Also, I saw an adorable dutch movie today called Dolfje Weerwolfje - it's a kid's movie about a 7 year-old who discovers he's a werewolf. And it is ADORABLE. I recommend it... you know, if any of you have dutch speaking kids, or kids that can read subtitles quickly.... or, if you're like me and you just really love werewolves, and adorable stories about acceptance, and brotherly love and whatnot. It's English title is "Alfie, the LIttle Werewolf" but I really don't like that translation, mostly because his name isn't frickin' Alfie, it's Dolfje.
Today's prompt: "The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age." -Lucille Ball
Immortality in Practice
(Merlin, post-finale, 1259 words)
Merlin continues to age, perhaps more slowly than his friends, but he ages. He builds a small wooden shack by the lake and lives there, feeling the damp in his joints, and wondering if someone will think to send him over the water to Avalon when they stumble upon his stiff corpse. Probably not, but Merlin isn’t worried. He can feel the tug in his heart from across the water and he knows that his soul will travel to Arthur even if his body does not.
He’s well over one hundred the night he lies down for the last time. He sheds a tear for not living long enough to see his King return, though he is proud of the strong kingdom that Gwen ruled. He is proud that she never needed Arthur. He falls asleep telling Arthur that he would have been proud too. He chose his queen wisely.
He wakes up.
His hands are no longer wrinkled. His joints no longer ache. His body is lean and muscular, his beard is gone. He stumbles out of bed and over to the looking glass. He is twenty-five again.
“I want you to always be you,” Arthur had said.
“Arthur, you fool, what have you done?” Merlin whispers to his reflection, but even has he says it, he knows this is not Arthur’s doing.
“You are magic,” his father had said. The druids had called him Emrys - Immortal.
Merlin has never felt more foolish or less human in his entire life. He wonders suddenly if all those years of fearing Uther’s pyre were based on nothing. He wonders if anyone had ever had the power to kill him. For a brief moment, he entertains the idea of attempting the feat himself. It won’t be the last time the thought enters his mind.
It doesn’t take long for his name to fade into legend. Merlin goes by other names for a while – Daegal, Owain, Gaius, Lance, and Balinor, to name a few. He lives lifetimes under the names of his friends and loved ones. When it is declared that everyone needs two names, not just the nobility, Merlin uses Emrys. By that time, there are few druids left to recognize the name, and those that do recognize it would know him on sight anyway.
Soon, people begin to encroach on his lake. A small village springs up, and Merlin has to figure out how to explain his inability to die. Magic is not feared now, but immortality is meant for gods alone – and Merlin knows there are limits to what people will accept.
When Merlin wakes up young yet again, he immediately sneaks out of town, buys new clothes – and then walks back into town in broad daylight and asks directions to his own house. He’s here to look after his aged uncle, who has sent for him, deciding that he is too feeble to leave his house any longer and wishes for a caretaker. The villagers know exactly who he is talking about, because indeed, when they last saw the old man, he was moving very slow.
After a suitable time goes by, Merlin arranges for an empty hearse to be seen leaving his property, Merlin following sadly behind. He claims the family wished for a private burial, but makes up for it by throwing a funeral of sorts at the tavern. Merlin spends the evening laughing as villagers tell him stories about himself as though he were a stranger. Over the years, Merlin grows to love his funerals, there are whole lifetimes where he feels nothing but loneliness, yet, always for one night, he’ll feel loved. Often he cries. It’s excused as grief and, it is – grief for the twentieth empty casket that Merlin has lowered into the ground, grief for true owner of the name he now uses, grief for a friend sent across the water hundreds of years ago.
Merlin eventually stops using other names.
“It’s a family name,” he explains, when he introduces himself as Merlin to the town folk for the third or fourth time. “Someone wanted to have a laugh a few years back, and it’s sadly become tradition. I don’t plan on having kids myself, but I have a feeling that before my days are over, I’ll have a little nephew named Merlin to take my place in the world.”
Merlin always has a younger brother “in the city” or perhaps “off at war.” Sometimes, he’s “in the colonies.” His younger brother is busy with his wife and kids and can’t come visit though, so Merlin will occasionally pack a bag and go traveling under the pretence of visiting his family. He never leaves for long. He’s convinced himself that the moment he leaves will be the moment that Arthur returns. He always rushes home only to be met with disappointment.
Every time Merlin inherits his own house, he updates it. He uses the excuse that he has inheritance money to spend. It’s all his money. He’s got gold buried safely in his basement. He’s held different jobs over the years and never buys much besides food and new clothing. By the end of the 1800s, he’s got a very nice stone country house. He spends the 1900s updating the interior and landscaping the garden.
When he looks young, the ladies in town try to match him up with their daughters or nieces, and then a lifetime later, their granddaughters try the same. It’s not that Merlin is a monk, it just that the immortality might become an issue – not so much for a potential wife, but rather for potential children, and Merlin himself. He can’t imagine loving someone so much again only to watch them die and, this time, know that they were never coming back. As it is, Merlin keeps few friends and is careful never to love them too fiercely.
He plays the part of a happy bachelor and eventually the ladies leave him alone. For years there seems to be an unspoken aspect to it that Merlin doesn’t quite comprehend, until one day, he finds himself turning down the advances of an old friend’s great-great grandson, and thinks, Oh.
As the years go by, it becomes a little less unspoken, and soon Merlin’s reprieve from the village matchmakers is over – and suddenly it’s not so much about their nieces as it is about their nephews.
And well, Merlin’s not a monk, but he also doesn’t want to be known as the village heart breaker. He rarely has people over, finding it harder and harder to explain the room filled with antique furniture, that is kept impeccably clean, but no one is allowed to touch. Merlin is always thankful when he reaches middle age, and that generation's matchmakers are too old to meddle, or have simply accepted that Merlin is stuck in his ways and doesn’t know what’s good for him.
There are some though that seem to be wise beyond their years, or perhaps they have some magic in them – they’ll look long into Merlin’s eyes, and then nod, and stop their friends from meddling in Merlin’s affairs. They won’t say anything to Merlin’s face, perhaps because they know how fragile he feels even after so long, but he’ll sometimes hear their whispers – that Merlin’s heart has already been given away. They never ask, and Merlin is thankful, but occasionally one will find him staring out across the water, and they’ll sit with him for a time in silence.
Merlin only cries at his funerals.