This is the opening chapter of a novel penned by my late daughter (05.01.1975 to 27.07.2015). Lisa was an avid writer, storyteller and wannabe poet. A talented woman taken far too soon at the age of forty. On the day she was admitted to hospital in the Malaga province Lisa exacted a promise that I would publish my trilogy entitled The Eldern Journals. Sadly, my trusted ancient computer died and, in the turmoil, following Lisa’s death, I misplaced the memory stick containing the trilogy, my research, many short stories and flash fiction published on my website designed by Lisa.
On the twentieth of September 2015, my research resumed. The promise kept, I strived to recreate the short stories written during our time in Spain but it was impossible. “The Seven Elderns” is much darker than the originals. Lisa also asked me to finish the Immortal Suzanna but I aren’t talented enough to emulate her unique writing style.
If I were to sum myself up in one word, it would be to say that I’m a loner. I love people but find their company difficult, at times laborious. To be alone is everything to me. My favourite pastime is to wander the wild untamed North Yorkshire Moors and Derbyshire Peaks, preferably in blissful isolation.
Rarely, when I do seek company, it isn’t with the human species. I love horses as they accept my presence without questioning why. Unlike humans, they are not demanding. In stark contrast, when the urge is upon me, I love conversation, debating my favourite subjects—politics, world relations, and religion, but take heed: I do not believe in the existence of a God. I fervently believe that if Gods existed, they would not reveal themselves to us. In my humble opinion, when life ends—as it must for the majority of beings on this planet—there is no afterlife. One shot is all we have: that’s our lot. I like to listen, or rather I prefer to listen unless I have something worthwhile to contribute. Often, others believe I lack understanding, but I understand more than anyone would ever know.
I like to experience all life has to offer; to seek out the most exhilarating encounters; the near-death experience, pushing life to the very limits. I want to grasp those special moments; to see and enjoy everything, but all that life offers cannot be fitted into one mortal lifetime.
Confused? Perhaps I should explain. I will begin at the beginning on the day I entered the world.
I was born in the County of Yorkshire in Northern England, famous for its rolling landscape and dramatic scenery. It was also famous for the War of the Roses; this is when I made my debut into mortality. My parents were paupers. They were considered strange, for the time. That is, they ensured their children were well educated. My mother was born into a wealthy family.
I was a bright and literate child with a gift for writing stories; my imagination was legendary. I could read and write by the age of four in English and Latin; at the age of six, I was fluent in French. My grandparents, who disinherited their daughter when she married a commoner, paid for me to attend college. I graduated with honours.
Although I was admired for my prettiness, I did not have the dazzling features of my sisters. Men did not, as a general rule, admire me for I was too forthright and abrupt for those times. I myself had no particular regard for men or marriage, as I was far too interested in my studies and writing. Teaching children of wealthy families paid the bills and ensured my parents lived comfortably.
My mother relished having an eloquent and intelligent child, but my father despised me. Even though I ensured their lives were a little more comfortable, he considered me a burden, after all, they paid for me to attend my first school. In all other respects, he was a caring and thoughtful father as far as it goes and was merely following the trends of the time. He did not force his opinions on me, at least not at first. My mother died as their firstborn son entered the world; the boy followed within minutes.
Following her death, shortly after they ventured to a small home in the Scottish highlands, I reminded him of her and was a constant haunting memory of his loss. It was then that he chose a husband for me. Well, I have to say, this was a mild way of describing his action. To be blunt, he sold me to the highest bidder.
I awoke one morning, alarmed to find my father packing my belongings. He claimed to have found a husband who willingly accepted me even though I was the selfish and abrupt young woman I had always presented myself to be.
He expected me to be pleased for my husband was none other than the squire’s son.
At this point in my life, I have satisfied all of my ambitions; but then again, I have had so many lifetimes in which to experience all the wonders of our world. For you see, I am immortal. A two-hundred-year-old woman trapped in a body of a child; a body that hasn’t aged from the onset of puberty.
My name is Suzanna. I was born in the midst of the War of the Roses and lived as a mortal for twenty-four years before succumbing to Death’s touch. There was nothing unusual about me, other than my eyes. They are the colour of amber with what appears to be a tiny dragonfly fluttering across the iris.
I lived for many mortal lifetimes, passing myself off as human, though I now regard myself as an entirely different species. It is much easier this way. During my lifetimes, I lived in many countries and currently speak ten languages as well as the natives, but the language that appeals to me more than any other is my mother tongue.
How glamorous you may think this sounds, and I don’t blame you for believing so. It is, after all, how immortality is portrayed on the large screen that led many of you to believe this drivel. Trust me when I say that immortality would not live up to your expectations.
Think about it and you would realise—quite quickly—why. Imagine living in isolation without any contact with mortals: freedom would be yours. Or live in shadow as an immortal among humans and enjoy companionship if only for a few years. Suspicions would be aroused when humans around you aged, while your complexion was that of a girl who had blossomed.
But I digress. My mind is tending to wander more as I age. By ageing, I mean in mind and experience, not physical appearance. Mortal death first took me in the twenty fifth year of life; twenty-four is my eternal age, but we have wandered into the modern realm, so I must continue with the story. It is, after all, dictating where it wants to go. I am merely the tool used to put pen to paper.
It is well known that modern humans are obsessed by immortality: by that I mean eternal youth. I wonder how they would cope when trapped in an immortal body, never to know the eternal peace that death brings.
It is now time to move on once more. Yet again I must endure the heartbreak of leaving behind those I have known and loved. I lived many mortal lifetimes like this so experience taught me that when I stay too long in one place, humans become suspicious. They tend to question why they have aged while I remain the same.
Immortality is harder than you may think. It is glamorised by social media, the film industry and television. Humans believe the hype that immortals enjoy wealth and freedom, and hold the ability to move on as the will takes them. This is freedom in the literal sense of the word but in reality, it is not the same: it doesn’t live up to expectations.
I claimed to have been immortal for over two hundred years, maybe more, but in truth I lost count many years ago.
Although authors claim that immortality is a gift from your maker, please believe me when I say that we are born, not made. Though I have never encountered anyone who shared my affliction, I am sure they exist. Why, you may ask, is it an affliction? Change places with me, and in time you will appreciate that death can bring peace for the soul. Acceptance of immortality has come, but maybe accept is the wrong word. I continue because I have no other choice; if there was an alternative, I would be weak not to accept it. Or maybe, you believe that denying Death indicates strength.
I would love to romanticise the immortal experience for you but fear I cannot do so. My days are spent like any other human, except I cannot die. Once I have lived a mortal life among friends and lovers, those around me realise and grow suspicious when I do not age. That’s when I disappear. At times I was inclined to pass on my secret to some mortal male or female whose love and understanding I desired, but all too frequently, they disbelieved me or, lucky for me at least, it drove them to insanity. Very occasionally, I was betrayed. At times like this, I sought my bolt hole in the Picos de Europa.
It isn’t easy to leave everyone and everything behind, but it is a necessity of life for an immortal. To stay would put me in danger of becoming an experiment for those who desire to know the secret of eternal youth. It would avail them nought. The answer isn’t in my genes. I endured endless medical examinations after failing to conceive so if it had been genetically encoded, it would have been discovered long ago.
Well, I couldn’t tell all my partners, could I? During my long life there have been many partners; lovers, of necessity, come and go. After all, I resemble mortal beings: I have needs, as do they.