A/N: This is /the/ longest oneshot I've written so far… and I do hope it's decent. :s
Constructive criticism is much appreciated :).
The only thing wrong with immortality is that it tends to go on forever. – Herb Caen
Kenny McCormick was eight.
He was one of those perverted kids who'd accidentally—or not—discovered the sexual side of things from an early age on, and spent hours locked up inside his room looking over porn magazines when he wasn't with his friends or dying. Most of them he'd stolen from the drugstore and the rest came from harried searching at the local dump after dark. He didn't really want his parents to find out then. Not yet. But he didn't think they'd care, after all, the pair of alcoholics they were.
Sometimes Stan and Kyle would come over and look at the nude pictures with him, but never really with as much conviction and fascination Kenny had. Often, Stan would say, "Sick, dude!" and vomit all over the cheap linoleum floor, and that would be the end of the matter. They would then go and play at Stark's Pond or blow up stuff, often resulting in inevitable death for the blond.
And Cartman? Sure, sometimes he'd come along with the rest to look at porn, but as soon as the magazines started disappearing Kenny stopped inviting him over. He'd always wondered why Cartman stole those magazines when he already had the real deal inside his house, until the day he caught the fatass selling them to first graders. It was really a kind of fucked up thing, and the blond had tried—rather unsuccessfully, as these talks with Cartman always went—to get the fatass to share the revenue with him.
Life was like that, then.
Kenny McCormick was nine.
Mrs. Garrison had yelled at him for no less than eleven times this week already for being late to school. It was no use trying to tell her that he'd been hit by three buses and chomped up by a mutant bumblebee on the way to school. She probably just didn't care anymore; but hell, when did she ever?
Stan had broken up with Wendy earlier that month, but he kept coming to Kenny for girl advice. Not that he was any better at girls than Stan was, though what the heck, perverseness counted as much as any other thing. Most of the times Kyle would be there, too, only he would be sitting on the dinner table doing his homework. And whenever Cartman was around, these talks would always end up in fights over anti-Semitic or 'fuck you, fatass!' insults. Honestly, Kenny didn't care much for these those times, but he thought it was always nice to be able to play video games that Stan brought over every time they had a session. Provided that his television didn't crash, again, that was.
Kenny McCormick was ten.
"Alright, kids, now—don't get lost! We'll meet up in camp in two hours, understood?"
Mrs. Garrison had proposed a day trip for their upcoming graduation for a 'nature walk' in the Rockies. Naturally, the boys had gotten lost within ten minutes of the trip's conception. And then, naturally, Kenny had just happened to get eaten by a bear while foraging for edibles. Fortunately Damien was in a good mood that day, and let him reincarnate back into his house so he could be able to get the cops to his friends. It didn't help much that a grizzly had tried to eat Kyle's hat and he'd fainted on the way in, and Cartman still yelled at him for being a poor piece of shit even when Officer Barbrady told him to knock it off.
He'd cried a little then, confused about the whole situation, before Stan walked up to him and told him that he was glad Kenny had died, because if he hadn't none of them would've been saved. The blond didn't quite know what he meant then, consciously, but it must've been something good, because the next thing they knew they were on the ground, laughing their heads off.
The lemons in life would happen and other things would come along and make up for what was lost. That was what defined them.
Kenny McCormick was eleven.
The transition from the elementary school to South Park Junior High was quite a process that, frankly, he would not care to leave behind in the ashes of his memory. Kyle was sent to boarding school in Denver only after half a semester, as Sheila had pronounced the school in South Park 'too dreadful' for her precocious son to be spending three years of his life. The fatass, too—and to Kenny's wonder he actually found himself missing Cartman as the days ticked by—was transferred, although to a nearer school in North Park. They still saw each other back then occasionally, when the blond had enough money in his pockets to go to the mall for a change of apparel. He didn't think it was of any importance back then, and certainly did not think much of the fact that Stan and Kyle still called each other regularly; they were still best friends, after all.
