Soup of Ages
The man was baffled. He had no idea how he got here.
The only thing that he could remember was being at the Renaissance fair. After that, a blinding flash. And then, he woke up.
He awakened next to a mysterious building in a small medieval town. The building had a strange smoke spewing out of the chimney.
Curious of this, the man entered the building. In the building, he noticed a long hallway of cauldrons, all of them with steam flowing up from them.
The man then approached the cauldron. He grabbed the spoon to take a sip.
“My, you’ve come fast! A customer at last!”
The man gasped. “Wha….? You startled me.”
The man suddenly noticed a mysterious figure standing next to him. It was a hooded old man, with a long white beard and a walking stick. “Taste and try, the soups are nigh.”
The man was confused. He was also starting to get hungry. “There are strange smells in these soups. What’s in them?”
“That, I can’t tell. But they all work quite well….”
“Work? What do you mean? Are these soups spiked?”
“A voice for a taste. For a cup, a day you will waste. A bowl for a year. For a cauldron, a lifetime you will bear.”
The man scowled. He was now frustrated. “Is that some kind of riddle? Now, how much do these soups cost?”
The old robed man smiled. “Tastes are free! The rest cost a fee.”
“How much? I’m starving here!”
“How much, you say? Here’s what you pay. An hour’s wages for a cup, with a day that will perk you up. A month’s wages for a bowl, with a year that will make you whole. A year’s wages for a pot, and a happy lifetime is what you got.”
The man began to growl. “What does all this mean? And do you have to always speak in rhyme?”
The old robed man began to snicker. “Don’t ask me. Just try them and see!”
The man sighed, and began looking at all the cauldrons. Above each cauldron, he noticed a sign. “Age 3? Age 4? Age 5? What flavors are these soups?”
“Try and see! The tastes are free!”
The man walked down the whole length of the room, the hallway was long, which was weird to him since the building didn’t look that big from the outside. As he was walking, he noticed cauldron after cauldron, each emitting their own strange smells. Finally, he got to the last cauldron. “Age 100? What is in these soups?””
“Stop asking and see. Try a taste, just for me.”
The man sighed, and walked back down the long hallway. He began to smell the cauldron marked “Age 2”. As he sniffed the cauldron, a flood of memories entered his mind. He could smell everything that he ever experienced when he was just two. Pleasant smells and horrible smells. Every smell that he could remember from that age was there.
The man then grabbed the enormous wooden spoon, and filled it with the steaming hot broth. He then poured it into his mouth.
Almost instantly, every single thought that he had when he was two years old entered his mind. “Soup taste stwange….” he said in a much younger voice.
Suddenly, he cupped his hand over his mouth. “What was that?” He said, now in his normal voice.
The old robed man tapped the man with his walking stick. “Don’t you remember? Can’t you see? A taste for a voice! That one was free!
“That was weird,” The man said, shaking his head. “I would rather forget being that age, seriously.”
“From youth to sage, I’ve every age! Try more and see! The tastes are free!”
The man walked a little ways down the hallway, past all the cauldrons with single digit ages. The man then saw the cauldron marked “Age 14”. Now this was a fun age! He thought. I had so much fun back then….He then smelled the cauldron, and could smell every smell that he experienced when he was 14. After that, he tasted the soup. “I love this flavor!” he shouted in his 14-year old voice.
After this, the man proceeded to try some other soups. He tried ages 17, 18, 21, 25 and 28. Each of them brought back fond memories and familiar smells. With each of them, his voice sounded the age he tasted.
He kept tasting, age after age until he got to his current age: 35. He already knew what that soup tasted like, so he turned to the mysterious old robed man. “I’ll have a whole cauldron of age 35,” he told him. “I know this is a dream, and I will awaken from it very soon.”
The robed man smiled. “A year’s wages, then! And you can have the cauldron.”
The man opened up his wallet and pulled out a few 20’s. “I don’t know if this will cover it, but here.”
The robed man frowned. “That paper will not do. It is gold I need from you.”
The man sighed. “This is all I have. Will you accept any other form of payment?”
“There is nary a thing I can do. Our dealings are through.”
“Are you sure about this? I am starving!”
“Sure as one could guess, that is, unless….”
The man stared at him impatiently. “Unless what? I could wake up any minute!”
The robed man smiled, and got out a tattered piece of parchment. “The king came by today. An extra cauldron, he did pay. For the age, he didn’t say. So, just choose one anyway.”
“So he paid for an extra one and didn’t pick it up?”
“Indeed! What a waste! He left with great haste! So that’s what I can do. A free cauldron for you.”
With that, the man ate as much as he wanted from the cauldron marked “age 35”. Since he was 35, his age didn’t change. The more he ate of the soup, the more he liked it.
Weeks passed. The man didn’t wake up like he hoped he would. Everyday, he kept eating the soup. It kept him well nourished and healthy. After eating the soup for about a month, the cauldron was finally gone.
The man then left the mysterious building. After being here for a month, he was now wondering how he was ever going to leave. As soon as he wondered, he woke up.
The man was at the Renaissance fair. It was only a dream.
But as the years passed, the man realized that it wasn’t a dream. After a decade, he realized that he was still 35. A couple more decades passed. He was the same age.
Then, he remembered the words from the old robed man: “A voice for a taste. For a cup, a day you will waste. A bowl for a year. For a cauldron, a lifetime you will bear.”
After reciting these words a few times in his head, the words that stuck out were “For a cauldron, a lifetime you will bear.”
Those very words haunted the man. As he heard those words, he realized that the taste of that soup was still in his mouth. The taste has been there for all those years, and he finally realized it.
So the man lived on, remaining at the age of 35 for the rest of his life.
©2012 K. L. Walker