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Tempus Fugit

By Nor Liana Abdul Rahman (Malaysia)

 

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TEMPUS FUGIT

 

 

The only sound that can be heard is the rustling leaves and the light gurgling of water. In the distance, obscured by the jungle, a golden Buddhist statue can be seen. The deep blue water speckled with bright red flower petals disappear into hidden passage… creating such an exotic view. A secluded paradise just for me. Me alone. I can feel the warmth of the sun striking my face…but the effect is soothing and relaxing. I feel alive! I never feel more alive before. I put the paperback that I intend to read on the table. My hand is searching for a glass of water. The humid and hot environment dehydrates me faster that I could realize. My throat dries like bones.

The clear water passes my throat, washes away the dryness that my throat feels. Oh! Pure heaven. The water feels and tastes like the elixir of life. Rejuvenating! Oh! The elixir of life. The sacred fluid that I wonder of its existence. I glance at the paperback on the table. ‘The Vampire Lestat’. A book by my favourite author, Anne Rice. I like the way she writes about vampirism. Vampirism. The whole subject fascinates me. I envy their eternal lives…their ageless beauty…something that isn’t mine to keep. I plan to finish the book in one day. Time flies faster and faster for me. So many things to do yet so little time. I need to focus my mind to get unfocused. I want to lose myself. Completely. For today.

"Hi! You’re alone?" I heard a strange voice from behind. It startles me. Isn’t it I’m supposed to be alone? Who’s this guy? I feel a little bit frustrated but I coax myself to relax. I turn my head to look at him but he’s towering me, blocking the sun. All I see is a dark unidentified male figure with an ivory light aura surrounded him. The light from the sun. I am still looking at the stranger. Trying to get a clear image of him. He’s a faceless stranger to me.

"I was alone... until now". My reply is acidic. Maybe I let my inner frustration flows within my words. I shouldn’t do that, ever again, I’m warning myself. He chuckles naughtily…so playfully, unaffected by my splintering reply. He takes a spot beside my chair and sits there. I can see his face clearly now. His eyes…they catch my attention first. They’re the palest blue I’ve ever seen. I could never imagine that kind of colour fits well in somebody’s eyes. The stranger eyes are hypnotically beautiful and disturbing in the same time. I’m simply drawn to them.

"Don’t get mad, love. Life’s too short to waste in on frowning". Life’s too short. His comment slaps me on my face. Hard. I smile at him. He’s right. Life’s too short to waste it on frowning. I should smile a lot.

"There you go! You should smile like that…a lot!" he chuckles again. Strange, but I like the way he chuckles through his throat. So deeply sounds…throaty. I continue to examine the man in front of me. He is tall, towering me at least by 6 inches. It is hard to assume since he is sitting next to me now. His hair, he wears it down to his shoulder, black silky mane with bluish shine. I have this temptation to run my fingers through his hair. His face is so beautifully sculptured…I believe that he is another avatar of Stuart Townsend. The guy who played Lestat in The Queen of the Damned…he has a menacing look, devilishly handsome.

"Are you done looking at me? You make me feel embarrass," his words turn my cheeks to pinker shade. I don’t realize that I’m looking at him that close. I laugh hard to cover my embarrassment. I never laugh that hard, at least not recently.

"The name is Jonathan Blake. From the State." He smiles and thrust his hand forward, waiting for me to accept his hand. I am confused! He comes out of a sudden, offering his hand for friendship. He is a mere stranger for me and I don’t trust people that fast. My hesitation doesn’t stay long. My heart keeps whispering, ‘accept his hand, a friendship won’t hurt!’.

"I’m Bell, from the State too". I accept his hand. A symbol of our new friendship. Actually, developing a new friendship that fast isn’t my habit. Frankly speaking, I’m always cautious of strangers I’ve met, but then, I finally manage to grab and understand the fact that life is too short. I cannot be extremely cautious in life and ended up living a very dull life. I want to be the adventurer of my life, the swashbuckler of my own created fantasy…exploring new things…get rid of my stupid ignorance and start learning something new. Learning. I love learning. I enjoy it so much. Learning makes me remember my kindergarten life…so jovial, so young…such a beautiful epoch.

"Bell? Tinker Bell?" he laughs…but I’m not a little bit offended. People mock at my name all the time.

"Not Tinker Bell, it’s from Belinda. My name is Belinda Gabrielle Carmichael." I join him, laughing like mad…but then, suddenly he stops laughing. I’m bewildered by his sudden change of expression.

"Belinda is indeed such a beautiful name. It’s a shame to chop your name just like that. Hmmm…Belinda." I hate to admit it bit I love the way he pronounces my name. With such beautiful expression, emotion…I never thought somebody could ever call my name in such way. His voice is resonating in my brain and captivates me. Such power…could ever exist.

"So…you’re from the State. Hmmm…what brings you here, to Thailand?" he asks me. His eyes seem like reading me…like a book!

"I don’t know, but maybe because of the offer from my uncle to pay the whole expenses when I’m here. Hmmm…the chance to be in a foreign land and to discover its beauty is too good to refuse. Chances like this don’t come often enough." I cannot believe that I talk that much!

"Aha…! I believe you could afford to have a more luxurious trip than this. It’s not the place that matters, I believe but in this case, it’s your purpose. You’re running away, Belinda. Running from something or someone that keep following you, stalking you or haunting you…I don’t know." How dare him to accuse me a runaway? I’m no runaway! Am I a runaway? I feel unsure…there’s a possibility that it is true….that I’m a runaway. But how can he see that? Does he read my mind?

