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The Tale of Yuri

by Conor Matthews 29 days ago in Short Story
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Don't Feel Insignificant

There was once a country in Europe. A country where a man called Yuri lived. Yuri was raised by hard working parents who wanted him to go to school and learn. In school, Yuri realised he had a talent for creativity. He excelled in Composition, Art, and Drama. He would later graduate early and go on to study performing arts in a prestigious university, where he graduated with distinctions, praise from lecturers, and with agents, managers, and producers begging for his time.

In ten short years, Yuri became a multi-millionaire movie star, beloved by all in his home country. He has his own studio, a room full of awards, and a decade's worth of critical and commercial hits. Yuri has a supermodel wife, beautiful children, a mansion, and the respect of his peers and neighbours. Yuri, many years from now, will be one of the few non-statesmen who'll have a state funeral and a day of mourning.

Yuri, thinking he's deserved a break, decides to go on a month long vacation with his family to a neighbouring country. This bordering country has a different language and culture to Yuri's, though there are similarities. Yuri thinks nothing of this. He learns enough of the language and the customs to feel comfortable going.

Yuri lands in the airport with his family, trying to hide his face under a hoodie and sunglasses; Yuri is used to being swarmed by photographers and adoring fans. To his surprise, no one shows up to the airport for him. Confused, they continue to the hotel.

There, Yuri gives his name to the receptionist, again expecting to be hounded for an autograph by the staff and other guests who overhear him. Still nothing. A little unsure, he repeats his name, louder this time, going on to spell it for the receptionist. Again, nothing but a friendly disinterested smile anyone else would have received. He takes his room key and rests from the journey.

Yuri spends days in a state of paranoid uncertainty. No matter where he and his family go, no matter how many times he proudly says his name, no matter how much he puts his wealth on display, Yuri can't find anyone in awe of him.

Yuri finally snaps, believing he's done something wrong and the citizens have a custom of ignoring those who insult them, or perhaps that they did know who he was and he was in fact losing his mind. Yuri grabs a passerby and begs to know why they are acting like they don't know he is the famous, wealthy, and talented Yuri.

"Who?

Yuri's in shock. The passerby has to explain that no one here, has ever heard of Yuri, nor his films, nor his wealth. Yuri phones his agents, his managers, his partners, his assistants, demanding answers. Due to licensing, distribution, and language barriers, Yuri, his films, his awards, and his success, are completely unheard of outside of his country. Yuri is nearly a god where he lives, but here, he's nobody. Even his mass wealth, through currency exchange, is on par with a minimum wage job. Yuri is essentially a big fish in a small pond.

For Yuri, naturally though charming, pleasant, and humble, this is an infuriating and soul-crushing shock. He then realises this is only one country, a neighbouring country; if he's unknown here, how insignificant must he be in a country like Japan or Mexico or France? His awards would be worth less than a paper resumé in most countries. His fortune would amount to just a handful of Dollars or Yuan.

Yuri can't take this. Viewing his thirty years of life as completely pointless, as meaningless unless it translate further out than his little part of the world, he decides to jump from a bridge. He leaves a note for his wife, ensuring everything goes to her, instructions for his partners to ensure the last film they finished shooting is a success, and explicit wishes for no state funeral. He leaves in the middle of the night.

On a cold, clear night, Yuri finds himself standing at the ledge of a bridge, looking down at the dark, rushing, frigid river below. Ironically an Olympic level swimmer himself, with experience in cold water (from doing his own stunts), Yuri braces himself to not fight against the current. Yuri hears a whimper to his right, turning, and finding, amazingly, another man, also standing on the ledge, looking at the water.

Yuri takes a second to remember what the word for "Hello" is in this man's language.

"Hello?

"Oh… Hello.

"… Would you like to go first?

"I… I don't think it really matters, does it?

"I don't know… this is kind of my first time.

"Same… your accent. You're not from here.

"No.

"Don't get me wrong, you sound fluent. It's just I can hear it… why would you kill yourself here?

"I could ask you the same. Is it really any better or worst where you do it?

"I guess not…

"…Can I ask you…

"…I just feel insignificant.

"Excuse me?

"That's what you were going to ask.

"Oh… no, I was going to… why do you feel insignificant?

"Look up. Do you see that?

"…The stars?

"Space. The Universe. Galaxies upon galaxies.

"Yes… it is beautiful.

"I am nothing compared to it.

"… What?

"I mean look at it. It's massive. It's infinite. It's billions of years old. And it'll be trillions, if not quadrillions, of years old when it finishes expanding, and that's if it ends there. Even if I lived to be a thousand, it would be nothing compared to it. A single grain of sand in comparison to the solar system is larger than I am to the Milkey Way, which in itself is a speck compared to all of space. Even if I become famous, even if I go down in history, even if I become a legend, outside of this tiny rock it'll never matter. I could meet aliens from another world tomorrow, centuries ahead of us, and all our hard work, our history of civilisations, our technology would look primitive, almost humorous to them. My life means nothing compared to the universe.

"… Well that's kind of selfish.

"…What?

"Why should your life matter? Compared to the universe, I mean? I'm sorry, I don't know you-

"You're right, you don't!

"But why should your life matter on the scale of the universe? Maybe your life should never matter on that scale.

"Who are you to say it shouldn't?

"Who are you to say it should?

"…

"…

"…

"… I'm not trying to insult you. Again, your life does matter. Put it this way; let's say you live an amazing life. You're world famous. Richer than anyone could ever hope to be. You're an icon. Now let's say you met someone who was going to jump off this very bridge, and their reason was because compared to you, their life means nothing, it could never be as great as yours. What would you say to them? What would you think about that?

"…

"…

"… I… I guess I'd tell them their lives do matter. It's just when you compare it to my life that it doesn't seem like it.

"Right… so in of itself, each life matters. Your life, on this planet, even if you never leave it, even if you never live longer than a few decades, even if only a handful of people remember you, and they too die, matters. It's only when you think it should be something else, something bigger, especially when you realise it could be bigger, that you feel like you've failed. You didn't feel this way until you found out you could feel like this. Your life isn't insignificant, it's just finite, like everyone else's. It's just egotistical to think your life should be the biggest thing you're aware of. You're life isn't insignificant, it's insular.

"…But… what's the point then? What's the point of living?

"You tell me… but it's not at the bottom of this river.

"…I don't think your point is down there either.

"… Huh… Maybe you're right.

"What was your question?

"Sorry?

"You were trying to ask me a question. What was it?

"Oh… It's nothing… I… I was going to ask did you ever hear of this actor called Yuri who's supposed to be around the city, but it doesn't matter.

"Oh… yeah, I think I heard something about that.

"You have?

"Well, I don't know him or his films or whatever, but a friend who travels for work told me he's on vacation here. I bet he doesn't feel like this… Why? Do you know him?

"…No, I just heard he's around… and yeah, I guess he has no reason to feel like this either.

Yuri and the man stood there quietly looking out at the distance, ignoring the tinnitus of the rushing water beneath them. The man climbed down from the ledge first, waiting politely until Yuri did the same. They gave each other a knowing smile and left, heading in different directions. Yuri was able to sneak back into his hotel without waking his family, discard his note, and got back into bed, falling asleep, knowing he would return home, return to his life, and live happily once more, as insignificant as he's always been.

Short Story

About the author

Conor Matthews

Writer. Opinions are my own. https://ko-fi.com/conormatthews

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