A bit of a departure from my usual humor, but I hope you all like it nonetheless.

Some of you might be wondering why I'm so cruel to my favorite character. The rest of you know it's because good characters have the potential to become great characters in the face of adversity and trial.

Most kids love their birthday. I wish I could. I dread whenever my birthday comes up. Trust me, if you were me, you would too. Far too many unpleasant memories.

Since I'm immortal (don't ask), I'd always wondered what it would be like as I got older. I really hoped that I wouldn't just keep on aging and aging, getting more wrinkled and shriveled up like a raisin, as my body refused to die. That seemed kind of stupid, although it wouldn't be the first time fate decided to screw me over. Ideally, immortality came with some degree of eternal youth, or something like that; there would come a point where my body would just stop aging, and I would remain the same age forever, or at least until God decided that his sick practical joke had gotten old. Eternal youth was something that sounded okay, compared to constantly returning to life after being shot or stabbed or...whatever.

Funny thing about life. Sometimes it decides to give you what you want. Except that it's just twisted enough to be horrible.

Story of my existence.

It all started on my 10th birthday. The second one.

Being 10 was even more exciting than being 8 or 9 had been. The stuff that we did during that year, well, let's just say it made Ctulhu and Mecha-Streisand look like pleasant memories. But of course, time marches on, and so must we. At least, that's what I thought.

I'm the youngest of our group, so as Stan, Cartman, and Kyle all turned 11, I was really excited to follow them. I guess the prospect of getting closer to becoming an adult was just really appealing to me, even more so than it was to my friends. Maybe it's because my mind matured faster than my body did (apparently, 10-year-olds getting blowjobs is frowned upon), and I desperately wanted to catch up.

Anyway, the day of my 11th birthday, March 22, arrived. It was a Saturday, but I was sick in bed for most of the morning, so I couldn't go out and play. Basically, I didn't get up until the late afternoon, and when my mom saw me come out of my room, she pointed me at the table where my cake was. And, no joke, it was a legitimate cake. I was in awe; I almost never got a real cake for my birthday. I'm serious; I'm used to eating frozen waffles that have candles stuck in them.

But speaking of candles, something funny about them caught my eye. And then I realized...there were only ten of them.

My first instinct was to not say anything about it. With my family, it was a very real possibility that we didn't have enough money to buy more than 10 candles. Besides, I had a real cake, so I really had nothing to complain about.

But then, when I thanked Mom for the wonderful cake, she replied, "Well, 10 is an important birthday, Kenny. I just wanted to make it special for you."

I blinked. "But Mom," I said, not able to hold it in any longer, "I'm 11, not 10."

Mom shook her head, "No, I remember how old you are, Kenny." Then she smiled. "Don't grow up too fast."

"But I'm not 10!" I yelled. "I'm fucking 11!"

"Don't you swear in front of your mother, you little shit!" Dad said sternly. "Now, you eat your cake and be happy, or go back to your room."

Well, just then, the truth was starting to hit me, and it was causing me to lose my appetite, so I decided to go to my room. I knew the cake would be gone by the time I got finished stewing, but I didn't really care.

Had I really not aged at all in the past year? Was I really still 10? Or had Mom just made a mistake? No, Mom and Dad wouldn't have just forgotten how old I was. And what's more, I didn't really feel any older. You know that sense of pride that you usually get on your birthday? When it's like, "I'm a different person than I was one year ago?" Well, it's really hard to describe what it was like, but...I didn't feel it.

Like I said, I had considered that eternal youth would be part of my curse. I just didn't think I would cap out at only 10. I thought of all the things I would miss by not growing up.

I would never need to get a job. Well, I suppose that wouldn't be too bad.

I would never drive a car (at least not legally). Well, given my luck, manning a high speed vehicle was probably a bad idea.

I would never be allowed to buy alcohol. Well, in my house, alcohol was never in short supply. Besides, given the way my parents acted while intoxicated, I wasn't that eager drink the stuff anyway.

I would never go to prom. Well, so what? Dancing is overrated. Where it was really at was the after-party, because that's where all the-

-and then it hit me. If I stayed 10 years old for the rest of my life, I would never get to have sex.