"What makes you think that way? You don’t know me long enough to question my motive being here! You just don’t have the right! I’m not running from IRS or something. I even don’t have to pay tax!" I know I sound mad. Am I really mad? I don’t know…I’m not sure. I feel a little bit afraid. My voice trembles a little. I hope, he cannot notice that. I feel a little bit irritated too…annoyed. To myself.

"It’s true that I don’t know you long enough…but the fear in your eyes is visible enough for me to see. You’re not good at hiding it…or maybe you, yourself haven’t discover the fear. But it’s there, in the depth of your pretty green eyes. I’m sorry if whatever I said making you feels uncomfortable. I don’t mean to make you feel that way. But, it’s my style, really! I prefer to be blunt to lying." I don’t know why but I sense sincerity in his words. His eyes radiate honesty…but then. I never regard myself as good judge of characters. Still, I can trust my woman intuition, isn’t it? I don’t know. I’m confused. Too confused! I feel scared but in the same time, I feel safe. I feel like I’m home. Oh! I don’t expect somebody to appear out of a sudden like this. I’m longing to be alone…to enjoy this perfect solitude. Thailand is far from being sombre. The bright-coloured petals, big fancy tropical birds and the sweet spicy smell awaken my senses.

"I don’t know how my eyes look to you…but I assure you, I’m no runaway and I’m not afraid. I bet, it’s tiredness that you see. Actually, I am tired of my mad mess schedules…so much to do, so little rest. Glad I’ve this break!" I say…but to tell the truth, my trembling voice does not sound assuring.

"Hmmm…where are you from, in State?" I ask him. That is and obvious and a fast-change-subject attempt I have ever done. He rolls his eyes and laughs. There is a little part of his childishness now, he let me to see. He knows of my stupid-obvious effort…but he answers me anyway. He smiles before he speaks.

"I’m from San Diego and my home is just near the beach," he said with a big grin on his face. He looks so happy just mentioning about his home. It must means a lot to him. San Diego is such a warm place down south. Just near the USA-Mexico border.

"Nice place you got there! I always love the beaches. To hear the sound of the rippling waves, to feel the soft breeze caressing the skin, to see the white foams of splashing water, blue skies with pelicans flying around. Beautiful!" I sound cheerful. Maybe his big grin ignites my cheerful mood.

"Where do you live, Belinda? Is it near the beach too?"

"Nope. I live in Cleveland. A very cold place up north…but I have relatives who live in New Orleans. I love to go there. To celebrate Mardi gras, St. Patrick’s Day and to enjoy good music during the annual Jazz Fest. It’s a very lively life in New Orleans."

"Hmmm…how about Cleveland, love? Anything interesting you has done there? I never have been in Ohio. I wonder what it’s like."

"I’ve a small cabin near the Lake Erie and I do some fishing whenever my dad has some free time. Sometimes, I go to gigs by local bands. My favourite band is KillSwitch. Their songs suits me so much… gothic metal. The lead vocal, Nave is so obsessed of becoming Lestat, a fictional character of a book. I used to have a crush on Nave. Stupid young infatuation."

"Love always becomes the main purpose; the main factor of people’s doing…though one could never realize it. Love could be the reason for everything and even stronger than weapons, stronger than words…stronger than almost everything I’ve ever thinking of." Suddenly, he sounds older than his look. It is like he has been through the heaven and hell of the world. He looks at me…straight in the eyes and with no reason, I feel bonded to him. He tilts one corner of his lips upward. Such a menacing, devilish yet childish smile. I feel a great liking toward him. Jonathan has intrigued me with his honest words and such a beautiful face that is hard to forget.

"Do you play sports, Jonathan? You have the look of a sportsman…or even a rock star!". I chuckle lightly.

"Call me Markus, Belinda," he says. His expression is solemn. He is so unpredictable.

"Markus? Why Markus? Isn’t it Jonathan is your real name?"

"Markus is a name my friends use to call me. Sort of nickname. I like you to call me by that name too." He smiles and his eyes are glinting like glass. I do not notice that before.

"I like that name. Markus. Such a beautiful name. It fits you well. Well, Markus, back to my question, do you play sports?" Markus…Markus...I like the sound of the name come out of my lips. The name Markus really fits him. It’s like Markus is his real name instead of just a nickname given by his friends to him.

"Yes, I play sports. I play anything with boards and wheels. I play some indoor games too. Chess, Chinese checkers and some more. I guess, I play almost every games man ever invented. Braggin" huh!" he laughs this time. Out loud. But I believe half of his words are true even though he tries to make it as a kind of jokes…though it is hard to believe that he plays chess. It’s not that I’m underestimated his brain capability, it just that I don’t think a game of chess could bring some excitement in his life. It just that he is larger than life!

"You love to play chess? Doesn’t look like it. I wonder if a game of chess could bring some excitement to you".

"Well, my dear Belinda, I really love a good game of chess. Do you know that long time ago, kings of nations played chess as a simulation of real wars? The winner of the game of chess would also win him the land of the other kingdom. A very efficient way of avoiding the waste of gold, energy, technology and of course…no blood wastage". Well, he explains it so well but…

"I don’t think a good game of chess could judge the ability and the capability of one king compares to the other. What if his land is barren and he couldn’t fulfil the needs of his own people? What if the other kingdom is prospering, with fertile land and so much richness? Of course, the richer kingdom could win the war anytime…if they went for a real battle. See, it’s not fair to use a game of chess and gamble a kingdom. Sound ridiculous to me".

