“This is simply mind-boggling!” loudly proclaimed the man who just entered the room, on the move sharply closing a door behind him where just a single word was imprinted with a soft sky-blue shade: “Home”.
“Inconceivable, you are right,” quietly agreed the old man who was sitting behind a table, and raised his head to recognize this new visitor.
Under the intense and sympathetic gaze of his blue eyes, the newcomer was momentarily embarrassed, but only after a few moments, he turned back to his own accusations.
“Hell only knows what it is! You simply live for yourself, you just keep working, you don’t seriously interfere with someone’s affairs, you go for a walk in the evenings through the night streets of big cities, and then all of a sudden…”
“And then all of a sudden the icicle falls down just on top of your head like snow on new year’s eve!” smiled the elder, studying the newcomer’s reaction to his words.
“How do you know,” the newcomer asked in surprise. “Were you following me?”
“Oh, not me personally. I have a lot of other duties in this wonderful world, you know. But we, most certainly, knew what was going to happen to you that most touching night even before you… well, what does time mean in this world, after all?” and the speaker put aside his quill and with such an unusual for his venerable age grace easily turned several pages of the impressive-sized book that was lying on the table. “Udaltsov Ivan Sergeevich?”
“Yes… that’s my name. Or was it? I definitely cannot understand anything in this story!”
“That’s a pity,” the scribe noted softly. “You ought to have learned that life lesson before… but let us not speak of the time.”
“Perhaps you would care to explain what’s going on in here?” Ivan Sergeevich pushed out these words with pressure, having moved a couple of steps in the direction of a slightly glowing massive seemingly-wooden table, where his interlocutor was sitting. “Right here and right now!”
“Your last attempt was unsuccessful. You have not fulfilled and would not have fulfilled your destiny. So we had to take you out early.”
“To take where?” Ivan Sergeevich instantly stopped, trying hard to remember all events of his last days on Earth down to the smallest detail.
“Back home, certainly,” quietly replied the gray-haired old man, gently wiping away a tear from his eyes. “All roads always lead back home, but each has a home of his own.”
“Are you implying that I…” and the thought that pierced Ivan Sergeevich’s mind at that moment made him shudder, “that I died?”
“Death is such a relative concept on the road of eternity,” the speaker answered with conviction. “Though not everyone is going that way.”
“I died…” Ivan Sergeevich’s spirit was still trying to overcome an impassable barrier. “Yet I am still alive, or otherwise who would be speaking with you right now?”
“And maybe you are actually seeing all of this in a dream while still lying in a coma in some not forsaken by God resuscitation clinic of some Earth city?” The old man gently smiled and his eyes sparkled with inner light for an instant. “Would you like to try again?”
“To try out what?”
“To finally fulfill your purpose, of course. After all, this is exactly what you went there for – to become a world-known artist, to illuminate through creativity this drowning in darkness world with the light of hope. And what did you end up with? The top manager of a major global bank. Are there not enough accountants and bankers in this world already?”
“I…” Ivan Sergeevich was staring down at his feet in confusion, observing how in these very moments they were drowning in a pink-and-purple mist that was spreading across the floor of the room. “I… I simply forgot! In God’s name, I forgot all of that! Why didn’t you remind me?”
“Those were the terms of our agreement. If you decide to make another attempt – you will completely forget about this meeting. Will you try again – or decide to refuse and start expecting your future fate as the one who has failed to fulfill his own promise?”
“Perhaps… I can make another attempt. Life on Earth… has its own advantages,” Ivan Sergeevich frightfully shifted from one foot to the other, while the fog rose higher and higher, enveloping both the elder, the writing-table, and Ivan himself.
“From the beginning or from the stopping point?”
“The stopping of what?”
“Your heart, of course.”
“Let’s… start from the beginning.”
“A new birth then…” understandably nodded the old man. “Well, that’s your right.”
“I can become anyone, right? After all, this is a new starting point. I could be… say, the race car driver. The best racer in the history of the world! Crowds and crowds of people would applaud me, I would bathe in money…”
At this point the fog that covered the room became so dense that dreaming Ivan Sergeevich completely lost his space and time landmarks. Not only this mysterious old man but corporate silhouette of Ivan himself disappeared from sight.
“Do you hear me?!” Ivan shouted into the distance, trying to see at least something. “People would applaud me! I would be great!”
The blue-eyed old man was still sitting at his desk, shrouded in mist. He silently turned back and forth the pages of his enormous book, while his eyes either filled with tears or sparkled with radiant light. Finally, the hand wielding a white feather stopped in front of the line “Udaltsov Ivan Sergeevich”, near which there was a number that has become a three-digit one a long time ago. A slight movement of hands – and this number increased by one. The letters of this name suddenly became increasingly vague just like this very fog, and then completely changed to “Gerashchenko Anton Pavlovich”.
The elder man gently raised his head from the book, brushing away another tear.
“I would strongly advise you to become an artist, Ivan Sergeevich,” he added quietly.