Nobody Wants To See You Succeed
rating: +90+x

Nobody walked through the snow, playing with a yo-yo. It had no rope, just a ring around his finger and the wheel. When thrown, the ring guided its trajectory and transmitted sensations of speed and tension. However, he could make the wheel stop and float in mid-air by closing his palm. He could then throw it again, and the ring would make the wheel treat the pull of gravity as if facing the same general direction as his open palm.

He had found the toy buried in the snow, looking worn by time but barely used. His goal was to find who made it, but there were no brand or manufacturer marks, and he hadn't seen anything quite like it. No bother. Time wasn't something he lacked, and he had an idea of who might point him in the right direction.

Lying down, he made a snow angel at his leisure. The imaginary friend looked up at him with open arms, and he imitated their gesture. Falling face-first, he vanished into their embrace.

Days stretched into weeks and months as Nobody wandered between old and new places.

He had gone to an artistic convention of the bizarre, but there were no rules and most loved the spotlight more than the brush. Ironic sculpture after radical film blurred together, until the whole event became a uniform, grey paste. In such an environment, none could know the creator of such a simple source of joy as the yo-yo. However, they paid great attention to the quality and origin of materials, so they were able to tell him where to look next. After a lot of snide remarks and upturned noses, of course.

Before leaving, Nobody left behind a simple painting of a bright sunrise and entitled it "Your Future". The convention came to a halt as several artists argued for hours about the hidden meaning, decided it was a jab at them, and congratulated themselves for being so clever. He chuckled to himself and stepped through his painting when it was no longer the center of attention, becoming a bird on the horizon of the canvas.

He soared between painted landscapes, carried by the wind over treetops and skycrapers in a heartbeat. The landing was greeted by a fairgrounds hosting the greatest show on Earth. Brave men tamed fantastic beasts from exotic corners of the world, beautiful women pulled off acrobatic stunts that laughed in the face of death, and addictive games with grand prizes beckoned from every corner. He had been told by the artists that the materials of the yo-yo came from this Circus. There were more tents and stalls than he could count, and he knew for a fact that the people who worked in the Circus were suspicious of inquisitive folk. No bother, blending in was his specialty.

With the right questions placed here and there, he discovered that there once was a boy who would come to this Circus without his parents knowing. He'd beat even the hardest games and collect the prizes in a large backpack. One day, the boy stormed into the crowds with a megaphone in hand and a shine in his eyes.

"Gather around, one and all! I have something to show that you've never seen before!" he announced in his best impression of a boisterous ringmaster. He pulled out a clunky and garish contraption he had built from the prizes he had earned. It was a mish mash of buttons, transparent tubes, cranks, Tesla coils and who knew what else. The whole thing stank of grease and gasoline, had no pattern to its colors, and was held together by duct tape in several places.

"This machine may look broken, but when I turn it on, you will see that it can create fireworks unlike any other! Behold the power of science and be amazed!" The visitors that gathered around the boy were intrigued, but also dubious. Some wanted to take a closer look or touch the machine, and others asked how it was supposed to work. The boy insisted that everyone keep a safe distance and babbled about technical jargon. Since that didn't hold their attention, he cut to the chase.

There was a show of electric arcs and hissing steam as the boy pressed buttons and turned cranks. Pyrotechnics with the spark of life itself came out of the machine and flew over their heads. Everything from dinosaurs to galaxies turned the sky into a symphonic kaleidoscope. The boy shared facts about the living images with all the enthusiasm of a showman and a scientist. When the lights and sound were over, the audience remained silent and wide eyed for several moments, then applauded and begged for more. The boy had not prepared anything else, but did not want to disappoint them, so he made adjustments on the fly that resulted in a catastrophe. No one was seriously injured, but the boy was never seen again. The only signs of him that remained were handmade posters with instruction on how to find secret doors and promises of more shows.

Now knowing the next step, Nobody grabbed one of the boy's posters and searched for an exit. He came across a performer who juggled with the power of her mind. She looked disappointed at the lack of people paying attention to her, but she was only juggling a few balls while standing still. Nobody said she couldn't juggle on a unicycle, and she took it as a challenge. On and on he added another layer of difficulty, always saying the proud performer would surely fail this time, until she was surrounded by a cheering crowd. Away from all those eyes, he entered a photo booth and vanished along with the flashes of light.

