I plopped down on the couch with a satisfied sigh. The final box from my move had finally been unpacked, and I could truly rest in my new house. Henry, my cat, purred next to me as I laid my arm down next to him. “Finally done,” I announced to him. He looked up at me with indifference. “It’s a good thing, don’t you think? After all, I bought this place. We don’t have to move ever again.”
Henry blinked slowly.
“Well I think it’s a good thing.” After moving every other year for most of my life, I was finally ready to put down roots. My recent promotion at work only solidified my good mood. Being done with the move, making advancements in my career…the only thing left to do was settle down (according to my family). I didn’t really mind if I spent my off time with Henry only, but my mother was the perfect thorn in my side.
“You should find a wife,” she’d always say on our weekly phone calls. I could always hear my dad in the background calling her name in earnest.
“I’ll find one one day, Mom.”
“You’re so good looking, Charlie! You’ve got a great career going, and what better time to start a family then now?”
“During a pandemic?” Dad asked casually.
“Jerry, stop it,” my mother snapped.
“Dad’s got a point,” I responded. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
“Things are back to normal!” she cried. “Go out and find someone special, Charlie!”
Every week, the same conversation. It was redundant but apparently necessary to my mother’s happiness to continuously nag me about settling down.
Henry curled up next to me, bringing me back into the current reality. Now that I was done unpacking, I could finally go through the mail that had been accumulating on my kitchen counter. After soaking in some great Henry cuddles, I stood and went to the slightly overwhelming pile of mail, shuffling through it absentmindedly.
A thin gold envelope caught my attention. “The Bureau of Immortality?” I chuckled. “This has got to be good.” No one’s name was on the letter, just my address. There was no return address, either. I opened it up and proceeded to read.
Hello Current Homeowner,
You have been chosen to apply for everlasting immortality. Attached to this letter is an application to begin the process. A return envelope has been provided. If you are interested, please fill out the questions and return your application promptly.
Head of Application Processing
Bureau of Immortality
I turned over the short letter and another golden envelope fell out, landing on my kitchen counter. On the back of the letter was a simple application. I glanced over at Henry, who was looking at me with what I could imagine curiosity would be for his usually aloof self.
I started to chuckle to myself again. “This has got to be a joke, right?” I looked over the five question application, looking for any indication that this could be a prank. The letter itself looked very official, with gold trim around the thick white paper. I wondered who had taken the time to send me something so official looking, but so strange.
“Fuck it, I’ll fill it out,” I mumbled to myself, grabbing the nearest pen and sitting at the dining room table. Henry jumped up on the table, watching me fill out the basic information it asked for. “‘Legal name’…Charles Gerald Fischer… ‘Age You Received this Application’? Uh, 32…”
I paused, looking over the first question. “‘You are immortal. What’s the first thing you do?’” What answer could they possibly want for that? I pondered for a moment. “I guess I wouldn’t be rich,” I said to Henry. “So I wouldn’t do anything crazy money wise. I guess I’d take my parents out to dinner, since we haven’t been able to get together as much…right?” Henry blinked slowly at me, seemingly confirming the answer. I wrote down “‘Take my parents out for dinner’” and moved on.
“Okay, question two, Henry… ‘If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Note that you could never leave.’ Note that I could never leave??” I laughed out loud. “I’ll just stay here, I might as well.” I wrote that down and continued on to the third question. “‘Would you share your immortality? Why or why not?’”
I looked up at Henry, who was staring at me expectantly. I didn’t really want to spend forever with my parents, and I didn’t have a family, so in theory the only person to share forever with would be my cat. “You’re lucky I like you so much,” I grumbled to Henry, petting his chin. He purred happily. I then wrote down: “‘I would share my immortality with my cat, Henry. He is the only family member who wouldn’t nag me until the end of time.’”
Question four seemed out of place. “‘If you could invent a new thing, what would it be?’” I stared at the page blankly. I was never the creative type. I wrote down something about a smarter smart refrigerator and moved on to the final question.
When I read question five, I laughed out loud. “‘What time is it?’ Really?” I looked down at my watch and wrote down “‘11:57AM.”
“Alright, buddy, all done,” I said to Henry. “I guess I’ll go to the post office and mail this off.” I laughed again, realizing that this was a silly thing to do. “What if this is just a prank?” I asked the cat. “Who would have even sent me this? We just moved in, you know.”
Henry was already falling asleep on the table, ignoring me. I kept chuckling as I got ready to leave, and giggled all the way to the post office. By the time I had thrown the golden envelope into the blue box, I was barely holding back my laughter. The whole thing had to be a joke, right? There was no Bureau of Immortality. It wasn’t possible! Stuff like that didn’t exist in real life, so why would I take it seriously?
The thought crossed my mind that maybe this letter was sent to confirm that someone lived in the house I had just bought, and I wondered to myself if that meant someone or some people were going to come try and bother me at all…Or maybe this was some scheme from some religious entity trying to get me to come to their church. Either way, I shook my head at the ridiculousness of it all. It couldn’t be serious, whatever the result would be.
A few days later as I was putting on some comfortable clothes for the evening, the doorbell rang. Henry meowed from the living room. “Coming!” I shouted, pulling my sweatpants on as I made my way to the front door.
I was surprised to see a young woman standing there, gold glasses perched delicately on her long nose. She looked very official. “Mr. Charles Fischer?” she asked, looking me up and down. Her judgement of me was very apparent.
“That’s, uh, that’s me,” I responded.
“May I come in? We have something to discuss.” I then noticed she was holding a gold clipboard.
“What’s this about?”
“Your application,” she said, emotionless. “You filled out an application for immortality, did you not?”
“That was just a joke, wasn’t it?” I said, furrowing my brow now.
