Fiction Fragment Friday

I love this story. While it started as a desire to explore the concept of immortality in regards to food preferences it quickly became a character profile. I realized this character had potential and thus he became part of a larger world in my head. This is his backstory, but it is far from the end of his tale. I hope you can enjoy this for what it is, but also understand that it is fleshing out a supporting character in something yet to come.

               If you live long enough you will see everything you believed to be true questioned.  Within the span of one human lifetime technology, changes in societal norms, and basic construction projects will drive home the idea that everything changes.  Imagine what a lifespan counted in centuries can challenge.  Things once thought to be the purview of only those with magic are now acts of technology taken for granted.  Is it any wonder magic has faded from this world when technology can do so much of what it was relied on more efficiently and without the immediate cost.  Do not imagine that technology does not have its own cost, but a cost less immediate to a future generation might as well be no cost at all for most. 

               When I was a child food availability was never a guarantee.  How well you ate was dependent on your skill at hunting or the yield of crops for those inclined to farm.  I was never so inclined but have yet to meet my true rival in hunting among anything that walks on two legs.  There are ways of preserving meat even in the wilds, but a freshly cooked meal would always taste the best.  In villages you could find spices, vegetables, and foraged berries.  I never fit in with those that lived in villages though, but in those days, there were enough wilds for that to not be a problem.  Besides villages came with people and they would inevitably find their way into your head until you cared about them only to die.  Most decades I preferred the pain of loneliness to the pain of loss.  Both were unavoidable though.

               The journey of food was truly a marvel to witness.  In what I call the beginning food was something eaten to survive.  The flavors were simple, ingredients few, and options limited.  As people settled the options became wider and spices easier to obtain.  Techniques were developed and taught.  While most anyone could cook, the preparation of meals for enjoyment became more specialized.  The plants grown were bred for appearance as well as traits.  There are foods now such as carrots that I would not have recognized.  They used to be white, bitter, and grew in out of control forking shapes.  The modern orange sweet carrot is nothing like it.  Despite being what I was familiar with for longer some things just got better.  Other lost tastes I find myself craving without an outlet.

               With technology providing for a global supply chain and dissemination of ingredients around the world I feel that food reached its golden age.  Dishes long denied me by distance could not be had from chefs with skill far greater than my own.  New recipes were being crafted for local tastes but inspired by distant lands.  The publishing and television broadcast industry brought techniques that once required apprenticeship to learn right into anyone’s home.  Along with the other comforts provided it was enough for me to overcome my distaste of being around other people and leave my wilds for the dangers of civilization.  I tried to steel my heart against the pains of inevitable loss, but of course it did come frequently.  I told myself that the benefits of the knowledge I gained was worth the price I had to pay. 

               Like all things this golden age could not last.  The selective breeding of both animals and produce led to a more homogenous nature of ingredients.  The flavors became more consistent but, in some cases, muted.  I was running my own restaurant and proud of the recipes that I had crafted over what would be multiple lifetimes for others.  My regulars soon became less frequent as chains moved in providing food that was not better but was much faster.  Trips to the grocery store assaulted my eyes with brightly colored mascots and ingredients that sounded more like scientific formulas.  Speed and quantity were language of the day, and I just could not compete.  The loss I felt for my restaurant dwarfed any I had felt for friends or lovers in my long life. 

My restaurant was something I put myself into and became part of my identity.  In fact, it outlived two of my identities.  Never had I stayed in one area and became my own offspring, but I did so to hold onto the first thing that had truly mattered to me in centuries.  Normally I would create brand new identities and travel to new locations, but here I was a third-generation owner accepting the flattery of my customers telling me how much I looked like my father.  I avoided hanging any photographs of myself on the walls in hopes of preventing the question of why there were not with my father or grandfather.  I knew it couldn’t last forever, but when I locked the door for the final time I wept.  The decade of depression that followed was my worst and during this time, I gave up on cooking and allowed myself to embrace the fast-food industry that had steamrolled over my dream.

               I watched the world in a dissociated manor as science redefined the universe around us.  My long life is still a mystery to me.  I do not know if I am immortal or just aging far slower than everyone around me.  Nor do I know why this is the case.  Advancements in DNA genome sequencing and cloning made me wonder if whatever had kept me alive could be based in science and could be recreated.  I had always assumed it was some form of magic, but if it was not then perhaps another like me could exist.  I feared being dissected and studied though so keeping my secret became even more important. 

               For the first time in my long life a new technology brought me hope of no longer being alone.  In the beginning I had no interest in computers.  Despite seeing how technology was changing the world so quickly I just didn’t see the use in them.  I could not comprehend how they would be anything more than a toy for those with more technologically inclined proclivities than myself.  The internet though changed that.  Suddenly people all over the world were communicating directly with each other.  The world had always seemed so big to me.  I had always wondered if there were any others like myself out there hiding, but never imagined being able to find them.  Now with the internet it felt possible. 

               My passions for food and hunting were reignited upon finding communities online of like-minded individuals.  At first it was wonderful discussing flavors and techniques.  Soon though as so often happens with people factions started to form.  There were arguments with people claiming opinions as absolute fact.  So many fell into the fads of the day without having the perspective of time to show how quickly these prevailing opinions could change.  Repeatedly I watched places that had started to feel like a home fall apart once again to petty squabbles.  I truly wondered if there was anything that could not be ruined by other people.

               When I reached what felt like a new low, I was debating a return to what little remains wild in this world.  A lifestyle that I once embraced now looked harder to step back into.  I had only had air conditioning for the past forty years, but my body had become accustomed to it, and I struggled with heat that once was a daily companion.  I enjoyed hunting trips, but quickly found myself longing for the comforts that I had become so accustomed it.  Giving up the internet would have also meant giving up the search for others that seemingly could not die.  In the end I did not find others like myself, they found me.

               One morning I received an e-mail with photo attachments of myself over the past century.  It contained information on my past identities going back another century prior to that.  I had no idea how anyone could have gathered this much information about me, but quickly learned just how connected my people were.  They think of themselves as the shepherds of humanity.  The letter explained that they had been observing me for quite a while and felt that I was finally ready to be brought into the fold.  I was excited by the prospect of meeting others like myself, but there was an undertone to their letter that concerned me.  A sense of superiority that I have experienced far too often in my long life.

               That is how I found myself in St. Louis Missouri under a new identity.  Despite my extensive knowledge of magic, I have very little aptitude for it.  Even my meager abilities though were more than enough to sense shifting energies converging in major conflict.  In the past I would have avoided the region entirely. Now that I know my people are out there looking for me, I need to make allies and what I sensed will be like a beacon for those with power.  The only question remaining is if my experience will help me choose wisely or my pain will deliver me to my doom.