THE GREAT WIZARD
For the great majority
of people, childhood is the most beautiful part of life. And, as
years go by and their time passes to be lost forever, several insignificant
events--pale and disfigured by the tooth of time--become more and more
I am not one of those who
are able to speak about their childhood for hours and hours. I've
never spoken stories about juicy peaches stolen from neighbors' gardens,
about skillfully altered marks in school files, or about poor little lizard
that I hid in the sugar box and about Mom's face when she tried to make
a coffee. Since ever, I've preferred to look in front of me instead
of behind me. Maybe I am too young for such stories--I am only twenty-nine--or
maybe it's just the fact that I don't have such memories of my childhood.
I was always quiet and somehow
reserved child. I lived with my mother in a small apartment that
was located in a quiet quart of the northern part of the town. My
mind never passed an idea to steal neighbors' unripe, desperately stony
and sour peaches because I never liked to eat even the ripe ones.
I had no need to alter my marks either--I'd always been the best student.
Finally--thinking about lizards--my mother was a zoologist and our apartment
was full of rare species all the time. There were Algol bats, single
eyed martens from Beta Lyre, infra-green parrots from Vega and who would
have remembered what else! And then, how could I ever have my mind
crossed by an idea like that--to bring home a plane lizard and to put it
into the sugar box! By the way, my mother wouldn't be frightened
by the lizard at all: She would simply throw it out of the apartment
as a completely uninteresting sample.
So, if I would take a glance
at these years of my life, with an exemption that I grew up without father,
my childhood was very common and ordinary. I wouldn't say boring
or lonely because it really wasn't. I liked to read, I liked my piano
lessons--probably owing to the beautiful young lady that taught me--and
I liked my chemistry lab where I used to make some incredible things.
Things that would envy me on even those who used to steal peaches; if they
would have only tried to join me.
* * *
Though, there is something
that happened to me in my early childhood, something that I have never
ever talked about. At this time, the word 'secret' still had it's
sense and I was silent. Only much, much later, I realized that that
event changed and guided my entire life.
I was almost six at the
time. I was taller than many other kids of my age, I was thin, and
my first milk teeth had just started falling out. I remember, for
that reason I was a little bit ashamed, and I was silent most of the time
because I didn't want to see other kids laughing at me.
It was a hot summer afternoon
when I was playing in the park near our building. Actually, there
was a small play yard in the park that was every single day full of kids--from
early morning till dusk--but I preferred to play away from the play yard.
I preferred to play alone. And so it was that day. I was squatting
in the grass and intently watching an ant family. Suddenly, I realized
I was not alone any more. I reflexively raised my head and espied
an incredible creature! There was a tall, dark haired man in front
of me dressed in black and covered with a cloak made of small, multicolored
squares of fabric. His cloak reminded me of the ones that were worn
by wizards in my favorite fairy tales.
"Are you Latto III," he
asked me. "I'm looking for you."
I wasn't frightened.
The man seemed somehow familiar to me and I felt as if there finally arrived
somebody whom I had been waiting for a very long time. I just nodded
and stood up. At the same time, with a few pretty clumsy attempts,
I tried to remove dust from my knees.
"Can you keep a secret?"
I remember that we sat on
a bench. And I remember how unreal his cloak looked, lightened by
flashes of the sinking Sun. And I remember how proud I was when he
told me that I was the only kid who was able see him. Later, when
Annie from the second floor asked me who was that clown with me, I pronounced
her a liar because she could not see him.
The man was speaking to
me. About a small yellow house in a suburb that was guarded by two
fragrant lilacs... About a boy whose name was Latto, the same as
mine, and who lived in that house... About boy's mother who wanted
her son to become a doctor like she was... About the Great Wizard
who was the only one who could tell a kid what it would become when grown
up. And that he was coming only to selected kids, not to everyone...
