The boy has power to control all the world. All of the world, everyone’s fate, can be twisted and warped by a young boy. The people speak of him often, and he is referred to with many names. “The Man” is probably the most common term, followed by “Blacksmith,” and “The Fist.” They tell each other how his will affects the destiny of everyone. He rules the world, they say. In a sense, they are right. Right, but very very wrong.
First off, they don’t know that he’s a boy. They picture him as a man, sitting upon a throne, tapping away at life-size holograms and computer screens. He is surrounded by machinery and futuristic technology, controlling the fate of every human through a series of algorithms. They think that he has servants, maids, and lives in an isolated kingdom, on a mountain so high that no mortal man could ever reach it. They say that he is guarded by robots, made of solid titanium, that can shoot lasers from their eyes and lift cars with one hand. Some say that he himself is a robot, a form of artificial intelligence far surpassing the capacities of any mere mortal. No one really knows how these stories came to be, but, in the end, it is simply human nature to want answers.
The boy’s name is Alan. Alan Montgomery, age eleven. 143 centimeters, 5 stone. He is a quiet boy, with black hair and grey eyes. He spends all of his time in a small house, tucked between the twisted pipes and tunnels of the London underground. From here, he rules the world.
* * * * *
Alan propped his elbows up on the table.
“Do you like the sandwich?” He asked, as he gently picked the crumbs off of his plate. He rolled them in his fingers and dropped them into the trash.
“Yeah, definitely. What sort of jam is this, though? I’ve never had it,” the girl responded. “I can’t put my finger on it. It’s not blueberry, but it’s not cranberry, either.” She rested her chin in her hand. The left side of her pale face scrunched up between her fingers.
“I found it in storage, and I’d never seen it before. Lingonberry, I think, is the name. It’s quite good, in my opinion.” Alan smiled to himself. He was glad to have found something new in this dull place.
The room was scarcely furnished- there was only one wooden table with matching chairs, and a dark red sofa pushed against the wall. The walls were bare redwood, as was the floor.
“Do you know what time Bax is gonna stop by?” the girl twisted her finger around a strand of bright purple-streaked hair. Her penchant for bright hair dye led to reckless teasing from Alan; but she didn’t care. She mindlessly braided the purple strand with pieces of her natural blonde hair, and pinned it out of her face with a flowery barrette.
She was a funny girl; tall for her age, much taller than Alan, always cracking jokes and chewing with her mouth open. She wore a pair of ripped trousers and a neon purple shirt with a peace sign. Brightly coloured feathers dangled from her ears, and her fingernails were a chipped army green.
“I don’t know,” Alan responded. “Probably about 1 o’clock, though, so he should be here any minute. That is, as long as he doesn’t have any trouble with the guards at the entrance. You know how they don’t like him being in here with me.” He picked at his teeth awkwardly for a moment, then-
“That would be him,” Alan muttered. Shouting followed.
“I told you,” yelled a deep-throated man. “I’m here to see Alan! He told you to let me in, didn’t he?” He grunted, and stopped talking.
“Montgomery told me to let in a ‘dark-skinned man.’ There are plenty of men fitting that description!” a man with a husky voice shouted. “Montgomery! This man wishes to see you!”
Alan came quickly, with a laughing Maude on his heels.
“Finley! Let go of him, it’s Bax, he comes every week. And you put up this fight every time he shows up. Don’t you learn?” Alan said. The guard instantly let the poor man go. He brushed off his blue uniform, and ran his hand over his smooth, bald head. His sharp eyes were apologetic.
“Sorry Montgomery. You know procedure.” Alan looked at him disapprovingly.
“Yes, just as well as you know this man. You also should know by now not to call me by my surname. ‘Alan’ works just fine.” Finley cowered under the small boy’s glare.
“Yes, Alan. My apologies.”
“No problem, Finley. Now get back to your post before someone notices you’re missing.” Finley scurried quickly out the door, and the tapping of his shoes receded into the depths of the London Underground. They echoed, bouncing back and forth of the pipes.
Maude was still grinning. Alan looked at her, confused, and asked,
“What’s so funny?” She kept smiling.
“It’s just amazing how much work they put into protecting you, that’s all. No offense, but I really don’t see you as someone worth protecting. You’re honestly pretty ordinary,” she said. Alan looked at her, a curious expression crossing his face. His grey eyes flashed with amusement.
“You know I do have the power to change the world, right? I could easily make your life miserable for saying that.”
Bax laughed. He wore the usual- tan pants, a dirty, white worker’s shirt, leather loafers. He held a grey canvas satchel in his left hand. He was a curious looking man, with dark skin, and deep brown eyes. His strange eyes almost appeared haunted, yet the smile on his face contradicted all traces of a grim past. Alan knew of Bax’s history; the man had lived a life that one wouldn’t wish upon their worst enemies. But he was a kindly, wise gentleman, and had provided a lot of strength and knowledge for Alan in the past year. Alan wouldn't trade his friendship for the world.
