An intriguing tale for fantasy kids
Saul was a child who lived surrounded by comforts and privileges. His father was a skilled surgeon and his mother a successful writer, so the family resided in a huge house with a garden, swimming pool and a garage where two high-end cars slept. At eleven years old, he lacked nothing: he dressed in the latest fashion, he had a private room full of games, and on the wall of his bedroom hung a television so large that it looked more like a movie screen.
Despite his great fortune, Saul spent his days frowning and showing such an apathetic attitude that he gave the feeling of being angry with the world. Lately he couldn’t stand getting up early and hated having to go to school five days a week, especially since his teacher seemed like an unbearable gentleman and he talked less and less with his classmates. Why pretend that you found his conversation topics interesting?… As if this were not enough, not a single subject attracted his attention. He was wasting time staring at the shrews and opening his mouth to let out loud yawns every two by three.
If the weather was good, when the school day ended at three, Saúl would cross the street carrying his backpack and walk a short distance until he reached the Parque de los Almendros. It was his favorite place to disconnect from math problems and the long list of country capitals that forced him to memorize. Once there, he used to sit on a wooden bench from which he could contemplate a beautiful panorama of the grove and the heart-shaped lake where a few families of ducklings always splashed around.
It happened that, one of those afternoons, he approached his usual bench, took a seat, and when he looked ahead he discovered that a few meters away they had placed a white marble statue. It caught his attention, as it represented the figure of a child his age, barefoot and covered in rags, who seemed to be staring at him.
– What a depressing statue! They could have put the figure of a Roman prince or goddess instead of a ragged beggar.
As he spoke these words, he heard a childish voice.
– Do you really think I’m just a piece of stone that a sculptor has shaped?
Saul jumped and his heart began to pound. After a few puzzled seconds, he fanned himself with the palm of his hand and tried to compose himself. The heat of those first days of summer was making him delirious!
– What a scare! For a moment I thought the statue was speaking to me. I should better go!
He was getting to his feet when he heard the same voice again.
– Yes, I was talking to you. Please wait!
Saúl looked from left to right in case a passerby had heard the same thing as him, but surprisingly no one seemed to notice anything. Frightened, he walked a few steps and stood next to the sculpture anchored to the small pedestal. At first glance, he calculated that the stone boy was the same age and height, but when he looked at him more closely, he shuddered because he looked so much like him: the same oval face, the slanted eyes, the upturned nose inherited from his grandfather … He was an almost perfect replica of himself!
– But what is happening here ?!
It occurred to him that perhaps it was all part of a television program of those that play practical jokes on people who walk so quietly on the street, so he looked at the nearby trees in case he could locate a hidden camera between the branches. He saw nothing strange and his skin crawled. The situation was beginning to terrify him.
– Don’t worry, you’re not crazy. As incredible as it may seem, I am communicating with you and only you can hear me. Touch me, I promise I am completely harmless.
Saul obeyed. Apparently the statue was like any other: hard, cold and impassive, but I heard her speak as if she were a human of flesh and blood. How was it possible? Was he using a telepathy system? Was someone running her from a control tower? He was so perplexed that he was no longer able to tell if the words were entering his ears or going directly to his brain!
– Who are you?… Who made you and why do you look like me?
– The story is very long to tell, but to summarize I will tell you that I am the result of an impressive scientific experiment.
Saul’s legs began to shake like custards and he became so nervous that he thought he was going to faint.
– An experiment? Like those that appear in science fiction movies?
– Exactly, you have hit the nail on the head!
His face crumpled and he felt sweat trickle down his neck.
– You have nothing to fear; you will understand as soon as I explain it to you.
– Well, I don’t know what you’re waiting for!
– A group of experts has been working for years in an important research center in this city with one goal: to make all the children who live here happy.
Saul sighed deeply.
“Ah, okay, that doesn’t seem dangerous!”
– No, it is not, but it takes many years of work to develop such a complex project.
