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The Wandering Stranger

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As I stumble through the rotting streets of this dying midwestern hellhole, a thousand thoughts ruminate inside my mind. It has been five hundred and twenty-seven years, eleven months, two weeks and four days since I have slept.

I do my best to avert my gaze from the windows I pass by, the puddles on the ground, the cars in the street, anything reflective. My appearance is morbid and nightmarish. My skin has turned cold and gray, peeling off or completely gone in some areas. My pupils, a hundred years ago, were still green, and now they glow pure black. My flesh has become wrinkled and rotten. I try to hide it all under large coats and wide hats, even in the summer time. The fewer eyes on me, the better.

Time means nothing to me anymore. The days fade into each other, becoming a confused mess of events and wasted time. The people I've met, the places I've seen, they all turn to dust eventually. I would love to be able to say that any empathy or emotion left in my heart had also faded, but unfortunately, those things still weigh down my withered heart like a great boulder upon the shoulders of a dying animal.

The day the curse fell upon me no longer feels like my own memory. It feels like a painful recollection stolen from the mind of another man who has long since perished. When I was still truly alive, I was a scoundrel in what is now known as Western Europe. I was the greatest thief who ever lived, pilfering riches and treasures not only from lowly merchants and traders, but from noblemen and proud knights.

Azrael. Even just reciting that name in my own mind causes my gut to burn like a workman's glove fallen into a smelting oven. No one was quite sure what he was. Angel? Demon? God? Warlock? It didn't matter to me. His ancient dagger, Thanatos, was all that mattered to me. Said to have been crafted in the deepest, most wretched caverns of Apollyon, the sixth circle of hell. It glowed with an unearthly brilliance that could never be mistaken for anything that could come from the sterile familiarity of our own world. It was, to me, the most valuable treasure on earth. I believed that if I had it, I would forever be known as the greatest thief to ever live.

I was successful in capturing the blade, but the absolute terror that haunted me in the weeks that followed made the heist worthless. I had betrayed the very aspect of death itself, and it seemed as though existence itself was preying upon me, waiting for the right moment to pounce and destroy me utterly.

I approached Azrael, grovelling and trembling like a scolded child clinging to his mother's skirt, returning the dagger in exchange for my life. The creature mocked me, laughing at my cowardice and revealing that he wasn't even aware the item was gone. I could have gotten away, had it not been for my feeble heart.

The aspect of death decided to prolong my humiliation indefinitely by giving me a "reward." I would live forever, wandering the earth without a home; a stranger to everyone around me. My body would rot away, but I would be preserved for eternity.

And now, here I am, surrounded by great towers and structures that a man from my era should not even comprehend, let alone witness. I am an unnatural blight upon an ever-changing world that I could never hope to integrate into. Every time I come close to understanding it, it once again shifts paradigms and becomes unrecognizable.

I've never lost a limb or even a finger. A few decades back, the third toe on my left foot fell off. To this day, it is still gone. Sometimes I think about what would happen if I lost an arm or a leg - would it somehow grow back? Or would I simply have to spend the rest of eternity struggling without it? What if I lost an eye? Or an ear? What if I was just a severed head? What if I lost my entire head? Would I finally die? Would I wander the earth as a vengeful phantom? Or would the remnants of my broken body become a prison for me, forcing me to endure eternal life as a blind, deaf and dumb husk that cannot move or feel?

What will happen to me when the world ends? Will I continue to persevere after every last living thing has finally died? If a new race takes over, would I be accepted? Hunted? Or simply ignored? What about when the earth collapses? Will I bear witness to the very end of the earth? Will I wander the stars, or will I simply float in the emptiness of space forever? What would happen if I were consumed by a great star? Or a black hole?

Ruminating on these questions is the only thing that my wandering mind can focus on. All other queries became repetitive and droll once I came to terms with the banality of existence, and how temporary all worldly things are.

Right now, the only thing I want is to die. I desperately, sincerely want to perish. I don't know what would await me in the afterlife, but save for the fires of an Abrahamic hell, nothing could be worse than this. If I were to be consumed by nothingness, it would be a peaceful respite.

For now, I do what I've done for centuries. I stumble across the empty streets of a city I despise, hiding my face from those around me, doing my best to form no connections or become attached to anyone, and I walk. I have no clear destination, nowhere to go, nothing to look forward to. I will wander the earth forever, wondering what will become of me when I can wander no longer.

Any lingering remorse I may had once felt for my actions was wiped away long ago. The only emotions I ever feel are rage, sorrow, and fear. And yet, I still cling to hope. I know that Azrael still wanders the earth, stalking and victimizing the world of the living. I know that if I get another chance, I will steal his dagger yet again, and plunge it into my own heart. Should that fail to end me, I will take solace in knowing that the aspect of death was truly defeated by the very last of the Nephilim.

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