Surely it was not that long ago… but yes it had to have been, for at the time he was not even in his teens. Now in his fifties with a wife and grown up family of his own he was older than his father had been when they left on their first great adventure. Speck and he determined to find the meaning of the document they had found earlier that same year. Now 40 years had elapsed. Where had the time gone? He mused as he gazed into the reflection of his older face, the receding hairline, the furrowed brow and the sad eyes that gazed back at him from the silver tray lying on his desk with the remains of his morning refreshment; a cup of lemon scented tea and a soft round cake that he could never remember the name of but the taste of which he enjoyed nonetheless. No doubt about it, Mrs. Fleming was indeed the mistress of her domain. The bake-house was at the end of the laneway behind the impressive store where he now sat pondering. What was wrong? All that he had just been thinking about, the success of his business ventures, the closeness he had with his family, the health that he enjoyed? In fact he should be the happiest person alive.
“Well why aren’t I?” He remonstrated out loud.
Just then the door to his palatial office silently swung open to reveal Michael, his personal assistant and constant work companion.
“Everything all right Sir?” he enquired in his familiar neutral tone.
“Fine, fine. Just having a quiet chat with myself” answered Lister with a grin, adding, “Well maybe it wasn't as quiet as it should have been, eh Michael?”
With that the silhouetted form of Michael entered the hallowed hall known as ‘The Office’.
Michael, once out of sight and earshot of other employees, lost his reserved air and began in a much more familiar and personal tone.
“What’s up Lister, you’ve been out of sorts for the past few weeks, is there anything I can do to help?”
“Oh, I don’t know Michael. You’ve been a great friend over the past 10 or so years as well as an excellent employee but it’s your friendship that I value most of all, but in this
instance I don’t think even you can help me, because I don’t know if there are any answers to what bothers me.”
Lister sighed and drained the remains of his tea placing the cup thoughtfully back on the tray, the tray that seemed to have started his present train of thought. Michael was right; he had been feeling a little lost for the past few weeks. Nothing seemed to give him pleasure anymore, not that he was depressed. No, it just seemed that the sparkle had left him, the vitality for what he was doing. He was in no way ready to die but just seemed to have nothing worthwhile to live for. He had achieved so much and it appeared that even though he was loved by his family, they no longer seemed to need him, as they had done in the past.
“What’s next? What’s the point of anything anymore?” These questions were intended for him only, but as before he had verbalized them audibly. Realizing his mistake he looked straight into the eyes of his faithful friend
Michael, who replied. “What’s the point of what anymore, are you talking about living or breathing?”
Lister was taken aback. “What’s the difference, aren’t they both really the same in the end?”
“Not really,” Michael smiled. “Breathing is a function, living is an experience. You can have the function without the experience, but never the experience without the function. It seems to me that you want the function to continue, but need something to give the experience new meaning.”
“Michael you have clarified it with rapier precision as always, but how do I find this new experience? There is nothing I cannot have, see, or do, that money can buy. There is nothing. So I ask you. What is it I can do?”
“Conquer the world within ” was the prompt reply.
“Conquer the world within what? What does that mean?” protested Lister.
After a brief pause he once again looked into Michael’s eyes, grinned then continued.
“You mean search inside me for a peaceful world where I can live in harmony with all that is around me, no matter how chaotic it may seem?”
“What do you think?” was the brief yet gentle reply. Michael smiled once more then turned and headed towards the huge doors he had entered by.
Just as he reached for the handle he looked at his employer. In a low voice, so others, who may be outside would not hear, asked Lister if he remembered the old man they previously employed. His job had been to keep an eye on the building when it was shut, such as public days, celebrations or when festivals were in progress.
“You mean old William that lives out by the mill on the South road? Of course I remember him, he was a very quiet fellow but he always made me feel better about myself whenever I spent some time with him. What about him?”
“Well, rumor has it that he is more than he appeared to be when he was with us. It may pay you handsomely to take a trip to visit him and share the discussion we have just had. Now I must get back to the records I was completing before you startled me with your cry for help.”
As Michael slid through the gap in the separated doors, Lister felt a pang of indignation, ‘Cry for help indeed;’ he thought. Why should he, Lister, of all people be so vulnerable that he would cry out for help. As he sat there ruminating, he conceded that perhaps the cunning old fox Michael was right. He was indeed crying out for help, help that he himself was not aware he needed.
Being brought back to the present, Lister heard the jangling of a bell, one that was fitted behind his desk. It was used to announce the start of his weekly meetings with the directors of his vast commercial empire. That was the 10-minute warning bell. Wonderful he told himself, I have just enough time to formulate a plan that I can present, to enable me to take some time off, and once again search for the secrets I now need to discover… the answer to the riddle of inner conquest.
He made some brief notes on his personally embossed parchments and made a mental note to call on Speck before he set off on his new quest.
Even though he was much older now, he felt the same sense of excitement and urgency in his heart, stomach and legs he had felt when he and his sister had set out all those years ago on their adventures. To his surprise, and with delight, he noted a new spring in his step and eagerness in his walk as he left his office. He made his way through the back corridors to the meeting hall where the expectant group was gathered.