Fiction Friday, 10-9-2020

Birthday Wish

Everyone who knew Dr. Marvin Williams was astounded, absolutely astounded, at all the things the twelve-year-old university professor knew.

“I believe,” he was often told, “that you know everything there is to know.”

Each time somebody made that, or a similar, remark, Marvin thought to himself, “If only that were true.”

He estimated that the sum total of his knowledge was approximately one millionth of one tenth of one percent of all there was to know. It was the equivalent of not even one raindrop, one snowflake, of all that had ever fallen or would ever fall.

And yet, Marvin did have a vast store of information. He had incredible reading skills, and could go through ten books in the time it would take most people to read one.

He also had a memory that retained everything.

But he wasn’t satisfied; he wanted to know more. He wanted to know, as so many people thought he did, all there was to know.

He began staying up later and later, way past his bedtime, [remember, he was only twelve years old] to study. This lasted until Marvin’s mother put her foot down.

And then, Marvin’s birthday arrived. And when it came time to blow out the candles and make a wish, Marvin, although he didn’t believe in birthday wishes, thought, “I wish I really did know everything.”

And when Marvin arose from sleep the next morning, he was amazed to discover that his wish had somehow come true.

Marvin knew everything. He knew everything that had ever happened, was happening right at that moment, or would happen in the future, everywhere in the entire universe.

He knew every language, including those that no longer existed, and those that did not yet exist.

Marvin was seeing and hearing everything, all at once.

His mind read books and scrolls that had been lost for years, and books that had not yet been written.

He saw every work of art that ever had been, or would be, created.

He heard all the music that ever had been composed, all the music that ever would be composed.

He saw every performance of every play, past, present, and future, including his own starring role in a very successful kindergarten production of Pinocchio that people still talked about. [It was Marvin who had figured out how to create the illusion of Pinocchio’s nose growing.]

But Marvin not only knew all the information that had been, was, or would be available to the public. He also knew private things, personal things, about everyone currently living, everyone who ever had lived, everyone who ever would live. Things, in other words, that he had no business knowing.

He realized, then, that he had made a mistake, a terrible mistake. His wish should have included the words, “But not all at once.”

He was like a thirsty man who, instead of being given a glass of water, had had all the water in all the oceans thrown at him.

And, knowing everything all at once, he also felt, simultaneously, every emotion one could possibly feel.

Yes, Marvin now knew everything there was to know.

Almost everything.

He saw his own past.

He saw his own present, that is, he saw and heard himself seeing and hearing everything.

But he did not see his own future.

Put too many things into a bag, and the bag will tear.

Fill a balloon with too much air, and the balloon will burst.

When Marvin’s father came to see why he hadn’t come down to breakfast, he found the boy sitting on the bed, staring, his eyes wide and vacant.

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