The Price of Mortality (WEP)
Posted on August 13, 2018

“There she is.” I point out the side of my classic 1964 Mustang at Kingsford's daughter, Annabelle, waiting at a bus stop.

“She's beautiful,” he says in a low voice. 

Long, wavy blond locks drape over her raincoat as she paces along the glistening cement floor. She twirls her closed umbrella and stretches her neck to look down the street in search of the city bus. With the round tip of her black pumps, she kicks a stone and sends it clattering down the empty road.

I adjust myself in my seat and read the printout. "She's fifty-five. She has two grown children. Both healthy. One is studying to become a doctor."

Kingsford sighs. “Then it was not all for naught.”

“No, it wasn't.” 

At birth, Annabelle had a weak heart, and the doctors at the hospital gave her a month to live. Kingsford searched for other ways to cure his daughter.

Dr. Kreveski had a serum that was rumored to cure all fatal ailments, but it came with a steep price. “The cost is your death," Dr. Kreveski had said, grimacing, as if he didn't like having the cure. "You must trade in your death to give her life. You will never die.” 

At the time, Kingsford didn't think much of the consequences -- his daughter was dying, and he was prepared to save her at all costs. In fact, he felt becoming immortal wasn't really much of a price at all. He jumped at Dr. Kreveski's offer, and when his daughter woke up the next morning full of energy, he knew he made the right choice.

But, after fifteen years without aging, people started to get suspicious of Kingsford's youthfulness, including his daughter.

One April evening, the town pastor pounded at Kingsford’s door with a slew of church followers screaming, waving flashlights, and calling him Satan. He and Annabelle weren't safe, so he left his daughter at a friend's house and led the mob out of their town and into the next neighborhood where they loyally followed. The crowd grew so big that it took more than a month to ward them off. 

When he returned, Annabelle was gone. 

At first, he thought the worst, but years later he found Annabelle alive and well and living with a church-going family. Just as he was about to approach her, he saw how much his daughter loved her new family. They were devout believers and, despite the rumors of her father worshiping the devil, this family took her in when everyone else rejected her. 

When he had learned of all that Annabelle had suffered, he decided to stay away. He wasn't sure what his daughter believed. Did she think the rumors were true? How would she react to his youthfulness? How would his mere presence affect his daughter's new life?

He had to let her be. He had to leave her alone in her new life. Making contact would only hurt her. It was the only way. 

That was forty years ago. Now, Kingsford narrows his eyes at Annabelle as she paces under a flickering cast-iron street lamp, her silhouette dancing back and forth with each pass under the yellow light. 

"Do you ever regret it, Jacoby?" Kingsford asks, still staring at Annabelle.

“No,” I reply instantly. “My Olivia lived an entire lifetime. She died at ninety-eight instead of at three when she was infected with polio. She had children and grandchildren. She was happy.”

Kingsford turns slowly to face me. “Are you happy?”

His solemn expression is familiar -- I've seen it in the mirror. Seeing my Olivia grow up without me, witnessing her grow older than me, watching her die, wishing there was a way to kill myself, believing I was damned -- I was lost in this agonizing abyss for years, cursing myself, blaming the universe for the choices put in front of me. 

But these thoughts don’t cross your mind when your child is in your arms dying. All you think about, all you know, is that you’d give up your life so your child could live, at any cost. At all costs. 

Eventually, Kingsford will come to terms with his decision. He'll pass through the dark, bitter tunnel of insanity he's going through right now and come out the other side whole. We all do.

“I'm happy enough,” I say before clearing my throat. “We should leave before she sees us.” The engine hums when I turn the key.

"Right," Kingsford sighs deeply. “Before she sees the devil.”


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This entry is part of the 
Write...Edit...Publish 
August 2018 Challenge

Word Count: 753
FCA



~ * ~

Main Photo Credit:
All Roads Lead To 
by Philip McKay

64 comments:

  1. I love the idea of this! Many parents would give their lives to save their children, but giving up their death is a different thing altogether. Having to exist apart from the world would be incredibly difficult. Well done and thank you for sharing this story with us!

