Prompt: (tumblr) “so this is it? Have we finally arrived at rock bottom?”
“No, there’s still some places to go.”
Word Count: 2023
One of the major drawbacks to immortality is that you can’t die. Yeah, I know, the word “duh” springs to mind but hear me out. There’s obviously the whole “watching everyone you love around you wither and die” thing and the ever-so-slightly-terrifying knowledge that one day the universe will reach its finite and conclusive end and I’m not too sure what’s going to happen to me after that point; I have visions of me floating in an endless void of nothingness with not even the stars to see as by that point, they’ll have all ceased to exist as well.
I’ll still probably have Fluff though. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.
“Of COURSE it’s a good thing,” he says like it’s obvious, pouring some maple syrup over his bacon.
I wrinkle my nose at this. He’s got such a sweet tooth.
“You’ll get diabetes if you keep up with that,” I say.
“Doubtful. We’re immortals, motherfucker!!” he says gleefully and as if to spite me, adds more.
“Actually, I was wondering about that… like, we can GET hurt. And we’re still prone to various physical ailments –”
“Like the time you got your foot stuck in the tree grinder?” Fluff interrupts.
I grimace as a throb of pain flashes through my foot at the memory.
“Yes. Exactly like that… but yes, that’s my point. We can’t die but we do regenerate any missing limbs or heal any flesh wounds… so surely that stands to reason that our bodies can and DO change and so by that logic, we could technically be prone to long term or chronic illness that is triggered by lifestyle choices and not necessarily through genetics.”
Fluff pauses in his pouring.
“Meh,” he eventually shrugs and adds another dose of syrup.
It’s at this point that the waitress comes by the table. She’s all bright smiles and “are ya guys okay with everything?”
“I think Fluff here needs some more syrup,” I say with a gesture to his plate.
The waitress doesn’t even blink.
“Sure thing!” she says, her smile not even faltering. “More coffee too?”
“Please,” I say, pushing my cup towards her. She refills it nearly to the brim with delicious black coffee; it’s not the best here but it’s pretty strong.
When she leaves to get Fluff his syrup, I turn back to my companion who’s staring across the diner table at me with an expectant, happy smile on his face. He reminds me of an excitable puppy most the time; boundlessly energetic and just as stupid.
“What?” I ask.
“You never told me where we were going today.”
I sit back in the diner seat, the leather squeaking under my movements. I take a long, luxurious sip of my coffee and then with my free hand, gesture to the room around me.
It takes a few seconds before the penny drops.
“Here?!” Fluff’s face falls. “D’aaw crap, I liked this place!”
“Me too, Fluff, me too… But it is what it is. Everything has its time and it’s all part of –”
“There’s a new café that’s opened on the other side of the city,” Fluff interrupts, the grin back on his face. “We should go there after this.”
“I’m glad you’re taking this news well,” I say dryly.
Fluff laughs. “You always say it; everything has its time. No point in getting too emotionally attached to things if they’re not going to stick around. I just try to enjoy them while they last.” He picks up his fork and pokes his bacon around the pool of maple syrup. “I will miss the pancakes here though, they were pretty good.”
I nod. “We’ve probably got about twenty-five minutes before it all goes down, you might want to eat up.”
Before I can even blink, the plate is empty. I nod again to Fluff, who nods back and then proceeds to start licking his plate. So much for professionalism.
There’s a fine art to what we do. We clear rooms before disasters. We minimise the amount of lives lost. If you ever think back to a time where you’ve narrowly cheated or just missed Death, think back to a few moments before the event itself; did someone speak to you? Walk into you? Get in your way in such a way that held you up for barely a minute? Did someone have some seemingly insignificant interaction with you that when you look back at things like they’re a trickle-down diagram, you realise that if it hadn’t been for that happening, you wouldn’t be here today? That was probably me, or at the very least, it was one of my kind.
Not everyone can be saved. That’s a hard lesson to learn. Sometimes, even with the best will in the world, not everybody gets out. But… we do what we can.
Don’t get the wrong idea though. I ain’t no angel. This is my punishment for all the lives I took in my life; I now have to try to save as many as I can. And even then, I’m still not a hundred percent sure that’s what I’m supposed to be doing but… I have to try.
I start slowly; it’s best not to cause a panic, not too soon at least. It’s the usual tricks – I ask the man in the booth next to mine if his car is a red Ford (I know it is because I watched him park and walk in) and is he aware that I just saw someone outside hanging around looking shifty? Meanwhile, Fluff heads straight for a table of teenage girls, sits down with them unprompted and starts telling them about a screenplay he’s written about his ex-wife.
Both the man and the table of girls leave very quickly.
I check my watch. Shit. There’s only about ten minutes to go and there’s still six more people in the diner; four customers, a waitress and the Cook out the back. I signal to Fluff that it’s time to pull out the big guns. He nods and reaches into his pocket, pulling out a leather flip-wallet that matches the one I’ve just grabbed out my bag.
