An anxious excitement crept through the man. He felt it in his body—warm tendrils seemed to spread from his chest outward as he hurriedly checked and rechecked each room. He and his wife used tablets to verify each room’s contents. The devices communicated with the house’s main system and made it a simple process to record each item and track overall progress. Husband and wife smiled often as they worked. They stopped to wave to their son each time they passed by a window facing the front yard where he patiently waited for them to complete their inventory.
The man was elated. He was only fifty-two, and he and his wife had done it! They had accomplished their goal and had each realized their own Potential, and they had done it while raising a child. His wife was two years his junior, and he could only imagine what someone who achieved so much at fifty must feel like when he felt the way he did at fifty-two! They would be remembered, there was no doubt in his mind, and their son would benefit immensely from their successes as well. The family was blessed.
At the end of the couples’ second check of the forty-seven rooms, the man turned to his beautiful wife and stopped. When she looked at him, he could see how truly proud she was, a pride that matched his own. Everything they had, everything they had accomplished, was a result of their planning, hard work, and perseverance.
The couple was particularly proud of their house. Their chic home was their own unique design. It had a minimalist feel to it despite its size and vast interior. Three of the house’s five stories were underground for practical and aesthetic reasons. It was fully automated and adaptive so that it would quickly adjust to any inhabitants, even guests, and all necessities and wants could be satisfied with minimal or no work required by occupants. “We accomplished so much because we planned…we never doubted that we would succeed,” the woman thought.
The man looked at his beautiful wife who looked back at him. He looked at her large, bright eyes—eyes so full of love and life. She smiled at him; her tablet clutched tightly against her chest. “We’re almost done!” He thought excitedly. “One more go-around?” He asked, even though he knew what her answer would be. “Of course, love, we must be certain,” she responded enthusiastically.
They began their third circuit just as they had the previous two. Room one was a medium-sized garage, where, for what would be the third time that day, they each recorded eight of the newest fuel-celled vehicles on their respective tablets. Here, as with the number of rooms in their home, the number was significant because it meant they owned one vehicle for each day of the week. They had even taken the extra step to paint each vehicle to reflect the intended day of use.
Next, they visited the four libraries in their home, each of which was modeled for the season it represented. The libraries were clean and organized, with each object and book arranged carefully for stylistic and practical purposes. The pristine quality of the four libraries gave the impression, albeit intended, that they were more for show than use.
In the next room they each made note of their own clothes first, then their spouse’s clothes. As they saw things, how one dressed, like everything else, told the world something about the person, about their values and status. In room twenty-seven they stopped by a crystal-window to wave to their son. “We have such an amazing son,” he said. “He is,” she said, a beatific smile brightening her face.
Finally, after moving a frame here and adjusting a decorative piece there, they agreed that everything was just so. They then exchanged tablets and began verifying what, deep-down, they already knew to be the case. “Yes…yes,” he said quietly, “it all looks good.” “It certainly does,” she replied, “everything is as it should be.” They placed the tablets on a special table designed for them in room forty-seven, which connected them directly to the house’s automated system.
Together, the couple walked back the relatively short distance to room sixteen. Room sixteen had been a work in progress for some years—a room specifically designed for this day—and they had both taken pains to make it perfect. Sixteen was a significant number because he was sixteen when they originally met, and she had turned sixteen two years later when they married.
Room sixteen was a celebration of the couple’s life and achievements. In it their diplomas and plaques were proudly displayed, and important life-events were memorialized as well. Pictures from their wedding day, documents from their son’s birth, and confirmation of Potential realized were just some of things that could be found in the room. He turned to her, eyes tearing, and said, “We did it! We are happy! In only thirty-six years we have confirmed happiness! We did it!” Laughing and crying, she replied, “I can’t believe it! We’ve finally accomplished the dream…the dream of dreams!” “I love you,” he said. “I love you,” she echoed.
They embraced for what seemed like an eternity of bliss in a single moment. He gently pulled away only to retrieve a small silver case from a nearby table. Inside the hermetically sealed case sat two small, glass vials with aluminum seals. He took one and handed the other to her. Without saying a word, they each broke the seal on the vial in their hand and consumed the liquid inside. The vials were placed back where they belonged, and the couple embraced once more.
For a moment, they stood holding each other, laughing quietly as tears stained their cheeks. They were happy, they had attained the goal-of-goals. They had confirmed happiness at an age that made them the youngest to have attained such an end—the youngest couple do so, in fact, by well over a decade.
In room forty-seven, the tablets continued to run a final test and analysis. No errors where found, the house had performed its function perfectly. The couple stood, holding each other. In that moment, the man felt neither fifty-two nor the sixteen-year-old who first laid eyes on the beautiful woman before him. In an instant he saw everything he so cherished about her and the instant stretched on and on. Her lips, her smile, the bright liveliness of her eyes, her humor and enduring love. She experienced a similar phenomenon. She looked upon her best friend, the helpful, gentle, life-adoring man that she always knew and knew as he truly was without mask or superficialities of any kind to hide behind.
In the distance, a soft chime could be heard. “It is time,” he said, and his smile widened as the warm feeling surged within him. She simply nodded agreement, her smile so pure and her psychological state so certain no doubt tarnished her thoughts. She knew that no such doubts challenged him as well.
An automated process started, the whole of which took only a few seconds to complete. Silver curtains closed without a sound sealing the entire house. The air was immediately removed from the entirety of the forty-seven rooms before another tear could touch the warm faces of the happy couple. A chemical catalyst was simultaneously pumped-in that quickly interacted with the contents of the vials each had consumed only moments ago. The happy couple was almost instantaneously preserved in their greatest moment.
The happy couple, frozen forever in a moment of complete bliss, surrounded by their collection of things, was the ultimate proof of their accomplishment. Forever the man smiles at his wife and she smiles back at him. Together, happy, the couple’s moment of triumph is forever preserved.
When the silver curtains closed, turning what had been their family home into an elaborate tomb, one that was as lavish as the collection of things that filled it, the couple’s son quietly waited till the count of three before opening the red drink to perform a ceremonial toast. He toasted his parents’ love, their happiness, and he made an appropriate show for the media and onlookers who had gathered.
The couple’s son was careful to keep his outward appearance cheerful as he studied the crowd, but he couldn’t help feeling perplexed by the whole process. But everyone seemed to believe that his parents were happy. “It has to be true if everyone agrees…right?” He thought, and let the question linger in his mind. “It doesn’t matter,” he tried to remind himself, as his smile faded momentarily betraying his inner state. He knew, deep down, that something was wrong, and yet everyone celebrated and cheered. He wasn’t sure whether his parents were actually happy when the silver curtains closed, because he wasn’t sure what it meant to be happy. “Could it really be as simple as collecting things, persons…goals?” He thought as the onlookers drifted slowly away back to their ordinary lives. The spectacle was over, and, like any crowd, their connection lasted only if there was something to gather for.
People smiled, but the couple’s son wasn’t sure if the smiles were genuine. “Where will you go?” One of the neighbors asked him. “Not sure,” he replied. He sighed, looked upon what was his family home one last time, and drove away. As he made his way down the road, he unconsciously touched his coat pocket where he had put the check his parents had left him. “What I do know,” he thought, “is that I won’t be planning my entire life so that I can escape it as soon as I get what I've worked so hard for.” A brief smile touched his lips as he thought of his proud, excited parents. Then, as so often happens at such times, tears stung his eyes as he recalled them smiling at him and waving from the second story window of their old home.
Thanks for reading!
If you liked this story, please check out my other story: Potential: A short tale from Crystal City