Light catcher In a seaside village lived an old man, whose name had almost been forgotten by those living in that village. People called him ‘Old Captain’. And he had a job, which had something to do with sailing. He was a skilled sailor when he was young. Once he sailed to the edge of the world and returned with his great pride. That happened in his early thirties. And that voyage turned him from a boy to a man. Shortly after he retired from sailing he got a new job, for he had a unique instrument and a rare talent. Not so many people in the world was born with that talent. And he was one of the very few. What did they do? They collected light. The light of women and men. Old Captain became aware of his talent in his early twenties. He knew he could see the light of those around him during his childhood and teenage years, but at that time he thought everybody else could see the light too. It was only when he had passed his adolescent years did he notice that he could draw those light towards his hands. In the beginning he was terrified by this discovery. It was like a magician one day finding out he could do real magic, not those usual tricks to earn an applause from his audience. He didn’t tell anybody about it of course, for he feared if ever he did so he would be seen as a freak. And that to him, at that age, was a greater concern than the shocking discovery of his new strength. But his worry could not evade his mother’s eyes. She asked him what was bothering him. And after three days of aching struggle he decided to tell her the truth. He told her about what he could do with his eyes and his hands. And he told her what a torment it meant to him. His mother listened to every word he said with a peaceful face, and comforted him with a tale after he finished talking. She told him the story of his own father. Like Old Captain, his father was able to see the light of others from a young age. When he realised what he could do with those light, he decided to move away from others. He learned the skills and became a sailor. He kept staying on the ship and very seldom stepped his feet on the land. It felt safe to him to stay in isolation in his own cabin than to be bothered by those light of others. She told her son to have patience and learn to accept himself and his talent. To become a sailor seemed a fine solution for him when he was young. And she promised to talk to the villagers about his talent when he was away to see if his talent could be accepted by others as well. This was something his father had never succeeded. He died young in a hurricane when Old Captain was only a baby. The village they lived in was one of harsh conditions due to its location. It’s on an island far away from the continent. The streets are dominated by cats rather than islanders. By both sides of the streets stand stone houses with small windows. On bad days the sea water would be thrown onto the surfaces of the houses by fierce waves. Not so many things have changed in the last few hundred years. Only people come and go, and tides ebb and flow. On the middle of a hill on the island sat Old Captain’s house, in which he lived with his lamp and his cat. He made the lamp in his late twenties and the cat became his only companion since his wife passed away some years ago. A heart attack took her life and she died without much suffering. There was a story, a charming story, about the lamp, which Old Captain rarely shared with anybody else. As he could remember, the last time he told the story was two years after his wife’s death when his grandson came to say goodbye before leaving the island. Like Old Captain, his grandson was a sailor who inherited the family talent in his blood. He was in his early twenties and his name was J. He wanted to see the rest of the world with his own eyes. Old Captain thought the story of the lamp could help the young sailor as he went around the planet, so he decided to share it with him as they drank hot tea under the warm sun. It was the time of spring. The most comfortable time on the island. When Old Captain was a young man of J’s age, he used to hike on the island and the nearby ones from dawn to dusk. In the embrace of blue sky and green land he sought peace and beauty. And to distance himself from the rest of the village seemed a fine solution to his fear of his own talent. And one day as he passed by a village on a nearby island something spectacular caught his heart. It was a young woman resting by the country road, who had layers of gentle light moving around her body of beauty. The day was fine that day. The spring rain had just ceased, for which the smell of life existed in every piece of air on the island. And the sound of feet stepping into thin, muddy puddles on the road could be heard as Old Captain strode forward. She made him stop. She made him change his life. He couldn’t say anything to her in the sweet breeze of spring. He wasn’t able to. Yet his hands told him what to do. They wanted to draw those gentle light towards him. Not too much. Just a little. Just a little of those light would be enough to make him happy for a very long time. Three seconds of seeing her became too long for Old Captain. He headed back home right away afterwards, for his fast beating heart wouldn’t allow him to stay on the site any longer. And he didn’t tell anyone about the