I know pain. I know it better than any other sensation and I've known it the longest. I remember a little bit of mum, but that's nothing more than an occasional flash of bright red hair and even that's often accompanied by a sharper flash of sunlight upon metal. My first actual solid memory is of hiding in thorns, pulling arrows from my flesh.
That's how I've lived my life: causing or recovering from injuries. I've been in war after war, battle after battle. I don't die. Decades turned into centuries turned into well over a millennium and I've kept living. Even after being decapitated or disemboweled I just wake up with a pounding headache or stomach cramps a few hours later.
Eventually, pain lost all meaning. I no longer flinch away from it. I can still feel it, oh yes I feel it. But it didn't hurt. It's simply a sensation, like the wind blowing through my hair or grass tickling my feet, but more constant than either of them. It's become familiar, almost friendly. It's a symbol of life now: as long as I can feel pain I know I'll be okay.
It became harder to come by after the Industrial Revolution. I would rarely be sent to the front lines, and even if I was with the technological superiority of the British Empire I was rarely seriously injured. By the nineteenth century I was getting desperate. I eventually found a way to fulfill my needs, although I wasn't so sure that I liked being blindfolded and led into the homes of nobles even more depraved than myself. Occasionally they'd violate me as well, but it was a small price to pay, especially since they'd whip me to unconsciousness first so that the only way I knew it had happened would be severe soreness the next day. Just a little extra treat while I forced myself to walk around with perfect posture.
After the World Wars I didn't know what to do with myself. I'd always been a soldier, but any wars had serious consequences now, and if everyone wasn't very careful the Americans and Russians would kill us all. None of you have any idea how clean the world is now, how sterile it's become. People like me who grew up caked in filth and gore don't fit in it these days. It's like being on a completely alien planet.
Since I had nothing better to do, I just sort of drifted around: stowing away on airplanes or boats and seeing the world, hoping to find somewhere I could still belong. I was in New York when I first met Emily. I'd been wandering through a poorer part of town, thriving off of the filth and dilapidation and wondering if I'd found a home, when I saw a group of men surrounding a thin blonde. I stopped to watch with the interest of a boy seeing ants swarm about a dying worm. It was nature's way, the stronger or more numerous animals prey upon the weak and foolish. There was no point in helping. Everyone died eventually, and you can't get attached enough to care about adding a few extra decades onto someone's lifespan if you don't want to go utterly mad.
This one seemed odd, though. She had an air of boredom around her as though she existed in a completely different reality from the men. One of them pulled out a gun.
"Alright, lady," He said, "Don't pretend you don't got money. Give us the purse and maybe we'll let you go."
"I don't think I will, thanks," She said, her southern drawl low and smooth like the sunset reflecting off of a field of wheat
"That wasn't a request."
"I know. I just don't care."
The men let out harsh laughs, "Oh, this one has spunk. Maybe we should take her home, make her a little pet."
"I'd like to see you try."
He laughed again and reached out for her. She grabbed his arm, pulled it out, and then slammed down with her elbow. There was a crack and the man screamed, dropping the gun in his other hand.
The others pounced, but she danced around them like she was the wind. There were more noises of injury, all accompanied by a man's shout. I leaned against the wall, trying to pretend that I didn't care. If this girl survived she might be interesting enough to keep tabs on, but I still couldn't get attached.
But then a gun went off and the fun was over. Red blossomed all over the front of the girl's white tee-shirt. She had shock written all over her face and stared down at herself in disbelief.
With a sigh, I turned and started to walk away. I'd been a good show, but nothing more. I was still friendless and alone and I might as well keep moving.
"Come on now, Really?" The girl asked, "You know, there was a time that men at least had the decency to shoot an unarmed lady in the head. Right between the boobs is just perverted. Besides, I liked this shirt."
I stopped walking and the men bolted past me, screaming. Looking back, I saw her pulling her shirt out and scowling.
"Goddammit," she said, voice sour, "Well, it was worth it to put on a show for a gentleman like yourself. Don't even step in to save a lady."
I just stared blankly at her.
"What's the matter, never seen someone immune to death before?"
"No," I said, "I'm staring because I have."
And that was the beginning of our current partnership. The girl, Emily as I later learned, turned out to be much younger than me, only about three-hundred. She still has all of her youthful foolishness and still sees every day as new and beautiful. I moved into her flat but I'm no freeloader: both of us need a stabilizing force in a world that's trying to break our souls since it can't have our bodies.
