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The Old Man

I found him in a small wooden shack near the top of the Kanchenjunga Mountains. The old man sat on a pillow in the center of the one-room hut, a small table straddling his crossed legs. His face was buried in the pages of a book that seemed almost as ancient as him. He looked very old, but like most of the old folk in that region, it was impossible to tell whether he was 60 or 6000. He made no move to greet me, and I wasn't sure he even knew I was there.

Bookshelves lined the walls of the shack, each bursting with hand bound books. Two boys scurried around the shack organizing them.

I walked to the bookshelf and pulled out a book. The pages were old, the ink faded. The letters were strange. There seemed to be several lines of text on top of each other. I could make out some words, but with them tangled together, it was impossible to understand.

Closing the book, I crept closer to the old man. His voice carried up to my ear. For a second, I swore I heard him say my name. I leaned in closer. Again, it floated to the top from somewhere in the tangle of syllables.

One of the boys ushered me away. "You must not disturb him."

"I thought I heard my name."

"As long as you are alive, he will always be saying your name." He tried to guide me to the door, but I lingered.

"I don't understand," I said. "What is he reading?"

The boy dropped his hands. "He is reading everything that is, was, and will be."

I looked around at the shelves. "What happens when he runs out of books?"

Story by:

Michael Goldstein

22 February 2015