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[Fiction] Symmetry - Once


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Once, there was a man.

* * *

Once, there was a man, who was strong. And he was the strongest in all the land, and they would gather and speak of his strength, and it was boasted that he could push the sky away. He could change the course of mighty rivers, and bend steel in his bare hands. But strong as he was, it was merely physical strength - the power to move mountains and not the human soul. And those who were unmoved, were his end.

Once, there was a man, who was fast. The fastest man alive, faster than a speeding bullet, nimble as the finest machines. He bound across the deserts and highways of the world, always in a hurry, for he knew nothing but speed. But fast as he was, he could never catch up with what he sought, and his great chase only drew him further, not closer - further from that which mattered. And he met his end under his own footfalls..

Once, there was a man, who was hardy. Hardy as a dozen rhino, a hundred, a thousand. The hardiest of all. He never slept, nor ate, nor drew breath. He could lie in a snowbank and bathe in a star. There was no force he feared, for what could harm, such as him? And the universe despaired, and turned away, and he watched it go, as he stood, untouchable, invulnerable, fearing no heat, nor cold, nor wound. But the fear was still there, and he had not shut it out, but trapped it within, the only companion to this lonely god - the fear that he needed the heat, and the cold, and the wounds, far more than they needed him. And alone with the fear, he met his end.

Once, there was a man, who was smart. The smartest who ever lived. A genius, Einstein to the power of Hawking. And he delved into the universe itself, embracing it, peeling away layer after layer, probing this mystery and that. The onion of the universe did not shrink as the layers fell away - it grew, its mysteries deeper with each shed skin. Still he delved, for the thirst for knowledge was all he knew. And one day, the onion had grown so large that he was crushed, not by weight but by disappointment, and how much there was left to do. And he met his end.

Once, there was a man, who was perceptive. Who could hear a whisper a world away. Who could smell everything on the most crowded streets in the world, and see into the heart of a star itself. And the world was laid out before him, fully, and its complexity and fullness overwhelmed him, forcing him to look away, to the one place where there was nothing to see, nor hear, nor touch - the infinite blackness over his head. And he looked, and saw and felt and heard nothing in that space, and he met his end as the emptiness struck him dead.

Once, there was a man, who was quick of wit. Whose mind was always a hundred steps ahead. Unfazable, imperturbable, clever, creative, all this and more. He met his end as his thoughts crashed into one another, like racing cars on a track, as he was caught adrift in a sea of slowness, the bitterness eating away at him until nothing was left.

Once, there was a man, who was handsome. So handsome, Adonis would weep in shame. His hair perfect, his teeth perfect, everything perfect. Everyone basked in his glory like a lizard sunning on a rock. And one day, someone tapped the exterior hard enough for it to crumble, exposing it as a shell concealing hollowness and nothing. And crumbled and broken, he met his end.

Once, there was a man, who was persuasive. So persuasive, others bent to his words the way wheat bent to a scythe. Lies poured from his lips, invincible and strong. And the lies went out into the world, and they spread, breeding and gaining strength. And the man drowned in a sea of his own lies, unable to trust anyone or anything. Awash in deception, he met his end.

Once, there was a man, who was charismatic. So likeable, no one dared oppose him. No one stood in his way, as he walked through the world with ease. No one said anything to him that he did not wish to hear. And he met no obstacles, and so overcame no obstacles, and the drive to improve and overcome withered and died. In this way, he met his end.

* * *

Once, there was a man.

Once, there was a man, who was strong and fast and tough, but not overly so; who was perceptive and witty and intelligent, but not too much; who was charismatic and persuasive and handsome, but not so much so that he did naught else. He depended on no one thing, but danced his own dance, of exquisite balance, of perfect symmetry.

And he would meet his own end, in his own way, and in his own time.

And he was content.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein

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