Well, as you can imagine, that was the one that got me. I must have really freaked out, because the next thing I remembered was waking up on Monday morning, having no idea how I had spent the previous day. That's when I saw my leather belt and Batman costume lying by my closet door, and put the pieces together; I must have been so suicidal and upset that I killed myself via auto-erotic asphyxiation (which I've found always cheers me up).

Only I was still pretty depressed. I guess when you've just learned that you'll never have sex, you realize what a pale imitation masturbation really is.

But as it turned out, the worst was yet to come.

Riding to school was a bit weird. Stan, Kyle, and Cartman were all giving me funny looks at the bus stop, and every time I tried starting a conversation with someone, they stared at me like I had grown a second head or claimed I was immortal (and trust me, I know what that stare looks like). It was like every person in the school had conspired to give me the silent treatment. Except it wasn't the silent treatment, more like the dirtbag treatment, because Bebe and Heidi in particular had stared at me like they had found me on the bottom of their expensive shoes.

Then I actually got to class...and the real nightmare began.

I had just gotten to my seat when the fifth grade teacher, Ms. Rutherfordmenskin, asked, "Are you lost, little boy?"

Little boy? What was she playing at? She knew what my name was. "Nope, I'm pretty sure I'm in the right place."

Inexplicably, Cartman laughed. Although I suppose it wasn't that inexplicable.

"You look a little young to be in this class," Ms. Rutherfordmenskin said. "Aren't you in fourth grade?"

Mr. Garrison's class? Oh, fuck no! There was no way I was going back there! "No, I'm not. Don't you recognize me?" Then, realizing the truth, I jumped up and asked the entire class, "Don't any of you recognize me?" When no response was forthcoming, I yelled, "It's Kenny! Kenny McCormick! Don't you know me?"

There was silence. Then Stan said, "Okay seriously, kid? You're starting to get creepy."

My heart fell into my stomach. How could my best friends not even know me? That was why everyone had looked at me funny; I had known them almost my whole life, but as far as they knew, I was just a kid in the fourth grade. A younger kid that they didn't even care about.

Upon hearing my name, Ms. Rutherfordmenskin checked the roster. "Well, Kenny, you're not on my roll call, so let me just take you to the office." I was too stunned to resist.

Principal Victoria and Mr. Mackey checked their list, and it turned out that I actually was registered for Mr. Garrison's fourth grade class. What a surprise. So, very reluctantly, I went to "class" and listened to Garrison spend the whole day bitching about how the increasing number of shows on ABC Family was a sign of the apocalypse.

During lunch, I just sat at a table by myself. I knew (because I was once one of them) that the fifth grade boys wouldn't let someone my age sit at their table. And I didn't know any of the fourth grade kids, so I couldn't sit with them. I just felt incredibly lonely. I had no appetite either, but I had barely eaten anything since my birthday (two days ago), so I nibbled at my ham sandwich.

Then I saw someone else who was sitting alone; Tammy Warner. Remembering the blowjob I got from her gave me hope. I walked over to her. "Do you mind if I join you?"

"Sure," she said. She looked a bit confused, but at least she was being nice.

We spent the next 30 minutes talking, and I was starting to feel better. Tammy gave no sign that she remembered being my girlfriend, but it was probably the best 30 minutes I'd had all day (not that that was saying a lot). Then the bell rang, and she got up to go.

"Wait!" I said, and she turned around. "Are you doing anything tonight?"

She tilted her head. "No."

"Do you want to go eat at T.G.I. Fridays?" I asked. Maybe another B.J. could come of it. And even if that didn't happen, dinner with her would definitely help me cheer up.

Tammy squirmed and started to bite her lip, and my hopes were crushed. I could tell exactly what was going through her mind: "He's really too young for me to take on a date, especially with my reputation as a slut. But he's been so nice, and he looks so hopeful; if I turn him down, it'll tear him apart."

"Never mind, forget I asked," I said, not wanting to force her to either compromise her principles or be a bitch. I guess by now, the age gap between us was just too large. Still, as I walked toward my next class, I desperately hoped that she would call out and stop me.

She didn't. But someone else did.

"Hahahahahaha! Look at that little kid, wanting to be all grown up! What an asshole! Hahahahaha!"

