May 15, 1884

From the journal of Jonathan Richard Smith

Fair winds today, and the weather looks to remain amenable for the remainder of the week. It is a pity that conditions could not be closer to those I experienced on my first voyage, as it would lend far more credibility to my untimely demise. But my friends and family do not know that I am not merely an idle sailor, but quite an experienced sea-hand, and the capsizing of the Virginia Dare and subsequent drowning of John Smith, of Hampton, Virginia, will be regarded as a tragic but not wholly inexplicable accident. Indeed, Wendy asked me if it was really wise for me to sail without crew, even for such a purportedly short trip, and I gave her my assurances that I could handle a small craft like the Virginia Dare without help. In retrospect, she will undoubtedly look back on her precautionary words, nearly the last that we exchanged, and blame herself for not being more adamant in her concern. I regret the added pain that will cause her, but as I am about to deprive her of her husband, the anguish I am willfully inflicting on her is already substantial, so my burden of guilt cannot be greatly increased by a little more.

Rarely do I have many regrets, for I feel I have lived a reasonably virtuous life thus far. Not saintly, by any means, but when and if I do finally meet my Maker- if we do indeed have a Maker- I feel my accounting shall not be unduly harsh, for I have made every effort to outweigh whatever evil I might do with a greater amount of good. Nonetheless, at times like this I reflect that perhaps those of us who refrain from prolonged contact with mortals are wisest, for I have still not yet become inured to the pain of watching my loved ones fail prey to their own mortality. Yes, I do love Wendy, as I have loved most of my wives, and watching them die is hardly less painful than widowing them and disappearing to another part of the world.

When my will is read, Wendy will learn that her husband's assets were rather more substantial than she believed. She and our two adopted children, and if they invest wisely, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren and so forth, will want for nothing. That much I can do for them, that and the eighteen years I gave them, which I like to think were good years and therefore may make up for the short period of loss and mourning they must now undergo.

I probably could have lingered longer, another decade even, but for that damnable New Yorker with a regrettably keen eye and keener memory. Although I certainly remember being shot through the heart at Chattanooga, I never got a good look at the face of the Union officer who shot me. Most unfortunately, he got a good look at my face, and remembered it twenty years later, when he even more unfortunately came to Hampton on whatever business brought him there. I put him off temporarily, but the look in his eyes is one I have seen before, that of a man who knows something is not right and is not going to let the matter rest. Others of my kind would laugh at my dilemma and offer the most obvious and expedient solution, but I have not yet added cold-blooded murder to my list of sins, and am unwilling to do so...even if the bastard did kill me once.

I should note, not that there is any purpose in doing so, for I do not expect anyone but myself shall ever read this journal, but because if I am writing to an imaginary audience, I should also imagine that some exposition would be helpful, that tomorrow will be my three-hundredth birthday. A full three centuries ago, at the very same time that my late home of Virginia was being claimed by Sir Walter Raleigh, I was born in London, to impoverished gentility. Twenty years later, my family's lack of assets combined with my adventurous nature led to my signing on with His Majesty's fleet. Two years later, already finding the sea a bit tiresome (it has been something of a love-hate affair between myself and the sea, these past many decades), I was both fortunate and foolhardy enough to be among the first settlers at Jamestown. (Ah, no, Gentle Reader, for I see where your mind is, I am not that John Smith. I did know him, though.)

I see I am wandering far afield already. My several attempts at achieving the status of published author have yet to meet with success, as an editor friend of mine kindly told me, I am wordy to the point of pretentiousness, and tend to ramble. Well, Arnold is not a tactful man, but I have tried to take his criticism constructively, I really have. I see that in that attempt, I am not completely succeeding. This journal is as much a writing exercise as anything else, to discipline myself to setting my thoughts down in paper in a concise and regular manner, but already I see the first part of that resolution- angry scribbling of the pen

Let me start again. I am three hundred years old, and as you might guess from that statement, I am immortal. And if truth be told, right now I am very tired. I have established a pattern, these many years....I love Virginia and the wide open seas in nearly equal amounts, and tend to alternate between one and the other for my abode. I have just abandoned one, and the family with whom I lived there, to return to the other, and what bothers me more that is that for the first time, I am having difficulty remembering how often before I have done this. Now, I always experience an extended bout of melancholy after making a transition, as I must periodically do, from my latest fabricated identity to another that I must create anew, in order to blend into mortal society. But it seems these periods of ill humour are more prolonged and more severe each time, though it could be simply that this impression is merely a part of the overall -

Damnation, I am doing it again, aren't I?

I have just breached the hull. Hah, perhaps the fact that I am sinking even as I write will give me some impetus to write faster. I do hope this beeswax-lined bag will preserve my journal.

Well, the thrust of my earlier ruminations is that living forever, at this point in my lengthy but by no means unparalleled lifespan, does not appear to be all that those deprived of such a gift might assume. I have seen a great deal of war, and sickness, and human cruelty, and all that one might expect from traveling the world during what is surely one of the bloodier periods in human history. At times I despair that misery truly is the human condition, and we immortals are certainly not spared our immortal share of it. At a later time, I may write of how I first became (or discovered I am, as the case may be) immortal. And perhaps I will write also of Cromwell, The Terror, Pantucket River and other less delightful periods in my life. Time, and not, alas, modesty or brevity, forbids me to do so now. Perhaps you are wondering why, when I have recently confessed to living a comfortable existence more often than not, and when the tone of my writings, it must be admitted, conveys a certain degree of dispiritedness, perhaps, but not true despair, I presume to claim such existential angst. True, I have never yet seriously contemplated ending my own existence. (Suicide is of course difficult, but not impossible, for our kind, the generally accepted method being to find and challenge to a duel another immortal whom you know is your superior.) But I am forced to wonder, if I indeed do feel so unhappy, even if in a transient manner, after a mere three centuries, how much greater must be the burden of accumulated blood, sweat and tears on those far more ancient than myself, those who have lived twice, thrice, even (if some legends might be believed) ten times as many centuries as I? I can only wonder, if I manage to persist that long without losing my head, if these moods will indeed become lengthier and more agonizing each time, and if so, will I have the fortitude to cope. How do they, the elders?

Damn, the boat is sinking faster than I expected, or perhaps I am simply spending more time writing than I intended. (On reflection, that is almost certainly the case, no surprise to you, Gentle Reader, if you have gotten this far.) A final thought, then, before I stuff this book into my waterproofed bag. The words of the oldest immortal I have personally met, Reynald, who was born during the reign of Charlemagne, when I asked him what keeps him from despondence or despair and gives him meaning and purpose, year after year and century after century. He always seemed rather at ease with his immortality, neither fretting over the passing eras nor becoming wholly callous with regards to mortals. Indeed, my question at first elicited only a raised eyebrow and a look of puzzled contemplation. Then he said, "I suppose I just want to see how it all turns out."

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