Swimming from photo to photo, he covered oceans of frozen memories in the blink of an eye. He emerged upon the halls of the Library, and asked one of the Librarians if there was more from the creator of the poster. After signing his Library card, a Librarian pointed him in the direction of an aged notebook filled with sketches of toys like the yo-yo. As Nobody left, he felt tempted to help or mess with someone, but the Library was a place of order. All his experience with blending in would not help him if he broke its rules. No bother, there would be an opportunity to return soon enough.

It was the season of picnics and water pistols, the laughter of children mixed with birdsong, and the clouds were made of cotton. One could practically hear the wind inviting everyone to look out their window and go experience Nature's handiwork.

The wind could not tell any of this to Timothy Griffin, because anyone he invited into his house should have an appointment and all documents ready. As the wind usually made documents go away instead of bringing them, one could imagine that Timothy was not an avid practitioner of the spring spirit.

That's not to say he was without spirit. Little pieces of it were present in his habits as if placed by ink stamp: regular sleep schedule, carefully calculated nutritional intake and economical speech (for the inevitable crisis of oxygen and ensuing taxation of the spoken word). He had the spirit of clockwork, and he would not let spring mess with that.

However, it was not spring that interrupted his reading of the newspaper, but an arrow. It flew through a window, past the breakfast table and hit the fridge, glueing an envelope onto it. Timothy grumbled and pried it off, not bothering to open it. He went to the window with envelope in hand and saw the archer with his toy bow. He had not been there a moment before, and did not look like any of the kids with which Timothy was familiar.

"What is the meaning of this?" he said, shaking the projectile and trying to block the sunlight out of his face.

"Good morning to you too!" replied the boy with a toothy smile. "It's a special delivery!" He didn't seem intimidated by the tall, broad-shouldered and dark-skinned man.

"I'm busy. And you can use the mail. You could have broken something! That arrow almost hit my favorite mug! It cost me seven dollars!"

"Why would I use the mail? This is much more fun!"

Timothy paused to stare at the envelope like it was a chalkboard full of quantum physics equations. The idea that anyone would try to reinvent something perfectly serviceable like mail was lunacy to him. He was still recovering from the advent of colored television, and now this. The world just didn't give him time to breathe.

He scratched his bald head. "Look, why don't you go play with your friends? It's a beautiful day."

"It's a beautiful day for everyone, silly! And it'll get even better for you when you open my special delivery."

Timothy was about to protest that he didn't even know the boy, but he remembered his toast and went to check on them. The boy turned around a corner and dissolved into wisps of smoke and tendrils of shadow.

Breakfast was had, mail was checked, and no more arrows flew through the window. However, Timothy couldn't keep his eyes away from the delivery for long. After a long time working as a bureaucrat, he had become used to turning down requests. But something on that day wasn't sitting quite right with him. He felt like blaming the food or the news, but deep down, he wanted to know what would happen if he said "yes" for once.

His old eyes widened in shock as he opened the envelope. The first pages were a copy of his blueprints for the anti-gravity yo-yo. But how? And why? Who could possibly want him to think about this now? He had abandoned projects like those ages ago. It was not like he had much of a choice. Besides, he was better off like this. What was the use for winged bikes if they only made you show up late for dinner?

Dinner. The word made the dusty cogs in his brain grind and creak. He remembered his relatives gathered for the meal. Silence. Chewing. Work. Dreams. Disapproval. Chewing. Silence. It was like they were still there to scold him for holding those blueprints. But more memories returned, whole years trying to do amazing and fun things. Mold the DNA like clay to create pets out of a fairy tale, harness the forces of the cosmos inside a portable playground, and forge the perfect playmates for children with special needs. His shock gave way to curiosity about what could have been, and the worries about ghosts of the past faded away.

He looked at the rest of the envelope. There were more of his blueprints, but someone had written compliments and all kinds of suggestions on them. Whoever it was, they sincerely believed Timothy should try to create more of these toys. The final note said "be on the lookout for more hints and suggestions!"