encounter, not even his caring mum. Lying on his bed and staring at the starless night sky he could not fall asleep. Each time he closed his eyes the memories of seeing her and being there would be awakened to make him feel happy and sad at the same time. When the sleepless night had just ended, with his face covered in dry tears, Old Captain sat up from his bed under the breaking dawn. He had a place to go to. He had a thing to make. He had an uncle who ran a carpentry house, in which he had been playing and sometimes making things since a kid. And he knew he could get all the help he needed from his uncle for this task of his destiny. And by the end of the day a lamp was finished. A lamp made of wood, a lamp so transparent, a lamp elegant as a piece of art. From every angle the lamp looked like a frame of a painting, a frame that had its volume and weight. Yet at the same time it was a lamp so light that it could almost float in the air. When the sun started to rise the next day, Old Captain brought his lamp with him as he returned to the nearby island. He had to find that young woman. He had to see that light again. He went from door to door to look for her, peeking into every room through their windows if possible. It had to be done at early hours of the day, for the spring sun could be too bright for Old Captain’s eyes. It took a while before he had finally found her in a house located in the middle of the village. With a nervous smile on his face, he knocked on the front door of the house, preparing himself for everything that might come out of the other side of the door. As he waited he held up his lamp to his chest. That was the first time in his life when he was willing to show and explain his talent to others. And after some seconds, she opened the front door. She said she remembered seeing him two days ago. And he asked her to marry him after introducing his own name. She was shocked of course, saying she didn’t know what to say, only calling his mum and dad to the front door for help. The presence of the lamp helped Old Captain half a minute later. It saved him from being kicked into the village street right away, and it gave him the half minute to explain himself in clear words. ‘I want to marry your daughter because I am in love with her,’ said Old Captain in his shivering voice, ‘And I made this lamp because of her.’ He was then asked what he could do with that lamp, to which he decided to answer with an exhibition of his talent. He drew little light of hers to the lamp and made it lit. He told them what he could do with his eyes and his hands, and promising to keep their daughter safe and happy in the rest of her life. They were married a year later. Since then, each time Old Captain went out to the sea, he would draw a little light of his wife’s to the lamp to keep it glow. The waves could be fierce out there, and the lamp was put behind the window of their house to keep his ship safe. By the time of his retirement from sailing his talent had been well known on the islands in the same area. And that’s why he was given the job to keep other ships safe by keeping the lamp lit. J was deeply moved by the story. And he wondered how the lamp could remain lit after grandma passed away. ‘Because the light doesn’t just go off when one dies.’ answered Old Captain with a smile, ‘It stays for a very long time.’ And the story of the lamp had created another impact on the young boy. J began to wonder whether he should step into every corner of those villages nearby before travelling around the world. ‘Go then!’ laughed Old Captain, ‘Go around this place to see if you can find someone who could make you stay. If you couldn’t, then just leave.’ Two months later J returned with an eager and unhappy face. He came to his grandpa to say goodbye. He also came for some advice he could get from the man he admired the most in his life. It was already in the middle of the summer, so they had to wait until the sun began to set to sit outdoors. They both loved fresh air, the smell of the sea, and beautiful things like sunset. And that was when Old Captain told his grandson the fairytale he heard ages ago. It was said that in the northern end of the world there was a place full of pretty light. Those light rested during the day and woke up to illuminate the sky of the night. They were different in shape and colour, which made them favourable for men like Old Captain and J. Those light could be caught, if the catcher was skillful enough, and then kept in a device to make a gorgeous lamp. The lamp would then have the blessings of the sky to keep a village safe and prosperous for decades long. Nobody really knew why those light existed. Perhaps they were drawn from people living there by the mystical sky. Old Captain could see the light of excitement in the eyes of the young sailor as he told the fairytale. And he knew, from that moment, his grandson would soon find his own life of destiny. And he was right. When J returned a week later to say goodbye again, Old Captain was given the promise that it would be a matter of months until they saw each other again, and when that happened he would be shown the light of the end of the world caught by his grandson. Days became months, and months turned into years. Old Captain kept doing his job of protecting the passing ships as he waited, with his lamp and cat, for the return of his grandson. And it took six years, instead of several months as promised, for the aged old man to see his grandchild again. J had become a grown man when he returned to his own island. He came to see Old Captain empty-handedly, and the sadness on his face worried his grandpa slightly. ‘It’s okay, my boy.’ said Old Captain with his comforting voice, ‘It doesn’t matter that you haven’t fulfilled your promise to me. What worries me now is what is bothering you.’ Minutes later, J told his story. When he had finally reached the northern end of the world after several months of sailing, the young sailor was completely in awe of the magnificent light in the sky of the night. The air was so thin there that he thought he could touch the sky from where he stood on the ground. For several months he did nothing but enjoying the movement of those light in the night sky. They made him forget everything in his own life, including his promise to his grandpa. After a while he tended to believe he liked doing nothing and thinking of nothing, just letting the beauty of the night take his life away. It’s only during his first spring in the northern end of the world J came back to his senses. When the days became longer, the light began to fade away from the night sky, the flowers started to bloom and birds could be heard sing, the young sailor finally remembered his promise to his Old Captain. He had to catch the light. He had to bring it back to his granddad. Yet first of all, a lamp must be built for the task. J needed to find a good carpentry where he was able to make a lamp as exquisite as he could. And with the help from some nice local people, he found one by the foot of a hill. Then His life had a routine. And he stopped wasting his nights looking up to those dancing light. He woke up early, worked in the carpentry till midday before having lunch. After lunch he took a walk to the harbour, to feel the water, to inhale the smell of it, and to relish its difference from the sea water at home. It’s not as salty, almost having a sweet twist. He finished working when the day began to end, went home afterwards, to eat a good meal, then have a good sleep. He had an ambition. He wanted to build the most splendid lamp to catch the most splendid light. It didn’t matter to him how long it would take. He wanted to do it not only for his grandpa now. He also wanted to do it for himself and the rest of those living in the villages of his home islands. Days went on as usual, as J concentrated all his energy on his task, until one day a young woman turned up in his life. Like a stream of water from a lake, she ambled into the carpentry as J started to polish his lamp, cleaning the air that was filled with dust and smoke. Holding his sandpaper and lamp and his breath, J stared at the young woman in a way he had never done before. He was amazed by her beauty and the gorgeous light circulating around her. She had a face of a pretty baby, and the light was like a stream of misty rain dancing on its own. For a minute he had even forgotten where he was and who he was, let alone of he was there for what purpose. It was a sunny afternoon. And J just let it pass as he watched the young woman move. She didn’t seem to care about being watched by a stranger. Instead, she just effortlessly did what she wanted to do in the carpentry, so absorbed into herself as if the rest of the world didn’t exist. And her eyes were in such a pretty shape that they could make everyone smile. J watched, covering his mouth with his dusty hand, admitting she was the most spectacular thing he had ever seen, and not knowing what else he should be doing. He thought of introducing himself, perhaps also his unfinished lamp, to her, but feared that would distract her focus. He also thought of drawing a small piece of her light to feel its excellency, but became afraid that by doing so it might tarnish its wonderful circulation. He felt as if he was split into two halves of himself. One half wanted her badly, yet the other one wanted to set her free. And he kept being tortured by this conflict until he made his decision the next day. He would leave the northern end of the world and head back home. And he would leave his unfinished lamp in the carpentry so it might remind the young woman of him each time she saw it. Old Captain could sense the pain in his grandson’s voice as he told the story. Yet the only thing he did was he smiled through the whole tale without saying a word. ‘I am sorry, grandpa.’ cried J, ‘I am sorry that I just couldn’t allow myself to take that piece of light.’ ‘You did the right thing, my boy.’ comforted Old Captain as he patted the young man’s back, ‘She is more important to you than everything else in the world.’ ‘But I broke my promise to you, grandpa. And what should I do next?’ ‘What you need to do is very simple.’ laughed Old Captain as he watched J’s confused face, ‘You need to go back to her. And don’t worry about me. Take my lamp and put some of my light in it. It would be the same if you show her the light of me instead of the other way around. And if possible you can also invite her to our islands when the time is ready.’ After this the two men looked into each other’s eyes and laughed together for a very long time.
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