It was hard to focus on the taste of the apple pie over the reeking stench of viscera lining the floor, but Tremont was used to compartmentalizing.
The pie was close, so very close to the one in his memory. The balance of nutmeg and cinnamon was just right. The peak of the crust was lightly burnt to perfection. The pie was airy and sweet and flaky. It was so close! But the apples… the apples were wrong.
The apples were always wrong.
Tremont pushed himself away from the table a little too hard. His right arm caught fire, inflamed by the musket ball in his shoulder rubbing a few nerves together til they sparked. Tremont bit back a curse: he should be used to the pain after 243 years, but it always felt fresh. Every time he was careless his body brought him back to Concord, back to the wound that should have killed him.
The pain receded enough that Tremont could pull his focus back to his surroundings. Blood, torn skin, and severed limbs were splattered all over the living room. It had been a long time since Tremont had to do this sort of thing; he had forgotten his own strength. Their flesh had come apart in his hands like clumps of dough.
Cleaning up the bodies wouldn’t be a problem. He had disposals worked out to a science: take the hands and teeth, water the carpet with accelerants, and a timed electrical fire takes care of the rest.
The dead men were strangers to him. It didn’t matter who they were, really. He knew their type: men shrewd enough to notice there was an ageless man in their midst but not smart enough to mind their own business. Men who saw it as their duty to rid the earth of an “Abomination.”
One of the men had a wooden stake in his hand. When he had burst into Tremont’s living room with his companions, each wielding crosses and cloves of garlic, Tremont couldn’t help but laugh.
To be fair, he had given them a chance.
“Bloody Yanks… I’m not a vampire,” he said, holding a forkful of pie as they approached him. There was even a mirror in the room where Tremont’s reflection was clearly visible. Their mistake should have been obvious. But they had pressed on, and Tremont had no choice but to send a few more colonials into the silent black.
It was a relief that they hadn’t asked Tremont what he was before he killed them. That was a question he had long since given up hope of finding an answer to. He existed, and that was enough for him; the particulars didn’t seem important.
Soon their bodies would return to dust, commingling with the cinders of his home. He would set his home ablaze to conceal the identities of his attackers; he wasn’t worried about leaving incriminating evidence of his own existence behind.
His condition had frozen his body in time: it yielded no fingerprints, no skin cells, no stray hairs. He passed through the world without leaving any lasting impressions.
It’s a pity: it was a nice house. He could have lived there another forty years before the neighbors noticed that the slim, pale gardener who lived next door hadn’t aged a day in half a century.
Tremont was so tired of moving.
He would miss the apple trees the most. The ones in his backyard were so close to the apple trees he loved in Menotony. Green with bands of white color like a billiard ball. A sweet, crisp taste with a faint note of bitterness lingering after every bite. There are 2,500 apple varieties in the U.S. and Tremont had tasted them all. None of them tasted like the ones in his memory.
Harvesting the teeth and hands didn’t take long. Nor did it take long for Tremont to gather a lifetime of keepsakes in a valise: he always traveled light. Those who die have the luxury of being weighed down by memories and attachments; those who slip through the cracks of temporality can’t afford to be held down by nostaglia’s gravity.
Eternity is long enough as it is without indulging in navel gazing.
The one thing he held onto were those apples. The taste of that pie on a cool Sunday afternoon. A sweetness that still remained vivid in his recollections while the faces of lovers, enemies, and family had faded into nothing.
A thousand years could lie ahead of him. A long road paved in the ashes of burnt-down houses and forged birth certificates, with only a metal ball lodged in his flesh to keep him company.
It would be all worth it, all of it, every painful long second spent in the Reaper’s waiting room, if he could just taste those apples again.
Ashley Naftule is a writer & performer from Phoenix, AZ. He’s been published in Vice, The Outline, Phoenix New Times, Rinky Dink Press, The Hard Times, Ghost City Press, Under The Radar, The Occulum, Invisible Oranges, Four Chambers Press, Tucson Weekly, Runt Of The Web, Aquarium Drunkard, and The Dark City Mystery Magazine. He’s a playwright and the Associate Artistic Director at Space55 theatre. His favorite Marx brothers are Chico and Karl.