The Gift

The Gift

"Wait, I want to go back with you!" I stopped her just in time, before she was about to fade out.

"You? Go with me? But I thought you favored your way of life. Your tranquility." She said in a clear crisp voice.

"Sometimes, things change, whether we want it or not." I told her.

"I see, well, you're welcome to come, but are you sure you're willing to give up all that you have here? I mean, you know my reasons for going back, what are yours?" she asked.

I looked at her cerulean eyes. They were sparkling with emotion. This was her second time here, her second discovery, and her second time going back. I had previously talked to her, but now I had watched her from the first minute she arrived here, until now, when she was going back.

"I want to see what your world is like. I want to see if you really are the broken toys we think you are, and I want to see what it feels like to always be on the move." I said honestly.

She looked at me, with tears in her eyes. Slowly, she raised her hand, and with her long slender fingers, she touched my cheek. A tear slowly ran down hers. "I wish I could tell you what to expect, but I'm sure you want to discover for yourself. Come with me if you're very sure." She said softly.

"Don't cry, it's not worth it, you're going back home, that was your wish, all I want to do is be a companion on the voyage." I told her.

"I know, and you wouldn't believe how happy I am that I'm finally returning." She said.

I took her hand in mine, and together we became two shining points of light. Slowly we traversed the universe, heading for her home. I could see it. It was a spinning blue ball, with patches brown and green. I swallowed the lump in my throat. Just a few seconds there, past the barrier, and then I could go report to the people at home. The mystery would finally be solved. As two smaller points of light, we crossed the barrier from tranquility to the continuos race of the broken toys. I stayed, and looked, and saw that they were indeed as we had thought. Always running, never stopping for a breath. My companion was gone, having found a suitable body to be reborn in. I took one last look, at the busy anthill of the broken toys, and proceeded to leave. I flew high into the sky, and saw the red distinct mark of the barrier. I got closer, and felt the distinct warmth, keeping tranquility out. The welcoming cold breeze of tranquility. I flew even closer, and attempted to pass, when the fire of the barrier burned my conscience. I felt my knowledge melt into one single river. A river that pulsated angrily through me. I tried to pass through the barrier again, but I couldn't, and I ended up falling from the sky, in a park, on a small green bench. "I want to go home!" I ordered myself, trying to break through the barrier. However, I could not, and sat on the bench, pondering of what to do next, the hot river of my conscience beating loudly in my head.

~~~~

I watch them falling. Every single year it's the same, only different. They embrace the air, and dance with it, in that sacred waltz of beauty. Even when they touch the ground, they don't look ugly. They look still. Oh how still, yet beautiful! That beauty that's so foreign to me. I've been here for almost twenty years, yet I still can't get used to it. Sometimes, I just sit and watch them for hours. Floating in the sky, then touching the ground. It makes me feel closer to home. The dance reminds me of the way it used to be before I decided to come here, but I can never go back there. Ever. I got lost and now, I can't find my way back. So I just sit, and watch them. Leaves. It's quite amazing that they call them that. To me, they're more like lost souls. Lost souls dancing in the wind. Sharing their pain with the forever-soothing breeze. I watch them, and I feel my own pain disappearing, if only for a short time. Leaves, they can be so beautiful. Especially in autumn. I sit on the small park bench, the sun shining from behind me. The leaves look more beautiful in the sunset. The dance almost looks like a story. The story of their lives, the only thing the wind carries away. It's true. They're dead, having long fallen off the mother tree. Mother, another term I picked up here. I never knew one, for that's not the way we come to life, but over time, I wish I knew a mother's touch. The tree is like a mother to the leaves, and when they break off, the tree is bare. I can almost feel its pain. So exquisite, so pure. It angers me to see them step on the poor leaves. Merciless animals, stepping on sacred things. Can they not feel the pain of the mother tree? When winter comes, nature suffers, for her smallest children are dead. The trees mourn the ones that are gone, yet they can't hold time still, so next season, they breed more. Time, it's another one of their weird concepts. I guess any name's as good as any. Everything has to do with time. I could show those broken toys that time is nothing. We created time, for them to play with. Time is their "toy", yet they scorn at it. They curse time, and blame time for everything. I could show them that it's only them who's to