BEFORE THE DAWN

By Lorraine Anderson

John Amsterdam laid in bed and stared at the ceiling of his latest apartment, thinking idly of how many homes he had over his four hundred years. Twenty-nine, his latest dog, whined up at him. He looked down and smiled. "What's wrong?"

The dog paced towards the kitchen, then looked back at him. John checked his wristwatch. "Oh. It's a bit early for food, isn't it? Well, ok. Food time." He rolled slowly up. Sometimes he wondered why he kept getting animals, then he grimaced. Oh, yeah. If it weren't for the animals, he'd have to talk to himself, and sometimes he thought he would've gone mad without the animals to talk to.

Except for Omar. While the story of his life had been almost too much for the young Omar, as the young man had aged he had become an invaluable companion for his father. John smiled. Although Omar was now sixty five, he was still his "golden boy" and the only one of his 63 children that he had stayed in contact with past age twenty or thirty. Omar's mother was remarkable, their son even more so.

He reached the kitchen and opened a can of dog food, then stood looking out the window. New York was a extraordinary city. He had left many, many times – usually when starting a new life – but always eventually returned with a new identity.

But what was the use of his life?

He sighed. He had to keep living because he couldn't die.

For a long time, it seemed a boon. He became reckless. Then the ennui set in. For a while, he had tried creative forms of suicide, every method known to man. He grinned. Except – as Omar's grandchild had pointed out – he hadn't tried cutting off his head.

Then he had tried various professions, moving on when he had become bored. He had had many different degrees under many different names, none of which he could claim.

Not that he wanted to. Actually, he found his current profession most interesting, most stimulating, and most satisfying. He enjoyed baiting his partner with the truth, who found him extremely aggravating. He had never been a policeman before, except for one small stint as a walking cop in an upscale neighborhood. And he had the company of Omar again, who looked at him with utter bemusement even now.

He was going to hate to see the inevitable happen. He had never seen one of his children die before, but he was going to stay for the duration. Not that Omar was going to die soon, but soon enough. Too soon for him.

Too soon.

And too late.

Was he ever going to find his true love, his heart?

Twenty-nine whined, and he realized that he still had the can in his hand. He laughed, put the food in the dog's dish, and looked out the window again.

The sun was rising, and so was his spirits.

Maybe today. Maybe today he'd find her. Until then, he planned to live and try to do good. One day at a time.