Richard buttoned the last button on his shirt and slapped on his new hat. Taking a look in the mirror, he approved of his appearance. He stepped outside and greeted his traveling companion. Juan de Leon had asked him to accompany him on a trip to search for treasure. They also hoped to find the legendary Fountain of Youth.
The single engine plane touched down on a dirt runway and they spent the night in a small cabin on the edge of the jungle. Juan de Leon had previously searched the area, but after talking with the natives decided to deepen the search to some caves rumored to be hidden on the south side of the mountain.
It was a three-day hike and they carried what they could, planning to eat various jungle fruits and plants as well. Due to unseasonal rainfall the three-day hike turned into six before they finally arrived at the foot of the mountain. The top was covered in fog, but they planned to climb it the next day, looking for the hidden caves.
Richard and Leon began their search just as the sun began to lighten the sky. They did indeed find several caves that they explored briefly finding nothing. They were about to give up and descend the mountain when they discovered a small opening and entered just one more cave. They heard the sound of running water, flipped on their headlamps and smiled. They listened carefully and followed the sound. The cave walls became more narrow, finally they squeezed thru a small opening and stepped into a room filled with bright light and a beautiful fountain. Their mouths fell open and they momentarily stopped breathing. A shining being sitting beside a fountain provided the magnificent light.
“You have come to drink from the Fountain of Youth,” they heard the bright being say. Unable to speak just yet, Richard and Juan could only nod their heads. “The cost is high,” the bright being continued. “Others have come before you, but few have stepped into eternal life.” Juan and Richard still couldn’t speak. “In order to drink from the fountain, you must give me your hearts.” At this statement Richard and Juan managed to squeak, “What?” That would mean giving up life to have it. That might be too hard. Harder even than living without the Fountain of Youth.
Richard and Juan exited the cave and sadly made the long trek back home. At the airport they shook hands and parted ways. Richard spent days alone in his bedroom thinking about the words of the bright being. He looked at himself in the mirror, he seemed to have aged 20 years in just a few days. He needed to go back. He carefully reached up to the top shelf of his closet and took down the small box with his heart in it. He put it in his backpack and headed back alone to the cave in the jungle. He entered the cave and followed the sound of running water once again. He squeezed through the small opening and stepped into the bright light once again. The bright being still sat next to the fountain. Richard fell to his knees and carefully took his heart out of the box and gave it to the shining being. The being dipped a golden goblet into the fountain and handed it to Richard. He reached for the goblet and felt new life flow through him as the life-giving water flowed through his body. He could see his reflection change in the water. He was a new person!
Richard opened his eyes. The alarm clock was buzzing, it was far too early to be up after an evening of watching a Pirates of the Caribbean marathon. But, rather than the usual annoyance he felt at being woke up he felt peaceful and happy.