blame. Time, time's just a tool, a devious trap we set up for them a long time ago. However, they don't know that. In their blindness, everything is simple. To them, there's never enough time. How wrong they are. The leaves have time enough to dance in the wind, to tell their story, yet they go through their time allowed not noticing that. They have much to learn, yet in their blind innocence, they know much. I wish I could be like that. I wish I could be blind. Maybe that way, I could forget of home. I sit on the small bench, darkness closing in. The leaves are settled now, the wind's caressing them softly. During my time here, I noticed that they rarely dance at night. That's one thing we have in common; the broken toys and me. They are all afraid of the dark, and so am I. However, I know why I am afraid. They do not, and maybe it's for the best. Some things are better left unknown. The dark can destroy us all, plunging the universe as we know it into complete chaos. Into complete stagnation. No thought, no sound, no breath, nothing. Stagnation. That's a word the broken toys don't know, for they are always on the move. Always trying to beat time. That's why time is the ultimate trap. The thing which they can't beat. The thing which we don't want them to beat. We crafted time, we gave it to them when they were too little to remember. Because of these broken toys, we still exist. The universe is grateful to them, for in their never-ending run, the darkness can never win. As long as something someplace is still moving, the darkness is powerless. The others look upon them and scorn. "Always running, always moving, they shall never understand the true essence. They never sit and ponder." That's what they used to say before I left. I can still hear their words now, echoing clearly in my head. Now that I've been here, and seen how things truly are, I feel that we were wrong to give them time. They could have been so much more, had we not selected them to be our sacrifices. That's what they were; the innocent lambs of the universe. They know not the task, which they perform. They shall never have the satisfaction of ever knowing what their true purpose is. That's why we crafted them another gift. Death. If only for a short time, they shall enjoy the beauty of boundless meditation. They shall enjoy the freedom of time, for in death, they shall not have it. That trap has vanquished there. They can sit, and ponder, and discover for themselves what life is all about. When they truly understand, we give them a choice: to either go back and never remember the discovery, or help us craft more of them, so the stock never runs out. It's odd, but they always choose to go back. To forget, and remember again. I've often wondered why they do that. The elders said that they are foolish, and that they are addicted to the trap of time. I believed that too, until I spoke with one of them. That encounter burns into my conscience even now. It's the reason I chose to come here. The reason I got trapped here. The reason I can't ever go home again.

"Why do you go back?" I asked the broken toy.

"Because there's no point in making other innocents suffer our curse. It is the cross that we must bear for eternity. I'm used to time, I've lived with time for as long as I can remember, I, we, don't see it as a trap. It's the way we've been born, and there's nothing we can do." It told me.

"But don't you ever wish you could sit here and ponder forever?" I asked in my innocence.

"It is appealing, but while I do that, there's another human crafted, and put back in the trap to replace me. Why sacrifice someone else's chance to live like this forever, when I've already been through it, and I must say, it's not bad at all." It told me smiling.

I looked at it confused. The broken toy had touched in me, something I didn't know I had. It gave me an impulse to find out for myself if that's exactly how it is. If that's how they would truly feel. So I came back with it, only I chose to be an observer. Now I can't go back, and I've been sitting here on this bench for 20 years, unseen to their eyes, pondering if I should do it. If I should truly see how it is. I look up into the sky, and see the brightly shining moon. Its silver light is gently bathing every dead leaf in its silent perfume. For the first time I look at the leaves, and wonder what it was like for them to die. To know their time had come, and give their stories to the wind to bury them in the corners of the world. Is that how it is for the broken toys? Are they more like my precious leaves than I have ever thought? There's only one way to answer that. For the first time in 20 years I dare come close to a decision. If there's one thing I should have, is faith, faith that maybe if it's not what I expect I shall die soon, and thus return to where I truly belong. I see it now, the only way out of my dead end trap. But do I dare forget all that I know? All that I saw? Do I dare let go of the tranquillity, to step in a crazy never ending race? For the first time in my life, I am sure of what I want. "Soon, I shall be home." I whisper, and then I fall asleep.

