‘The Spirit of the Age’ by Elizabeth Russell

Once upon a time, a young lad dreamt of a beautiful princess scared and lost in a forest. When he awakened, he was haunted by the memory. He tumbled out of bed, went to his desk, and wrote down everything he dreamt before his mother called him down to go to school. As he grew, he often saw the face of the princess in the glowing blue eyes of one of his schoolmates, or the glistening blond hair of another. He never saw all of her at once, but every girl reminded him of her in some way. He was positively captivated.

The other boys would often point and stare at him, and jest about how ‘romantic’ and ‘silly’ he was, but they secretly envied him, for he was so courtly and respectful to all the girls, that every one of them, whether she was beautiful, stately, talented, intelligent, or popular, loved him and wanted to be with him.

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Every girl reminded him of her in some way. He was positively captivated.

When he grew into a young man, and still had never dated or even asked a girl to a dance, the other boys wondered if he was a player. But that was not his intention at all. While he respected and enjoyed the company of many girls, he was still irrevocably in love with the princess.

He decided to dedicate his life to finding her so he went to school to be a detective and then set up his own practice in the line of finding lost persons.

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He decided to dedicate his life to finding her

Years and years passed, and still he had not found her. Despair tugged at his sensitive heart, but he could not relinquish his dream. Her haunted eyes possessed him with deep desire to free her from her fear. One night, after solving a harrowing case of a kidnapped daughter, he stumbled into bed with the sad face of the little girl he had saved that day before him. He drifted into welcome darkness, but then found himself standing in the center of a black wood with silver, glistening trees all around him. There, coming toward him slowly but surely was his beautiful, lost princess. Her eyes were as sad as he remembered, her hair as brilliant and golden as the sun, her steps as hopeless. Her clothes, he noticed this time with his sharp detective eyes, was once white, but now smeared with dirt, grime, and a bit of dark blood. They hung damply upon her emaciated form.

 

“Who are you?” he breathed in wonder, scarcely believing his good fortune.

“I am the spirit of the modern age. Do you not recognize me?” Her voice was melodic, captivating, and ever so sad. It chilled his heart and stung his eyes with tears.

“What have they done to you? How can I help?”

“You can’t do anything!” she cried suddenly, lashing out against a nearby trunk, pounding it with her arms and legs. In dismay he ran forward, and wrapping his arms around her, held her still until she grew calm.

After a moment she fell limp against him and began to weep. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. Why do you care? No one cares.”

He tenderly released her and she sunk to the ground, her white, spoiled dress a wet rag sprawling in the dirt.

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She sunk to the ground, her white, spoiled dress a wet rag sprawling in the dirt

He sat across from her, moving gently and tenderly as he often did with his wounded, traumatized rescue victims.

“If I let you in on a secret, do you promise not to tell anyone?” he asked her.

She peered at him through her hanging hair that was damp with her tears and nodded.

“I wish I didn’t care,” he confided. “It makes life so much harder. If I cared about nobody, no one but myself and my own pleasure, I could do anything I wanted. I wouldn’t continually face danger and heartbreak through my job. I could have a nice, calm desk position, and at night I could forget all about work and take advantage of beautiful girls, cheap drinks, and vibrant city night life. I could do all that – many men do. I could have two-point-four kids, a lifeless, habitual marriage, a safe, well-manicured SUV that was my pride and joy. What’s wrong with all that, hm? I’ve asked myself so many times. What do you think?”

She was intrigued. Her head was tilted to one side, and she looked like she wanted to be scandalized, but was not sure why. “I think it sounds boring.”

He laughed, surprising her. “Yes, though that’s not exactly an argument against it. Sometimes I would very much like life to be boring. No, I do not do what I do because of the excitement. It’s because if I didn’t, if I chose not to care and to only account for my own pleasure and comfort, I would hate myself.” He smiled at her wide, questioning eyes. “You see, I would achieve the exact opposite of what I intended. In seeking pure pleasure, I would destroy the happiness in my life now.”

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I am happy when I help you

“And what are you happy about?” She was leaning forward, her long, shining hair gently caressing the ground.

He too leaned forward until their foreheads almost touched each other. He looked deep into those pools of sadness that were not so desperate as when he first arrived, and in a moment, he understood his purpose, his entire life: he understood her. “I am happy when I help you.”

He reached out, touched her face, and then everything dissolved, and when he awoke in his bed the next morning, he rose with purpose, dressed with a light heart, and went out whistling into the streets of the city.

 

Photo Credit: Artpassions.net

One thought on “‘The Spirit of the Age’ by Elizabeth Russell

  1. This is a beautiful and poignant story. I found it very inspiring for my own life, as though I had just woken up with the same enthusiasm and joy with which the detective awakes at the end.

    Like

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