– Ah! Yes?
– You do not even imagine it! Dozens of specialists have collaborated and a lot of money has been invested in the most advanced technology that exists. Luckily, everything has gone smoothly and the results are being unbeatable.
The story sounded like pure fantasy to Saul, but he was so intrigued that he couldn’t stop listening to it.
– The first thing they have had to do is install a special radar system in all neighborhoods of the city.
– Radars?… What for?
– To detect the emotions of people from birth to the day they begin their adult life, that is, throughout childhood and adolescence. If some radar registers that a child or young person needs help, the research center starts the Emotional Rescue Plan.
– The rescue plan what?
– Emotional rescue. Do not worry, it is something very simple: they study the problem to find out why it is unhappy, and the laboratory designs a customized treatment to end its sadness.
Saúl was completely amazed, as if he were inside a futuristic movie or had gone five hundred years ahead in time.
– And what exactly do they do? Are you pricked with giant syringes? They put you in booths to receive shock waves? Do they surround your head with cables and connect you to an electric generator?
– Hahaha! No way! What occurrences you have! The methods to heal emotions are very varied and none of them hurts or anything like that. In your case, they have decided to make a statue with your features using a state-of-the-art 3D printer and sound device. I mean … me!
Saul was offended.
– In my case? What do you mean by that?
– Well, I’ve come to help you. I have been designed exclusively for you!
– What you hear. I am here to have a chat with you because I am your emotional medicine.
The boy was outraged, and with some contempt, he looked the statue up and down.
– What nonsense you say, I don’t need help! Besides, you are not my other self. Okay, you look like me physically, but you wear old clothes, you don’t wear shoes …
The statue launched the special treatment, which as you may have guessed, consisted of making him think.
– Yes you’re right. I am a slightly different version of you. Let’s say I represent what you could have been if you weren’t born into a wealthy and well-off family. Have you ever thought what it would be like to live in a poor neighborhood, in a house without water or heating? Can you imagine your life without chocolate, without your digital audio player or without those modern shoes that you wear?
Saúl was sincere.
– No the truth is no.
– Well, many boys your age live with very little, I would say with almost nothing, in many places in the world. In fact, you don’t have to leave our city to find them.
The boy shrugged.
– Yeah, but I’m not to blame for that.
The statue agreed with him.
– Of course not! Nobody chooses where they are born and there are people with more luck than others from the cradle, but we all have the ability to change certain things with a little effort.
– Yeah, well, if you say so …
– Our radars have detected that you, having everything, suffer from great dissatisfaction.
Saúl felt very overwhelmed, but the stone boy was forceful.
– Be honest with yourself: you have so much that you feel overwhelmed and enjoy almost nothing. You should be very happy, and yet you spend all day grumbling and behaving inappropriately.
For some reason, the boy wanted to vent to that strange conversation partner.
– Yes, lately everything bores me and I don’t feel like doing anything.
– Bravo, recognizing it is already a step! Why do you think something like this happens to you?
– I don’t know, I really don’t know.
– You are afflicted, listless, and being bad with yourself also alienates you from people. I know you have nothing left but a good friend.
Saul was about to cry.
– Yes, his name is Jorge, but I don’t see him much lately. No wonder, sometimes I am unbearable.
– Do you see how things are going? What you need is to regain the illusion. Close your eyes and, for a few seconds, think of something that would make you happy.
The boy obeyed and began to reflect.
– Well, I would settle for less material things in exchange for being with Jorge more, like in the old days.
The statue verified all the data received, activated its troubleshooting chip, and automatically obtained a personalized recipe for Saul:
– My proposal is the following: Why don’t you suggest to your friend to help you select all those toys that you no longer use? Surely most are almost new and other children will be able to take advantage of them. When you’ve filled a few bags, your parents will recommend where to take them. That experience will make you feel so much better about yourself and will teach you to value what you have!