A new school brought a new environment, although the students were still, for the most part, familiar faces. Craig and his gang were still there, along with Butters, Pip and most of the girls. Some students were from the outskirts of the county, along with transferees from North Park; he did not associate himself with them, mainly because they gave him a feeling of insecurity, of strangeness. It would be fit to say that Kenny was somewhat sensitive about his position there, that the change these people brought with them was a threat—but they melted away, gradually.
He learned at eleven that time healed everything. That time was supposed to heal—and later he learned that sometimes, things do not happen the way they are supposed to do. Which was something, he knew, he should have seen coming… but isn't that the way life works?
In the subconscious we think, he thinks, and waits for something he is certain he does not know in the conscious. Even now life is hiding under there, waiting to be let out into the open, and still now he does not know.
Kenny McCormick was thirteen.
He felt hot all over, part nauseated and part fascinated from the vantage point in the closet. The voices were low, but distinguishable—not that he needed them to recognize the two figures that were laid out on the tables, entangled in each other's heat. Holy shit on a flying pancake.
Holding his breath, he watched as Stan whispered something in the redhead's ear, ending up in both of the boys giggling about some unheard joke. It was quite obvious what they were up to, the coziness of the space suggesting nothing else but an intimate relationship. And hadn't they always been close? Kenny knew, with an odd disappointment, that Stan messed with him often, laughing about being fags and such… but he was sure the dark-haired boy had never looked at him with those eyes before. Kyle had come up all the way from Denver just for this…. A strangeness clogged up in his throat, threatening to overflow in moments; he didn't know if it was longing, or disgust, or something mixed in-between. Thirteen was a changing time for them—the confusing searches for themselves, an alienating process from adults and deepening voices and perspectives—and frankly Kenny had no idea how he was supposed to feel, or if he was supposed to feel anything at all.
It was therefore quite right to say that, naturally, he still was sitting in the closet long after they'd packed up and gone, contemplating in spite of the fact that he should have been home two hours ago. He felt, somewhat, like a therapist, his mind stuck on only one question—and how does that make you feel?
"I don't know how it fucking feels," he whispered into the darkened room. "I just don't fucking know."
Maybe sometime later, he thought. I'll know what it feels like. In time I will.
And he did.
Kenny McCormick was fifteen.
High school, to him—and, he thought, to any other person in this God-forsaken piece of shit school—was a pain in the posterior part of the human anatomy. Pain did not cut it, quite exactly; terrible agony was more like it. Although he did not turn into one of those Goth kids who chain-smoked in the parking lot and skipped classes like skipping stones, all the while complaining and writing shitty poetry; the inner rebel inside him refused to let any chances slip. He did take drags regularly, most of the times out of class (But who cared? the voice sometimes whispered to him), while he stood on the roof and watched people run around, getting stoned or making out in the courtyards. Sometimes he noticed these things, sometimes not; most of the time the only thing in his eye was them.
Did it matter to him? Kenny supposed that it should, one way or the other. He'd heard from Stan—over the phone, the raven-haired boy's elated voice still ringing in his ears—that Kyle's mom had finally consented to have him back here for the last three years. I should be happy, dammit. If not for myself, then at least for him. It's not going to change a fucking thing.
Claustrophobic, they said, was the man who boxed into himself, creating only space enough for him and no more. The blond knew—inside of him lived a selfish creature, discontent in the way he was living his life out in relative shadows. But a mere chance was something he did not want to throw his reputation away for. Sure, he was something of a whore—but so what? A label does not equal a soul, and whores—even in fear of sounding cliché—had the innate ability to love also.
Kenny looked away from them, the myriad swarms of colorful human bodies below him, and focused on the clear blue of the sky above. Maybe someday.
He closed his eyes and visualized.
Kenny McCormick was sixteen.
