The Tale of the Well of Immortality

by Aqeela Naqvi

Once upon a time, a young man named Agor journeyed along a lonely road at dusk. On his way, he stumbled upon a mass hunched over on the floor. The mass turned steadily towards him, and spoke to him wearily through the beard of a wizened old man. He spoke to him in broken words of a quest for a well whose water could make you live forever, after which he placed a withered scroll in the young man’s hands, and turned his face back into his knees. Agor opened the scroll which contained a map, and exclaimed at his good fortune; the promise of immortality! When he looked up to thank the man, he found the path lonely again, empty of all presence but his own.

Years passed as Agor followed the strange road into a thicket of woods leading to the well. He witnessed the arrival and departure of many suns and many moons; soon, his back began to hunch, and he found his quivering arms required a stick as a companion; his eyes began to sink into their sockets, his face became increasingly creased, and his hair and beard grew long and scraggly; yet he continued to walk, for, as he told himself, immortality awaited him just around the bend!

At long last, he reached a well located in a valley between two mountains. He ran towards it as fast as his legs would take him, stumbling as he went, and steadied himself on its edge. He took a goblet out of his sack and dipped it quickly into the well. When he retrieved it, he found it filled with a shiny black liquid. ‘This is odd,’ he told himself, ‘Surely I’m not meant to drink this…this must be a hoax!’ He set the goblet on the edge of the well, and began to cry for the years he had let pass him by on this foolish journey. He heard a crash and looking up, saw the goblet on the floor, its dark liquid spilling in every direction. Above it, he saw a bird whose wings had somehow gotten caught in the liquid; in its panic to escape, the bird flew in circles, leaving dark streaks wherever its wings touched the well.

Agor stood and wiped his face. That was it: immortality. This realization, his entire journey, the pains and struggle and anticipation—crashed over him like a tumultuous wave, rearing its head with the intensity of a wild beast. His body tingled with exhilaration as he refilled the goblet. He picked up his things and hurried back to his village.

When Agor finally reached his home, he found much had changed. His old friends, who were much grayer than before, greeted him with open arms; children he had seen running in the streets were now grown men and women with children of their own. He limped into the city and onto a platform, and announced to the people “I have discovered immortality!” The people stopped and stared at him. There was silence, then the baker shouted,  “The old man has lost his mind!”

The chorus was joined by others until the whole crowd began to screech and laugh and call to Agor to return to the woods, for sanity was the currency in this town! They jeered and hackled until Agor thought he could take no more; he stepped down from the platform and left the village, leaning against its outer brick walls. He thought to himself, his heart, which had so recently been filled with joy, could not take this sorrow.

The excitement was now turning to disbelief and regret, chugging slowly through his veins. He sat down with his head in his hands, until a goose feather drifted from the sky into his lap. He stared at it for some time, then stood up and got the goblet from his sack. He dipped the feather into the goblet, and clutching his chest as his heart began to throb, began to pull the feather in long lines across the wall. When he had finished, he packed his things, and lay peacefully down.

Many centuries later, people come back to visit the ancient remnants of this village, where all mark of existence has been erased except for in once place. Beneath vines and brambles, on a crumbled wall, right outside the entrance, there remain markings, written in a shiny, black liquid:

“Where words exist, never shall there be an absence of living, you see,

A thousand lives are lived in locked hearts for which our words are a key,

Know O’ world that I am Agor, and I have achieved immortality.”

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