I thought that the man had gone to sleep as he sat in the far corner but, after a while, he began speaking again in his soft, tired voice, which now had a far-away quality about it as well.
“It’s a strange gift, immortality,” he began. “When it first came to me I was overjoyed. So much time was mine. I had time to do anything and everything I wished. At first I rushed about, doing all the hurried, urgent things that one does when confronted with unlimited choice. I had unlimited time as well, but I could not grasp the idea and control myself.
“It took me perhaps ten years to really grasp and accept the fact that I was immortal; that I had no need to hurry anything.
“It gradually dawned on me when I saw my reflection in the looking-glass, day after day. My features did not change.
“For a decade my face had stayed the same. A little tanned from travelling in sunny climes perhaps, but still the same me. It was then that I slowed down. I could watch change take place. For a while inventions fascinated me. I watched them introduced, often with a great to-do, come into common usage, and then be overtaken by the next fad.
“I watched people. Great men appeared. Their careers and fame grew, blossomed into full glory and, in time, died. Sometimes their fame lived on, but more often it died with them. Countries appeared and developed from previously unknown corners of the world. Some took their place in world affairs; others sank back into the oblivion that had been theirs.
“I watched this ever-changing pageant with an absorbed interest, sure in the knowledge that I would outlast it all – and I have. But now my interest wanes. I grow tired. Old age is not just a physical thing; it is a mental thing as well.”
He lapsed into silence. Despite myself I was intrigued by his story. Whether the story was true or not was something I could not tell, but he certainly believed it. As he sat there in silence my curiosity got the better of me.
“How did you come by this immortality?” I asked.
He looked at me, almost as if he hadn’t seen me before. He studied me with eyes now shrewd and all-knowing. For perhaps a minute he studied me, looking critically into my eyes and at my face.
“The face tells the true story of its wearer,” he murmured quietly to himself.