This post first appeared on Under Cover Waitress.
My First Writer's Weekend: Jailhouse Interview
I recently joined Writer's Weekend. Every weekend, a selection of prompts is sent out and writers craft a 1,000 - 2,000 word short story based upon the prompts. It may be off-topic for the restaurant industry, but it is a lot of fun and I do love to write.
This weekend, I was supposed to maintain the theme "sexy" in addition to responding to my chosen prompt. Oops. I was already about 700 words into my story when I remembered that, and was truly on a roll. Instead of changing where I was going with the story, I simply hope my fellow Writer's Weekend participants will forgive me.
I responded to this prompt: "A woman who cannot die grabs the wrong briefcase in San Francisco." Please enjoy my short story.
The Plight of the Immortal: Jailhouse Interview
Sometimes, I wish I could die.
I've known I was immortal since I was very young. I was born in 1945 in a concentration camp in Austria. While liberation was not far off, the conditions I survived as a newborn, including lack of food, water, and the presence of typhus and lice seemed to be a modern-day miracle. Modern-day miracles such as this earn the attention of an international organization, the Society of Immortals.
The Society has been around since the dawn of time. Nobody knows why a handful of creatures periodically come into this world unable to perish, but we do keep watch for each other. When people survive the impossible, the Society contacts them. When children survive the impossible, such as in my case, the Society watches until we attain 16 years of age, then they make contact.
There are famous immortals, but the Society does not approve of their fame. Harry Houdini is immortal. Not to detract from his cleverness at hiding keys and untangling himself from chains, he was never at risk for drowning. The Society encouraged him to end his career and simulate his death in 1926, which was supposedly from a ruptured appendix.
The Society does not approve of immortals calling attention to themselves because in so many cases it causes trouble. Mortals can subconsciously sense immortality, and you mortals usually respond like wild animals with hackles raised. The Salem Witch trials began as a response to immortality. One of the tests was submerging a supposed witch in water. If she sank and died, she was considered mortal. If she floated up and breathed, she was a witch. No matter how long we remained submerged in water, we would eventually rise to the top alive. Many, many mortals died as a result of this confusion and panic during the Salem Witch Trials.
You have heard about immortals and the mortal response to us all over history. Gladiators were often immortal, and those attempting to find ways to kill those who could not be killed devised the cruelest weapons for battle.
Many medieval torture techniques came out of desperate attempts to kill immortals. Can you imagine surviving the Iron Maiden? We did.
As a young man, Torquemada discovered an immortal who had been born into a Jewish family. His eventual response was disastrous.
When mortals act on their fear of immortality, countless innocent mortals suffer and die.
Jesus of Nazareth may be the most famous immortal. He earned the wrath of the Society when he refused to wait to come out of his tomb; protocol back then required he wait 70 years, not three days.
Jesus still can't resist getting involved and calling attention to himself; he gains fame now and then under different names until the Society tells him to simulate his death and be quiet for awhile. Remember Ghandi? Same guy. He was never at risk for truly starving himself during the hunger strikes, but they were no less painful.
Immortals are taught to be careful not to call so much attention to ourselves, however. When we do, history changes, and usually for the worse. Wars get started. Civilizations self-destruct.
Catholic Queen Mary of England was aware of the existence of immortality, and it frightened her. Her burning people at the stake was never about Protestantism; it was about immortality. She incorrectly believed that if she burned us at the stake we would not survive. It takes over one hundred years for the ashes of a completely burnt immortal to heal, which is why Queen Mary could believe that immolation worked. Unlike other mortals who attempted to murder immortals, she never saw her victims appear again.
Which brings me to my dilemma.
A few years ago I was in a crowded BART station during the morning rush hour. I had a leather briefcase full of manuscripts and historical documents from World War I that I had been researching for the Society. I made the mistake of setting my heavy briefcase down to rest my arm. If I could take one moment from my eternal life back, it would be that one.
My train swept in and waves of people rushed in and out of the cars in a surprisingly orderly fashion. In order to get a seat, I jumped and grabbed my briefcase from the ground as I joined the wave. I noticed nothing different in its heavy weight.
Lucky enough to get a seat, I sat for a moment until the train was underway. People standing were packed in like sardines. I cracked open my briefcase and reached my hand in -- only then did it start to dawn on me this wasn't my briefcase. My hand touched stacks of bills. In my initial shock, I opened the briefcase wider and looked at what was in my hand. The bank had treated the money in an attempt to catch the robbers, and blue dye blew up all over me and the people around me. I froze. There was nothing I could do, nowhere I could go.
Of course, the people screamed and pandemonium ensued. Someone hit the security buzzer. The train stopped and the police escorted me off the train.
Being rather naive, I wasn't initially worried. Had I known I had a briefcase full of stolen money I never would have opened it on public transit, and certainly not on such crowded public transit, at that. Of course, if that argument had set me free then I would not be speaking with you now.
The money had been stolen just a few days prior by a sociopath who had lain low and was now attempting to flee the country. He had stolen the money after a series of murders. I was now connected to the serial killings of at least six people.
This criminal mastermind had gotten away, but the police had me. While they never believed that I was the killer, but they never ceased to believe that I was helping the killer escape and had deliberately traded briefcases. The prosecution argued that the money was meant to be payment for my helping the killer escape. According to the prosecution, my biggest mistake was being too greedy to wait to open the briefcase full of money. Had I opened it in private, the money would still be useless but I might have escaped detection.
The jury agreed with the prosecution. The judge gave me life in prison.
So you understand my dilemma.
Here I sit in my jail cell. How many years will it take before guards start getting nervous? Will I become the subject of a modern-day folktale about the ghost of the women's jail, perhaps similar to the Legend of Sleepy Hollow which is based upon an unfortunate immortal's history.
Will the other inmates begin to think I am a witch, or possessed by the devil? Will humanity find new ways to beat and torture me because I cannot die? I am truly frightened, both for myself and for others. How many mortals will die arduous deaths because of the fear and panic my very existence will incite in the hearts of men and women as the years wear on and I never die? It is only a matter of time.
My only hope is that you believe me. If you do, will you please help me? If you could please smuggle in a canister of gasoline and a lighter, the Society of Immortals and I would be truly obliged.