The Spirit of the Age

Once upon a time, a young lad dreamt of a beautiful princess who was 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 recorded the dream. 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. 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.

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. Although he respected the company of many girls, he was still irrevocably in love with the sad, lost 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.

He decided to dedicate his life to finding her

Years and years passed, and still she eluded him. Despair tugged at his 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 tumbled into bed with the sad face of the little girl he had saved before him. As he drifted into welcome darkness, he found himself standing in the center of a black wood crowded with silver, glistening trees. He recognized the place: it was the dream of his childhood. He looked about eagerly, and to his joy, half concealed in the forest but approaching ever nearer, was his lovely 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 – were once white, but now smeared with dirt, grime, and dark blood. They hung damp 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 wept. “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.

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 victims.

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

She peered at him through her damp drooping hair and nodded.

“I wish I didn’t care,” he confided. “It makes life ever so much more difficult. If I cared about nobody but myself, I could do anything I wanted. I could have a nice, clean desk job, and at night I could forget all about work and take advantage of beautiful girls, cheap drinks, and vibrant city life. I could do all that – many men do. I could have two-point-four kids, a lifeless marriage, and a safe, well-manicured SUV that was my pride and joy. What’s wrong with all that? 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. I really would. But I do what I do because if I didn’t, I would hate myself.” He stared at the ground, embarrassed.

I am happy when I help you

“But you’re not happy.” She was leaning forward, her long, shining hair gently caressing the ground.

He too leaned forward until their foreheads touched. He looked deep into those pools of sadness that were not so desperate as when they first met, 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 dry cheek, and then everything dissolved, and when he awoke the next morning, he rose with purpose, dressed with a light heart, and went out whistling into the streets of the city.

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3 thoughts on “The Spirit of the Age

  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.

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