They'd all agreed on a summer outing during the break of their junior year, the four of them including Butters, simply because nobody wanted the fatass tagging along and tipping over the canoe. And besides, Stan had pointed out, they hadn't done anything of the sort in ages.
Maybe because you were too busy screwing Kyle, Kenny thought. Or like, having eye-sex. Or something. Whatever.
Into the woods they went that summer, and with a strange sense of déjà vu the kids found themselves again lost. Which wasn't nearly as bad as what happened six years ago; nobody had gotten eaten or killed. Unless, of course, having Butters fall into the stream and Kenny accidentally contracting some sort of weird fungus while watching Kyle making out with Stan behind the bushes did count as sort-of accidents. Well, can't beat that. This is still South Park, after all.
Camp was set, fire was built. It was like any other time, as if they were eight years old and feisty little assholes again. Great was too much of a term to describe Kenny's feelings; he felt out of the world, disconnected and vaguely unsettled by the situation, because it was so unlike what they'd ever experienced before. He'd readily take on giant mutant guinea pigs and alien anal-probes again than having to sit there with Butters, watching the other two eat each others' faces. If there could be something even more uncomfortable, it would be watching them have sex—but here Kenny stopped, even with his too-perverted mind.
Afterwards, when the PDA scenes had stopped playing, Kyle had claimed fatigue and turned in for the night, followed by Butters, who looked like he would rather have stayed home. Stan made sure to keep a distance from the blond, not from pre-known caution but because of the weird rashes on Kenny's forearm. They sat there for some time in silence, watching the flames cackle and flicker; if anything, the latter would've wished one of them to start talking, but something held him back.
"It just feels hella weird sometimes," the raven-haired boy said, suddenly, his eyes never leaving the fire. Kenny eyed him, curious. He seemed to not know what to say suddenly, as if for the first time noticing that someone else was there. "Kyle."
"Mm? What do you mean?"
"I don't… I mean, I don't really care if other people stare at me or shit like that, you know. There's loads of people like us in school—Craig and Tweek, those guys." He sighed. "But it just… doesn't feel quite right sometimes. Like, all we're really doing now is just, dunno how to say it, stuff I like, but it doesn't mean it's a real real relationship… you get me?"
"I love him." It's a long, long road ahead, you know. Stan paused, uncertain of whether or not he should continue on that tangent. "I know that. He knows that, too. But he's… changed. It feels different now—and of course, we all are… who can be expected to stay the same after all this time?—but it's a weird sort of different."
"Think they did something to him in that boarding school place?"
"Maybe. I've never really asked him about it, really. Don't think it really matters though; I'd still want him, either way." He finished the sentence with a closed look on his face, a finality that Kenny did not doubt, as much as he wanted to. "I guess."
"Yeah, man. Whatever you think. It's probably best to take it easy then, for a while." Another silence passed, broken only by the hooting of an owl some distance away. The fire had already burned down to a low, fuzzy glow, and Stan kicked the ashes over the remaining coal. "We should really sleep now. Those fucking mosquitoes…"
"Sure." Their eyes met for a split second, blue on blue. Kenny thought he'd detected something there, but Stan turned away. "Thanks for listening to me, man. I kinda feel less like an idiot now."
"Hey, dude, if you ever feel like I'm… well, kind of distracted…" Here he managed a smile, and as strange-looking as his expression was, Kenny felt he found some comfort in it. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to like… exclude everyone from my life. It's just hard to explain, y'know. I don't want to make him feel like… like I'm not paying enough attention to him. But maybe I've forgotten to pay attention to you guys, too."
The blond smiled back in the dark. "It's okay. I get that, too."
He was still awake two hours later, staring at the tent flap and wondering, as the others' gentle snores filled the room.
How could I possibly tell him all this?
Kenny McCormick was seventeen.
He stared at the paper in his trembling hands, feeling at once lost and detached. This is not real. This is not. I repeat, it is not real…
In black and white was a picture, the blinding white smile of someone he knows—had once known. The paper listed his age as eighteen, but—with a wry smile—Kenny knew that his eighteenth was still two months away. And it always will be.
