"They say you are immortal."
"Yeah. That's kinda my thing."
"I don't believe you."
"I'm shocked. Look, you aren't the first and won't be the last." She reached under the table into her bag. "Here, please save me the trouble of explaining."
The book cover read "Why I Can't Die: As You Soon Will Understand This Is A Partial Memoir." The customer jerked back on comprehension of it.
"Don't try and swindle me into buying your book!"
"Oh, no, you can have this for free. That book has been out of print for like four decades."
She paused to reflect on how recent it still felt. Back at attention, she continued, "Never mind. You take this book."
"I've got boxes of them at home. I always carry one around with me just for this very social interaction. Go ahead, take it."
"I don't like to read."
"Fine, there's a video documentary on Hu–" A stutter jerked her back into her inner monologue, "Of all of the streaming service from my first lifetime to survive, it had to be the one with a stupid name."
"It's on Hulu. You can watch that."
"How long is it?"
"Can I be honest with you?"
"Fuck you. I mean, again, not the first but you have some nerve walking over to my table to interrogate me. And then I try to explain everything and you didn't actually care anyway?"
"Now wait just–actually no, you're right. Sorry to force a conversation like this. My friend over at the table back there insisted you were immortal and I guess I threw myself into a bit of a shock. I'm sorry to have bothered you."
"Oh, well, it's alright. I do get this a lot."
"It's just that you're so composed about it?"
"Being the only immortal person in the world? I'm particularly suited to have had adequate time to come to terms with my situation."
"Yes, I suppose. I will take that book if I may?"
"And I'll watch that documentary if I ever get a Hulu subscription."
"You know some things never change."
"Oh, nothing. The documentary is alright and all, but a Hulu subscription isn't worth it. The book has more details."
"Just the book then. Thank you. Have a nice day."
"You too, dude."
A criminal smitten with being a master strategist and manipulator of human psychology went on a worldwide tour of his own self-destruction. He put himself toe-to-toe with the worst under terrible conditions, but always managed to evade all harm and outmaneuver those he challenged. This went on for quite some time, always pushing his limits.
He found himself stuck in a rut, completely unbeatable. With the world at his feet and no worthy challengers, he thought back to his most worthy rivals. If there was no one who could compete still alive, could reviving one who had seen their fate end give them an unforeseen edge? Something to inject excitement and challenge into his blasé existence?
He found an obsession in making this a reality. Funneling everything he had into it, he engineered a way to bring people back to life. From the unmarked grave he had made, he retrieved the greatest rival he had ever known. Her corpse arrived in his lab and he got to work.
The machines worked. She had been successfully revived. She was placed in a standalone hospital room and when she finally was conscious, the strategist came to meet her once again. He would explain what was going on, why he chose to resurrect her, and beg her to compete with him once more.
Unfortunately, she explained she had no memory of her past life. In shock, he sat at her bedside in silence. He did explain everything in hopes of jogging her memory, but to no avail. She stayed in the room for a few days, waiting for the memories to come back but they never did. This was reasonable: she had been dead for several months. That her decayed body could be repaired enough to allow life to be reawakened was an impossible feat to pull off.
After some time, she asked to leave. The strategist, maximally despondent, agreed. She left his laboratory and set out to make a life for herself yet again.
"Honey, I gave another book away!" she shouted up the stairs as she entered the house.
His voice was faint from this distance but she could make out, "Oh, that's great?" Her husband managed to shout back but still carry a sarcastic, melodramatic, and yet monotone voice.
She met him at the top of the stairs, "This one did catch himself though. Only a handful apologize for their behavior in their first encounter."
"I guess it's good news then. Soon enough we'll only have a dozen boxes left."
"Once those are gone we'll have enough room for an extra monitor."
"But without the stockpile how are you going to keep your bewildered, complete stranger fans at bay?"
"Then maybe it will be time for a second edition."
"Oh? I thought you said writing the first book was painful enough."
"Well, it is a partial memoir. Maybe every two hundred years or so, I'd like to think I've accumulated enough of something worth sharing."
"I would hope so," he said cheekily.
"Besides, everyone always clamors for the origin story anyway. I sprinkle on a few chapters from the modern day, make some easy money, and keep the book in circulation and acquire myself a few dozen boxes of copies–"
"Seems like a good, repeatable plan."
"Well, slow down. It's not like you–I'm sorry."
He took a seat next to her, "We've discussed that enough. I love you."
