"So, tell me more of this prophet." said President Meilson, who was seated across from two agents in the Oval Office, both very serious looking with their jet-black hair and sharp black suits. "Well, sir," Agent X1, the older of the two, who was in his fifties, said, "we've really already told you all we know."
"Yes" finished Agent X2 who looked to be around thirty-five., "He is a very reclusive and mysterious man."
"Well, run it by me again then." President Meilson snapped, turning his chair away from the large window, his silver brown hair swishing as he spun.
"Yes, of course sir." Agent X1 replied, "His name is Joseph Sholl, a very tall man in his mid-twenties, with brown hair and grayish green eyes. All we know about his personal life is that he was born an only child to a family of archaeologists in Oklahoma. When he was three years old, his family moved to India. When he was seven, his parents died in an accident at an archaeological dig. He was raised by friends of the family in India ever-"
"Yes," interrupted President Meilson, "but what of his prophecies?"
Agent X1 looked at X2, and then said, "I was getting to that." He resumed, "The night before his parent's death, he apparently asked his parents not to leave," Agent X1 looked down at a piece of paper and read, "he said, 'Don't go, you'll die!' but his parents went anyway."
"Since then he's been slowly gathering followers by way of small prophecies." Agent X2 finished. "As you know, he predicted that the first men would colonize other planets in two years." President Meilson mumbled, "At least he's not predicting the apocalypse..." then asked, "Well, why is that of any real importance to us?"
Agent X1 answered, "Well sir, not much, but he never said what country would develop the means to-"
"So?" President Meilson said snappishly.
"Well, really, it doesn't matter to us," Agent X2 said, "but we wanted to advise having him watched, if he makes any predictions that we don't want getting out, well, we'll be in a better position to take action, so to speak."
"Aha, the true reason appears..." President Meilson mused, "You two are free to go, and go ahead with that surveillance idea." The two agents stood, took their leave, and walked out discussing ways to watch the prophet. When the two were gone, President Meilson sat alone in the Oval Office, brooding, for several minutes before his next appointment arrived.
"Please Joseph, there's no need for all that 'Mr. President', nonsense." said President Meilson, sitting on the White House backyard, very aware of the multitude of guards surrounding him.
"Very well Mr. Meilson," answered Joseph, "why did you never tell them that the 'friends of the family' were your uncle and aunt? You really should fire those guys; they are obviously horrible at surveillance and research."
President Meilson sighed, "You're right; those agents really are terrible at surveillance. But Bob and Mary aren't really my uncle and aunt, though my mom and Mary were as close as sisters. If they were my real aunt and uncle I certainly hope that they would have known! I don't really want them associating me with you yet anyway, that way, if you said anything they didn't like, I could vouch for you without it looking like a conspiracy."
Joseph slowly said, "You don't really seem like the type of person who would do that."
"You're completely right of course. But what kind of person have you become?" President Meilson asked. "Sure, I've known you since you started living with 'Uncle' Bill and 'Aunt' Mary, but still...?"
"I'm the type of person who doesn't want to abandon his race. I will not let humans suffer without need." Joseph said, emotion lacing his words.
"Good, that makes two at least..." President Meilson said sadly.
"Oh, I'm sure that a lot of people are that type. You and I can't be the only ones." Joseph replied immediately.
"I know. I'm just an old man that has seen too many people corrupted by power and greed. But at least you agree with me, and I'm not alone." President Meilson said cheerfully, if with a bit of strain in his voice and on his face.
Joseph nodded silently, thinking about when he lost his parents. He had felt so alone! No parents, no one to believe in him or his predictions, and no one to tell him that everything would be all right. That was before he had predicted the big storm when he was twelve, and now he knew many people, and millions believed him. But there was still no one to tell him that everything will be OK, and he was still lonely, perhaps even lonelier than when he had lost his parents.
Sure enough, two years later, faster-than-light travel was invented, and by the end of the year, more than one million people had left for other worlds. Once again, President Meilson sat across from two men in the Oval Office. Agent X2 had returned, but Agent X1 had been replaced by a younger man, maybe mid-twenties, Agent Z1. "Well, he was right. What does that mean for us?" President Meilson asked.
"Not much actually." answered Agent X2. Agent Z1 handed President Meilson a sheet of paper, which he looked over.
"'The colonies will succeed. Soon, only a third of Earth's population will be left.'? These are his predictions?" questioned President Meilson.
"As you can see, he isn't much of a threat, still-" Agent X2 was interrupted by President Meilson. "'I will be the oldest man on Earth'?" he read.
He looked at the two men before him, "Surely this is important?"
"Well not really sir," replied Agent X2, "but as I was-"
Once again he was interrupted, this time by Agent Z1, who finally spoke, "Our data says that the oldest people on the planet will not leave and, with advances in medicine, most will live to be quite old, so does that mean-" Agent X2, thoroughly tired of being interrupted and finally able to take it out on someone, forcefully shushed Agent Z1.
"No, of course not, now," continued Agent X2, "what should we do?"
The three men discussed various ideas, considering and dismissing them by the hundreds it seemed. Eventually, well after midnight, they decided to continue observing. As the two agents walked away, President Meilson, worry and tension clear on his face, turned toward the large window behind his desk and looked out on the stars.
Mr. Meilson stood at a launch pad, a giant rocket resting behind him. "Are you sure you want to stay, Joseph?" he asked. Joseph looked at his friend, much changed from their last meeting. Mr. Meilson was older, his silver-brown hair now almost completely gray, his eyes tired, worry lining his face.
"Yes, I'm sure." Joseph replied. He too had aged. His hair was still brown, with small streaks of white, and his eyes were also tired. "My place is here, in my home." he said sadly, "but where is yours?"
"My home?" Mr. Meilson sighed, and looked to the stars. "My place is out there, where I can rest." He started up the gangplank to the ship. At the door, however, he turned. "Goodbye Joseph," he said, raising his hand in farewell, "don't be like me, you are never alone." And with that, he entered the ship.
"Goodbye, old friend." Joseph sighed.
"Old I definitely am!" Mr. Meilson shouted. Joseph smiled, then turned and walked back to his home and followers.
Two hundred years later, Earth was all but abandoned; it's cities and buildings overgrown with moss and vines. All the buildings, but one, Joseph's home. Some called it a temple, but all who had lived within it knew it to be just a simple house, for a simple person and his helpers. As Joseph walked through the empty halls, having just buried the last of his followers, he felt a pang of regret. I will never see this place again... he thought. As he exited to his private garden, he looked to the night sky. "Why?" he whispered. A simple question, asked many times throughout the centuries. "Why would I tell prophecies to people who didn't believe me?" he asked quietly. Because it was the right thing to do, he thought. "Humanity needed me, at the turning point." he said, "Life is always hardest at the apex, not knowing what may come next, a fall back, or a rush forward." He was now at the edge of the garden, still looking at the sky. "How strange my perspective is, here, looking to the stars" he mused. But I can't die! Humanity needs me! He thought desperately. Then, an idea dawned on him, an idea that shifted his entire world. Maybe Mr. Meilson had been right, there were others, millions of others, probably, filling the endless universe. They didn't need him any more. Then, Joseph died, thinking of his parents, and looking to the infinite galaxies with hope.
Some say, that when the Prophet died, Earth died with him. But few people even remembered Earth at all, for Joseph had died as the final son of Earth, the last and oldest man on the planet.