When the astronomers first announced that an asteroid barreled toward Earth, I was skeptical. I assumed it was over-hyped like all of the other end-of-the-world scenarios I’d experienced in my life. However, when they continued in their hushed, somber tones that their attempts to alter the course of the asteroid–which they called 18623 Ahriman–had failed, something in me changed. The rest of humanity descended into chaos, but I was excited.
Maybe this was my chance to finally die.
I was born almost 2,000 years ago in a small village in what is now Iran. My parents named me Noshzad, a name I haven’t used in a long time. It means “born immortal.” I’m sure my parents had no idea how fitting that name would become. I was a goatherd who was the son of a goatherd, married to the beautiful Parvana, my best friend since childhood.
Oh, Parvana. I have forgotten many things in my long life, but I’ll never forget you. Your warm smile, your big brown eyes, your delicate laugh. I’d make a fool of myself just to hear it. If only fate had been kind enough to let me die with you in our little village.
But I wasn’t so lucky. One day, when I was about thirty, I realized that I stopped aging. Keep in mind that thirty years old then and thirty years old now are different things. I should’ve had more wrinkles, some gray in my hair. I didn’t look much older than I did on the day Parvana and I married, although it had been over a decade.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Our fellow villagers, people we’ve known since birth, began giving Parvana and I strange looks when we were together. They would whisper behind their hands. “Why has she aged, and he hasn’t?” they wondered. I looked to my wife, my precious butterfly. It was true that time had changed her and not me. There were wrinkles around her eyes and mouth and white began to streak her hair.
Things were worse when my wife wasn’t around. The other villagers would give me a wide berth when they would meet me in the road. They would whisper rumors that I was a sorcerer or something worse, contempt burning in their eyes.
One night, I asked Parvana if she had noticed the difference between us. She said she had. “How come you are so fortunate?” she asked. She laughed her delicate laugh, but there was suspicion and fear in her beautiful brown eyes.
Was she really scared of me like everyone else?
As much as the idea hurt, I decided to leave while Parvana while asleep. I crept around our humble home so that I wouldn’t wake her. My biggest regret is that I didn’t leave a note behind. I was illiterate then, so I couldn’t help it, but the thought still haunts me.
As I traveled the world, time passed. Empires rose and fell. Any friends or lovers I had perished. I knew, at some point, Parvana had died and become dust. I lived under assumed names, and I kept a low profile to avoid suspicion. I questioned the Zoroastrian faith in which I was raised. How could Ahura Mazda, the Creator, make something the likes of me? Surely, I was a being that Ahriman, the destructive spirit, made. After a while, I doubted the existence of any of it. No god thought about my design. I was just some accident.
One might think that because I’m immortal, I would be impervious to the illness of mortals. I wish. I bear the scars of plague and pox. My most recent brush with disease was when I caught the Spanish flu. I was very sick, and had I been mortal, I would not be here now. My heartbeat and breathing slowed. I happily found death trying to embrace me, but something snatched me from its clutches.
I lived, just as I always did. I made it all the way to the twenty-first century. Things are far beyond the dreams of a goatherd’s son. We can fly across oceans on the wings of metal eagles. We can talk to people in other countries using boxes that fit in our hands. For all we can do, we can’t stop our end.
It’s funny, in a way, that the scientists decided to call the asteroid Ahriman. Ahriman, the evil god in a religion losing itself to time, the religion in which I was raised but no longer believed. The same religion states that the world would end enveloped in a stream of molten metal. What is an asteroid but a giant mass of rock and metal that burns as it enters Earth’s atmosphere? It could all be coincidence, but then again, it may not be.
I hope this Ahriman will be what finally releases me. Part of me fears, though, that I’ll survive the end. I imagine myself walking in darkness, my lungs burning with the incinerated remains of all creation. My stomach twists, and chills run down my spine. I’m already lonely. I don’t want to be alone.
While my fellow humans lament the end, I will welcome it, even if it is with some uncertainty. Parvana, my love, I hope to see you again. If there isn’t anything after this long, long life, I will join you in the dark.
Kristina R. Mosley lives in Conway, Arkansas. Her work has been featured in numerous small-press publications, including Tales from the Grave, Sanitarium Magazine, Waiting, Disturbed Digest, and Devolution Z. Her novelette Strange Days is on Amazon, and she’s currently trying to make a novel fit for human consumption. She can be found on Twitter at @elstupacabra.