by Peter Lingard
John and I were strangers who shared the same space at the bar of a city pub one night. He’d had a few and told me about the fountain of youth; said he drank the waters there. He ignored my scepticism and told me of things from the past that a person of his apparent age would not normally know. He was very convincing. He said he’d sipped the fountain’s water because he wanted to stay as young as his lover, who had already swallowed the stuff. She had been led to it by a friend who later died in a plane crash. The person before that…it was a boring list. A few years later, John’s lover was murdered on a lonely street and the hurt of losing his long-time companion made him keen to pass the information on to any man who could befriend him for all time. He reckoned he had told many men of his knowledge of the fountain, none of whom believed him.
He, and the alcohol I had consumed, convinced me he was telling the truth and my excitement made me ignore his drunken, morose ramblings. I thought of all the possibilities of life if I were to remain twenty-five for ever. I told John I was exactly the man he was looking for; we could travel our planet together for the rest of time – maybe, one day, other planets. We flew to Kathmandu and he took me for a hike on the slopes of an insignificant mountain in the Himalayas. Apparently, once you take in the waters, you take in a personal global positioning system that will lead you back any time you find a willing believer. I won’t tell you where he took me, but I did drink those secret waters and immediately realised there would be no rejuvenation, just a permanently suspended ageing process. I would remain twenty-five years old to eternity or death.
I had a wonderful time for a while; enjoying relationships with beautiful, vivacious women. In the years that followed, some told me they were happy I managed to stay so young-looking but I was making them look old. Others told me it was time I grew up (which is the same complaint put by the less arrogant ones). There were cougars too; all of them younger than me. Many women loved me and wanted to keep me in their lives, but that was an impossible scenario that gave me heartaches. Because I had to leave each partner, doing so became easy to do. However, I still experienced emotional wrenches that accumulated within me until the awful day when all feeling drained away. I’ve accidentally bumped into a couple of women I long ago loved and they say they once knew someone just like me. Could I be related, they asked.
Photography seemed like a good job for someone who was to live forever and I started what is now an impressive portfolio. I became so good at taking pictures and have so many sought after images, I make a decent living out of it. I rarely meet clients, which means employing someone whose job can only last ten years at the most.
I got ‘the snip’ so I wouldn’t have children who I would have to abandon at important times in their lives or, later, have them die on me. I change doctors every ten years to avoid awkward questions and I change my address just as often. John was miserable whether drunk or sober and so my times with him grew somewhat tiresome. I came to realise that drinking the waters that so many believe are the source of happiness may not have been the smartest thing I’ve done. We, John and I, could never let the world know about the fountain, or the resultant population explosion would eventually cause the human race to die of thirst or starvation.
All these years after drinking the waters I have become almost as low as John. I thought that by murdering him I would be rid of his persistent and depressing attitude but I found I had already sunk to his level of permanent pessimism. If the authorities find me, prosecute me for John’s murder, and sentence me to life in prison, well, I can’t continue with that thought.
Are there others alive who’ve drunk the cursed waters? If so, I never want to meet them. The most regular visitors to the fountain are probably argali sheep. There’ll most likely be herds of them skipping through Himalayan valleys every winter like spring lambs. It must be a surprise for the Nepalese when they find the meat isn’t as sweet and tender as anticipated.
I could take you to the fountain and allow you to drink its waters, but that would be selfish of me. We’d both have to spend eternal lives as we now are, unless we fall under a bus, or become incidental targets for a couple of those returning bullets that Arabs and their ilk are forever firing joyfully into the air. There is a film I’ve watched several times called Groundhog Day in which a man awakens on the same day, every day. However, as it’s the same day, others in his life don’t age. What a comparatively wonderful existence that would be. Perhaps it’s time to travel to Palestine or Iraq and look for bullet rain.
◊ ◊ ◊
When a youngster, Peter Lingard told his mother many fantastic tales of intrepid adventures enjoyed by him and his friends. She always said, ‘Go tell it to the Marines’. When he asked why, she said, ‘They’ve been everywhere and done everything, so they’ll want to hear about what you’ve been up to’. Of course, Peter joined the Royal Marines as soon as he was old enough and now has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of tales to tell.