"Belinda, how about a good brain…so smart in making a judgement? Good strategies in achieving a goal? What about charisma? See love, these are the things that make a good king…not his fertile land or something like that. To have a nice prosperous land is a bonus…but that doesn’t make a king. So, a very good of game is fair enough to be a replacement of a real war". His explanation makes me think deeper. It’s true. What use of a fertile land if the ruler is not smart enough to manipulate the sources. So, all the richness will be wasted if not been handled correctly. Then, I nod in agreement to him, just like a loyal pupil to her master.

"Belinda…" he calls my name. So sweetly that even honey is too bitter to hold in my mouth compares to his voice. Actually, it’s not his voice; it’s the way he pronounces my name.

"Yes, Markus. What is it?"

"I saw you reading a book before I interrupt your reading. What kind of book is that? Some romance? Many girls your age whom I knew love to read them." Many girls whom he knew? That very short fact hits me with a pang of a pure jealousy. But, why must I get jealous? I can’t be jealous! My pause gets him repeating his question in more graceful manners that it will be savage of me not to answer it. Still, I’m shocked at the fact that I’m jealous at things when I am not suppose to. I’m confused!

"I read a book written by Anne Rice. She’s my favourite author. The book I read is about a vampire named Lestat de Lioncourt. He’s such a dashing vampire, witty, cocky…absolutely larger than life. I’ve this secret I want to tell you. I used to have a crush on Lestat but later, I was convinced by my Wiccan aunt that Lestat is just a fictional character in books that is created to amused some people…because my father was worried. I was obsessed about Lestat. Still, I wish that my one true love is just like Lestat. He’s fun! To have a companion like Lestat…my life will be content. No! Deliriously happy!" I say and I chuckle lightly as I say it. My cheeks grow hot... they must be pinken right now.

"Hmmm…vampirism. Interesting! People nowadays keep been feeding by the facts of things that the accuracy of the facts can be debatable. For example, just look at some TV series about vampires such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It portrays the so-called unexpected life of vampires but actually, the storyline is so predictable. Which is I found funny, of course. Don’t you think that's funny?"

"So, you think I’m shallow as everybody else because I like vampirism?"

"Belinda dear, whether you’re shallow or not…it’s not the point here. Hmmm… tell me, what makes you love vampires so much? Is it really the life of a vampire that you really love? Maybe it’s their Immortal Gift. So tell me your mind, dear".

"I envy their ageless beauty, Markus. Their eternal life. Their exquisite strength. Oh! I adore them. But, they’re the blasphemous creature! The Damned! I want so much to be one…but I don’t want to be The Damned for the rest of my life. Do you think the dark gift really exists?"

"Whether it exists or not…it’s still debatable. But Belinda dear, from what I hear…all you admire is their Immortal Gift, love. Not their Dark Life! Do you really know what is vampirism all about, Belinda?"

"It’s blood-drinking. Just like Vlad the Impaler and other."

"Good. Do you really want to hurt somebody else and drink his blood guiltlessly? I know the answer is no".

"But, Louis? Louis is a survival vampire, drinks only the blood of rodents. Only rodents and he lives!" I exclaim.

"But dear, you know deep in your heart that Louis is just a fictional character. A pathetic character in books. Just like Lestat. Are you really that pathetic to live only on rodents? You’re too beautiful, too innocent for that kind of life".

I feel sad. Terribly sad because of his statement. It’s tearing my heart that he’s mocking at my ‘fictional’ belief. How dare him to accuse me being so pathetic! I really want to live. Desperately want to live. Forever. There are so many things I want to do, so many things I want to learn...God…so many things, countless things I want to know. My time will never be sufficient enough to do all of those. No. And this making me feels sad. It makes me grieve more because I know, all Markus words are the truth. I don’t want to drink somebody else blood, do I? I don’t want to drink blood from rats. Rats? Euuwww…! But, I just want to live longer. Yes, I just want to live longer.

"Markus, I’m just an individual who’s longing for a longer life…for an eternal, maybe. There are so many things I want to do. I want to learn to play skateboard, surfing under the rolling waves. I want to explore British Colombia and the rugged terrain. I want to explore Africa and the multi-cultured community…the wild. You see, I have all the money one’s need…but money isn’t the point here. I don’t have the strength. I don’t have the time". I weep as I tell him this. I weep for the grief that fills me abundantly. I feel fat tears rolling down my cheeks. I want this to stop…but it beyond my control. All my life, I’ve cried enough that I do not cry anymore since I was 12. Why today? Why I cry today? I hate Markus’s doing. He brings my morbid emotion to surface.

Markus holds me in his arms. Rocking my body gently, just like my mother used to do. He murmurs apologizing words, kissing my hair. He wipes my tears using his thumb and tilts my head. He kisses my eyelids and tastes my salty tears. He tries to soothe me but it just making me cry more! He holds me tighter, trying to ease away my grief.

"Belinda, why did you say that? About not having the strength and the time. You’re still young, barely 20, I believe. Why do you grieve painfully, love? Tell me."

"I’m dying, Markus. I’m dying! Can you see? That’s why I grieve. I’ve dreams to achieve…I’ve this list of things that I want to do and each day…each day the list becomes longer and longer," I sob. My chest is tightening, aching…hard. Suddenly I feel like dying, not physically…but mentally. Hopeless.

