I wrote the following story after some thoughts, and the thoughts pervaded, until I wrote them down.
It's a repeat, but I hope those that read it before enjoy it again.
As Tia walked into the large park, she was reminded of how much she loved late Spring. The foliage was full, lilies were in full bloom and the cool morning air was exhilarating. Taking a deep breath, she relished the moment and continued on with her task.
She was a little apprehensive, since she didn’t know who she was going to meet, but she knew the park was usually full of people and she’d probably be safe.
As she continued around a short bend in the sidewalk, she found she could observe the central area, with the benches and – hopefully – the man she was supposed to meet.
He was there; sitting by the large oak, which he described. At that distance, she could only start observing the man. Slowing her steps, she decided to take her time and cautiously approach.
As she walked, she thought of the short note she received from the man the day before. She wasn’t startled by receiving something written on paper, since many had now abandoned electronic communications. They, like her, liked their privacy and felt all the laws now in place didn’t do enough to prevent eavesdropping.
Tia was successful, but she still found her success surprising. Ten years before, she would have never envisioned her life at this moment.
Fresh out of college, with her journalism degree, she’d worked at a few news outlets; only to find the work mind numbing. Sensationalism was more important than full stories, which was typical for most news, but not what she wanted to do.
Blessed with an old printing shop, which was an inheritance from her grandfather, she started spending evenings, and weekends printing a small flyer, which she’d leave in public places for free.
Over a short period of time, she found the flyers were disappearing faster than she could put them out. At first, she thought they were just being thrown away, until a local shop owner asked to advertise. Surprised, she offered a few free ads, which led the shop owner to asking for rates and a larger space.
Soon, she had more people asking for ad space and found she couldn’t stay employed and keep publishing her flyer. Saying some prayers, and going all out, she decided to live on her meager savings, moved into the small apartment behind the old shop, and soon found she was the editor/publisher of a small newsletter that was struggling, but keeping her alive.
Some former coworkers teased her; only for awhile. She knew she was on to something, when a reporter from a large news station asked for the opportunity to post an article. They felt they were basically inconsequential at their job and wanted an opportunity to present something they found important; even if their media bosses thought it was not.
It wasn’t long after the article that her newsletter turned into a newspaper, which involved dealing with a bank, investing in new equipment and hiring people to help with distributing her paper. It was daunting at first, but she was a natural at her trade. In spite of her new responsibilities, she refused to succumb to just being “the boss” and was constantly involved with all aspects of her newspaper.
She was close to reaching the man on the bench. She could now see he was older, yet it was hard to determine his age. At first glance, he appeared ancient, but closer inspection made her think he was around 70; maybe younger.
Deliberately walking as far away from him she could, she slowed, preparing to stop, when he said: “You must be Tia” as he looked up.
Rising slowly, he reached to shake her hand. As she took his hand, he smiled and said: “I’m pleased to meet you.”
She realized his grip was firm, yet belayed a strength she didn’t usually find in older people. She carefully examined his face and realized she still couldn’t determine his age.
His hair was gray, yet his neatly trimmed beard was flecked with brown. He had many wrinkles, yet his skin had a youthful glow and lacked age spots. His hazel eyes were clear, had no redness and sparkled when he soon responded to her gaze: “Are you finding what you’re looking for?”
Embarrassed, she replied: “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude, but it’s one of those things I’ve always done. I try to gather as much information from someone as possible, and examining their face is one source that reveals more than people realize.”
He continued to smile and asked: “And, what did you gather?”
Without thinking, she responded: “Not enough.”
He laughed and motioned for her to sit.
He soon spoke: “I know you’re wondering why I asked you here, so I won’t waste your time with trivialities.”
“You can call me Ed Johnson. That’s not my real name, but it will do for now.”
Tia just sat and waited.
Ed turned, stared toward the horizon and his eyes glazed, as he started speaking; his smile now gone.
“I’ve observed many things during my lifetime. Some good, some bad and many that seemed inconsequential at the time. Mostly, my observations were of people and what they find motivating. That’s why I chose you.”
Tia responded: “Chose me for what?”
Smiling again, he explained: “First, I must give you this.” Reaching into his pocket, he retrieved a memory stick and handed it to Tia.
“You will have plenty of time to examine it over time; and it will take awhile.”