“Alan, you sound ridiculous when you speak like that. You haven’t even touched your globe for ages.”
Maude nodded vigorously, her colourful hair bouncing.
“I expect it’s gathering dust by now,” she said. Then she looked thoughtful. “Have you even looked at it since you last showed it to me?”
Alan thought for a moment, then replied.
“I haven’t, actually. It’s not like anyone’s really allowed in there but me, so there’s no point in cleaning it.” He started to walk back towards the small living room, and Maude and Bax followed. “I don’t ever plan on using it, so why even bother?” Maude considered this, but Bax shook his head.
“You should at least check on it, you know. If it gets stolen, you wouldn’t even notice. You know what people could do to the world with that thing.”
“There’s no way anyone could steal it, Bax. There’s one way in and one way out, with a guard at all times,” Alan said.
Bax gave him a look.
“Sorry, you're right. It’s better to be safe,” Alan said sheepishly.
The three of them approached the heavy wooden door beside the television. The door was held shut by a massive bronze bar, with a little keyhole at its end. Alan pulled a thin twine string from his neck. From the end of the twine hung a tiny bronze key, about the size of a thimble. He twisted it into the lock. With the help of Bax and Maude, he heaved the door open.
The room wasn’t magnificent, but it was more furnished than the main room. It was small, and the walls were lined with bookshelves, containing the most dull history books imaginable.
In the center of the room, however, was a giant, dusty, mahogany table. It was intricately carved with a map of the world, and tiny, crystal spots marked major cities. On the very left side of the table was a panel of switches, like those used to turn on lights, only sideways. They were a slightly lighter shade of brown, closer to cedar than mahogany.
On the very top of the table was an inscription, carefully etched into the soft wood. The grooves of each letter were filled in with black paint, and two small gems marked the beginning and end of the phrase. The first gem was a glittering, clear diamond, and the other was a shiny black one.
“Eligere Sapienter,” Maude read aloud. She ran her finger across the delicate words, and brushed the dust off onto the floor.
“Choose Wisely,” murmured Bax. The words were reflected in his dark brown eyes, and every crease in his face seemed to disappear. He was in awe.
Those two words were not etched only into wood, Alan thought. They were engraved in his mind, like a distant, traumatic memory, haunting his every move. He thought about them every day, and wondered if he really was making the right choice.
His father had told him that this was the best choice. To leave things alone, let nature take its course. He remembered that day all too well.
* * * * *
Alan gripped his father’s hand. He was eight, and was scared to enter the forbidden room.
“I've never used it,” his father said. “Whether you choose to or not is your choice- I cannot make the decision for you.” He pointed to each groove, each knob, each button, and described their purposes.
“It's dusty,” Alan said. His father laughed.
“Yes, but the dust has no effect on the liveliness of the real world. It enhances it, even.”
“Will I get to see the real world?” Alan asked.
His father grimaced. He pulled Alan close to his chest, and kissed his forehead.
“No, Alan. You'll never get to see the real world.”
“That's just the way it is. Alright?”
His father knelt down and held Alan's face in his hands.
“One mistake,” he said, “and we’d be done for. Eligere sapienter.”
* * * * *
Weeks later, Alan's father died. It was a heart attack, and there was nothing that could have been done. There was no funeral service- he was missed by few. Among the few were Alan and Finley.
Alan remembered that day well. He’d gotten up for breakfast as usual, when Finley came into the dining room and told him what had happened. Eight-year old Alan had assumed that his father was just sleeping in.
“Alan, you alright?” Maude asked. She looked at Alan with concern.
“I'm fine,” Alan said. “I just… remembered something.”
“Can we go? I never got to finish my toast. Bax, Alan found a new jam in storage. It's called lingonberry,” Maude said.
“Lingonberry? Sounds expensive.” Bax said. “I want some.”
So they closed the massive door behind them and sat at the dining table, eating toast with lingonberry jam.
“Oh, Alan, I almost forgot.” Bax reached into his satchel. “I brought you something.”
“You didn't have to.”
“I know. But I knew you'd love it as soon as you saw it.” Bax
handed Alan a small book. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. You'll like it.”
“Thank you, Bax,” Alan said, taking the book into his hands. The book was small but fat, with tiny words. The cover was green leather, lined with gold lettering. There were drawings on the inside, showing pictures of little boys playing in the woods, by the stream, and in a cottage.
“I can't wait to get started.” He put the book in an empty chair.
Alan went to the kitchen for a moment to make tea. He grabbed three small bags of English Breakfast and put them in a tiny metal pot. He filled the metal pot with water, and watched it boil over the slow flame. It took a while, but eventually tiny bubbles began to rise to the surface.
“Eligere sapienter,” his father had said. “Choose wisely.”
And so he had.
I will make the right choices, Alan thought.
And so he did.