‘You can only be born different.’
That is the only constant thought that hoards his mind.
Shivering in the cold January night, he pulls the coat tighter and hastens towards the building.
It is old, cracking, and breaking at its seams, left uninhabited for years. The nameplate is crusted with dust, remains of a name peeking from behind.
He once interviewed the professor, an incredible genius of their time, back when his articles painted the front pages of their magazine, and every word leaving his pen was filled with passion and brilliance.
Days that were now long forgotten.
“I’m this close, Tom” Professor had held up his hand, fingers pinched, a mere millimeter between them. “To achieve the key to the warping of dimensions.” Tom had clicked his pen and scribbled down the quote.
“You say that there is a condition?”
The professor smiled, the sparkle never leaving his warm gaze, “Not a condition, I would say, but a parallel.” He cocked his head to the side, his wispy strands of grey hair catching the shimmer of the sun. “After all, a man can only be born different once.” The professor had a certain way with his words. Staring into his hazel gaze, Tom, for a second, sees his reflection. An enthusiastic, passionate gaze, that perhaps in another dimension would’ve been his.
Sighing, he shakes his head. Those days of glory were long past. The professor had gone missing shortly afterward. After seven years, the search for him was closed, proclaiming him dead.
On the other hand, the glory of Tom’s literary career had remained for a year, before a single accusation had broken the castle, built of his blood and tears.
Now he lived as the worker bound to lower his head, and turn his gaze away, wincing at the sharp and hateful comments hurled towards him.
The last chance to redeem himself, the editor had said so here he was.
Reaching the door, he creaks it open. There is nothing left but dust and desolation.
The machines that had once gleamed were soulless.
walks towards the glass wall. From its murky planes, he can see life bustling across the market. It is a glamorous view, and hidden in the desolation of the building, looking at the heart of the city beating across the thin sheath of glass, his heart flutters, and he reaches out. His fingers barely graze it when the room lights up.
He whirls around, facing the capsule-reactor. It is beeping, and on its upper rim, words appear,
“You can only be born different.”
Something lodges at his throat.
The centre bursts into colours, whirling inexplicably into one another. On the panorama, syllables materialise.
“Beware of the condition.”
His hand moves forward.
“Say,” a voice speaks,
He halts, his heart palpating. His vision narrows until it is just him, this anomaly, and a voice whispering into his head,
“Say what you want to be.”
Suddenly, his mind is focusing on his life. A tumultuous four decades. Forty years of self-loathing, forty years of incompetence, of defeat.
Tears well up and with a gasp, he reaches into the hole.
There is a coldness that sweeps him, and for a moment the only thing he hears is his own voice, “A man who has everything” until he vanishes into the bliss of unconsciousness.
When he wakes, the room is unfamiliar.
There is a vitality in his body that he hasn’t felt in a long time, a warmth in his chest that makes him smile.
He walks to the mirror. The face staring back at him is not his own.
It is chiseled, regal, handsome. The dashing sculpture of a man written in lores of Old.
There is another consciousness that seeps into his own, an onslaught of memories that surprises him, and he runs out, throwing open the oak doors to a beginning he once dreamt of.
You can only be born different.
He is now sure.
In this life, he is Diarmuid-uia-Diahibne. A warrior, a Knight, a noble.
In this life he has perfection and love.
In this life he has Gráinne.
Her sapphire gaze glitters at him, lips curling into a smile and he grazes his fingers through her soft locks, staring ahead towards the lawns, relishing in the joyous voices of his children.
In this life, he had triumphed over every obstacle.
Here he was born a charmer, to be everything that others couldn’t be.
Everything others desired, everything they admired.
He led a life of heroism, of the feats cemented in their books. He had led a life of victory, a life of love, and now he felt complete.
He smiles, drawing his love in for an embrace, relishing in the warmth he now knows.
In this life, he thought that he is a diamond; pure, crystal, unbreakable. Yet he remains a glass. In the sun mesmerising, yet fragile and with a single slip of the hand, shattering.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. He is in pain. His every breath is a torment.
Fionn, his friend, his king, smirks, and steps towards the river.
That man has the power, Diarmuid knows, to heal a man with water that is drunk from his palm.
Above him the portal appears, the one he had seen years before. It is vibrant, gleaming.
No one gives it a look, no one can see it. From it a paper appears,
“Beware of the condition”
The words echo in his mind, deafening.
The papers falls towards him, catching the glare of the sun.
“A man who has everything,” his wish resounds.
His hand trembles, crawling forwards.
The paper crumples in his palm, and the words, black and admonishing, covered by the red misery of his blood, appear before his eyes.
“A man who has everything, yet has nothing.“
This was the portal’s condition.
He withers, gasping and shaking. His eyes are desperate looking at his companion, at Fionn, at the water that trickles through his hands, and the smirk that lines his satisfied face.
He pleads, he whimpers, yet there is no mercy that is dawned on him.
In the end, there is only a tear that runs down his face, and the cold hand of death grips his chest.
Why is it? He wonders at the brink of his consciousness, that he once ran towards everything when every man in this world is fated to leave with nothing.