Death doesn't care.
You can be brave, fearful, not go gently, or welcome it.
Death does not care.
Death will come. Death will take you. From the battlefield where your shattered body lies alone in mud and blood. From the sanitary hospital bed with white sheets and your loved ones around you.
Death does not care. It will take you.
I'm on a first-name basis with Death.
Everyone lives once. Everyone dies once. Everyone, that is, but me.
I've had a thousand names. I've died a thousand deaths. I am not a coward; I am not brave. I am not human.
We first came to this planet when your ancestors where finding out that throwing rocks was an efficient way to kill animals. Or each other. We were evolved beyond bodies. We traveled in vessels of pure energy, storing our consciousness in the interlacing electromagnetic pathways. I was as big as a galaxy. I was as small as a quark.
We found corporal beings vulgar yet amusing. Like you keep a goldfish simply to watch it swim in its unknowingness, we watched you.
Until the accident. Until the one thing that could never ever happen did.
I got lost.
On your planet, I got lost, left behind.
You might think me a spirit or a ghost. I'm not, I'm just immortal yet I needed a body to live in. No, I don't understand it. I'm a billion times smarter than your smartest scientists and I don't know why I am cursed to live on this planet, one life after the other. I die, and wake up in a new body, a baby, a boy, a girl, black, white, yellow, red. I've been a slave (more times than I care to count), a king, a peasant, a whore, a prince, a nun, a warrior.
I've died a thousand deaths a thousand different ways.
I think drowning is the worst, at least of the non-violent ways to die. Holding your breath until you can't hold it any longer. Sweet relief as you inhale, then . . . death, as your brain is deprived of oxygen. The bottom decks of the Titanic were probably the worst. Add your most claustrophobic nightmare with drowning. I was, to be honest, glad it was pitch black. I couldn't see the men around me dying, too, sentenced to death for the crime of being boiler stokers.
But I had also died so many violent, painful deaths, sometimes horrific deaths. Too many to recount, too many to list.
I'd been this man for twenty-five years.
They said I was wise beyond my years. Had the eyes of an old man. If they only knew. Not that I remembered anything from my previous lives when I was alive. I only remembered when I was dead. Dead just long enough to relive all the horrors I had experienced over epochs of humanity before I would be shoved into the next life. And then the next life. And the next life.
The circumstances you are born in determine more of your life than you ever consider. The sharecropper's son who becomes a billionaire, yes, it happens. But most sharecropper's son will be sharecroppers. Or drunks. Or join the Army.
I joined the Army. It was 1939. The world was secure. The United States was protected by two big oceans and President Roosevelt promised to keep the US out of the brewing conflict in Europe. The Army was safe, secure, and I had a roof over my head and three square meals a day.
I was even happier when in spring of 1941 I was transferred to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. White sand beaches, warm water, and beautiful women. I didn't care what color someone was (I'd been that color at some point). I didn't know why but I always preferred women, even when I was one.I woke up on Sunday morning early. It was December.