The Gift-Giver

Written in response to: Write a story about a problem with no good solutions.... view prompt


Speculative Fiction Sad

TW: Suicide, Death

Thou shalt obtain a gift.

Thou shall live with thy gift for all of thy life.

Thy gift shall be thy destruction.

These three laws have been in effect for all of history. At least, that's what we were told. Some unknown power has spoken to countless people throughout the ages, made the three laws known to them in their own languages. The Gift-Giver bestowed a gift upon every person on the day of their birth. Sometimes, the gifts wouldn't show themselves for years. Sometimes, they were only revealed on a person's death day.

Most people didn't know what to think of their gifts. Everyone knew that their gift would someday kill them, but then again, it was hard to hate having the ability to fly or teleport. Those with the worst gifts had more cause to resent their powers, those who could hear the voices of the dead, or cause pain to anyone they thought of. And everyone pitied the people who had no apparent power. Maybe they had the gift of humility or of peace, but it often wasn't obvious what was special about them. Instead of using their power for good, they floundered about, waiting for a revelation that may never come.

I was one of those people, for a while. I grew up the odd one out, unique in the aspect that I wasn't unique. I watched my classmates, with all their special talents, and I waited for my gift to show. I prayed, too.

I talked to the Gift-Giver often, back then. I never got a response.

As adults, most of us learned not to worry about our gifts too much. Most people tried to use their powers for good, to make up for the death they would eventually cause. I went to a monthly support group for the people without powers. I said the motto daily, while looking in the mirror. "I am not without a gift, though it may seem like I am defenseless. My gift will reveal itself in time."

The beginning of my life would seem pretty boring to any outsiders. I had a boring job, but I did it for the money. I never fell in love, never had children, never did much but wait for my gift to come.

I was probably forty when I noticed that I looked quite young for my age. When I was fifty, I began to worry. I didn't have so much as a wrinkle. When I was sixty, I finally confronted the truth. This was my power, wasn't it? I was unable to age, physically, past twenty-five or so.

I learned soon that it was much bigger than that.

I was two hundred-thirty-two when I tried to kill myself the first time, and honestly, I’m surprised I got that far. I was wealthy enough, by that time, and known around the world as one of the few people who were ageless. I had seen countless friends die, had attended countless funerals, had carried far too many coffins on my shoulders. I was done.

I took a gun to my bedroom and put a bullet in my brain.

I closed my eyes as the world went red. I thought it would be a flash and then darkness. I didn't think there would be this much pain.

My mind has blocked out the memory of those first few hours. All I know is that there were periods of darkness, and flashes of red, and so much pain I couldn't think.

When I finally opened my eyes again, it was dark outside. My head felt like it was about to split open. I could only taste blood in my mouth. The bed I was laying on was stained red.

Was this death?

It took me a few minutes to realize I was not dead. I was still very much alive.

This was my power, then. I could not die, even if I wanted to. I would be alive forever.

It took a thousand years for people to forget about me. I had worked hard to keep myself out of the public eye. After the first few people sneaking into my mansion to try to kill me, I learned that staying off the grid was much more desirable.

I didn't have to work, but I did sometimes, to have something to do, and to be able to keep up a house and buy food. I could technically go without eating, but I felt all the pain for it.

I tried to do good, when I could. I became a doctor and a fireman and a police officer. I did dangerous things to save others, because I knew they wouldn't hurt me. I tried to help.

It took another thousand years for humans to go extinct. The micro-metals surrounding the earth made our world a prison. When radiation got to unhealthy levels and the air smelled like sulfur, we were forced to lie in the bed we made. People still died from their gifts, but now, there were more people who were given ignorance than actual powers.

I sat next to the last person as she breathed her final, wheezing breath. I held her hand as it loosened. Her name was Harriet. I had known her since she was eleven. Her body was invulnerable. Nothing could penetrate it. In the end, the poison in the air got to her. She gave up.

I can’t.

It's been seven hundred and thirteen days since I buried Harriet's body. Seven hundred and thirteen days since I have talked to anyone but myself.

I haven't spoken a word to the Gift-Giver for the last thousand years. They don't deserve it, I thought. Anyone who would make me live this torture doesn't deserve anything from me.

Now, they are my only company.

I clear my throat. The air sears when I take a breath. I have gotten used to pain.

"I didn't want this," I whisper. I can only really whisper now. There isn't enough oxygen to do more.

Maybe it's my imagination, or maybe I'm just going crazy, but for the first time in months, I hear something other than my rough voice or the wind outside my little hut.

For the first time ever, the Gift-Giver speaks to me.

"No one wants their gift," they say. Their voice is soft, gentle. It could just be the whistling wind outside. I don't really care.

"Why do you give them, then?" I push myself to my feet, slowly. I don't have much strength left anymore. I haven’t eaten in a while, since the animals died.

"Because the people need to see that good can come out of bad things. It is their lesson to learn, on this earth. How to make the best of what they are given."

"Is there something else, then? Something after?"

"Yes," the voice whispers, and I choke up. I will never get to see it.

"Gift-Giver," I say, after regaining my composure, "Do you have any gifts left to give?"

"I have but one," the voice sighs.

"Is there another here that you will give it to?" I almost burst with sudden hope. Is there a possibility that I am not actually alone?


I feel like I am going to cry. I don't want this. Not anymore. Not ever.

"Can you give this gift to me, then?"

"I can, but you must choose the gift."

I didn't expect that. My first thought, of course, is death. But, now that I know there is something after, I am terrified. What if it is worse than this?

"Can you make a person, please, and bring them here, since I am so lonely?"

The voice seems to chuckle. "I could, but they would die soon after they got here."

"Then make them like me," I ask, desperately, "Make them immortal."

"Ah, but that would be two gifts, and not one."

I think for another moment. "Can you turn back time to when there were more people?"

"Time is beyond me," the Gift-Giver whispers. "I could not change it if I tried."

There are no options left. I can stay here. I can wish for no pain, but I would still be lonely. I can wish for comfort, but no amount of food and fresh air could cure my ache for others.

In a meek, quiet voice, I ask, "Is it good or bad?"

I do not specify what I mean, but the gift-giver understands me. "I can not tell you. You will have to find out."

I take a deep breath. I have wanted this for so long, but now that I can have it, I am terribly afraid. The searing air entering my lungs is what pushes me over the edge. It will only get worse from here. And, really, could the afterlife be worse than this?

"Gift-Giver," I whisper, "I wish for death."

I feel a breeze, a soft one, and realize that the prophecy has come true. My gift has become my destruction. Destruction has become desirable.

The world fades to black, and for the first time in forever, the pain subsides. I sigh. Death feels like falling asleep, but deeper.

I hear, as I fall, a quiet voice, whistling like the wind in my ears. The Gift-Giver embraces me, falls with me into the unknown.

"Thy gift shall be thy destruction," the voice whispers. I smile as I am destroyed.

January 05, 2022 02:23

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