There are two kinds of men in this world. Those you fear, and those you admire. My father was both.
As I child, I would watch as he poured chemicals and dissected rats, forever scribbling notes in his red leather binder. I never understood his dedication until I was older.
We lived in what one might call an estate, a sprawling house in secluded woods that gave the impression of having escaped from another era. It must have been lovely once, but all I knew were the dilapidated shutters and the doors that refused to fit properly in their frames. The staircase was another matter entirely, a large winding thing that creaked with every movement and threatened to send you crashing to the floor faster than any man should.
A woman's touch would have corrected this, I often thought, but no woman had set foot in that house for some time. My mother was the last, a handsome woman whose portrait still hangs over the fireplace today.
I was about fourteen when it happened, the event that, though we lived miles from any civilized town, spread like wildfire in the mouths of curious townsfolk with nothing better to do. It was an ordinary day in most respects, though I had snuck down to my father's lab, which was strictly forbidden.
I often look back, wondering I could have stopped him. Everything seemed alright at first, and beyond the punishment I got for being down there, nothing was amiss. Not until three days later.
We were eating breakfast. Three eggs, one orange, and a slice of toast, as always. My father got a letter, bad news I suppose, and that is when I first took pause. My father was no longer my father.
The story truly began with my grandfather, a brilliant man I never had the misfortune to meet. My father was developing a cure for his condition, so that it would be impossible for anyone to suffer under the same malady again.
I remember running one night. I had to escape, there was no doubt in my mind—living together under the same roof was no longer possible.
I ran out the front door and down a cliff, finding myself standing beside the rushing body of water that was our creek. He was following me. Dusk was falling and I had nothing but the shirt on my back, spurred on by the faint glow of a lantern and a silhouette.
I crossed the water at its shallowest point and ran, following the bank upstream. I briefly considered climbing a tree, but he was too close and would have been seen me if I had. I needed to get farther ahead, to be hidden by a tangle of branches so thick I could never be found.
There was a log. Even as I think back on it today, I can feel the rush of the water as it carried me away, the splinters from where I slipped and fell. My leg was cut badly, a scar that will forever remind me of that night.
By some miracle I managed to grab a hold of a branch, but it would not hold for long and the there was no way I could reach the shore.
I saw him extend a hand toward me, his broad shoulders silhouetted in the moon and the lantern tossed carelessly to the side.
"Take my hand, Son," he said.
I shook my head, even as I felt the branch begin to break. "I would rather die."
I meant every word.
No sooner had the words left my mouth when I saw something break inside my father. For he was my father again, the same man who had raised me with love and care. He hauled me to shore by the collar, me coughing and sputtering and still fighting him.
He hugged me. I hadn't felt his arms around me in a long while, I was more used to fists. He buried his head on my shoulder and cried, an awful sound that made me almost forgive him.
"I am so sorry," he said, over and over again until I thought his voice would give out, and then still he said it.
My father had become the very thing his father had. Not the product of anger or a poor upbringing, as one might suspect from such actions, but the result of seeking what no man out to obtain: immortality. That was the key. A potion that could be drunk, turning a man into an untouchable figure, and that it what it did.
That was the last night I saw my father. He took me back to the house and wrapped me in a blanket, placing me in front of the fireplace for the night. He watched over me until morning, a presence in the shadows that remained until I was sleep and it was obvious I had not succumbed to the deadly grasp of hypothermia. When I woke, he was gone, and with him all belongings that carried personal value.
My father was a man to be feared and admired. But never both at the same time.
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