And that boy whose name was Latto, he had been selected; selected to become
the captain of a great researching spaceship that would sail for centuries
and centuries looking for unknown... And the Great Wizard visited
"Has that boy become the
captain," I asked him. "Are you the Great Wizard? Is that the reason
you have a mottled cloak? Am I selected, too?"
The man nodded after every
question. Then he told me something that I couldn't understand and
so I couldn't remember either, but I remember clearly that he told me:
"You like to examine and
explore; you like everything that is new and unknown. For that reason,
your place is among stars, too. And that boy from my story, he is
impatiently waiting for you. One day, you will sail together..."
He fondled my hair, and--I
think before the next very moment--he wasn't there any more. I was
left alone only now I was richer for a secret...
* * *
I have never told anybody
about that event. I've taken care about the secret, I've lived and
grown with it; but, maybe unconsciously, the secret has been somewhere
deep inside me all the time. And it has been deciding my future.
Otherwise, how could I explain the fact that--in spite all my love for
chemistry and music--I chose to study the psychology of inhuman intelligent
beings. I think that even kids know that the subjects of my examination
live everywhere around except on the Earth. Destiny?
Until the previous year,
I worked at the "Earth Research Center of Intelligent Species of the Universe."
I was one of leading designers. The job was interesting, the earning
was above expectations and all my friends envied me. Then I met Sellena,
got married and bought a small but comfortable house. Shortly after
that, I proudly looked at the newborn Latto IV, wriggling in a cradle.
I was sure everybody who knew me would say that I got everything one could
possibly wish for. And they would probably be right. Only,
I’d been looking for something new all my life and I just couldn't draw
a line and say: "I've got everything I've wanted--I am satisfied."
Not me. I'd been always looking for something more. No matter
what I'd succeeded, I wasn't satisfied. And when I suddenly got a
call from the "Aldebaran & Algol Scientist Association," I accepted
it immediately and delightfully. All that I knew about them was that
they had a ship of enormous capabilities; but the details were not important
to me anyway. Finally, there was something new...
The first trip should have
lasted seven Earth years. As far as I as a traveler was concerned,
it would have lasted no more than one year. I remember that Sellena
cried when I told her the news. She told me she would be old and
ugly when I came back. She was sure that was our separation.
(Why are women always so pathetic? One day I will carefully explore
"Does your son have to grow
without father, too," she asked.
I didn't see anything wrong
about that. I had never missed my Father. How could I ever
miss a person I never knew?
And so I left.
* * *
Now, I'm on the Earth again.
I spent a whole year on the ship. A lot of work, many unslept nights,
but also a lot of pleasure. Yet, the time spent on a ship runs much
more slowly than the time spent on the Earth. Some strange longing
gets upon you and you start liking all the things that have always annoyed
you. Is it then strange that I spent hours and hours thinking about
my son and about Sellena...
I lost Sellena. I
knew that since the moment I left her. Seven years is a whole little
life for a woman of twenty two. Besides that, I'm going to Orion
very soon. After Orion I am going to Vega, then to Betelgeuse, then
who knows where... When I finally come home she will not be alive
any more! Maybe it is the best solution not to visit her while I
am here. Anyway, it will certainly be the best for her.
And what about my son?
Have I lost him, too? He is seven now. Does he look like me?
Does he prefer to play alone, too? Does he miss me? But, how
can he miss me, he doesn't even know me! And yet, he is my son.
I must not lose him!
And I knew pretty well how
I could keep him...
I ran like mad from store
to store looking for a multicolored cloak that could cover my black uniform.
All the time, there was a picture of the Great Wizard in front of my eyes.
The picture of my father! Did I really need so much time to
* * *
He was sitting on the bench
and reading a book when I found him.
"Are you Latto IV," I asked
him. "I am looking for you."
The small shaggy head rose
and deep inside his clear, black eyes I found a flash of incomprehensible
identifying. At that very moment, I became sure that one day my son
would also start sailing through the unknown paths of the Universe, and
that I would, too--like my father and my grandfather before him--have enough
time to search for him and to find him somewhere among the stars...
Translated by the author