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  2. This is an intriguing take on the prompt. I would give everything to keep him/her safe is a common phrase, but this exploration of some of the costs is wonderful.

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  3. Excellent piece. Immortality at a price many couldn't fathom, and yet the choice would be easy. Great entry for the WEP Challenge. Thank you for sharing your talent!

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    1. Although immortality sounds great in theory, in reality I think it would be horrible. But, what would be the alternative? Kingsford would have lived the rest of his life knowing he chose NOT to save her. Gives me chills...

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  4. I wonder, is Kingsford the devil or the other guy? The one starting the story is not Kingsford. Jacoby seems to be helping Kingsford get throw it. Is the devil a name Kingsford given himself over the years?

    Questions ask yet may never know.

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    1. Neither is the devil. Calling himself "the devil" is part of his inner struggle between being brought up a devout believer and resulting in something those same beliefs would have thought abominable.

      Thanks for asking. I definitely don't want any misconceptions. :-D

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  5. Hello Tanya! An intriguing entry for the WEP challenge. A refreshing take on self sacrifice with a twist. You hooked me from the beginning and there was just enough dialogue/inner thought to allow the reader's imagination to take flight. Killer last line.

    You asked for FCA, but you're obviously a pro. Nothing to critique. Good use of white space, making it a pleasant read, but leaving the reader with questions - which is excellent.

    I hope you'll enjoy the WEP experience and sharpen your pencil for the October challenge. We go all out with the supernatural for this Halloween-esque feast of horrors.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us.

    Denise

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    1. Thank you Denise! I'm totally blushing.

      This was a great theme. I love writing about regret, both withstanding it or acting upon it, whether it becomes a heavy weight on one's soul or a trigger for change. There are so many possibilities.

      Pure horror is not my thing, but maybe I'll go quirky-horror for the Halloween challenge? Thinking Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead.

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    2. If you go to our Challenges 2018 page you'll see it doesn't have to be horror...but perhaps something scary?

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  6. Wow, a very interesting story. It engaged my mind. I love the way you developed the ending. A sweet sadness and yet no regrets at what they did to save their children's lives.
    Great job.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

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    1. Right! There's definitely a sadness, with sprinkles of regret, but more about the bitterness of the choices put in front of him. Thanks for reading Pat!!! :-D

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  7. Hi Tanya - yes a disturbing story ... swap one's own death for another life and then live to see them as they live theirs. We don't know what's beyond do we ... that's why thoughts can be so creative ... very clever - cheers Hilary

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    1. Who knows what's beyond. There are endless possibilities...

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  8. I think many people would make that deal with the devil if it meant saving someone they loved. Great story, thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi Laura! Definitely. Without even thinking about it.

      Thanks for reading!:-D

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  9. This is a wonderful story. What a twist on the idea of the ultimate sacrifice. What a sad, yet, wonderful ending. Great job.

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  10. Great story. I expected someone to die for the girl to live, but this way is much deeper. Immortality doesn't seem much of blessing it appears at first glance.

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    1. It's definitely a double-edge sword, at the very least.

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  11. An interesting twist on "I would do anything" for my child. I can feel Kingsford's regret throughout this story. Yet, I doubt he would change his heart. Good writing.

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    1. I doubt it too. What's the alternative? Choosing not to save his infant daughter? I don't know any parent who would choose that.

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  12. This was just super. I love the idea of 'giving up death' being the price. Immortality is a high one to pay for all that we humans have chased it forever. Meaningful and thought provoking.

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    1. Thank you Nilanjana! We THINK we want to live forever, but at what costs?

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  13. What a high price to pay, well written.

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    1. Thanks Sally. I'm glad you enjoyed it. :-D

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  14. An intriguing well written take on the prompt.

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  15. So many parents have felt they would do anything for their children,even give up their lives. If presented with this choice, that offered the chance to save their child, many would take it. But sad that they have to suffer for that choice. It is good that he found someone going through the same. Interesting twist on a theme of immortality.

