I guess if I had to do it over, I’d give him a static appearance of 30 to 40 years old regardless, but then how would he look if he decided to “age”? Maybe after the allotted lifetime was over, he’d start to age normally as he would have if he were never cursed.

        I hope you get the chance to read all six Camdon Rod stories. Let me know what you think.

        Thanks.

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