The little girl was small and thin. Her skin was pale to the point of whiteness, while her hair hung primly in long black curls. It almost matched the colour of her eyes. She wore a short black dress that stood out against the whiteness of the falling snow in the wooded park.
Her knobbly pallid knees stuck out on the rusting jungle gym’s faded rainbow paint as her legs swung back and forth almost aimlessly. She held a string with a nearly shrivelled red balloon in one hand.
The falling snow coated the trees around her, but it did not touch her. Her doll-black eyes glittered.
“They say a lot of things about immortality,” she laughed quietly, “They always talk about it, they always seek it, and make stories about it. They even think about it for after they’re dead. And they call it so many things too: a family, a monument, a legacy of some kind, some fancy piece of art or writing, or really just being remembered. That’s what they think nowadays. But then you go further.”
Her knees knocked against each other slightly, “Further and farther back. Some thought it was like out-waking Sleep, or trapping Death in a cage like a little bird. A person or two thought they could do it by simply refusing to die. By just saying no,” she tugged at her deflating balloon absently, “Some thought it was a fruit that gods ate, or something that Adam and Eve missed out on in their Garden. Or maybe a snake-skin herb, a dead man’s chalice, or a naiad’s spring and all the fountains of youth you could imagine,” she smirked slyly, “and elixirs, and Philosopher Stones, and drinking human and Phoenix blood, and soul-binding to coins and relics …
“Really, there have been more symposiums about living forever than about love. And the best part is that they have all of these notions about what it is. Some call it an enlightened state, or ascension. Or living off the weak to preserve and increase the strength of the strong. Godhood and damnation too. I’ve heard it all.”
She looked down at her dangling feet for a long time.
“People always ask you, eventually, what immortality is. What is it like to live forever. And I thought about it for a long time. A really very long time. It’s not complicated at all. In fact,” she looked up and her doll’s eyes glittered, catching the whiteness that her body did not, “it is really very simple.”
She sighed only once.
“Real immortality is like being in class by yourself during the wintertime, while all of your friends are gone beyond the snow on the school trip you were afraid to go on. And it’s too late to join them, even if you wanted to.”
The little girl seemed to look out at the snowy wood.
“It is just like that,” she whispered, “only forever.”
Her arms and legs grew slack and still. Then the string in her hand slipped out from between her fingers. Quietly, and gradually, the withered red balloon floated up into the great white coldness of the sky.