Cartman stood in front of the door, laughing at me. Stan and Kyle stood on either side of him. They weren't laughing, but they weren't telling him to stop either. After all, we had never stopped Cartman from bullying younger kids before. Also, now that I knew they were a grade ahead of me, they looked...taller.

"So, you think you're a fifth grader? Or are you just so retarded you went to the wrong classroom?" Cartman asked.

I said nothing. After all the times I had tried to convince my friends that I couldn't die, I knew that telling the truth would be pointless.

"Seriously, why did you suddenly come to our classroom?" Kyle asked. There wasn't any sympathy in his voice, just a curious (as in "are you actually that stupid") undertone.

I held my anger down, and finally answered, "Because I couldn't help gawking at how fat your friend is."

Cartman blew his top. "GODDAMMIT!" Kyle chuckled, and Cartman looked at him. "Et tu, Jew?"

"Look kid, I'll admit you're pretty funny," Stan said, "but we don't let people your age hang out with us."

"Damn right," Cartman jeered.

"Besides, we're the only ones who can call Cartman fat," Stan added.

"Yeah, they're the only ones who can-AY!"

At that, even I laughed. Ripping on my friends, even in this roundabout way, helped me feel at home.

Cartman, however, didn't take being insulted by someone in a lower grade too well. "You son of a bitch!" he screamed. Then he ran up and kicked me in the balls. I doubled over in pain. "Let that be a lesson to you," he yelled.

I would have retorted, except at that moment someone (I think it was Craig) bumped into me, and I fell, snapping my neck on the table. I was dead before I hit the floor. Craig didn't even slow down. I waited for the familiar refrain. But then...

"Poor kid," Kyle muttered.

"Do you think we were a bit harsh?" Stan asked the other two.

"Nah," Cartman said. Then they walked off, without another word or even a backwards glance.

Wow. As much as I may have complained in the past about the whole "Oh my God, they killed Kenny!"/"You bastards!" thing, the emptiness that took its place was far worse. As bad my friends forgetting my deaths had been, it was nothing, nothing, compared to this final realization that the boys who had once been my friends had now forgotten everything.

I would gladly take it all back. All of it. I would take back my old life and everything I once hated about it, if that would mean I could grow with my friends. Hell, I would even give up sex if that's what it took; that's how desperate I was. I would be celibate. I would castrate myself. I would eat shit. I would die painfully every day. I would give anything. I just wanted to grow up and be with my friends. Why did my life have to suck so much?

"Why?" I called out into the void, as my soul fluttered down towards hell. "What do you want from me?" But of course, no one could hear me.

Needless to say, I spent pretty much that entire stay in hell cussing out God, Satan, Cthulhu, Moses, and every other supernatural being I could think of.

That's about the only day I remember clearly. The rest all sort of runs together.

I stopped trying to hang out with Stan, Kyle, and Cartman, since I didn't want to give them any more reasons to make fun of me or bully me. Still, I kept a watchful eye on them as the days went on.

I slowly made friends with the members of my fourth grade class. There was Bridon Gueermo, who was really into basketball and sports, and kind of served as the leader of the fourth grade class (much like how Stan was for my-I mean, the class ahead of mine). Then there was Pete Thelmun, who was pretty shy, but hanging around with Bridon seemed to give him confidence. They were the ones who sort of let me into their group, and the three of us had a good time. Granted it wasn't as exciting as any of the times I had had with Stan, Kyle, and Cartman. Strange things still happened in South Park, but since they always happened to my old friends, I felt left out, like I had been reduced to an observer or a spectator. As a result, I also died less often, although every now and then something random would come along to remind me that that, at least, hadn't changed. And trust me when I say they were random; I mean, what are the odds of getting killed while getting a tan?

Days passed this way, and eventually became weeks, and then months. Summer came and went, and I started school again, this time in the fifth grade. But sure enough, as soon as March 22 rolled around, everything reset again. Bridon and Pete were the cool guys in the fifth grade, and I was back in Mr. Garrison's fucking class again. Fuck.

Another year passed. By now, my sister Karen was about the same age that I was. Based on everything Stan had told me about Shelly, I wasn't looking forward to having an older sister. Good thing Karen's so nice.