The accident had happened on the way to school; Mrs. Crabtree had tried to swerve away from the incoming truck, but it was too late to do anything. The impact had killed three students instantaneously, wounding eleven more and throwing both drivers out the window. It now seemed to Kenny that this was all an ironic joke; he, of all people, had stayed home that day because of the flu. Most of the students were in intensive care right now, he presumed, from the witnesses' agitated and disgustingly colorful descriptions of the carnage. He'd seen death before, known it as a grudging friend for so many years, but this…
With a slight twang of pain, he could imagine Kyle's state right now; crying, perhaps, and most definitely shocked, unable to process. He did not try to wonder whether the redhead was in more agony than he was; it was something not to be thought about, now that he was gone. It just didn't matter anymore, the blond supposed, and he could already imagine Kyle crying on his shoulder on the day of the funeral.
It was only July, but the cold hit him, hard, as he let the paper float down onto the floor. He pictured himself running away, headlong into the dark. And might some things be never meant to be? Kenny did not like the notion of destiny; it was too closed, too final. Was it destiny for him to die again and again? Was it the very same concept that led to the events that had unfolded afterwards, too? Some questions would never be answered, and these were, sadly, classified into that category.
And if this is not destiny, will I be able to walk away?
Someday it will end, this cycle of death and strange grief. He believed this, and wished it were true, now—because in pain one will do anything, just about anything, that might make oneself reconstruct the feeling that had once been there. Nothing could tempt him now—hot girls, porn magazines, hot men, of all things—but he did not care.
"I will stop. I will."
Kenny McCormick was twenty-three; he still appeared seventeen.
He felt increasingly alarmed as the years passed by, wondering at length every morning when he woke why he still looked the same as he did six years before. Hell would not give him an answer—they did not even let him in anymore, and he found himself again barred from mortality, this time extreme. All the methods in the book he'd tried, and none of them would work—the damned meds would always arrive at the last moment, bringing him back from a world he now longed to see.
And the clocked still ticked, the waters still ran—he still did not know what he was to do with the indefinite life he now held. College was almost over for him, and the outside did not look quite as promising as he had first thought upon entering. Kenny had never felt that he would become something big; rather, he wished to stay hidden, never leaving the sometimes-comfort of school and the people he knew. But this also brought about a shadow onto his life, as the place he lived in was the place where he died in—and didn't the blond want to go out into the world and leave all of this behind in the dust?
I thought that one day I'd know. What if I never do?
Kenny McCormick was forty-one, beardless, and had retained all his hair
In the beginning it was quite annoying to have to constantly move, every two years or so, to a new place, a new life; but the line gradually wore down to the bottom. I do it or I get caught and sent to the zoos and laboratories that want me. Damn straight.
People streamed past him on the streets, unknowing; they might've seen him and wondered at length where else they'd seen the blond boy before, so many years ago, and why he had remained unchanged. But most of the times—and this had been true for as long as he could remember—they were trapped in their own personal tragedies, living inside memories and emotions and only looking outside of their shells when they had to. So in a way he was safe—still safe, even though he always took swift peeks behind him when he walked along the crowded streets, an old fear lingering in the back of his mind.
Kenny would smile then, when those girls winked and showed their breasts to him on the streets, begging for money and warmth. But he never did it lecherously; the youthful perversion had faded to a dim shade inside of him, still there but never breaking the surface of his now-tired façade. Maybe he was considered a bizarre creature to them, the teenagers of the now—his appearance—and appearance only—should've suggested surfing and playing ball to every one of them, but he knew his expression would not beguile them for long.
Nobody would want to stare into his eyes for long. This much he knew, and it was proof that he still needed to try his damndest to just keep going.
Kenny McCormick was a hundred and six, still blond, still smooth-skinned.