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    1. He'll have company in his misery. It's also a hint at there being many more -- someone had to help Jacoby through his journey, right? ;-)

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  16. What an interesting take! I'd do a lot to save my children, but would I choose to live forever? That's a hard question since I've never wanted to live forever. I think many would take that price, thinking it wasn't a big deal. At first.

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    1. Absolutely. Makes you wonder what you'd do if presented with those options...

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  17. Oh, I like this idea a lot. I'd love to read a full-length novel that explored it!

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    1. I've thought about it. Who knows what the future holds...

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  18. The bittersweet irony of trading your death so that your child can live forever... then having to watch that child grow older when you remain forever youthful? Seems a simple enough decision when a parent is in that situation and only thinking of the child's welfare.
    But as time passes, and the reality sets in...?
    This story could go in so many directions... really intriguing.
    A wonderful take on the prompt!

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    1. The path can go dark or it can go brighter. There are so many possibilities... Thank you for reading Michelle, I'm so glad you liked it.

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    2. Congrats on your win! It's a wonderful story!

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  19. So clever and so sad - and you pose an interesting variation on the selling your soul dilemma.

    There read as if there were a couple of places where a word could be changed - but that could be me as I'm always tinkering with words.

    Anyway, great interpretation of the theme, with perhaps other immortals out there. What can they do?

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    1. The attitude to looking too young reminds me of Scott Fitzgerald's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

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  20. Excellent post. Two immortals sitting around. Vampires that perhaps aren't vampires. Well done. Good emotions.

    I didn't understand the sentence "Kingsford search for other ways to cure his daughter." Searched perhaps?

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    1. They’re not vampires, just immortals without any real “powers“.

      And that was a typo! Thanks for catching that. I totally missed it! :-)

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  21. Ooh, an interesting moral dilemma. Faustian, you could say. I think most parents would do anything to save their child - thinking about the consequences wouldn't really come into it. But immortality tends to come with a hitch.

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    1. I think most parents wouldn't even think about it, and those that take a moment would still choose the same. It's definitely a conundrum.

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  22. Immortality can be a curse, can't it? Loved the moral question at the heart of this, and how well you captured the emotion.

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    1. Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. A curse in disguise as a blessing...

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  23. What a fascinating tale. I love how it unfolded, leaving the reader enough time to wonder what they would do. No judgment here. The prompt has been reinterpreted by you. Fabulous.

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  24. Oh, I like this. I was very taken by Matt Haig's How to Stop Time last year, but his protag only aged twelve times slower than 'normal' humans. Not to age at all... eternity... that's something to think long and hard about, for sure! You've handled it very well.

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    1. 12 years slower is also an interesting phenomena. You would outlive everyone in your generation and possibly the next. I'm guessing the character dies eventually? It's a more merciful fate, I believe.

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  25. Oh, wow! That's brilliant--because giving up your death to save your child seems like such an obvious choice, but the unforeseen consequences are painful. You wrote it well, so that it was convincing and chilling. If I ever have that choice, I'll remember to think hard. And yet--how could you NOT do it? A devilish choice, indeed.

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    1. A devilish decision, that's a perfect way to put it Rebecca.

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  26. HUGE congratulations on your totally deserved WEP win.

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  27. Congratulations on winning with a devilishly clever piece.

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  28. Congratulations on your win; a well-deserved recognition for a wonderful story.

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  29. Hi Tanya - congratulations on your win ... it was a gripping story ... and as you mention above to Rebecca ... a devilish decision. Excellent - cheers Hilary

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    1. Thank yo Hilary. Rebecca described it perfectly.

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  30. Congrats on your win, Tanya, I think I missed your story somehow. It was my misfortune as this is such a thoughtful post. My daughter was sick and still has a chronic condition. She's better now, but when it first happened I would have done anything to help her. Kudos!

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    1. Hi D.G., I'm sorry to hear that your daughter has a chronic condition, but I am glad she's doing better now. I know what you mean. Parents would do just about anything for their kids. Thank you for commenting.

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  31. This was great. I can see why the judges went for it! Congratulations.

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