Time Waits for One Man
By Aeryn Rudel
“Okay, so you’re immortal?” Nadine set her iPhone on the table and pressed record.
“I won’t register on that,” said the man seated across from her. He was tall and thin, with a sharp nose, a wide, clear brow, and eyes so brown they were almost black. She wouldn’t call him handsome in the classic sense, but there was an indefinable allure about him.
“Oh, why not?” Nadine said.
“I am not entirely sure, but it seems to be part of my… condition. Technology newer than a few centuries doesn’t work particularly well around me.”
Nadine put her phone away and pulled a legal pad and a pen from her bag. “Okay, we’ll do this the old fashioned way. Start from the top. You’re immortal.”
The man sat back and sipped his wine. “That is accurate. I cannot die.”
“How do you know that?”
“You witnessed that automobile strike me, and yet here we sit.”
Nadine would never forget the incident. She’d come out of the Seattle Times building and saw a man crossing the street. He didn’t see the Lincoln Navigator racing to beat the yellow light. She’d called out a warning, but too late. The SUV plowed into the man and threw him thirty feet, where he landed in a heap of twisted limbs. People raced over to help, but the man climbed to his feet before anyone reached him and sprinted away. She’d searched for him for a month.
When she’d tracked him to one of the many homeless tent cities in Seattle, he agreed to talk to her for a meal.
She sipped her martini. “Well, I saw something. That’s why I tracked you down.”
“That vehicle shattered my spine, destroyed multiple internal organs, and fractured both arms and one leg. You saw that.”
She shuddered. “I thought you were dead until you got up and ran off. How is that possible?”
“I do not remain injured, even fatally, for long.” He took another pull from his wine glass, and his eyes became cloudy, far away. “This is quite good, but nothing compares to a Constantinople sweet red from around 1150.”
“Wine you had nine hundred years ago, huh?”
He laughed. “I know; it is hard to believe.”
It was more than hard to believe. It was damn near impossible. “Okay, let’s get back on track. You survived this car accident, but that kind of thing happens. It’s freakish, but it happens. So why would I believe you can’t die?”
He frowned. “You’re a good reporter; you found out what happened to the driver of that car.”
She swallowed. “I tried to interview him, yes.”
“And why didn’t you?”
“He’s dead. Two weeks ago a semi-truck ran him over and dragged him nearly two miles.”
The man’s frown deepened. “I didn’t want that to happen. It has been some time since I lived in a big city, and I am forgetful of its dangers. That man paid for my mistake, but that’s how this works.”
“How what works?”
“Look at this.” He parted his black hair—remarkably clean for a man living in a tent on the street—exposing his forehead. There was a scar there. No, a brand, a letter maybe, but from a language she’d never seen.
“I don’t understand. What is that?”
“Angelic script. It’s the reason I’m still alive, and the reason that poor man who hit me is dead.”
Nadine had heard a lot of bullshit stories in her ten years as a reporter, but there was a sincerity here, an apathy toward her opinion of the situation that gave her pause. Still, a man who miraculously survived what should have been a fatal injury made a decent story unto itself.
“May I have another glass?” he asked.
Nadine signaled the waiter. “Another glass of the red, please.” When the waiter left, she said, “Okay, if you’re immortal, why are you living on the street? Why aren’t you fabulously wealthy?”
“A good question,” he said. “The truth is simple. I am cursed to wander, to never settle anywhere for long. One cannot build an empire of wealth with such a transient nature.”
It was plausible if you bought the rest of his story. Of course, the rest of his story could be proved easily. Nadine decided to call his bluff. “Okay, listen, I carry a gun in my purse. Let’s go somewhere quiet and you can demonstrate your immortality.”
He recoiled. “Have you not been listening? If you shoot me, you’ll see I’m telling the truth, but then you will pay, horribly.”
“Because someone will shoot me?”
“Yes, or worse. Anyone who harms me has the same harm visited upon them seven-fold.”
That reminded Nadine of something, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. “Then we don’t have much to go on.”
“There are other ways I can convince you,” he said, his eyes suddenly eager.
“Yeah, how’s that?”
He leaned over the table. “Let me tell you my story. You can write it down, make a book out of it. A long book.”
That intrigued her. Even if he was full of shit, it might make an interesting story.
The waiter brought the wine, and the man took a sip and nodded approvingly. “All I want in return is more of this.” He waved his hand at the restaurant around them. “Wine, good food, company, and you get a story no one has ever heard.”
“Okay, here’s what I’ll do. We’ll meet three more times, and you can have all the wine and food you want on my dime. If after those three meetings, you haven’t provided me with anything I can believe or use for a story, we part ways. Deal?”
“Deal.” He extended his hand, long fingered and strong. She shook it.
“Okay, first things first. What do I call you?”
He smiled again, but there was sorrow in his eyes, old and powerful. “You may call me Mr. Adamson.”