~~~~

The old man slowly walked in the night. "Just a few more steps, and I'll be there." He whispered. Indeed, he looked about 80 years old, with his grayish beard, and crane. With his worn out checkered suit and his black hat, he looked as though he had lived a healthy and prosperous life. However, anyone could see that there was something missing in the way he looked at the world. Almost like he was from a different place, with different values. Wherever he went in his life, he had been regarded as a person of exquisite emotion. No one had ever wanted to hurt his sensitive feelings and connections to reality. The man sat down on the small bench, the eerie light of the moon making him seem unearthly. "I'm back, watching the leaves dance again." the man thought. For as long as he could remember, he had held a special place for the dancing of the leaves in the fall. Almost like something beyond his conscience was enjoying that dance of peace. He sighed, thinking of his 80 years of prosperous life. They all passed in front of eyes, through quick flashes. Love, pain, compassion, care, sadness. Everything, everything just flashed by. "But now I'm back, and I'm watching the leaves dance. Hmm, they must be doing me a special favor, since they rarely dance at night." He thought, and closed his eyes, letting time finally take it's toll.

"Welcome back Joel, I hope you found your trip to the world of the broken toys interesting." A voice echoed behind him.

"That's right, I remember now, I lived there, there on Earth." I said. My memory was slowly coming back. Everything was there.

"So, have you found the broken toys and their little game interesting enough?" he asked me.

"They're not broken toys, we're humans, and we're more than you'll ever be." I retorted.

"Ha, you're a fool. You've just been trapped in the weave of time for too long. The effects of the addiction should be gone in a while, I shall be back later." He said and turned to leave.

"You're wrong, time isn't a trap. Time is the greatest gift you could have given us. It is wrong to keep it away from the rest of the universe." I told him.

"What are you talking about? Time means the death of all we have here. We could never have peace and tranquillity, if the whole universe had time." He told me.

"We could have more! So much more. If you gave the universe what you gave us, the darkness will never win." I told him. "You're selfish to keep this wonderful thing away from the others. They must share the joy. The joy of emotion." I told him.

"You're disturbed, I shall give you time to rest."

"No, I can see it clearly now. We can have both, and thus we shall not suffer any more, for it is us who suffer, not them. That is why they always go back!" I told him.

He just looked and laughed at me. It was obvious that he didn't believe me, but soon, he will. As soon as I gave them time, they shall all believe. In a flash, I broke the barrier separating the human world, from the rest of the universe. Time began to flow out, like a vapor. I inhaled that vapor deeply, with a hunger I've never before felt. I felt it settle deep inside me, and I felt myself go into another deep and refreshing slumber.

"No, you unknowing fool! You have doomed us all!" I heard him yell, but the sleepiness overcame me. He was the fool, but soon, they would all understand. I finally fell asleep, dreaming of my true home. In no time, I was back, watching my beautiful dancing leaves.

~~~~

"I found him that way officer." The little girl said.

"I understand, I shall see to it that he has a proper funeral." The policeman told her.

"I would like to attend if it's possible." She said in her small voice.

"Why, that's no place for a little girl like you." He told her.

"Please. I'm sure that he had a family that loved him, and if you can't find it, I would like to be there for him. After all, he was just an old man, that died freezing here on this November day." She said.

"Well, now you can't be sure it was the cold that did this." The police man said.

"You're right, but nevertheless, he died out here, and I would like to be there when he is put to rest. I'm sure he was a kind old man, and he would like someone to see him to his eternal rest." She said, hot tears flowing down her cheeks.

~~~~

I watched her from my dream world, and felt compelled to cry myself. Not because I died, since I knew I would go back, but because of the compassion I heard in her voice. She cared about an old man that died on a bench in a park. She didn't even know me, yet she wanted to see my body to its resting place. She wanted to be there, just because she had found me. Me, an old man, lying on a bench in the park. A tear rolled down my cheek, as I realized, that the greatest gift I gave the universe was not time, but compassion, and love for one another. A love for a stranger, characteristic only of a human being. Yes, a human being, they were never the broken toys. We, were, but hopefully, I'd have changed that.

The End