"So, will I make the cut? Do you think we'll be able to squeeze out a chapter of our own for this second edition?"
"When the first edition came out, I received a lot of flak that it was watered down. People couldn't handle the premise let alone the details of it."
"But you did water it down. Right?"
"Of course. As much as my book is special to humanity as an account of an abnormality, this is my life. And not everything in my life I can share."
"I want you to share what you want."
There was a long silence. Glances were exchanged and she reached to dim the lights.
"Ready for bed?"
"So the third edition then?"
"If you write about us in the third edition, I won't be able to call you on your bullshit."
They both laughed and made their way to the bedroom.
Without a memory of her past, she couldn't well grasp how much had changed since she passed away. If it had truly been a few months then not much should have changed. Nothing about the outside world felt irregular now that she was back to it. That was a comfort.
When she was revived she had memories. How to breath, how to eat, to cook, and speak her primary language. She was told in her past life she would sometimes casually drift between speaking two other languages when she was intimidating people. "What a girl she must have been," she thought. She'd lost some amount of herself and couldn't say how much or how little.
She wasn't socially inept based on some encounters with the truly awkward. But she definitely did not boast a sharp tongue and a sharper wit like she envisioned her old self having. It was bittersweet that there wasn't much to remind her of her old self beyond what the strategist shared. She had a clean slate: no family or friends to return to, nothing to her name, and not even that. She had no real name, just her business alias. This woman she used to be, was she happy to be this adrift and alone, or was there more to her story than what she knew? She couldn't remember.
It wasn't long before she returned to the laboratory. She had lost the memory of how restricted life was in the world without an identity. She had lasted a few days on the random charity of others who didn't mind helping a girl that wouldn't explain her situation. It wasn't going to work long-term, her most recent host explained. She would need to re-integrate with society and that took more knowhow than she had.
The strategist obliged. He had resurrected her so he was directly responsible for helping get her life back on track. Maybe. She appreciated the help and his conviction but questioned whether it was genuine. After all, he did kill her previous self in some "spectacular fashion." A failed result like her seemed to pose a risk surely. And yet he helped: he called favors to insert her into the right databases, give her new documents, and a new name.
In exchange, she worked part-time in the laboratory. She was kept busy with mostly sorting and data entry tasks. She had gleaned that another resurrection was planned. As unfortunate a fate it was to not be able to dance with his greatest foe, the strategist believed second best might make due. Once the administrative work of building her new identity was complete, she was given a small sum of cash and set out again. Her new life had officially begun this time.
There was a light knock on the door before it opened.
"I never thought we'd replace those boxes with a desk up here."
"Don't worry. It's only temporary. We will have new boxes in no time."
"Well don't rush. As much as people used to like your first book, you've gotta keep the second edition good enough to be published."
"My publisher had the same concern. Here I thought I had thunder trapped in a bottle, but I guess today's audiences are less taken aback by me. I'm not sure how to feel about it."
"Don't worry, you're still a weirdo."
"Too commonplace to make a buck and just still incessantly scrutinized. What a pickle."
"How's it coming along?"
"Like the first time, I have all of the material I want to cover. Framing in the right words just takes time. Sometimes I channel my past self, a show women, a storyteller."
"Must be a lot to juggle."
"Yeah, my body may be immortal but my memory is limited just like everyone else's. It's a good thing I still have the first edition to jog my memory of all the way back then."
"Not exactly the best source of truth though?"
"What else can I do? I can only add."
"Is that what you want to do? Money's no driver for you like it used to be, you can take chances."
"Do you think enough time has passed?"
"Depends. Whatever gas you have left in the tank of this origin story, you can share it with me if you want. Otherwise, if it's too much for the second edition it's hard for me to say."
She shuffled some papers around, signaling the change in subject. "What would you want to know in the new chapters, if you had only just read the first parts?"
"Remember my first question I asked when I finished reading it?"
"I do. I'm not sure I'm ready."
"Can I be honest?"
"You know I've never really cared for your hesitation in your writing. I understand your predicament here as the only one able to give life to your condition, that you want the world to know and understand. But I don't think you can achieve your goal by redacting so much. People will understand more than nothing, but nothing real."
"And so why bother?"
"Whatever pressure the first edition was under, you shouldn't feel it now. Everyone you could have hurt is gone."
"That's true. But are half truths all you want to write?"
"Maybe that's all I remember."
"You don't act like it."