“Alright, everybody get out!” I yell, holding up my badge. “I’m from the Health Inspection Unit and we’re shutting this place down with immediate effect due to unsanitary working conditions and severe health code violations.”
“We’ve found rat shit in the pancake batter,” Fluff adds. “If I were you all right now, I’d be consulting a lawyer as fast as you can.”
I’ve never seen a room clear so quickly. Even the Cook has made a run for it, which worries me slightly because as far as I was aware, there wasn’t actually any kind of health-violation. The waitress comes up to me, still clutching the coffee pot in her hand and her smile completely gone, replaced with a look of complete bafflement.
“Uh, sir?” she says, sounding like a lost child. She’s holding the coffee pot in one hand and fresh jug of syrup in the other.
“Run,” I say simply. I reach out and take the coffee pot from her. She lets go with no resistance. “Just get as far away from here as you can.”
She doesn’t question it. She just turns around and bolts out the main entrance.
I turn to Fluff and take a celebratory swig from the coffee pot.
“3 minutes to go and we’ve cleared the entire building! That’s not bad!” I say.
“Nicely done!” Fluff says, holding up his hand for a high five. “I honestly thought we weren’t going to do it, we should get out of here now before –”
“What the fuck are you two playing at?!” comes an angry voice.
I turn to see the diner manager striding across the floor towards us. Even if I didn’t know who he was from having seen him around a few times, he just has the general manager look about him… and he also looks pissed.
“I’ll have the police on you!” he yells. “How fucking dare you tell people I’ve got rats here –”
“Sir,” I say, checking my watch. Time for blunt honesty. “In two minutes, this entire building is about to blow up from a gas leak due to old pipes leaking and shoddy electrics that I’m pretty sure were your responsibility to have checked frequently. If you don’t get the fuck out this building now, you’re going skyhigh with it.”
His face turns red and his mouth opens and closes a few times as he tries to work out what emotion to go with. I can see disbelief and anger having a close battle on his face.
“Mate, seriously,” Fluff says, stepping forward and patting him on the arm. “Just get out of here while you can.”
“Hey,” the manager says, abrupt confusion winning over his face as he looks Fluff straight in the eye. “You look just like the –”
“The Baby-Faced Beater who was responsible for the savage murders of at least 20 women by pretending to be a lost child in order to initially gain trust and sympathy from his victims?” Fluff asks cheerfully. “Hello! Nice to meet you!”
The manager looks at me and I see the recognition flash on his face.
“Yes,” I say before he can ask. “And yes, it’s true, they never did find all the bodies. If you really want to know where they are, try checking in the walls of the orphanage… although good luck explaining to the police how you know this.”
On the upside, the manager has certainly bypassed anger and gone into pure confusion.
On the downside, time has run out and the explosion rips through the diner before I can say another word.
Just because I can’t die permanently, it doesn’t mean I can’t die at all. It just feels more like getting knocked out and regaining consciousness.
When I open my eyes, I’m lying on the dusty pavement and staring up at the night sky above me. Fluff is sitting next to me, smoking a cigarette with what remains of his left hand.
“You’re a mess,” Fluff says cheerfully, holding the cigarette to my lips. I realise neither my arms nor legs have survived the explosion, which is irritating. They’ll grow back easily enough but I’d just gotten a new tattoo on my arm which is now gone forever. I suppose in this life you really can’t take anything with you.
“Did the manager –”
“Nope.” Fluff shakes his head.
“Damn.” I blow a mouthful of smoke up into the air, ignoring how my lungs protest (which is probably something to do with the piece of metal that’s sticking out the left side of my chest. I’ll need Fluff’s help getting that out later). “This means we’re back to day one with our ‘everybody lives’ streak.”
“I think someone was supposed to die in that accident anyway,” Fluff says with a shrug. “That one wasn’t supposed to be a clean one.”
I lean back and look up at the stars. I wonder if I’ll ever get to close my eyes and not wake up.
“I had to drag you out of there before the police showed up,” Fluff adds. “You owe me.”
I nod. “I’ll buy you breakfast for a week.”
Fluff holds the cigarette to my lips and I take another grateful drag.
“What’s wrong?” Fluff asks. “You look angry.”
I think about my answer, blowing smoke out slowly. “I’m doomed to wander the earth for all eternity with a fellow murderer for company, having to save an unspecified amount of lives before the world ends and I’m also still covered in the blood and whatever else this is from the manager of a diner we just failed to save.”
My companion bursts out laughing. “Well when you put it like that, it does sound pretty bad.”
I can’t hold back the wry smile as I glance at him out the corner of my eye.
“So this is it?” I ask. “Have we finally arrived at rock bottom?”
Fluff lets out another bark of laughter.
“No,” he says cheerfully. “There’s still some places to go.”