A Young Man’s Fortune
by Alberto Chimal
translated by Toshiya Kamei
This happened when the great wizard Negora was already powerful despite his youth. He lived in Lalepse, in the south. Everyone respected him for his magical abilities, and anyone could easily see that he had a great future in store for him.
One day, however, a young man came to the wizard’s house. He said, “No doubt you are distinguished beyond most men. You have the ability to foresee things to come. Tell me what fate awaits me, what will become of me. I’ll leave Lalepse tomorrow to seek my fortune in the wide world.”
At first, the wizard refused. “If you go seek your fortune, you’ll find it.”
But the young man insisted. He told Negora about the uncertainty of life people lead, about the causes and effects that overwhelm almost everyone, about the fate that condemns, in the end, even the most fortunate. He was poor, he said, and he would simply rely on his own strength and wit. Nothing was certain in his life. He expected a lot. He wanted wealth, respect, authority, and love, but he didn’t know whether he would find them. Perhaps not. Didn’t he have a right to know? Wasn’t he entitled to know if his efforts would be rewarded before suffering great pain?
He spoke with such sincerity that Negora was moved. He saw himself in the young man, and he began to wonder: What would his life have been like without his power, the gift he was born with? Perhaps he, too, would have wanted to know. He would have asked some wizard the same question if he had been forced to face life like other men.
Even though he had never tried to foresee the future, and all his teachers had told him not to, Negora agreed. He chanted an incantation. As he extended his hands, a window appeared in the air, a shiny transparent pane, through which neither the wizard’s house, nor his modest furniture, nor his books were seen. Instead, it revealed a vision.
“Come here,” said Negora.
The young man went closer.
And he stepped back, horrified, for he saw that he would curse the wizard, hate him, and wish him ill with his last breath. In truth, he had very little time left. At nightfall, he would be killed on a street corner. Yes. A thief would plunge a knife into his chest, once, twice, paying no heed to his pain or his death.
In the end, the thief would find neither money nor valuables on his person. And he, too, would curse. Then the young man’s body would be thrown into a common grave. Later, he would be devoured by worms, by stray dogs...
Neither spoke for a moment.
Already feeling his foreseen hatred, the young man wished he’d never heard of the wizard Negora. He wished he’d never asked him anything. He wished he’d never felt the horror of knowing his future. “Damn you!” he said, not wanting to waste his time left.
Negora, who had also seen everything, knew what he had to do. Without saying a word or changing his expression, he willed the magic window to disappear and cast a spell on the young man: the spell of oblivion.
After a while, he heard the young man say, “No doubt you are distinguished beyond most men. You have the ability to foresee things to come.”
Then he resolutely refused to grant the young man’s request. He paid no heed to his persuasive words, his reasoning or, later, his rage, which was brutal and bitter.
“Damn you, wizard. You’ve got no heart! You don’t remember the days when you were like any other man,” the young man said and then walked away.
Negora didn’t stop him. He spent the rest of the afternoon and the whole night sitting at his desk, completely absorbed in a thick book of sorcery.