His eyes were fixed. In his hand was a small medal, an old token from long ago. The crackling of firewood, the flickering light behind him created a much bigger shadow on the wall.
“I can’t believe the time has come. I feel that an entire life has passed, two even, but now is not the time to be afraid, you have been preparing for this moment for the past 94 years.”
“What now, Rishi, it’s finally over, what are your plans?”, a gentle female voice asked.
“My mother wants me to become a scholar and my father wants me to become a miner but my grandfather always says I should be a lot of things, that way I’ll never be bored.”
Rishi was the youngest member of the Maldoran family, a simple boy, on the verge of his 20th birthday. Torn between knowledge and adventure, he was the one to get into trouble for sneaking into the old abandoned library just to read, the forbidden books section, that is.
“I asked what were your plans, not your family’s.”, she insisted.
“I figured that whatever I chose, they would overrule me so why bother?”
“Well, my uncle got me an apprentice role alongside an Ustur fashion designer. The work they have been doing with emotion-sensitive colors pigments will be a gamechanger for sure!”
“At least you will be working on something exciting, I doubt I will ever be doing exciting things, my parents always go for the safe side and I see no reason for that to change.”
“Rishi? Do you mind accompanying me?” an old voice asked.
“Sure. Where are we going?”
“To my old study room. I know you were never allowed in there but you had never been 20 years old before so, that is about to change. Consider it a birthday gift if you will”
“But grandfather, are you sure? I’ve gotten my fair share of yelling by trying to sneak into that study over the years.”
“Stand here, the first impressions are always important.”
Akira Maldoran, the oldest living member of the Maldoran family, gently pushed the heavy door and the flickering light started escaping the room. With the wave of his wand, he invited his grandson inside and Rishi went in. His head didn’t know how to prioritize the attention-seeking details, from books to carpets, and even the ceiling was covered in paintings.
“Do you recognize this?” Akira asked.
“I do, It’s an Ustur armchair. But it looks so old, even more than the one I saw at the museum last month. It’s an antique, 28th century, right?”
“Late 27th but yes, I thought you might recognize it since you had that last field trip before graduating. What you may not know is that the Ustur got the idea from the MUD antiques of the 23rd and 24th century and as far as I know, they themselves probably copied it from even earlier. But I digress, please, sit.”
Rishi sat on the tip of the armchair, afraid to damage a priceless relic, while his grandfather sat comfortably on another one closer to the fire.
“It’s not really fire, you know?”, Akira asked
“What is it then?”, Rishi said, thinking that a screen was just too obvious of a reply, so probably a trick question.
“I don’t understand.”
“I know, it took me a very long time to understand it too. But you do know what a fireplace is, right? They still teach that, don’t they?”
“We learn about fire pits used by early civilizations for warmth and cooking food.”
“And you’re telling me that you don’t understand why a full belly and a warm body is comfort?”, Akira started laughing, “I’m joking. The truth is, I’ve had this fireplace for the past 94 years, I inherited it from my grandfather and It has always meant home for me, I’ve traveled so so far, and I’ve seen so so much, and yet, when I see that flickering light, the sound it makes and the warmth I feel; It’s all fake, I know, screens, speakers, climate control but I can never shake the feeling of being at the center of my private Universe, embraced by it, cherished; This place, everything you see in this room, now belongs to you.”
“What do you mean?” Rishi asked. After so many years of secrecy and prohibition, not only was he able to enter the study but now everything inside it was his, there had to be more to it.
“I can see it in your eyes. You think these are the ramblings of an old man that will change his mind tomorrow. Rest assured, I may be 114 but I’m still quite sharp. Let me explain, does the name Salomo Maldoran ring a bell?”
“I’m sorry but no, can’t say that it does.”
“That’s ok, if you ask your mother, she will not know him either. He was my grandfather. He stood with me in this very room on my 20th birthday, like we are now, and changed my life forever. And I’m not sorry to say that your universe will look very different tomorrow when you wake up.”
“If my mother’s teachings of physics taught me anything is that I’m quite sure the universe will stay the same. I’m so insignificant in the grand scheme of things that nothing I do really matters that much. Or so she keeps reminding me.”
Akira stood up, walked to Rishi’s chair, and pulled him up by his hands. Still holding them he looked deep into his eyes and said, “She doesn’t understand, how could she? But tell me, have I ever told you anything that wasn’t true before?”
“No, but…”, Akira interrupted him, “no buts, please, trust this old man one more time. Unfortunately, it is very late but tomorrow my boy, we will take you on the biggest adventure you never even dreamed you could go; Go celebrate your birthday with your parents but tomorrow, when you wake up, you have a choice, you can either go fill the academy application forms and spend the next 50 years hoping to change the pesticide resistance rate of some very important bug or come here and I’ll show you how significant the name Maldoran has been.”
Rishi nodded and left quietly. Akira sat again on the armchair closest to the fireplace.
“He has no idea.”, Akira said, looking again at the old medal with the initials MM.
It was already too late for Rishi, his adventurous spirit was on fire, he wanted to know more, even before knowing what that more even was. The old man was right, a restless spirit had been awakened, his life would never be the same. His mind and his heart racing at the prospect of there being more to life than the life his parents always planned for him. Laying in bed, awake, the next morning was taking too long to come.