Discovering the fountain of youth presents a unique problem.
“You drink it,” she told him.
“What?” He asked, sure he had heard her wrong. “The whole point of coming here was to--“
“I know,” she replied. “But I’m having second thoughts.”
Roger stared at his beloved Abigail, convinced she had gone mad. They had spent so long, invested so much in finding this fabled fountain of youth. For her.
And now she didn’t want it?
Roger Greene was a brilliant man. He was a gifted scientist with an interest in and expert knowledge of world history. By his late twenties, he had already contributed more to the scientific and academic communities that most accomplished in their lifetimes. The patents on his discoveries ensured that he and his family would never have to worry about money again. The fame surrounding his accomplishments likewise ensured that he would be the face of modern scientific advancement for the rest of his life, if not longer.
But the one thing he couldn’t prevent was Abigail’s cancer. Roger devised new, revolutionary treatments that helped manage her illness, but the cure for cancer was still beyond his – or anyone else’s – abilities. She was terminal, and even all of his brilliance couldn’t change that.
With the light and love of his life slowly fading away, Roger sank into despair. They had known each other since he was a sixteen-year-old grad student and she was an eighteen-year-old sociology grad. She truly was his partner, his love, his life. Whenever he got lost in his work, she was the one who anchored him to reality. Whenever he felt like giving up, she was the guiding hand who coaxed him forward. And for all his intellectual gifts and brilliance, he often found it difficult to connect with other people. But she was always there, always bringing out the best in him.
He honestly didn’t know how he was going to be able to get through this life without her.
Then, after reading a book about persistent myths and legends throughout history, he became consumed with accounts of the so-called fountains of youth ... waters that would grant eternal life to anyone who drank from them.
What began as a mild curiosity quickly grew into an obsession. While Roger refused to let anything get in the way of the time he spent with Abigail, his work, and then his sleep, began to suffer as his search for the fountain of youth invaded his every free moment. Lead after lead, account after account, he explored and thoroughly analyzed each and every detail, searching for the common thread among all the disparate information he had gathered.
Based on his information, Roger determined that Florida was the most popular (and therefore most likely) place to find a fountain. Meticulous comparison of expeditions revealed nothing conclusive at first, until a sudden thought occurred to him. None of the accounts claimed to have discovered the fountain of youth ... but what if they really had?
What if some of these explorers did discover the fountain of youth and lied to ensure its secrecy?
Inspired by this new course of action, Roger began putting the pieces together, mapping out the various adventurers’ trips in and around The Everglades; the most likely place in Florida for a hidden fountain of youth. He assumed that each group who discovered the fountain would likely falsify the location they searched, to prevent those seeking to follow in their footsteps from stumbling across the fountain by accident. Using that reasoning, Roger anticipated that, whether north, south, east, or west, a group was likely to misrepresent their search area by at least ten miles, just to be safe. Then, after several weeks of comparing the most detailed accounts and mapping out their courses, he made a startling discovery. The search areas for each of two dozen groups were all different ... but at the same time, all managed to avoid a central point between them. On Roger’s map, there was an empty “unexplored” center around which all the other groups explored!
Could it be merely a coincidence that no one explored that central segment of The Everglades? Or had those other groups, in their individual efforts to conceal information, inadvertently and collectively shown Roger where to search?
The discovery could not have come at a better time. Abigail had taken a turn for the worse, and was now weakened to the point where it was unlikely she would be able to continue to travel and maintain her regular lifestyle. This would be the last trip they would take together ... and it was quite possibly her last hope.
It took a surprisingly little amount of time to find the fountain. Roger had done his research, and he had been right. They narrowed the search area down to just a few dozen square miles and found the fountain’s courtyard at the end of the second day. With his suspicions confirmed, Roger suddenly found himself wondering what became of all the other adventuring parties. While some of them surely met with failure and gave up without realizing how close they had really been, there had to have been at least a few of those groups who actually found this courtyard.
Were there a handful of immortals running around this world?
As they approached the fountain, Roger’s heart sank. Apparently, there was more than just a handful.
While the fountain’s effect was rumored to be everlasting, the fountain itself was not. Roger and Abigail couldn’t help but appreciate the irony in the fact that a fountain of eternal life only had a finite supply of water to give. And based on the mere cupful of water that remained, this fountain had given much over its generations of existence.
“You drink it,” Abigail repeated.
“Are you out of your mind?” Roger exlaimed. “We came here for you. The whole point of this journey was to get the water for you.”
“What if it doesn’t work? Or worse, what if it gives me an eternity of this?”
She indicated the cane she had been using to walk for the past few weeks ... to her weakened lungs, still heaving from the mild exertion of this afternoon’s walking ... to her frail frame, barely able to support its own weight.
Roger had to admit that he hadn’t considered that possibility. The legends mentioned time and time again about the bestowment of everlasting life, but he had assumed it included some kind of restorative power as well.
What if his wife was right and it would only mean an eternity of physical torment at the hands of a disease that could pain, but never kill her?
“You drink it,” she said. “You’re a brilliant man. Think of what you could accomplish in two lifetimes. A dozen. A hundred, even. The world needs you more than it needs me.”
“But I need you.” He replied. “And I don’t want to live a lifetime without you, let alone an eternity.”
It seemed they were at a stalemate.
“Sweetheart,” he said in the placating tone he only used when he wanted something. “Please. We did this for you. I’m nothing without you.”
She firmly shook her head.
“How can I take this for myself, knowing that I’d be depriving the world of your talents? And at the same time condemning myself to my own eternity without the one person I need most?”
“There are other fountains around the world,” Roger insisted. “I’m sure of it. If you drink this, it could buy us the time we need to find another one for myself. If I took this one, there’s no guarantee we could find another in time.”
“But if I took this one, there’s no guarantee that we would find another in time for you. Or, based on what we’ve found here, that’s there’s even anything left in that one.”
On the plane ride back home, Abigail looked out her window, deep in thought. Roger pored over his notes and his maps, determined to find another fountain.
After a long silence, they finally looked at one another.
“Did we make the right choice?” She asked.
Roger contemplated it for a moment before nodding.
“I don’t see any other way.”
He set a sealed container of water on the tray table in front of him.
“We don’t drink this until we find another one just like it.”
“One way or another ... in this life or the next ... we’ll be together forever.”