A million fragments scattered before him as he hit the big blue rock with his axe. The minuscule particles glowed so white and bright that Ehtemam had to drop the axe and cover his eyes.

Having left his home behind, Ehtemam had been travelling like a madman for the past six months. Sleep, love, luxury — nothing meant to him anymore. And why would it?

He was on a journey seeking something worthier and more precious than anything else in the world: a life of eternity, immortality, and hence more power.

If he could defeat nature, who would defeat him? Having taken the road less travelled, he had stepped into the far-flung areas of the Arabian Desert for the famous golden potion. The golden potion was nothing new to­ the world of seekers or saints. Several men had lost their sanity in its quest, while a few were rumoured to have found it. Where had they gone, nobody could tell, but it was believed that they were living their lives happily ever after.

Ehtemam was sure he could be among the lucky ones too and had already succeeded in finding two of the three ingredients: the drying wings of a dead Phoenix and the big blue rock’s sacred powder. It was only a matter of finding some crystal water from an unknown stream in the plains, and his life would change forever.

As the days passed, he ran from one mountain to another, digging holes in the barren ground, but failed to find any sign of it. His eyes hurt from lack of sleep and his limbs had almost given up. By the time he came across a small cave, he had lost all his energy to walk. Crawling, he reached inside and darkness filled his senses.

When Ehtemam opened his eyes, he found an old man standing next to him. He looked at him blankly, then stared at his surroundings.

“Son, you’re dying,” the old man announced.

Unable to grasp the sudden revelation, Ehtemam said nothing.

“You have exhausted your heart, my son. It won’t work anymore for you. I am afraid you have only got a mere 24 hours ahead of you to live.”

“No,” Ehtemam shook his head in disbelief and whispered, “This cannot be true!”

His weary hand flew to his hair and he began to tear at it frantically. Only a minute or two had passed when he screamed — it had suddenly occurred to him that he was, in fact, only a blue rock powder away from immortality.

“I need to go! I need to find the waterfall!” he looked the old man in the eyes and declared with renewed hope.

The old man shook his head. “You will have to leave this silly search of yours if you want to die happy. Men often forget to accept the power of the present moment and waste their lives searching for eternity,” the old man added in a mysterious tone of wisdom: “Indulge in your now, and you will find all the peace you have ever wanted.”

Ehtemam stared at the old man. Was he the devil trying to lead him astray when he was only, in fact, a few moments away from finding immortality? So what if he had exhausted his heart, if he could only find a few drops of the magical water he would never need any kind of healing again. His world would be a paradise on earth and he would rule over it forever and ever. How could he surrender when he was so near to finding it? He quickly pushed himself above from the ground and taking small steps, made his way out of the cave and straight ahead.

Behind him, a thin stream of blue water softly gurgled inside the cave.

Published in Dawn, Young World, February 22nd, 2020