Over the next few years, I found that if I interacted more with people outside of my grade, it was more likely we would still be friends in the next cycle. So I always kept an eye on the second grade; whenever I took one them under my wing, I could sometimes get a good 3 or 4 years out of them before they became too old.

By the time I would have been 15, I was in much better shape. I was best pals with Ike Broflovski; we were almost as close and inseparable as Stan and Kyle were. Also, I was casually dating a rather nice girl named Flora. Sure, I would have rather been learning to drive around town with my old friends, but I was doing the best I could with the hand I had been dealt.

But then Flora turned 13 and forgot all the good times we had had together, and I had to find a new girlfriend. A few years later, Ike joined her.

By the time I would have been 21, Stan finally popped the question to his childhood sweetheart, Wendy Testaburger. Being an unknown kid on the poor side of town, I didn't get an invitation to the wedding.

By the time I would have been 25, Eric Cartman, who had become even more obese and had developed bad cholesterol and high blood pressure, died of a heart attack while living in his mother's basement. I didn't get to go to his funeral, either. No matter how much of an asshole he might have been, I would have given anything to see him one last time before he was put in the ground. After that, I stopped keeping track of how old I really was.

Karen had her first child. Shortly afterwards, I started being born at her house instead of my parents', who had begun to grow very old. They now believed they only had two children, and that I was Karen's son. Let me tell you, it's weird calling someone Mom when she was once your little sister. The good news was that my sister had married well, and was not quite as poor as our parents had been.

Mr. Garrison died of old age. They replaced him with Leopold Stotch, who was a much nicer elementary school teacher, even though he couldn't keep control of the class. I tried to help him out, partially for old times' sake, and partially because his becoming a teacher was one of the few good changes to this endless cycle of monotony.

Technology progressed. Society advanced. People grew up, and had kids, and then their kids had kids. The world changed.

But I didn't. I was always the same. Always poor. Always in orange. Always smooth. Always getting screwed over by fate.

Always 10.

Right now, I'm dating Claire Marsh, the daughter of Stan's son James and Kyle's daughter Sarah. (I figured it would be too weird if I had just started this story by saying I was in love with Stan and Kyle's granddaughter.) And I must say that, while I've definitely had plenty of girlfriends (and girls that were on blowjob terms with me), I would trade all of them for my Claire. She's a really sweet girl, who wouldn't hurt a fly, and her smile makes me want to open every door in the world for her to walk through. She calls me her knight in shining armor. I call myself her knight in a smelly parka, and then she laughs. Her laughter is the most precious thing in the world; like ringing church bells, calling souls to heaven. Since I'll never get to heaven, her laughs will be the most beautiful sounds I'll ever hear.

We went on a date tonight. She loves pizza, and so I took her to Shakey's. Usually we split the tab, but tonight I insisted on paying. She tried to protest that I didn't have to do that, but I told her that tonight was special. We ate our meal, and then went to see a movie. I don't remember what movie it was; all I remember was that we spent the evening in each other's arms.

After the movie, I walk her home. As we arrive on her doorstep, I decide to tell her why tonight was so special.

I tell her the tale, of how her grandfathers and I were best pals, and had gone on all kinds of adventures together. How the world has moved on, but I have the curse of eternal youth. I've never told anyone this story before. At the end, she looks right into my eyes and says, "I believe you." I don't know whether she was telling the truth, but I take comfort in the knowledge that she has never lied to me before.

Her father begins calling for her to come inside, but I hug her one more time. By this time in my life, I have almost outgrown the desire for sex, and it's in no small part because the warmth that I always feel in her embrace is better than any sex I ever thought I needed. Then we kiss, and her kiss...it is pure magic. It almost makes me forget that I'm a freak; for the first time since before that day, when I had insisted that my Mom had put the wrong number of candles on the cake, I feel like a 10-year-old kid.

"Goodnight," she says.

"See you tomorrow," I reply.

Then she turns and goes into the house. And as the door closes, all the weight comes back to crush me. A single tear rolls down my cheek.

"Goodbye," I whisper.

Tomorrow is March 22. She will stay in sixth grade, and I'll move back down to fourth. Even if she remembers everything I told her tonight, about my agelessness, tonight will have been the last night of our relationship. By tomorrow, she'll be too old; at most, we'll be good friends.

I hate my birthday.