Tia looked at his face, which still revealed little, and took the memory stick. Before she could ask any question, he turned away again and started speaking: “You’ll find my real name there, and my journal, with photos. “
He continued: “Years ago, while studying, I met a group of doctors that can only be described as amazing. Not only were they geniuses, I’ve never found anyone as compassionate, and devoted as they were. They allowed me to become involved with their project, with the explicit demand I kept their work secret. I agreed and was soon amazed by their discovery.”
Ed paused, while continuing to stare across the park. Impatient, Tia soon asked: “What discovery?”
Ed waited a long time before answering: “A compound that slows aging.”
Tia, feeling a little used, responded with a low “Humph”, which caused a response from Ed.
“I knew you wouldn’t believe me, but there’s sufficient proof on that memory stick, with documentation that is infallible.”
“And I’m supposed to believe you’re not a prankster, or demented?”
With a quick laugh, Ed responded: “Of course not. I wouldn’t think much of you, if you took me at my word.”
Now confused, and a little angry, Tia began to wonder why she came.
Ed, realizing she was feeling like the victim of a practical joke, placed his hand on hers and said: “I need to explain a little more. After that, you can leave to go over the information I gave.”
Still angry, Tia waited for him to continue.
With a wry smile, Ed continued: “People don’t change very much. The basic wants and desires never change, but society does. What we call evil is rarely the wish of many; it’s usually the result of manipulation of only a few seeking power, without any qualms of the harm their efforts may cause. That’s why I chose you. Your rare talents and opportunities offer what I consider a brief chance of doing something that will change the world. Regardless of the outcome, I believe my choice is best.”
Tia, now interested, was quick to respond: “So, tell me what this has to do with me.”
Pausing, then sighing, Ed continued: “What I will soon say will make you think I’m insane. I can accept that, but I have the feeling time will prove otherwise.”
“I’m 150 years old.”
Quick to anger, and not amused, Tia rose to leave and said: “I knew it.”
Ed quickly grabbed her arm and said: “I knew your great grandfather. Please allow me a few more minutes”
Her anger now overwhelmed by her curiosity, Tia sat again, and waited for him to continue.
Over the next ten minutes, Ed described meeting Tia’s great grandfather, helping him establish the printing business that was eventually closed by her grandfather, and how they’d spent many days fishing on the pier that burned down when she was a child. He knew facts only the family knew, and he described the final days of her great grandmother with enough detail to make her know he was either very resourceful, or actually was present at her demise.
Turning to say something, she realized Ed had tears in his eyes.
“That was one of the saddest days in my life. I loved your great grandmother like family and her passing was terrible to watch. Cancer treatment was brutal and fruitless at that time. Your great grandfather was devastated and never really recovered from the event.”
They both sat quietly for a few minutes. Ed was first to speak: “I have this hope that the dismal future of our society will be changed by what I gave you. You have the opportunity to not only change how information is passed, you have the audience of those that can think, will respond readily and make the difference that will be required to enable a bright future for our species.”
Tia could only sit and wait for Ed to continue.
“Included in the information is the formula for the compound that slows aging. Those wonderful doctors that created the compound are now all gone, due to the idiosyncrasies of fate. The last doctor fell from a ladder last week, while pruning a tree in his yard. The rest all died accidentally, so my vow to secrecy can now be broken.”
Tia, wondering, asked: “So what is it you want me to do?”
Ed shook his head, and laughed: “I have no specific instructions. It’s all completely up to you. I have enough of the compound to last for a long, long time and will soon move to continue hiding my identity. Even if you wanted to expose me, you’ll never find me.”
Smiling, Tia could only respond with a quick: “Okay”
Ed rose, reached out his hand and shook Tia’s hand one last time: “It’s been a real pleasure and you’ll never know how much this means to me.”
Quickly, he left. Tia watched as he walked away, and soon disappeared around the bend in the sidewalk.
Tia continued sitting on the bench and stared across the park. Her mind was racing with numerous thoughts, but the one nagging thought she’d been the victim of a prank wouldn’t leave.
Whispering to herself, she said: “We’ll soon find out.”
Rising from the bench, she quickly started toward her shop. As she walked, she now wasn’t the least bit interested in the beautiful gardens and foliage of the park. She had to know and it would bother her until she did.