"Pity the child, but not forever, not if he stays that way,
He can have all he ever wanted, if he's prepared to pay."
- From the musical "Chess"
My name is Peter Woodley and I am immortal. I may appear to you a child but I am far older than you can imagine. I was born in 1760, on the streets of London.
You don't seem surprised at that statement but then you have been following me quite a while. You're persistent, I'll grant you that, 10 years tracking a child across three continents. I commend you on your fortitude. But understand this, please, you would not be here now, if I did not choose to speak to you. And if I did not want to give you a warning. For your own safety forget me, stop following me, and return home. You've wasted 10 years of your short life, and what is the result? Nothing. You may have gathered some little part of the truth, some part of a great secret, but who will believe you? You place yourself in danger, and you place me in danger. It has to stop.
Yes, I'm in danger. In your efforts to protect me from harm you have brought me to the attention of people whom I did not want to find me. Others like me. Somehow they discovered what you were following and used you as a guide to me. I don't appreciate being woken by a man who wants to separate my head from my body because some stupid bitch of a child welfare worker thinks I am in danger. The only danger to me is of your making. Even now, I feel I am under constant observation, constantly watched, and all because of you. I don't need your protection, I am quite able to protect myself. I have been alone since before you were born, and I am quite capable of protecting myself. I don't need your help, and I don't deserve it.
Don't look at me like that! I don't want your pity. Pity. I've just told you I'm immortal, I've introduced you to a concept far beyond your experience. I am to you what you are to a dog. You should be terrified, you should be on your knees begging for your life. Instead you sit there pitying me, pitying the poor, lonely child. I don't want it, I don't deserve it. I am a killer, you'd better understand that. I am the scum of this planet. I killed my stepfather and my Mother, the only people who ever gave me love. I killed them with this sword.
That's got your attention, hasn't it? "The child has a sword. How dangerous." Don't worry, I know how to use it. I don't run with it, I'm very careful. I was taught that. The only times that I've cut anyone with this blade were quite deliberate. It was the act of a cold blooded killer. Spare your sympathy for someone who wants it and leave me alone. Go home to your family, they won't always be there. Believe me, I know.
If I tell you what you want to know, will you go? I'm sorry I yelled, but you must understand how many problems you cause me. It isn't easy being what I am. The last thing I need is you around to "protect" me. I'm not a child. I may look thirteen but I was walking this earth, when your mothers, mothers, mother was in nappies. If I'm lucky, and if I'm good enough, I'll still be here long after you've passed on. And you're not helping. I have to protect you as well as myself, and that forces me to take risks that I don't relish.
Yes, I do have to protect you. Why? You're a social worker, you figure it out. I am responsible for the danger you are in, no matter how inadvertently, and so I must protect you. It is my obligation - no, my duty. And more, it is the only right thing to do. I take that seriously. I'm no saint, I'm probably the most evil "child" on this planet, but I must protect you though it cost me my life.
Again, that look is on your face. If you must pity me, pity me for what I deserve. My loneliness, my wretchedness is my own fault. I had all that I could ever want, and I threw it away. I've made my bed, and I'll lie in it. If you must shower me with compassion, consider the basic day to day problems my condition imparts.
It's simple. I am an eternal child. I can never grow up. I'm not Peter Pan and I don't want to be. Think of what I can never experience. I was sixteen when I became an immortal, when I stopped aging. Think about being sixteen, the angst of adolescence. I've had that for two hundred years, and I'm never going to get over it. I'm never going to have a decent relationship with a woman. Any mature woman who wanted me, would have problems, and I'm not just referring to legal ones. Some of my elders within our select community, bemoan the problems they have getting driver's licences because of their age. I'd like to get a licence someday too, but I'm just not old enough. The worst problem is people like you, well meaning busybodies who worry about the poor child without a home, and try to put me in foster homes and orphanages. I'm homeless for a reason, two reasons actually. The first is, that I burnt the only real home I ever had down to the ground, and the second is I just can't stay in one place. People notice kids who just don't get any older, and that's dangerous. There're people after me, dangerous people who want to cut off my head. I fight them when I have to, but I don't like doing it. They're bigger than me, stronger than me, and some are better with the blade. Each time that I stand and fight, I come one battle closer to my last. Make no mistake, one day I will die in battle. There can be only one of us left in the end, and it won't be me. I'm afraid of death, you know. I died once before, before I knew I was immortal. They hanged me for . . . I don't want to talk about it any more.
There's only two immortals that I can trust not to take my head, a priest in Paris and a woman in Bonn. That's it. Two of my own kind on this entire planet whom I can trust. And I can't trust mortals. With all due respect to yourself, I'm only telling you this for your own protection. It isn't because I'm willing to trust you. I want you gone from my life, and I want to be alone. That's because I can't trust you, or I won't if you prefer. I am not willing to take the risk of trusting anyone else, and certainly not a mortal. I don't intend any offence, but our affairs are not part of your world, and shouldn't be. Rather than let that happen, I would kill every immortal on this world. Some of us feel that we are born to rule the planet. I know that if I ruled, the world would suffer. I just don't have the strength to resist my nature. I was born a killer, and I would eventually cause the world great grief, and I believe that there are none among us capable of the sacrifice required to safeguard the world. None among us.
I'm sure you realise my nature by now. I threatened you earlier, and I'm sorry for it. Sorry for it now, but at the time I could have killed you. It was only an oath I swore on this blade I bear that prevented me from doing so. I will never kill another woman as long as I shall live. That is all that protected you, the oath of a killer. You have no right to be alive right now, you should be dead, but you are not. Mark that statement well. It describes my existence perfectly.
Nothing gives me the right to be an immortal, nothing. And being immortal gives me no special rights or privileges. But sometimes, we forget that. And so do you. Man is the most wonderful of nature's creations. A reasoning form of life, intelligent, compassionate, loving and caring. And you corrupt the world. So it is with us, we have so much potential to improve existence, and yet we fight among ourselves for some mythical prize. Together we could wield so much power for good, and yet we create so much evil. It is said that power corrupts, and I know that is true. But that doesn't stop me lusting after power sometimes, in my enormous arrogance.
I said that man is the most wonderful of nature's creations. I don't include my own kind. We are an abomination, some form of unnatural demon. Some of us struggle to do good, other lapse into evil, but all of us are cursed with immortality. That's right, it's a curse. You think it sounds wonderful, but only because you don't have to endure it. Have you experienced grief in your life? Do you know what it is like to lose someone that you love? Do you know what it is like to be afraid to love anyone because you know they will die before you? If you don't, I hope you never do. But if you do, imagine that feeling multiplied over and over again, and expand upon it. All life is suffering, and so eternal life is eternal suffering. Pain without end, and without relief. And then reflect upon my existence. My nature, the nature of my entire people, forces me to fight and kill to survive. Do you understand the guilt that creates? Can you understand the feeling of utter horror that forms in my mind when I am forced to take a head? Of course not. Such things are beyond your understanding.
I did not choose to be what I am. I do not know if I was chosen. But I do know this, I would give all my eternal life for just a few short years of mortality.
Please leave me now, and don't return. You have the option I have never had. You can choose a normal life over one full of strange events and constant risks to your life. I ask only on thing of you. Judge me, if you must, but do not pity me. You haven't any right to do so.
And I am not worthy of your pity.