"Love, you aren’t dying. You’re one of the liveliest creatures I’ve ever seen. Your bright eyes, your cherub mouth, your rosy cheeks…. Don’t you lie to me, love. Tell me you’re okay!". But, one look at his eyes, I know that he knows I’m talking no craps. It’s weird to look at him like that. It’s like he cares for me so much…but, maybe it just me…imagining things.

"Yes, I’m dying, Markus. You know I’m not lying to you. It’s a sickness that I have since I was a child and it won’t go away. My father has spent millions of dollars to cure this illness but fail. Die young. Yes, that what I’ll be. Die young. But, I’m afraid of dying, Markus. I’m so scared. That’s why I want to live an immortal life. I’m tired of pain. My body can’t take it anymore. Years of chemotherapy is just useless…. Drugs on my veins are like flowing blood. I’m sick of it. That’s why I’m here."

"Oh, love! Such pain. I can’t bear to hear it at all. It breaks my heart to see you cry and it crushes my heart to dust to know your pain. I wish I could do something about it bet I can’t, love. I can’t do anything to help." He cries…and it hurt s me to see his face soaking wet with tears. Strange, a few minutes of talking could bond two mere strangers like this.

"Markus, you don’t have to cry for me. There's nothing you can do to help…but if you can help, you don’t have to, really! I’m just your new friend. It touches my heart to see you cry but…really…you don’t have to cry for me. You just know me!" I run my fingers through his black lustrous hair. It feels silky.

"For days I’ve watching you. Everyday, you sit on the same chair, crossing your legs and read books…and your fingers…they’re toying at your hair. With spectacles bridging on your nose. I’ve waited for days just to say hi! I don’t know why…I simply drawn to you. You’re the light…and I’m the firefly." His confession shocks me to the core. I’m trembling. He has been watching me? I’ve been watched for days? Why? I look at him with a puzzling look. I gaze at his pale-blue eyes, searching for some answers from the depth of the blue pool. I guess, I’ve found the answer…but still unsure.

"Markus, do you want to know the thing that I really want to do in life? I rather sacrifice all of my dreams to fulfil this one." I smile at him so sweetly…to my loving Markus in spite of my tear-streaking face.

"What is it, Belinda? Tell me. I’ll try to fulfil it for you if it’s in my power to do so." He puts me on his lap. His fingers are toying at my hair. I lay my head on his shoulder and close my eyes. Savouring the warmth of his skin and the spicy smell of his expensive cologne.

"I want to love, Markus. I want to be loved. Love me, Markus. I’ll love you back with all I have. I want to be loved before I die. Please, Markus. Fulfil my dream. I ask nothing of you…just this, to be loved by you. A pure sincere love." I almost beg for his love…. I really want his love. I’m astonished at this discovery. Yes, I never wanted anything so badly. I need his love…I want his love, before I die.

"Oh, Belinda! I can’t, Belinda. I can’t love you. I can’t love anyone." He cries as he says this. I’m wounded by his words. He hides his face with the palms of his hands.

"You can’t love me…or you won’t? You’re hurting me!" I cannot believe he refuses to love me when all I see in his eyes is pure love. Why he can’t love me? Because I’m dying?

"You don’t know what you’re asking of me. You don’t know me. I have a long lonely past. I can’t drag you into my life…!" I see pains in him…but I’m hurting too. And I’m dying. Why can’t he understand? I want to love him…not to hurt him.

"Who are you? Just a simple truth from you." My tears are falling again, like rain. My eyes are hurting from too much crying but the tears just refuse to stop! My cheeks are wet from the salty tears. I lick my drying lips. They taste salty too. Deep in my heart, I rather hear a comforting lies than a sad truth.

"The truth doesn’t come simple in my case, love".

"Don’t call me love if you don’t want to love me. I hate that!" I almost scream, my emotion is in turmoil. I’m oblivious to anything surrounding me. The peaceful paradise.

"I’m sorry, Belinda. I don’t know if you’ll believe me if I told you the truth. My life is far complicated than ant average man".

"Of course your life is far more complicated than any average man, you’re different, so special," I reply sarcastically.

"You know who I am?" he asks, disbelieve.

"Of course, I know you. A heart breaker. Someone who makes girls like me falling in love madly to you…then runaway." I’m sobbing harder this time. How dare him to make me fall with his charms when he doesn’t intend to catch me at the first place? How dare I…to be such a fool? The earth is revolving…moving so fast. I feel dizzy…I want to faint.

"Oh, Belinda! You don’t understand. I can’t love you because in the end, ‘m the one who’ll get hurt. I’m tired of being hurt…all my life". His hands on my shoulders. He shakes my body as I’m a puppet.

"I am an immortal, Belinda. I’ve lived for two thousands years. I’m a born roman and Markus is really my real name. I’m the youngest son of the member of the Senate in Rome. My father is such a powerful man, one of the Emperor Augustus trusted man." This is not the kind of truth that I expected. No! Immortal? Even my Wiccan aunt won’t believe this! I’m bewildered. Totally bewildered! Is this a kind of joke? If this a joke, it’s not funny at all!

"This can’t be truth…".

"You look into my eyes now and you’ll know I speak the truth. I can quote Ovid’s words just like a flow of the river. Ovid is my favourite poet. A born romantic. He was brilliantly inventive and often subversive. His poems won him great fame…but led him to his banishment to Black Sea by the Emperor Augustus. My favourite is Remedia Amoris. But love, even Remedia Amoris couldn’t help to heal this pain, this never ending loneliness." Publius Ovidius Naso. He’s my favourite poet too. I always believe that Ovid’s metamorphosis is the most unique writing created by man. Still, I cannot fathom, why this ever happened to me? Being here, alone. Then, meeting a man. Falling in love to him within minutes of meeting him. Then, he claims himself being an immortal. All these are not making any sense at all! Knocking me senseless. A perfect nonsense!

