Font size: - +
Once upon a time, a little boy lived alone in a cottage in the woods. With boundless energy and curiosity, the boy often ran around and chased after rabbits, deer, and other animals.
One day, while foraging for nuts, fruits, and mushrooms to fill his little stomach, the boy came across a black box, which laid upon a large rock. The boy drew closer to examine the item. He saw that the strange object was the size of his tiny fist.
The boy picked up the black box and shook it. But he heard no sound from within; it seemed the container was empty. Undaunted, the boy turned the box over and over again to examine it from every side. That was when he finally noticed that one surface was different---it had a red button! The button was small and round, and it barely extended above the side of the box. But the boy had keen eyes, and he noticed it.
The boy was curious about the button and pressed it without hesitation. OUCH! Something pricked the fingertip where he touched the switch, and his finger was bleeding. The boy immediately dropped the box and began sucking on his finger to make the painful boo-boo go away.
He paid no attention to a stream of red mist which slowly dispersed from the box. Without his notice, the red button disappeared, leaving a tiny hole through which the minute particles came out. A red fog soon surrounded the boy, and he accidentally inhaled it.
A foreign intrusion entered his mind, and asked a simple question: What is your heart's desire?
The boy answered in earnest: I want to see my parents again.
As you wish. The mists slowly dissipated.
Suddenly, a man and a woman appeared a short distance away.
The boy rubbed his eyes and stared at the approaching couple. They looked very familiar to him even though he saw them for the first time. Something tugged at his heartstring as tears involuntarily formed in his eyes.
When the couple finally stood before him, the boy ran up to them. "Momma! Papa!" he cried out.
The couple knelt on the ground and hugged the boy tightly. They, too, began to cry. In tears of joy for the reunion, and shame for leaving him behind.
"Oh, my poor darling boy, we're so sorry you had to live in this big forest all by yourself," the mother said between sobs.
The father was stoic and silent but conveyed his love for the boy by rubbing his son's head and patting his back.
Their unexpected return overjoyed the boy. But something was not right. Why had his parents suddenly reappeared? The years spent living alone in the forest taught the boy to be cautious, and his instincts were screaming that the two weren't what they seemed.
The boy trusted his finely-honed survival instincts and slowly backed away. "You're not my real parents, are you?" There was no emotion in his voice; the boy had learned to wrap up his feelings and toss it aside whenever he faced danger.
The couple traded glances and slowly returned to their feet.
"No, we're not your real parents," the woman admitted with sadness. "The magic box you found has granted your wish to see your parents. We're replicas of your parents pulled from your old memories."
The boy accepted the explanation with a big nod. His parents had disappeared from the cottage one day, and they never returned for him. Why would they come back now? They were probably dead already. And speaking of coming back, the boy wondered how long his wish would last. "You won't stay for long," the boy said with certainty.
"No, we won't," the man replied and shook his head. "But in the time remaining, we can act like your parents. Would you accept that?" he asked.
The boy considered the offer. It had been a long time since he had playmates. There was no harm in allowing the couple to pretend to be his parents. The boy nodded his head enthusiastically and gave his consent. "Yes."
The woman smiled broadly. "In that case, we need to get you cleaned up, mister! When was the last time you bathed? " she asked while wrinkling her nose at the awful smell. "Can you take us to the river?"
The boy nodded. He started walking. Every few steps, he turned around to check if the make-believe parents were following him.
The trio soon arrived at a nearby stream. The water moved slowly, and it was crystal clear.
The boy disrobed without embarrassment. He slowly stepped into the stream. The water was slightly cold but tolerable. The water in the stream rose to his knees. The boy sat down, kept his chin above the water, and started scrubbing his body using his palms and fingertips.
"I'll wash your clothes," the woman said as she picked up the dirty clothes. "I wish I had a sewing kit to mend your clothing," she lamented as she saw the deteriorating condition of the garments.
"I'll catch some fish for us to eat," the man said, seeking to make himself useful.
After some time in the water, the boy stood up and carefully walked out of the stream. He looked around and saw a big boulder. He climbed it easily and sat down. The hot sun warmed his skin and slowly dried off his small, thin body.
The woman laid down the washed clothes on flat rocks to dry them.
The man somehow managed to catch two fishes. He walked around the trees until he found two good sticks to skewer the fishes. He also gathered more wood to start a fire.
The boy watched as the man spun one stick furiously between his palms and pressed the end of the stick against another piece of wood. It took a while for the friction to build up and create a fire.
The three cheered when this occurred a few minutes later.