Nine Thousand Stories

barge on a river

© BarbCT/Gallimaufry

“It doesn’t look the same but I’ve been away so long.”

Latham stood on the deck of the barge as it slowly ambled north on the St John’s River.

“You’ve traveled everywhere else in the world but never came home even once. Why?”

Professional tourist Bill Collins met Latham by chance at a bar in Côte d’Azur and after hearing his story, decided to go back home with him.

“I was afraid of what I’d find, memories and regret. This was once my home long, long before the white man came.”

“You still hurt because your people drove you out?”

“After all this time, you think I wouldn’t be, but it’s a deep wound. Everyone around me aged and died but I didn’t. They couldn’t accept that. Most people today would have a hard time with it.”

“Latham, I’ve spent my life traveling the world, experiencing everything, blogging about it all, but you’re the biggest adventure yet. I could travel with you for a lifetime listening to the stories of a nine-thousand year old man.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of October 10, 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

I have no idea where this photo was actually taken, but something about it made me think of Florida. I looked up rivers in that state and settled on St. John’s River since it’s the longest in Florida and is used for commercial purposes.

People have been living on this river as long ago as 12,000 years, but about 9,000 years ago, the climate warmed resulting in much of the polar ice caps and glaciers melting making for a wetter environment and allowing the Paleo-Indians there to go from living in camps to villages. Yesterday, I commented on someone’s blog how it’s rather intimidating to write about an immortal character because it’s hard to imagine what they’d be like with so many life experiences.

Learning of the history of this river, I decided to take a stab at it. Latham isn’t particularly secretive about his longevity, at least not with some people such as Bill, and I liked the angle of a professional adventurer and storyteller being captivated by the sorts of tales a man like Latham could tell.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

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33 thoughts on “Nine Thousand Stories

  1. I wrote a story about an immortal sometime back for a different challenge. And yes, I agree it is very difficult to write about such a character. I feel you have done enough justice in these 150 odd words, James.

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  2. I agree. It is quite hard to wrap the mind about immortality. This story though seemed effortless. As if 9000 years is something very casual and we don’t have anything to be alarmed about. Just be wonderous in a good way. Like Bill feels. Loved it.

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  3. I totally agree with the protagonist. It would be fascinating to travel with a 9,000 year old man. And I can hardly blame him for never returning home. A failure to age is hard to explain. Terrific story!

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    • I imagine him, at least in the early years, decades, and centuries, staying in one place for a while, pretending to age, and then moving on. Not sure how that would work when transcending the territories of various tribal peoples. I checked, and to the best of anyone’s knowledge, the last time the land bridge between Alaska and Russia was available was about 11,000 years ago. My character was born 9,000 years ago, so he could travel the North and South American continents but there’d be no way across an ocean until around 500 or so years ago. I wonder if he remembers it all?

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      • Yeah, his ability to travel initially wouldn’t be so good, but he would have two continents (North/South America) to explore. Lots to see. And the record isn’t entire clear on what the Polynesians did. Some theorize they made it to South America. Also there’s the possibility that Chinese sailors also made it to the Americas in the 1100s (roughly). Your fellow might’ve hitched a ride on the way back. Vikings are another potential for movement. It’s a fascinating character you’ve imagined with lots of further story potential.

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      • I actually mentioned the possible Chinese “discovery” of America in a chapter of my time travel series based very loosely on the works of Andre Norton (Alice Mary Norton). In an alternate timeline, ancient Europeans are prevented from crossing the Atlantic because a time accident has deposited a whole bunch of sea-going predatory dinosaurs there. This allows the indigenous peoples of the Americas to develop their cultures without conquerors from the East. As far as my research revealed, there was a Chinese Muslim who landed on America’s west coast and apparently explored at some depth into our interior before returning to China. For whatever reason, the Chinese didn’t seriously consider anything like colonization.

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      • Keep in mind it’s just one chapter in a “series of books” I’ve adapted from Norton’s Time Traders novels, so you’ll be coming in mid-story. Oh, part of what the team is attempting is to prevent the event which triggered climate change (I’ve adapted the causes somewhat) but also to discover how they are being manipulated by two branches of the same alien race.

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    • Thanks, Moon. There’s a writer in Ireland who is publishing a book based very loosely on the Biblical character Lazarus, the one Jesus resurrected. While there are a number of unofficial accounts as to what happened to Lazarus afterward (I think he’s only mentioned once after the event and very briefly), most scholars agree he lived a normal human lifespan and then expired, his resurrection not being the one promised in the New Covenant. However, there’s a small group who believe Lazarus never died and continues to walk the Earth to this day waiting for the second coming.

      The concept of long lived or immortal people has been well covered in science fiction. including 1970 television series “The Immortal” starring Christopher George and even an episode of the original Star Trek series “Requiem for Methuselah,” guest starring James Daly and Louise Sorel (these are probably all names you don’t recognize, but they were television regulars in the 1960s and 70s). “Highlander” was both a movie and television franchise dealing with immortals. There are many, many more.

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  4. That was an awesome thought… cant fathom the depth of experiences and turmoils this ancient man might reveal!
    Fab take on the prompt.
    – Anagha From Team MocktailMommies

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