This was nonsense. What about the contact information? He would need it to tell this fool to give up. Timothy had no time for anything that didn't fit on a punch card. He gathered all the papers and headed for the recycling bin. Looming over him in the middle of the way was a shelf containing many prizes for the dedication to his work. Not a single stain or prize out of order. The glow of pride he usually felt when looking at the shelf had dimmed, and the empty spot he had reserved for the next prize did not make him anxious.

For a moment that seemed like an era, there was a sweeping chaos in the cogs of his mind. Fossilized ideas about safety and respectability clashed with the burning need to know if this was all of his legacy. There was anger as he wondered if this was a prank. There was fear as he imagined the risks of pursuing his dreams again. The shelf just stood there, as if challenging him.

Timothy set aside his clockwork spirit and put the papers in the spot reserved for the next prize.

The old bureaucrat went about his routine after the special delivery. His co-workers said there was something different about him, like his body was present but not his mind. He was even seen drawing several pages of strange shapes and numbers that resembled blueprints. If anybody asked the purpose of these drawings, he would say that it was just to remember shapes and keep his memory strong.

The day was uneventful until the lunch break, when Timothy noticed another envelope with his name on it placed on his work desk. He stared at it suspiciously and with a hint of irritation, then scanned his surroundings for any co-workers that might be the ones responsible for this foolishness. Seeing no one of the sort, he opened it and saw an incomplete blueprint for something he couldn't quite identify. On the margin was the message "gather all of the other blueprints in your office and try out the complete design for a great surprise! Ask your fellow treasure hunters in the office for help".

Oh, for heaven's sake! First at home, and now at work? When would this prankster give up? But then again, the message did mention the other workers. Perhaps they were victims of this incessant annoyance as well? Investigating it might help to reveal who was behind all of this and put them in their place.

Following the trail of breadcrumbs, Timothy found out that the other workers had received similar envelopes. Each time he approached one of them, it turned out that the blueprints fit together in a way suggestive of a collaborative project. In the process, Timothy found himself gradually opening up about his old ideas over the next days. Instead of scolding him, his co-workers gave him smiles overflowing with admiration and curiosity. The old bureaucrat's amazement and joy were such that he had to excuse himself for a moment to wipe a tear from his face. They told him that whoever was sending him these envelopes and messages was no prankster, but someone who sincerely believed in his potential. Some went as far as to say that if Timothy ignored these challenges, he'd inevitably let his dreams escape.

And that was all the motivation he needed to tackle them head on. During the next week, he worked overtime to be free for talking with his co-workers about the blueprints. In the middle of all the technical jargon, he found himself genuinely connecting with people after a long while of sulking and aimless drudgery. His eyes seemed brighter and he walked without dragging himself like a sack of bricks. The people around him noticed the improvement and even invited him to parties. All of this combined gave an unprecedented boost to his creativity, which he applied to solving the treasure hunt with childike enthusiasm.

The resulting device incorporated ideas from all around the office. It was essentially a game where the workers would pledge to complete certain office tasks the most efficiently by inserting cards into the device. Winners would accumulate credits, which could be spent to turn on a mechanism that was like a prototypical version of a 3D printer, with more complex objects requiring more credits. People could form teams and challenge each other, trade objects they no longer wanted, or feed them back into the device to get their credits back. And to top it all off, the device always played catchy and triumphant music when a player accumulated enough credits to create the object they wanted. The invention caused a massive increase in the workplace's productivity, and Timothy was offered another promotion. He accepted, but this time, he wanted something more.

Soon after that episode, Timothy's birthday came. All of his co-workers sent him incredible and thoughtful gifts as thanks for having brought so much fun to their lives. However, one gift among them had a name that drew his attention: "From the Old Prankster". Timothy understood who it was right away and saw a certain charm in it. When he opened the gift, the bureaucrat found the anti-gravity yo-yo, his old notebook full of schematics, and a picture of his family.

He sat there for a long time, trying to understand what this could mean. And it suddenly made sense. There was still resentment between him and his relatives. As much as he'd like to dismiss it as typical bickering, he could not remember the last time they had reunited. Would they want him around if he revealed that he still had the same dreams? Did he have to pick one or the other?

There was only one way to find out.

[End Of Part 1]

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