I take a deep breath. I’m removing myself from his hold. I try to relax. I close my eyes and hoping, when I open them, everything will go away. Just like a dream. I open my eyes slowly, so deliberately that almost taken me a full minute. There, before me…Markus and his beautiful face. His expression is solemn and sad. This is real. I’m not dreaming. I still smell the lingering scent of him, the warmth of his arms is registered in my skin.

"I want so much to love you. So damn much that it’s tearing me apart. I’d hundreds of lovers and I’m tired of watching my love ones died one by one in front of me. Watching them grew old, while I remain in my youthful form. I can’t explain to you this crucifying pain. Loneliness is like blood pumping through my veins. I’m tired of it but it just won’t go away." I try to imagine how the pain is like. I try to bring back the memory of the day my mother died. The moment she was on her deathbed. The moment of the burial. I was 14, big enough to capture the vivid details in my brain. It was painful. Full of sorrow. Enough to make me wound to death. I wonder, how is it like if I multiply the feeling by hundreds. Oh, God! I’ll die. Markus, you’ve been through the hell of the world!

"It’s selfish of me not to understand. I’m sorry Markus. I’m really, really sorry. It just that I love you and I wonder myself, how can I love you within this short time…but, it’s true. I love you and I really hope that you’ll love me back. I’m sorry that I ask the impossible from you. Tell me, Markus. The story of your life."

"My life is too long to tell you, but I’ll tell you how I become an immortal. I’ve told you, I’m the son of the Senator in Rome. The youngest, the most pampered, the spoil brat, the smartest and of course, the black sheep in the family. That’s me. But my father loves me so much. I’m his favourite and I love my father so dearly too. During my time, besides Roman’s gods and goddesses, you know…Jupiter, Venus, Cupid and all, people of Rome also worshipped the Egyptian gods and goddesses. The culture was brought to Rome during the time of Julius Caesar. The cults of Osiris, Isis, Horus, Anubis and all scattered in Rome. The temples were everywhere. I was also attracted to these cults. I was attracted to Osiris. I also attracted to Egyptians cultures, their unique rituals and all. My father was so supportive though he knew the Emperor Augustus himself really opposed the idea and wasn’t approved the rising of these cults. The Emperor wanted every Roman making him the god. The superior. The apotheosis of a roman Emperor. Even the Great Julius Caesar wasn’t that extreme. I secretly hate the Emperor Augustus though he was good at ruling Rome to such prosperity. I hate him for banishing my favourite poet, my mentor to the Black Sea. I’ve read his works, Ovid of course, since I was 7. I love him ever since." He pauses for a while. Taking a deep breath.

"Then, what happened?" I ask him. I’m so curious to know.

"One of my father nemeses decided to tell the Emperor about my favouritism to worship Osiris rather than him. Actually, it was nothing to Lucious…he never cared if I ever worship the sun, the moon or even the mule. He didn’t care less but, in this case…my action is beneficial on his behalf. H used it to accuse my father being disobedient, a betrayer and all. During my time, the Emperor held a great power to bestow heaven or hell to anyone. I mean, the Emperor could turn anyone life a misery and all. All my family members…my father, my brothers, my sister-in-laws, nieces, nephews and me were sentenced to death. One of my father’s friends told him about it before the execution was performed. My father planned an escape for me, with enough richness to last for lives…to live in exile. He sent me to Egypt, the foreign land that I love so much. My brothers refused to escape as they were soldiers at heart. Being a runaway is cowardice. I never serve the army. For me, war is just a way of butchering people and feeling guiltless about it".

"I hate wars. It brings sufferness. Just seeing it on TV makes my blood chills. For thousands of years, wars marked the history with their disastrous effects. Still, some people never learn from our ancestor mistakes. Your life’s intriguing, Markus. Tell me more about it." I’m eager to learn about his life. I want to know everything about him.

"As I reached Egypt, I saw my heaven there. Ovid’s work, Horace’s, Virgil’s were scattered at the open markets and bookshops. For a year I lived in mourning. I felt a terrible guilt for the deaths of my family…but then, I finally realized…life goes on and I needed to moved on too. I started to roam the streets of Egypt, searching for things that might worth my fancy. Thousands of parchments in Greek, Roman and Egyptian. Freshly written. The smell of the ink was still there. I started to befriended a few people in Egypt. I needed somebody to make me feel at home. My closest friend was an alchemist. Akhredit was his name. A very smart man. A pioneer…but always gets misunderstood. I never into chemistry myself, but I found it later that chemistry is so exciting and refreshing. Akhredit was a very unique alchemist. He influenced my great liking to chemistry. Akhredit mother was a witch and her, being a witch influenced Akhredit’s interests. He was interested in making medicine, the greatest medicine that would bring him great fame for millenniums! I was his apprentice, his helper, his trusted companion. We worked nights and days for several years. Actually, to tell you the truth, Belinda…I didn’t know what kind of medicine that Akhredit intended to invent. Then, one day he ran to me and exclaimed that our works is a success. He dragged me to our secret lab and I saw there was a small monkey sitting on a wooden stool. The monkey was chained to it. Then, Akhredit took a dagger…and cut the monkey, just like that. The blood of the poor monkey was washing the floor. The scream of the monkey was revibrating in the room…I still remember the scream till now. Miracally, the severe cut healed almost instantly. No matter how severe the cut, whoever taste Akhredit’s potion….his elixir of life…will become an immortal and the seeds will get infertile. No descendents to pass on your family name. Just like me".

