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To Live Forever: Chapter 4

The stargazer suddenly realized who he was speaking with. No one said no to the ruler of the land


The stargazer stared at the king closely.

“If I do this… find the route to the fountain of youth… then you will travel there, yes? No matter the risk, no matter the cost?”


“Then I don’t want to do it.” The stargazer shook his head. “The journey there is fraught with danger. You are not the first to ask this task of me, and I never heard back from the other king. It’s a one-way trip to doom. There’s little chance you would survive.”

“Please, just find it for me. I’ll reward you handsomely.”

“It’s not money I need. It’s the safety of the king I am concerned about.”

“Like I told you. Leave that to me.”

The stargazer suddenly realized who he was speaking with. No one said no to the ruler of the land. Quickly, the stargazer changed his attitude.

“Very well. Please return tomorrow night.”

The next night the king was back with his soldiers. The stargazer was already searching the starry night for signs, his hands moving across several scrolls laid out on the table before him. Lips murmuring as his eyes flew back and forth, the old man began to trace a path across the map.

The king watched in utter fascination, his eyes glowing.

A bolt of lightning shot across the sky, just as the stargazer snapped out of his reverie.

“A bad omen.” The stargazer swallowed. “If your majesty embarks on this trip, he may never return.”

“I don’t believe in omens. As the Jews believe, I know that there is one, and only one, G-d, Who alone is the Supreme Power of the entire universe. He controls the stars and sets their motion, not anything else.”

“Then perhaps He does not approve of you seeking the fountain of youth.”

“Then why would He have created it, if not to be used?”

The stargazer shook his head.

“Don’t argue with me,” The king chuckled. “It will only frustrate you. I’ve set my heart and mind to seek the fountain, and nothing can convince me otherwise. I will live on this earth forever, ruling over my subjects and their descendants until the end of time. I will study every wisdom under the sun, I will amass more fortune than any other man has ever been able to, and I will enjoy the goodness G-d has created on this planet century after century. My lips will taste the fountain of youth, and forever more I shall remain young.”

“That does sound enticing.” The stargazer shrugged. “Perhaps the king will bring back some for me, if he makes it there?”

“And perhaps we will also taste of its waters…” The soldiers looked hopeful.

But it was the king’s general Ario who spoke next.

“Silence, you fools! Do you think the king needs, or wants, men who will live forever beside him, posing a threat to his rule, taking away the uniqueness of his power, potentially spreading large enough to create an entire world where no one dies? No! He alone will drink from the fountain of youth, and the rest of us will live our lives the way all who came before us did.”

“Well, I just thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask,” the stargazer grumbled, scooping up the scrolls. “Your majesty, you can take these. See this path I drew here? This is the island you need to reach. Getting there is treacherous. The weather will be terrible, ferocious waves, lightning storms, and the all the rest. If you survive through that, there’s the island itself. Exotic, dangerous creatures, unpredictable temperatures, perhaps even dangerous natives, and if you drink from the wrong spot, it won’t help you at all.”

The stargazer leaned in close and whispered something in the king’s ear.

“Ah, yes? Fine, I will surely do that.” The king nodded.

Even the general could not resist leaning in to hear the stargazer’s raspy whispering, but no one was able to discern even a single word.

The next day they set out on their journey knowing, according to the stargazer, they would probably not return.

Mr. Silber began coughing violently.

“Someone get a nurse!” Moshe yelled, leaping off the bed.

“I’ll run and get someone!” Aryeh dashed toward the door. “Be back in a second!”

“No…” Mr. Silber wagged his finger between bouts of coughs. “I—I’m alright. Just give me a few moments.”

“Zeidy, you really don’t need to continue the story if it’s too hard for you.”

“It is hard for me, but who says that means I should stop?”

“But if you’re too weak—”

Ziskeit, I’ve been weak for a long time now,” Zeidy smiled through his tears. “Ever since Bubby went up to Shamayim and I got sick, I’ve been weak. But you know something? It’s possible to be weak and strong at the same time. It’s just a question of if you are willing to fight or whether you’ve decided to give up.”

“What do you mean, Mr. Silber?” Aryeh looked confused.

“Take Moshe Eliyahu for example. He’s afraid and brave, all at the same time. He doesn’t feel comfortable coming into this place, a home for old, sick people. But he does it anyhow, even as his heart beats frantically inside of him and part of him feels like running away. He does it because he loves his Zeidy and wants to fulfill the mitzvos of kibbud av v’eim and bikur cholim.”

“Afraid and brave. At the same time.” Moshe nodded slowly. “I like that. And it’s true.”

“So, you be afraid and brave, and I’ll be weak and strong.” Mr. Silber wiped away his tears with a handkerchief. “Take me outside, boys. Let’s continue the story in the sunlight. We’re much too filled with life to sit here in this dull, dimly lit room.”

Aryeh looked back at the chest.

“And what about that chest, Mr. Silber? Are you also going to tell us what treasures lay inside?”

“Yes, of course, im yirtzeh Hashem. But first let’s find out more about the king and his journey to the fountain of youth. As you both are old enough to know by now, in life, the best is often saved for the end.”

The boys wheeled Mr. Silber outside, into the brilliant sunlight.

to be continued… 


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 953)

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