Friday, January 15, 2010

The Fountain of Youth

Early in the seventeenth century, there was a man named John from England who loved the high seas and adventure. So he packed his things, sold what he couldn't carry, and set off on an expedition to the Americas. Once there, he was disappointed with what he saw, having expected lands flowing with gold, exotic civilizations and excitement. Nonetheless, he had heard of Ponce de Leon's search for the fountain of youth, so he decided that he would find it. He set off with a large crew, and they explored the Caribbean Sea, searching each island they came upon for this fountain. Year after year they searched, until one by one, each of the crew members grew tired of it, and deserted them.

John was still enthusiastic about the search. He continued to search, growing older and older. Finally, on his sixtieth birthday, he set foot on an island and climbed to the top of a mountain. There issuing from a cave was a small stream. He walked into the cave and found the origin of the stream. Cupping his hands, he dipped them into the water and drank a long draught. Immediately, he felt a change in him, and he marveled as his hair turned from white to brown, his atrophied muscles grew in strength again and he felt an energy he hadn't had since he was in his twenties. He leaped up and danced for sheer joy at his discovery.

He lived on that island as its sole inhabitant for fifty years, drinking from the spring almost every day. He became a skilled hunter, learning to track the footprints of animals and setting traps. He grew close to the land, and could recognize any plant and how it was useful or dangerous to him. If any had come upon him, they might have thought him a native of the Americas. But eventually he tired of being alone, and having marked carefully on his maps where the island was, he built himself another boat and left, looking for new experiences in other places.

He rowed his boat north, and landed on the mainland of America. Then he journeyed by land until he came across an English settlement. There he arrayed himself in Western clothes and soon became respectable in the village as one who knew how to hunt, fight, and till crops. Eventually he was chosen as the leader of the village. Other settlements sprang up in the area and John traveled to each one. All the people were impressed with him, and they asked him to be the governor of the area. He agreed and soon he was head of the whole area. He began to tax the people, and with the taxes he built a great fortress. Then he formed an army, and none could withstand them.

But after forty years of being on mainland America, John grew tired of leading. He was also growing old, and his thoughts turned more often to the fountain of youth. One day he slipped away, and traveled back to the Caribbean Sea. There he built himself a boat and found the island and drank from the fountain of youth. Once again he was reinvigorated. He laughed aloud and decided that America hadn't been thoroughly explored. So he rowed back to the mainland, gathered up a troop of hardy men, and traveled throughout the land. He saw the Grand Canyon, and beyond that the giant Rocky Mountains. Then he journeyed farther west and saw the sun set over the ocean, then turned north and saw the tallest Redwoods. Then he turned again and went east, and saw geysers and hot springs. Eventually he came in a full circle and saw the sun rise over the Atlantic.

As he was gazing over the ocean, he remembered England and felt an urge to go back and see his home country. So he found a ship to take him back to England. Once he had spent some years there, he decided he should see the rest of the world as well. So he took up with a ship headed to India. He started as a cabin boy, but it soon became clear to the captain that he was intelligent and hard working, so after they landed the captain made him the first mate. After a few more trips, John was the captain of his own ship. Soon he had invested in his own ships, and made a fortune on trading. He settled down in England to spend his money. He was happy for a while with a life of ease, but soon he grew restless and bored of it. And he was growing old every day. Death marched closer and closer, and dread filled him as he thought of the unknown beyond death

One day he took a ship back to the Americas. When they were close to the island, he faked his death, then secretly stole the ship's boat, rowed to the island and drank from the spring. Again his youth was restored, and he smiled. He left the island and returned to North America again. Here he found that the colonies were getting restless, and it seemed that revolution was imminent. So he joined in the army and fought against the redcoats. At first it was exciting, and he was proud to be a soldier. Eventually, however, he grew tired of it, and longed for the war to be over.

Finally the war ended and he decided to live in New York City, which seemed to be growing quickly. There he saw the prettiest girl he had ever seen, and pursued her passionately. At first she was hesitant, but soon he had wooed her, and they had a romance that flamed for a while, but too soon it had died. John was sad, but then he saw another girl, and he went after her. That romance died all too quickly, and John looked for another girl, and another. There were soon so many girls in his life that he began to lose count. But eventually the girls no longer came to him, because he grew old and looked frail. So once again he thought about the fountain of youth, but the thought of living even longer tired him. There was something irresistible about eternity, though, and John finally traveled down to the island, drank from the spring, but frowned sternly at the thought of more life. He decided that he would no longer live promiscuously, but would serve God.

He decided not to return to New York, and instead found a ship to Europe. Once there, he journeyed to a monastery in Germany, and lived there for many years, but he felt that the monks there were too close minded. So he traveled to Africa, and joined a tribe, and learned how to be a medicine man. After ten years, he felt he understood the religion perfectly, but it was too dark and heavy for him, and he finally moved on to China. There he became a Buddhist monk, but he felt that it would take too long to achieve perfection. So went to India, and worshiped the pantheon of gods there until his beard was longer than most of the Sadhus. However, he always felt trapped by the gods. So he withdrew from all of the religions, and decided to act as if there was no god. But after a long time of this, he started to despair, and think that life was meaningless. At one point, he thought that it would be better to kill himself than to live on a pointless life, but once again, his thoughts returned to the fountain of youth hidden on the island. Almost against his own will, he journeyed back, and drank from the water. He cursed himself and spat into the spring.

John lay despairing next to the spring, unmoving for a year. Then he went to the United States. There he took to alcohol and drowned himself in it for the next fifteen years, hardly knowing what was going on around him, and sometimes begging on the streets for money. Finally, World War I began, and he enlisted himself. He heard that the most dangerous position was piloting, so he flew a plane, and became a flying ace. After the war ended, he performed dangerous stunts in air shows. Once he tired of that he became a stunt man in Hollywood, always doing the most dangerous stunts, for he had lost his will to live.

Again he began growing old. He made up his mind that he would not go back to the island and drink from the fountain of youth. but once again, he felt pulled to it, and at first he moved from Hollywood to the mid-west, and lived there for a few years, fighting the urge to visit the spring, but then he moved to New Orleans, and then he rented a boat and went to the island, hiked up to the spring, and drank its water. As soon as he drank it and he grew young again, he roared in frustration, and ran from the place. World War II was beginning, and once America entered the war, he joined the army and fought as a foot soldier. He was filled with a rage and was a terror to face. The war ended and he went back to America, but he could not live peacefully. He became an outcast and earned his money robbing banks and houses, and forcing people at gunpoint to give him money. He ran from city to city eluding the police. Eventually they caught him, and he went to prison. The entire time he was in prison, he could think of nothing but the fountain of youth.

As soon as he was released, he started journeying south, against his own will. As he was passing through a small town, he stopped at a diner. There was a woman sitting alone crying, and he sat down by her and asked what was wrong. She told him that her husband had just left her for another woman. At this, John took pity on her. He decided to stay in that town for a little while, and he found a house and a job. Every day he visited the woman, and soon he found that he enjoyed her company. A year went by and he fell in love with her. He asked her to marry him, and she did. John found that his desire to drink from the fountain of youth was being replaced by his desire to make his wife happy. After a long life, John and his wife grew old, and one day, she died. John mourned her, and could not leave the town where her grave lay. So he stayed there a few more years, and then he, too, died and was buried next to his wife.

1 comment:

  1. Very thought provoking. Not sure if I like the ending. You like to end quickly and make me think a little more than I like to (hehe). I'm not sure what I'd do if I could drink from the fountain of youth. But I will definitely think about it more now.