He pauses for a while to let me fathom the whole story before he continues. I wonder, where is Akhredit now…why his name doesn’t mark the history just like Hippocrates…why the potion is kept as a secret to the world? Why? I ask him those questions.

‘Akhredit has died 700 years ago. Why? Because he was tired of living a life. I’m tired of living too…but I’m not brave enough to endure the pain to die. Belinda, the only way to die is to separate the head from the body and the head needs to be bunt to ashes. The first person Akhredit made immortal was his lover, Edora. He loved her so much that he planned to spend the eternity with her…but, the gift of immortality turned her into a slut. She told him that she had a very long life ahead to spend it with him alone…and it’s going to bore her. She wanted to the Goddess of Love, just like Aphrodite. She wanted to be loved, to be adored, to be worshipped by thousands men, to be wanted…to be needed by men. Akhredit was so angry at her that he chopped her head off. Then, he offered me the elixir. The Gift of Immortality. He said he needed a companion to live an eternal life and deep in his heat he knew, I would never ever betrayed him. The offer was a great temptation to resist. See dear, I was eager to learn everything in the world. I was young. I thought learning alone could satisfy me. How na´ve I was, how innocent…. Those were the days before I found out the addiction of love. My life is doomed since I learned what love is all about. Ah! Love. It wounds me, it heals me over and over again."

"Markus, had you turn any of your lovers into immortal? It just that I’m curious. That’s all. You’ve told me before that love could be the reason for anything. Hadn’t you share this secret with any of your lover? You’ve lived for more than two thousands years. It’s such a long period. You’ve told me it’s a long lonely life. Sure, you were tempted, at least once!"

"Once? It had been more than hundreds times I were tempted to turn someone immortal and I’d succumbed to the temptation before…once. It happened three hundreds years after I’ve been the immortal. It was in Antioch. A spectacular city, so colourful, vibrant but not as splendour as Alexandria…but still, Antioch was unique in its own way. My lover’s name is Lydia. A born Greek. She was a poetess, a thinker, a philosopher... she amazed me every time she speaks. People might say that Sappho was the greatest poetess of all, but my vote goes to Lydia. We’d been lovers for fifteen years and never in her life, she’d ever betrayed me. A long those years, she’d been faithful to me. We’re meant for each other. I loved Lydia so much. I think, I still do. One day, I offered her a drop of the elixir. It brought me great joy when the word ‘yes’ came out of her beautiful lips. We lived happily for years. We were the inseparable lovers…until one day, Lydia came to me and asked for the elixir. Curiousity swept over me. I asked her, to whom she wanted to share the secret with, to whom she wanted to give the Gift of the Immortality to. Her answered cut my heart to thousands pieces. It was for her new lover. The love after me. She said, the sight of me made she felt sick. She said that she was tired of me. She didn’t know that there is a way that an immortal could die. So, when I drew out a broad sword, she laughed at me. She knew, no matter how severe I cut her or stabbed her because of this maddening anger, she would survived. She believed that no matter how I hate her so much…deep in my heart I love her dearly. One of the perfect principles in the Remidia Amores. Ovid had quoted, ‘it’s a crime to hate a girl you once loved…such a finale is only fit for savages…not to care is quite enough…he who end his love with hate is either still in love or will never leave his misery behind’. She laughed and laughed and kept mocking my so-called childish act. But then, I cut her head off and tossed it in the hearth. I regretted the day I offered her the eternal life. She’d hurt me more than anyone could do. I hadn’t eaten for weeks. Although I was weak, I still live. Akhredit came to me and put a stop to my agonizing life. He didn’t kill me of course, he made me reflected my wrong doings. He told me something that I remember till now. No matter how painful life could be, be brave to move on. Never ever give the elixir to a beautiful lover who is easily bored. She’ll leave you, she’ll hurt you, he said to me. A beautiful lover is not only beautiful to your own eyes, she’s a picturesque view to every man. A woman’s weakness is a flowery compliment to make her feel superior. His advices, I still keep them in my heart and mind. I promise not to give the elixir to anyone. Still, there was one person I offered the elixir, beside Lydia. It was William Shakespeare. His works, they amuse me. They fill my lonely heart. I never missed his plays. They were wonderful! I wish to have him in my life, to make my life bearable. Such a selfish act! But Will refused my offer. He told me that he saw sadness and loneliness in my eyes and he didn’t want that kind of life. I realized, he made a good choice. I wish I did, but I can’t turn back the time. That’s all I guess, the story of my life that is worth to tell you." Markus ends his story. He lies on the white rest chair and closes his eyes. It pains him to bring back all the bittersweet memories.

Hmmm…. William Shakespeare. I remember his works. I remember my favourite lines…

Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of the recorded time

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle

Life’s but a walking shadow; a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more; it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury

Signifying nothing.

Markus and I. we lived in two different lives. His life is long enough and going to last for eternity. My life is short and going to be ended in days. There were hundreds of lovers in his life that makes him scared of loving too much. There is no lover in my life…am I going to die not knowing how it’s like to love someone? It saddens me. I need to feel loved…to be in love for once in my life. How dreadful to imagine living a life without knowing what is it like to fall in love and to be loved. I wonder why he volunteers all the facts in his life, including some secrets that he never told anyone but to me. Maybe it’s because I’m dying and soon, I’ll be dead. I bring no harm to him, maybe he feels that way.

