A sudden burst of light. A flashback. There sat a man, alive and empty. He felt as though he had lived a lifetime, but not a wrinkle or creaking bone did he own. In the confines of his mind, he strained to concentrate on the faded images, some distant, some moments ago. With the strength he had left, he found himself once again, a young boy, with his parents standing before him.
“You are a gift to us.” They said, with smiling faces as they each exchanged hugs. It was his 5th birthday, but few were present.
“Now, it’s our turn to give you something.” He couldn’t help but notice they had empty hands, confused, as they both knelt down.
“Is it a puppy?” he asked. With a chuckle his parents looked at each other and smiled.
“No my boy, something much more precious than that.” His father said gently as his mother reached forwards, and placing her hand on the middle of his chest with glassy eyes, she began to speak while trembling.
“Son, your father and I have brought you into this world, and much as we would like to spare you pain and suffering in this world, we know that’s impossible.” She paused, exhaled, and continued. “We know all too well the mantles and slopes this life can bring your way.” Gesturing their tattered home.
Windows missing, door leaning against the hinges, the light bulbs sockets empty. “Despite how challenging things may be, never, lose sight of this gift beating within you. No matter what anyone says about you or how they try to drag you down; and they will. They do not decide who you will be in this life. Things they say, and do, will hurt this gift of yours. And I know your father and I have
hurt you as well.” She couldn’t control herself, and as she dropped her head sobbing, his father comforted her and continued.
“What your mother is trying to tell you son, is that we love you, so very much. And even though we don’t have much to offer you, we’ve done the best we could. What we lack in possessions, it is our hope that we have prepared your gift for you, and you must know, son; that your gift is the most precious thing in this world. Find things that will make it glad and fight for them, because there are more things in this world that will seek to break it. Hold on to those things, and your mother and I will be with you always.” Flabbergasted, the boy wondered why his parents were saying these things, and why they were so sad.
“It’s time.” A voice came from behind them. In an instant, the boy realized someone picked him up, and was making their way for the door. He could hear his mother scream, it was followed by two strange noises. Why was this happening? He never saw them again.
In the 20 years since then, he met all sorts of people, broken and built, on his journey to live what his parents had told him that day. He never found out what happened to them, or if they were even still alive, but nothing could have prepared him for the journey ahead.
The man shook his head, laid down, and strained to reach at another distant blip in time he had once forgotten.
It was 5 years since that fateful day, and he met someone new and attractive. He was giving away a cure for sadness, despair and loss. Having been on his own for so many years, the boy learned one thing; if someone’s giving something for free, take it. Without thinking, he rushed to the front of the crowd.
“I’ll take some!” the boy shouted. The gentleman place in his hand a small, but heavy coin.
“This will solve all your problems!” Said the mysterious man with a wink. The boy was captivated.
“What do I do with it?” said the boy, as he looked at it in the sunlight; patternless, and shiny yet somewhat dull.
“If there’s something you want, think about it and turn thecoin thrice in hand; then your desires will be before you!”
Interesting, the boy thought, as he turned and walked away. Later that day, they boy passed a fruit stand, with the most delicious looking fruit he’d ever seen. Remembering he had no money, he reached in his pocket and pulled out the coin. Being sure to follow what the man said, he thought about the fruit, turned the coin, and just like that the fruit was in his hand. Amazed, the boy ate the fruit nearly as quickly as it had appeared. Having done this, he realized something; he felt different than before.
Must be all that fruit , he thought as he carried on.
Over the years he used the coin more readily, anything he could imagine. At first it was simple things he needed to survive, but as he grew older he realized he could desire other things. People. Power. Pleasure. With each turn of the coin his footsteps became heavier, and his world became more monotone. The boy grew up, and he became one of the most well-known men in the world; yet no one knew his secret. While his reputation could not fall, his gift was continuing to fill, heavier and heavier.
With his desires belonging to him, he lay in bed, teary eyed, and tried to focus on the words his parents had spoken all those years ago. He placed his hand where his mother did, and realized, there was nothing. He’d forgotten his gift. He’d forgotten the warmth of their faces, and their words. He’d replaced them.
Staring at the ceiling, he removed the coin from his pocket, repeated his familiar motions, and breathed his last.