The woman looked sternly at me. “Everlasting immortality is not a joke, Mr. Fischer.” She pushed past me and walked into my house, her high heels clicking on my hardwood floor. Henry greeted her, always the charmer. “Cute cat,” she quipped as she sat at the dining room table, tapping her foot as she waited for me to join her.
I swung the front door shut and hurried over to her. She placed her clipboard on the table, getting a gold pen out of her expensive-looking purse. She began clicking it rhythmically as she spoke. “My name is Ginny Carter, and I am in charge of your account with us at the Bureau of Immortality. Please, call me Ms. Carter if you would. You have been selected to join our program, Mr. Fischer. I’ve got some paperwork for you to fill out, and once you’ve done that I can give you more information.”
I blinked at her. “What?”
Ms. Carter sighed. “Do I really have to repeat that?”
“No, sorry, it’s just…I thought this was something made up. I didn’t actually think your organization existed.”
“Well, it does.” She stared at me cooly. “If you would read through this paperwork, please.”
Reluctantly, I took the clipboard and read through it. The first page was more basic information, like my name and history. It even had lines to fill out for Henry. The second page and on seemed to be rules and regulations concerning my apparent immortality. There was a lot here even though the clipboard seemed light. When I was done reading, I looked up at Ms. Carter to see her petting Henry. She didn’t look happy, but she didn’t look upset either.
“So…do I fill this out now that I’ve read it all?”
“In theory, yes,” Ms. Carter said as she continued to pet the cat. “Do you wish to fill this paperwork out?”
“I…I’m not sure.”
Both she and Henry looked over at me, their judging looks making me feel small. “What is the issue, Mr. Fischer?”
“I just…I’m not sure I want to live forever, Ms. Carter”
“You filled out the application,” Ms. Carter said flatly. “People don’t usually fill out applications they don’t think they’ll be qualified for.”
“What about my parents? I’m going to outlive them for sure.”
Ms. Carter stopped clicking her pen. “You’d do that whether you were immortal or not.”
It stung to hear, but it was true. My parents weren’t getting any younger. “What if I decide to start a family? What happens then?”
“Your family will age, but you will not. You’ll stay this age forever.”
“I’m going to be 32 forever?”
“I’ve been 22 for hundreds of years, Mr. Fischer. You learn to let go of certain things when you get to be this old.”
There was a moment where I processed what she had just said. “How…how old are you?”
A smirk crossed Ms. Carter’s painted lips. “You’re not supposed to ask a woman her age, Mr. Fischer. But, for transparency’s sake, I am 353 years old.”
“Three hundred and fifty three?!” I stood up, unable to hide my surprise. “Holy shit.”
“Immortality has its pros and its cons,” she shrugged. “I’m still alive after everything that’s happened since the 1600s, and I’ll still be alive until the world ends…or some unnatural thing influences my demise.”
“Wait, so you can still die?”
Ms. Carter nodded. “If an immortal were to be physically injured by an outside force — say, someone stabs me, for example — they could die.”
I sat back down. “What if you try to…”
“You cannot commit suicide,” she stopped me. “You cannot hurt yourself. Only an outside force, one that is unnatural.”
“So I can’t drown?”
“What if I dive headfirst into a volcano?”
“You’ll be hot, but you won’t die. In theory you won’t even burn.” I leaned back in my chair as I processed this. “It’s all there in the contract,” Ms. Carter said, motioning to the clipboard. “You’ll have certain things you’ll have to do in order to stay protected within the Bureau, and certain rules you’ll have to follow as an immortal, but generally, your life will go unchanged for a while.”
“How long is ‘a while’?”
“About 15, 20 years. Until people realize you’ve not aged.”
“Will I have to move?”
“Most likely. We can help you with that process when it comes…don’t worry about that now.”
I looked at Henry, who was rubbing up against Ms. Carter’s shoulder. I really didn’t want to move again. All of this was strange, but the more she spoke, the more interested I was in just seeing what would happen. Even though the risk meant I would be alive until the end of time, the strange curiosity of wanting to know what that looked like outweighed whatever qualms I had about being immortal.
The fact that this was becoming appealing was ridiculous, but what else did I have to lose? Life would be the same for a while, and then I’d have to move on. It seemed like a longer turnaround than what I was used to, moving wise.
I sighed, holding out my hand for the pen. “I’ll start filling this out now.”
Ms. Carter handed me the pen and waited patiently for me to finish filling out the information in front of me. When I was finished she stood, taking the clipboard and the pen from me. “You’ll be getting a package in the mail in a week. Once you get it, open it up and follow the instructions immediately. You’ll hear from me again soon.”
Ms. Carter began to walk away, so I followed her to the door. As she opened it, she stopped. Turning back around, she said, “I’d start learning a new language now, Mr. Fischer. You’ll have all the time in the world, but once it’s time to move, you might want to move abroad. That’s when you’ll need another language under your belt.”
“Is that what you did?” I asked her.
She smirked again. “I learned German in my first 15 years. You’ll want to learn something more universal.” With a nod, she left me standing in the doorway. Henry rubbed up against my leg, seemingly watching her leave as well. What had I gotten us into?
Hello everyone! I hope you liked this short story! It was influenced by a writing prompt I saw on r/writingprompts (by u/whatWouldYoMamaDo) that I couldn’t get out of my head. As always, if you’re interested in reading more about Charlie and Henry’s life together, let me know!
If you liked this story, feel free to leave a tip on ko-fi! Every bit I get goes straight into a self-publishing fund. If you’d like, feel free to subscribe to my Medium posts below as well as follow me on Twitter for updates on new posts (and daily tweets from yours truly on the latter).
Thanks for reading, y’all! I’ll see you here in two weeks with the monthly wrapup!