"Markus, can I ask you a favour?" I don’t know whether I’m taking the right decision to do this…but I have to.

"What is it Belinda? I’ll help you if it’s my power to do so. I’ll try to do anything for you". The same line as before.

"I need a lover, Markus. I want to know what love is all about before I die. Just for days. Help me Markus." I beg him.

"I’ve told you, I can’t love you."

"It’s not that you can’t love me, but you won’t. Markus, you don’t have to truly love me. Just pretend that you love me. Let me be the boy or the girl of your previous lover. It just for days, Markus. Then, you can forget about the whole things. You can forget about me. I just want to feel how is it like to have someone as a lover. I just want to love someone, Markus".

"I…I don’t know Belinda. Thing might gets complicated."

"It won’t Markus. I don’t expect true love from you. I try not to make things hard on you. Markus, show me the beauty of love that I read from Ars Amatoria, Amores, Remidia Amores, and the Anakreontea. Kill my ignorance, Markus. This is the last favour that I ask of you." My heart aches. I’m so afraid if he says no. I’m afraid of the ultimate rejection.

"But, Belinda…". There is hesitation in him.

"Markus prima fuit, Markus finis erit." Markus is the first, Markus will be the last. It’s my promise to him. Suddenly, I feel sense of relief sweeps through me, after saying those words to him. It’s as if I’ve been waiting for years to tell just that to him. It’s like I’m meant for him...though for the nick of time.

"Belinda, my love...". He takes me in his arms. I feel home, at last. In the arms of my lover. He recites poems from Cattulus for me but he changes the name Cynthia with Belinda. I laugh at his effort, plagiarizing Cattulus’s works. He smiles at me knowingly. I feel warm inside, such joy. Is this true love?

He caresses my face lightly, butterfly touches. I close my eyes...pray silent prayer in my heart. I’m grateful that I meet him. He kisses my forehead, my eyelids, then, I feel his warm lips at the top of my head. I’m glad that I asked him to be my lover. I like this feeling, to be loved. He holds me close and we watch the sun sets. The beautiful blended colors of yellow and red, bronze and silvery blue...painted the sky in such perfect way. Markus, you'll never know how happy I am now. I keep forgetting the fact that you’re acting out all this... to be my lover and all. You’re such a good actor. You play your part with great excellence. Oh, Markus...why did I agree to take Hemlox in the first place? Hemlox, a slow-reacting poison, uses to put a stop the agonizing life for a cancer patient who cannot be treated like me. My father doesn’t want me to endure the suffering death... it hurts him to see me in pains. He asked me to take Hemlox before I leaving the State. He wants me to die in such perfect paradise. Hemlox is a time bomb...just waiting to explode...right inside me.

Dr. Jensen, my family physician has calculated that the Hemlox will take over my body in the next two days...but who knows, the pill won’t work...and I live longer than that. Oh, such dream... right now, I wish I could buy time, or make it stops. Hmmm... I feel so sleepy...so tired, I can barely lift my limbs.

"Belinda, are you sleepy, love? Markus asks me. I answer him with a huge yawn. He laughs. A whole day of talking, thinking, and crying really make me feel tired...is it?

Markus carries me in his arms in to the resort. I feel like a newlywed bride. As we enter the huge door, all eyes are on us. My blush works from my face to the tip of my toes. Some people smile, some even clap their hands. They are happy for us..... No, happy for me! This is a lack-of-emotion play by Markus. Ah! I don’t care, I don’t want to care.... Right now, I have him by my side.... It’s enough for me...though there’s a saying, ‘no matter how long it lasts, love never lasts long enough’.

The warm breeze hits my skins...such pain. It’s like splinters of ice! I feel cold...so cold. My limbs grew numb each passing second. As we reach my room, my skin has become sickly pale. I guess, the Hemlox decides to work earlier than schedule. How ironic life can be! I look at Markus, I want to remember every detail of his feature. Oh! My brain, it’s weak now. I put great effort just to keep my eyes open. As he lays my sick body on the bed, I see my fingers have turned to bluish pale. Deathly pale. He looks concern. I see his eyes brimming with tears. Is it for me?

"You know you’re going to die...Belinda?" he asks e. I nod my head, I don’t have enough strength to answer him verbally.

"Is it now, Belinda? Why? Why now?" oh, Markus! I wish I could answer that. Oh, how I wish I could answer that.

"Belinda, I wish I say ‘hi’ to you earlier than today". I wish that too, Markus...but my mouth is locked.... I can’t speak!

"Why did you make a promise, and then just leave me like that?" Oh, the promise means something to you? I glad. It means everything to me. I gather up my last ounce of energy to bring a smile up on my lips. Maybe, the last smile ever to him

"Yes, Belinda...the promise means everything to me. No one ever gives me that kind of promise. I want to be the last, Belinda...but not today! You say, you won’t hurt me. Don’t go!" I’ll do anything Markus, not to hurt you, to stay alive. I don’t want to go too. I want to stay right here with you. Suddenly, I feel a pressuring force inside my lungs. I cough. I cough blood. The dark crimson blood tints the white linen. Such contrast. I feel some blood trailing down from the corner of my mouth...but my body is oblivious to pain. It’s already numb.