– It’s not a bad idea…
– Mission accomplished! Goodbye, my dear human double.
And, suddenly, something amazing happened: the statue, which until then had not moved because statues logically never move, winked at him and disappeared. It disappeared from their sight as if it had never existed.
Saúl almost took his breath away. There he was, standing in the middle of the park, wondering if it had all been a dream, a hallucination, or just going crazy. In any case, he had the feeling that something inside him had changed, as if a little light had been lit at the end of a dark tunnel.
He ran home, called his friend Jorge and told him what he was planning to do.
– Would you like to help me, friend?
– Count on me, I’m going there!
Half an hour later, the two children began to open cabinets and select dolls, games, puzzles … A lot of other things that had been forgotten in the drawers for years. They put everything in bags and then went to the front porch. Saul wanted to ask his father for advice.
– Dad, I want to donate a lot of my toys. Could you get us closer to a place where they really need them?
The man, who was lying in a hammock reading a novel, responded enthusiastically:
– Of course! I know the perfect place.
He glanced at his wristwatch.
– If my calculations are correct, it is open right now. I think it will give us time. Let’s go!
They hurried to load the trunk of the car and went to the headquarters of an NGO that was dedicated to collecting second-hand toys. Germán, the director, received them with open arms.
– Thanks for your visit! It is fantastic that you come to see our facilities and that you are so eager to contribute your bit.
Saúl was delighted.
– My friend Jorge and I have collected more than thirty toys and a lot of books, but I would like to know what their destination will be.
Germán, delighted, clarified it:
– A part will be distributed by different hospitals so that sick children can be entertained during the time they are admitted. You can’t imagine how much it benefits them and helps them overcome bad times!
Saúl and Jorge applauded enthusiastically.
– And the other will be given to disadvantaged families who do not have enough money to buy their children or a simple rag doll. For many little ones, receiving one of these toys will be one of the most exciting days of their life, I assure you.
Saúl had to make a great effort not to start crying, overwhelmed with emotion.
– Please, please, take them as soon as possible!
– Do not worry! Tomorrow a van from the organization will ensure that everyone reaches their destination in perfect condition.
Saúl and Jorge hugged. They had just done something really nice for each other and they both felt that act reinforced their friendship.
– Thanks for your help, Jorge. It’s been great spending the day with you organizing all of this.
– You are welcome friend! If you think so, could you come to my house next week and help me go through my things. We will be sure to fill a few more boxes to bring Germán to him!
– Of course!
Completely euphoric, they said goodbye to the director of the NGO, went out into the street and got into the car parked at the door. Time had flown by and it was almost time for dinner! Father and son took Jorge home, and then resumed their march through the half-empty roads downtown. The boy, sitting in the back seat, was beaming with happiness.
– You know what, dad?
– Tell me, son.
– Today I realized how lucky I am. I have no right to complain all day about nonsense.
– I’m glad you said that, Saul. It is never too late to stop and appreciate the things that are really worthwhile, and how beautiful it is to be in solidarity with those who have less.
– I think when I grow up I want to be like Germán. Starting tomorrow I will study hard and one day I will do something great for others!
– That’s fantastic, honey. You are still small, but over the years you will discover your vocation; If in the end you decide on a profession that serves to improve the world, your mother and I will be very proud.
On the way home they passed the Parque de los Almendros. Saúl put his face close to the glass of the window and, even though it was getting dark, he made out his favorite bench, the great grove of trees and the brightness of the lake in the background. Without looking away, he asked his father:
– Dad, do you think that today there are powerful radars that control the minds of humans?
– But what are you saying?! Are you okay?
– I’m serious! Do you think it is possible that the inhabitants of this city are part of a gigantic scientific experiment?
The man burst out laughing.
– Hahaha! Oh son, what strange things go through your head! I think you should see more history documentaries and less fantastic cinema!
A small smile escaped Saúl and, in that same instant, he decided that he would keep his great little secret for the rest of his life.