He had gone back to where he came from and stayed, a recluse in his own right, watching the people come and go. None of them would recognize him now; even the children of his former classmates might already have passed away, long ago. There might have been some people out there who looked familiar, heritages he would've known—though he never ventured out enough to see who they were. The townspeople of South Park did not view him as an eerie ghost from the past; rather, they ignored him mostly, not knowing and not caring about the strange boy who never aged. He supposed that it was good, in some ways.
Regular visits were made to the dreary, neglected graveyard, and Kenny was quite surprised to see his tombstone still standing, although the wording on it could hardly be seen anymore. His smooth hand against the cold, worn rock of the stone felt familiar instead of creepy, safe instead of insecure. This was where he belonged, and no matter where the blond was it would always be.
"I'm home, Stan."
Kenny McCormick was aged forever and a day, ever young and seventeen.
Time was a cunning old bastard, slipping by him like water; it was only when he stopped and listened that he'd realized that he did not know how old he was anymore. Not that it mattered, since nothing here was recognizable to him any longer.
Two more world wars had come and gone; Earth was now one-fifth barren, radioactive land. The other countries had tried their best to move on, and succeeded, mostly—although the eminent threat of a global winter was still on the horizon. It did not come as fast as the people thought—but when was nature ever predictable?
"Hey, you there—come over and meet your coworkers, will ya?"
He was now part of a team to rebuild the part of the town that had been destroyed by the war—and this was quite surprising to him, actually… because who would've thought to bomb a small hick town in the middle of nowhere?—along with several other volunteers. The hell with it, Kenny thought. Might as well do something that'd be useful, I've been making pollution for far longer than my time.
The head of the team was getting quite impatient, it seemed, as he directly walked over, grabbed the blond, and hauled him over. "Okay. Here. Your mates. Guys, say hi, this is Kenny."
A chorus of 'hi's greeted him, and he smiled back uncertainly, still wary after all these years. The faces were all the same to him—young, radiant teenagers, reckless and outspoken. Just like we were.
And then Kenny saw him.
"Okay, Kenny, I'm going to introduce you guys now. This here is Nick, that's Owen…" His voice faded out of the blond's ears, as his eyes lit on the dark-haired boy standing a little off to one side. "…and that over there is…? Hey, kid, what's your name? Didn't catch it the first time 'round.''
"Alright. You and Kenny here can be partners, go start on the fallen railings over there. Ya hear me? Now go." The leader shoved them forward slightly, yelling at the others to quit messing around. Kenny looked at the other boy, feeling slightly dazed.
"Hey," he extended an arm forward, a friendly smile—a familiar smile—on his tanned face. "I'm Jake. You're Kenny, right? How come I've never seen you much around here before, you from out of town?"
The blond smiled, hiding the trembling, fearful hope in his eyes from the other boy. "No. I just… don't really get around much, I guess. Not really the social type of guy; don't go to school here."
"You look kind of familiar, though." Jake tilted his head slightly, observing that the other boy had quite a strange expression on his face. He wondered if he was making Kenny feel uncomfortable. "Hey, you alright? I'm not… scaring you, am I?"
"Naw, it's fine." He kept his smile, just barely. "I'm just curious about…is Jake your full name? Weird question, but…"
"Nope. I'm Jacob Stanley Marsh, Jr., if that's what you wanted to know. Family's been livin' here ever since the dawn of time, or at least that's what my mom tells me."
"Oh, shit! You alright, man?" Oh my God, Kenny thought, his vision swimming. He felt Jake kneel down beside him, worried. "No, seriously, man. Did I say something wrong?"
"I know you."
I'd recognize those eyes anywhere. "I'm fine. Really. How old did you say you were again?"
The dark-haired boy's worried half-smile broke into a grin as he helped Kenny up. He was quite sure he didn't know the blond, but maybe, just maybe he did. And it would never hurt to make a new friend. "I'm seventeen."
"Really?" His smile was genuine, this time—and Kenny thought, happily, that it would finally last. "Me, too."