"Belinda, I love you so much. I never thought I could love somebody as much as this! Don’t you dare to leave me!" he screams at the top of his lungs. He loves me? He loves me! My heart is screaming with joy. At last, hearing someone to say the three sacred words. Words that I long to hear spoken. I love you too, Markus. I wish I could say it out loud. My mouth is sealed. Markus, I feel it harder and harder for me to breath. I’m closer to the embrace of Death. Goodbye, love. Tempus fugit, time flies...now it comes for an end for me. So long, lover. O love you forever, Markus.

Suddenly, I feel a force on my mouth. Markus forces my mouth open. I feel a drop of liquid on my tongue. Markus, my body becomes warmer and warmer. I feel a surge of energy flowing through my limbs, my veins. For the first time in my life, I feel so powerful. I’m alive! Markus has given me the Elixir of Life. He has given me the Gift of the Immortality.

"Markus, why me? Why now?" I still can’t believe what happens to me today. Why Markus suddenly decided to turn me immortal after all these years of resistance? Why me? I don’t have the slightest idea why he thinks I’m worthy enough to be an immortal.

"I see true love radiates from you. I love you and I know that deep in my heart, you’re the only person that I want to spend my eternal life with. Together, we will roam the earth at our free will. Belinda, never once you ask me for the elixir though you needed it so much. Such selfless act... you don’t have the heart to hurt me." He kisses my face over and over again with such tender love. Ah! Love...my fulfilled dream.

"Where did you keep the elixir? Don’t tell me you bring it with you wherever you go." he smiles and shows me the pendant secured by the platinum necklace around his neck and inside it, there is a tiny vial with a clear purplish content. So, this is the Elixir of Life. Such powerful liquid. Just a drop of it could change a life.

I feel my body is getting stronger and stronger each passing minute. My body is full of energy and I love that feeling. Finally, I could do anything I dream to do. I can explore the world.... I can learn everything I want to learn. Nothing can stop me from dong whatever I want. I’m the unstoppable, the unbreakable. I’m immortal. the feeling is such grandeur. I feel the ultimate control of myself. There’s no one ever going to decide things on my behalf. I am me. I push Markus aside, softly and get up from the bed. I want to stand, I want to run. I want to jump. I want to do things that my limbs never able to do before.

"Don’t overdo things, love. It still early. Your body needs to get used to the elixir first. Just relax and lie here on your bed." Don’t overdo things? I can’t believe that Markus is nagging on me. This is the first day we meet and he nags on me? How can I endure to live with this man for an eternal life? I hate it when people tell me what to do. I had enough! Now, I’ll only do the things that I want to do.

"Listen here, Markus. Both of us are going to live a very long life and I believe we need to tolerate, to compromise on certain things. First, I hate it when people tell me what to do. Don’t you dare to do that to me ever again. Second, you’ve a lot of lovers before and I bet, no matter how sad you claim yourself to be, you enjoyed each one of your relationship. So, now you expect me to stick with you alone for next thousand years? Get real! I want to explore things and I don’t want you to get in my way, understand?"

"Belinda, I thought...". he is shocked at my sudden changes. He thought I’m a fool but I’m no fool.

"Shut up! Third, I don’t want you to butt in into my life when you’re not invited to do so. I won’t get into your life, either. You can have fun with hundreds girls. I don’t care less. We can both be happy. Don’t worry, I won’t ask you for the elixir anymore. I don’t intend to share my immortality with anyone. We have a long life to spend and I bet, you don’t want to have me as your enemy!"

"Lord, what kind of damage I have done!" Markus looks at me, wide eyes and disbelieves of the things that he hears. Hey, I am 21st century girl! Does he expect me to take care of him like some kind of 1950’s housewife? Markus, you’ve asked a wrong kind of person.

"And Markus...don’t you ever dare to try to kill me. I know all the tricks. Hmmm...in case you still thinking about killing me, remember this. I don’t ask you to make me an immortal. I don’t force you to give me the elixir. You want to kill me? Hey, who do you think you are? Some kind of ancient god or something. You don’t have the right to mess up with my life. Now, that I have a life, I would never ever give it to somebody else. Not even you."

"You said you love me, Belinda." Man, this guy is really stupid. Does he really a two-thousand-year-old guy? He doesn’t seem like it. He is so innocent and na´ve!

"I was dying, I was desperate but I’m not now. Thanks anyway for giving me the chance to live. You’ve had a life, now it’s my turn to discover things on my own, Markus." My voice becomes soften...but never my heart. I’m so determine. Hecks!

"Belinda, you’ll have all the time you want to have. I’ll wait for you. Just promise me that you won’t leave me...for such final!" I look at Markus. Such a stupid, pathetic man. I wonder, how on earth I manage to get this stupid notion of loving this kind of man. So not my taste. Maybe, it’s the drowsiness causes by the stupid Hemlox. Hmmm....my dad. Damn that man! He really wants me to die, he wants me to get a suicide so no one will blame him for not putting so much effort to let me live. I’ll kill him for that. Gosh! I really want to kill him and have the control on the property of my family.

"Shut up, Markus! If you ever speak up again, I promise, I’ll make your life a living hell. I’ll kill you if must, just like I’m planning to kill my father right now. That hideous man, I’ll kill him!" I laugh my heart out. I never feel this marvelous. Such grandeur! I’m going to live a long life and I know that I won’t get bored easily. Markus? He doesn’t play any important role now. I don’t need him anymore. I need no one!

"What kind of monstrosity I’ve created! What have I done!" Markus screams. I laugh and laugh louder than ever and his scream, pathetically as he is, getting swallowed by my mighty joyous laugh.

 

THE END