Old Father Time stood at the end of the year, waiting. It was nearly midnight. Nearly time for him to go. He had one last, very important task to do.
Ahead, in the mist, a form appeared. Low down, moving slowly towards him. The form gradually took on the outline of a young baby, crawling, then slowly staggering to its feet, tottering, then steadily but slowly walking forward. As the child neared, it seemed to grow, upwards and outwards until, as it came to a halt in front of Old Father Time, he was a young boy of maybe five years.
Old Father Time stared down at the boy who stared unblinkingly back. “Good heavens”, thought Old Father Time, “Was I once this young and innocent looking? So fresh and so…so young?”
“Father?”, the child tentatively whispered, “Father?”
“Son”, replied Old Father Time and the young boy smiled and seemed to grow.
Old Father Time reached out and gently stroked the young boy’s hair. “Now you are here, I can go”, he said, “But first I must speak with you, explain and warn you.”
The young boy smiled and waited patiently as Old Father Time gathered his thoughts and said “You will find it hard, my son. You will witness many things – many happy things and many sad things. You are here to observe only, although you do have the ability to help sometimes.”
“Help?”, the young boy queried.
“Yes, you can help by, how shall I put it?” Old Father Time paused, thought and suddenly he too smiled. “You can help by seeming to adjust time. You can slow down some moments to give the appearance of the good times seeming to last longer. You can also speed up the sad times, to help them appear to pass quicker.”
“And this will help?” queried the youngster.
“Yes”, replied Old Father Time, “it will help.”
“But Father,” said the young lad, frowning, “I want to do more with my time here. What more can I do?”
“Nothing more my son”, replied Old Father Time. He could feel himself beginning to fade into the past. “Your role here is to mark time, absorb time, keep time and guard time. Time is precious and you have an onerous task ahead of you. But I know you will succeed.”
“Father, you are becoming fainter”, the young lad said in panic, “Please speak up. How do you know I will succeed?”
“Because”, replied Old Father Time, slowly dissolving and beginning to drift away, “ You are me, as I once was. I know our strengths”.
New Year smiled, sighed and looked ahead into the mist with confidence.
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