*Short story originally written for The Iron Writer Challenge in which no more than 525 words could be used to tell a story involving the following elements: the fountain of youth, the opening sentence must be a question, Bombay duck, and the idea of ‘Damocles sword’.
Thank you so much for reading! Please let me know what you think in the comments.
“If you found the fountain of youth, would you drink?”
The young man responded with a shrug and a chuckle. “Who knows?”
“Oh sure, it may seem like a silly, theoretical question, but think about it. Think about it now and decide, because you’ll need to know how you feel about this should you ever be placed in the situation. I tell you my friend, it is out there. And the moment for debating is now, not in that room.
“I spent most of my adolescence in the village I was born in; began working with my father at the fish markets hawking Mackerel, Ribbon Fish, and the occasional Bombay Duck. It was a fine life for people in those days. But I had loftier goals, grander plans for my future. I would plot and scheme ways to make extra money so I could leave the village and move to the city.
But my father would find out and put an end to my ‘senseless behavior’ saying things like, ‘the road to prosperity is simply son. Hard work and integrity. Be mindful of excess.’ His philosophy was that the simpler explanation is always true, and the simpler way of life is always better.
“Though I admired my father I didn’t always heed his advice – I eventually found my way to the city and into a much more lucrative industry. By the time I hit thirty I was surrounded with powerful, wealthy people and boundless opportunities were unfolding before me. Incredible opportunities, the kind most men only dream of.
“I eventually had a choice to make. At the time it was simple – drink from the fountain, remain young and vigorous for as long as you can, enjoy the party. My ‘friends’ were all very quick to partake. And thus, so was I.
“The first few decades passed in a blur of money, sex, drugs, and authority. I amassed fame and fortune while remaining handsome and energetic. It was simply glorious… until it wasn’t. Eventually the friends I once had, those who had not been privileged to the fountain, had moved on with their lives, growing old and passing away. I lived in constant fear that I would be found out and killed. A “Damocles Sword” was ever-present, always threatening.
“Eventually I got tired of it – the fear, the inevitable loneliness you feel after you’ve isolated yourself for safety. So I walked away. I packed a few of my favorite things and slipped away in the night. I traveled around for a while, stowing away on ships, hopping on trains. Went anywhere I could and found odd jobs to sustain myself. I spent a great deal of time wandering in search of a fulfilling life until one day, over a hundred years later, I realized what I wanted.”
“And what was that? What do you have now?” the young man asked.
I smiled and said, “A simpler life, in a small village, hawking Mackerel, Ribbon fish, and Bombay Duck.”