The Oldest Man
Word Count: 1014 words
Writing: 1 hour
Editing: 18 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 18 minutes
“When you look at me, what do you see?” It was a loaded question.
“What do you mean?” I asked. He chuckled lowly.
“I mean what are you looking at right now, who are you looking at right now?” He continued staring out the window as the words rolled off his lips with a nonchalant force that made me afraid to answer. His body was older than any I’d ever seen before, no one let their bodies wrinkle anymore let alone shrivel as this man done.
“I see a wise old man.”
“Ahh, a wise old man,” he paused and seemed to focus harder on something beyond the glass of the window. “An old fool more like it. Simple. Stupid. Moronic. Old. Fool!” His face was scowling at the glass of the window and I was certain it was his own reflection he stared at. Angrily staring at the old and tired body for the…what had he said? Seventy-fifth time? Seventy-eighth? It was written down somewhere.
“What makes you a fool? Some would say you’re the complete opposite of foolish, people have even said you’re the smartest man in the universe. So how does the smartest man in the universe consider himself a fool?” Silence. It dwelled deeply in the room, leaving for only minutes at a time.
“To not realize our foolishness is what has made this world the walking disaster it now is. Perhaps it’s why they say I’m the ‘smartest’ or ‘wisest,’ because everyone else has yet to realize we’re nothing but a population of blubbering fools.” The last words were spat toward the window and the angry energy could be felt through the heavy absence of noise. I waited, hoping he would continue without prompt. No luck.
“But without you, none of this would even be possible. Are you saying you regret creating Phoenix?” Another chuckle.
“Regret is one word though it in no way has enough complexity to describe the feeling I have for Phoenix. It goes much, much deeper than regret.” He inhaled deeply, “let me tell you a story for this interview of yours. Something I would very much appreciate you telling the people who read your news brief.” He paused and cleared his throat, his eyes never left the window.
“Once upon a time, hundreds and hundreds of years ago, before Phoenix ended birth by prolonging life. There was a regular little boy. He played with toys, read books, did puzzles, your everyday average little boy. Well, this little boy was walking down the sidewalk one day with his friend, they were simply enjoying the outside air. A noise like an explosion echoed from somewhere behind them and all of a sudden another, and another. The little boy’s friend jumped into the bushes and curled up near a fence while the other just stood on the sidewalk staring. The world spun for the average little boy, something was happening but he couldn’t tell what. A look of utter confusion covered his face and he fell to the ground. Blood covered the sidewalk as the boy’s friend held him in his arms and watched the light fade from his eyes.” The old man took another deep breath and let the silence reset the tone of the conversation. I said nothing, simply taking notes and listening.
“The boy who watched his friend die in the story was me. A random attack on the house of someone on the corner caused a stray bullet to hit my friend dead in the middle of his chest. No rhyme or reason to it, we were simply out taking a walk.” He stopped talking and wiped a small wet spot from under his eye. Again I waited for him to continue without prompt, and again, I had no luck. I never really felt like he was talking to me. It was as if I was a ghost in a room full of memories an old man traveled for himself. A simple passenger on his coattails of nostalgia.
“Why is this story so important to you for people to know? It’s a tragedy, and I’m sorry for your loss, even all these years later.”
“Pahh,” he spat, “keep your sympathy reporter. I’m in no need of pity, I have enough of it on my own. To answer your question, that was when a young, traumatized, grief-stricken boy decided that one day, he would build something, or make something, to keep people alive forever. It was the birth of project Phoenix. Created by a stupid, sad child.”
“So you were a genius even then. I see nothing stupid or sad about that. I’m sorry you lost your friend but because of it look at what humanity has achieved. No more death, no more overpopulating, no more sadness. You’ve saved the race with Phoneix’s rebirth, because of you humanity will survive…maybe until the end of time itself.” I spoke with passion, I was young and naïve then, I thought I ruled the world after I’d only died four times by then. The old man laughed at me, not a chuckle this time, but a laugh. “What’s so funny?” I asked. His eyes watered and he took a deep breath before answering.
“You’re just as foolish as the rest of them. Haven’t you listened to a word I’ve said? Life is death. We’ve cheated it here on Earth, taken away the chance for new ideas, new loves, new life. We’ve condemned ourselves to this eternal circle of foolishness, repeating the same mistakes, having the same loves, reliving the same life over, and over again. For what? Tell me reporter, what is the point of your life?” He’d turned from the window and his old eyes bore a hole through my skull as if he was reading the thoughts hidden in my skull. I tried to come up with an answer,
“I don’t know,” was all I could muster.
“Ahh,” he said with a sigh and turned his ancient eyes back out the window. “That is the only smart thing I’ve heard you say this entire interview.”