For once, I felt a part of something. I have a job at a grocery store and somewhere to call home. It's all quite domestic and almost normal. Over the years what had started as a not-so-simple friendship had slowly morphed into more, to the point where we're now so close and so codependent that we decided that we might as well fuck to have an excuse for how attached we are.
But something still just didn't feel right. I lived his life as though in a cloud, not really able to feel. I felt no contrast when every day was filled with that bland softness. That was how the question came up that night.
"You want me to hurt you?" Emily asked, staring at me through the steam rising from her hot chocolate.
I just blushed and looked away. In a tiny voice I replied, "Please."
Emily brushed the side of my face with the back of her hand, "Why? You're perfectly fine; you don't need to be punished for anything."
"It's not punishment," I said, "It's just something that I need."
Emily didn't get it. I could tell from the expression on her face, like she was trying to look deep into my history so that maybe she could understand. She was judging me and I couldn't bear to look at her anymore.
"I'm scared," She finally said.
I turned back in surprise, "Of what?"
"That I'll get carried away and really do some damage."
I smiled, "For well over two thousand years people have been trying to do exactly that. No one has."
"But I just… I donno." She sighed and set her cup down, "But you've seen how I get when I-" She bit her lip and looked away.
"It'll be fine," I said, "We just have to stay in control."
"That's what I'm worried about."
"We can talk however much you need to. I'd tell you if it was too much."
"But what if I don't stop? What if I can't?"
"Emily," I grabbed her chin, "You've always been such a sweet girl and I know you care about me. I trust that you wouldn't actually hurt me. Besides, if anything does go wrong I'll be able to stop you. I'm not weak."
"I don't want you to have to even worry about that."
"I don't want to either," I said, "But I need this. Please try to understand."
We just looked at each other, waiting for the other to give up. Eventually Emily closed her eyes and nodded.
"We can try it. I'll need a few days to prepare myself, but I'll let you know when I can do it."
I smiled, "Thank you, darling."
"Hey," Emily said, "I'll try anything once for you."
Four days later, we were in the bedroom with no light save for candles. I was bare but she was still fully clothed. There was no need to sully this with sex.
"Alright," Emily said, running her fingers along the edge of the riding crop, "Are you absolutely sure? This is your last out."
"Yes," I said, "Oh yes, please."
"Okay," God, she sounded so nervous, "Brace yourself against the wall."
I nodded and got into position.
"Here we go," Emily's voice was starting to waver. For a moment, I felt bad for pressuring her into this.
Her first strike was as unsure as she was; it barely hurt. I still gasped, hoping to spur her on. The next one was a little harder, not enough to break the skin, but enough to sting.
"That it?" I snapped, trying to get her riled up.
I was rewarded with a harder hit.
I shivered, "Come on, woman! Use that strength of yours!"
This time, she drew blood.
"Oh yes, like that! Just like that!"
Emily laughed and struck me again and again.
"What's so funny, brat?" I asked.
"Nothin'. This is just more fun than I thought it'd be. I feel like such a fucking sadist, though."
"Nothing wrong with that, love," I said, "As long as you get my shoulders next. They need attention too. Oh, that's the ticket." I sighed and put more of my weight on the wall, "You're doing wonderfully."
"Thanks," But then she stopped, "I think I've done enough here. You're a mess."
"Am I?" I looked back over my shoulder, but I couldn't really see anything.
"Don't worry, though; your blood's as pretty as the rest of you." She ran her fingers across my back, the salt from her nervous sweat getting into the cuts and stinging.
I stepped away from the wall and wrapped my arms around her, "Thank you so much. You don't know how much I needed that."
"It's not a problem," Emily kissed my ear, "In fact, the next time you wanna do that you can just ask."
"You liked it," I said, pulling away but smiling.
Emily blushed, "O-of course not. But as a lady it's my job to take care of my man."
"But enough of that," Emily said, coughing, "You're bleeding and we ought to clean your wounds."
"Could we use peroxide?"
"Obviously. I mean, it kills germs better. I don't want you getting a horrible infection."
I walked off to the bathroom and Emily followed. I could feel her eyes on my back, although I couldn't tell what kind of look it was. It didn't matter. Emily can make whatever excuses she wants to. She can call it whatever she wants to. I don't care one way or the other as long as I get what I need.