The One Who Had Been and Yet Was Not (a what-if story) Part 1

To describe the man as elderly was to be kind. He was, in fact, old. Very old. Ancient, really. It was impossible to determine the color of his skin because the wrinkles were so numerous, and so deep, that any light that touched it disappeared into shadow. He had long since lost his hair, all his hair, even the ability to grow facial hair. He looked like he belonged in a tent, somewhere in the African desert, riding a camel, tending goats.

Instead, he looked very out of place, sitting in the front room of a Hollywood mansion, dressed in a tailored suit and silk tie. While he was very thin, and wrinkled, he showed now other signs of what obviously had to be a very advanced age. Oh, his speech was slow and deliberate, and his motions were equally calculated, but his posture showed no signs of arthritis or osteoporosis and his eyes were bright and clear.

That's how the news crew found him. The mansion wasn't his, it belonged to some TV preacher, the same that had invited the cameras and the microphones here with what he assured them was the story of the millennium. Indeed, if it were true it would change the world - or so this televangelist told his followers. But when they arrived, the news crews didn't find the scoop of all time, they found an old man.

Susan was the face of the Satellite News Network, and acted very much like the star she believed herself to be. She had been with SNN for more than 15 years, fighting her way up the ladder from being a college intern fetching coffee to being the most recognized anchor-woman on satellite television. She had earned her stardom, at least in her mind. As she sat across from the old man, she ignored him. This was her usual way to prepare for an interview. Her crew swarmed about them like bees, doing make up, setting up lights and cameras and microphones. The old man, on the other hand, was looking at her, waiting, seeming to study her face.

Normally Susan found that highly annoying and never hesitated for a moment to tell her interview subject, in less than polite tones, to look someplace else. The secret service thought she was crazy when she said that to the President, but that was her way. Besides, like most men, the President was trying to look down her top. Pig. This time however, as the old man looked into her eyes, something was different.

There was something in the old man's eyes that just seemed so..... calming. As he sat there looking at her, his eyes exuded a look that could only be described as.... what? What was that? Peace? yes, that was it, peace and compassion. She had seen pictures of Gandhi and Mother Theresa, the old man's eyes were like their's, only amplified. It was enchanting and alarming at the same time.

She tried to stay in her routine. She looked through her notes. The scum-bag preacher and his buddy, her boss, refused to give her any useful information so she was using her generic interview questions. She still had no idea why the network executives had agreed to send her on not someone else, maybe the preacher-man had something on them - people with money had a way of getting their fingers into everything. No matter, she was a professional and she would do her job.

Matt, her producer was standing behind the man - whose name she still didn't know -giving her the cue that it was time to start. If this were a live interview, she would snap into action and await the countdown, but they were taping it so she did what she usually did to annoy Matt - make him wait. Check her look in the mirror one more time, thumb through the notes again, check the lay of her skirt to make sure the camera got a good shot of her legs... ok, might as well start.

The lights came up, the cameras started, and Matt gave her the go.

"Good evening, I'm Susan Watts, and you're watching The World Tonight.", the execs hated the title, so of course she insisted they keep it.

"We have a very special guest with us tonight. Up to now we've been keeping it secret, even from me, but now I'll let him introduce himself - sir, please tell us your name." This was it, this is when her skills as anchor would kick in. No matter what this man said, no matter how stupid or boring this interview turned out to be, she would make it work.

"My name", he started, his voice clear and suddenly strong, "is Elazar Ben-Barsabbas. You may call me Lazarus. I am the oldest man alive."

O....K... Susan wondered again why she was here and not D-crew (who normally did the dog-walks-5000-miles-home and family-living-in-car-wins-lottery stories) but there was no turning back now.

"Lazarus, it's a pleasure to meet you, can you tell us, how old are you?"

"Two-thousand, twenty-five, according to your modern calendar".

"CUT!!", Susan yelled so loud that everyone on the crew squealed in surprise. "Mark, get Bill on the pone, I want to know why I'm here interviewing some crack-pot and I want to know NOW!" She ignored Lazarus, as he called himself, though he continued to look at her with that look of calm compassion.

There was much commotion over the next few minutes. When Susan had run out of people to yell at, she sat in her chair again and put her head in her hands and screamed in frustration.

"Susan. Are you alright?" She looked up to see the crack-pot still looking at her, waiting for an answer to his question.

"Sir, no offence, but you're not worth my time. Do you know who I am?"

"Susan Watts, you work for SNN. I've seen your news reports from time to time. You're very good at what you do."

"Yes....." the way he said it, with such calmness, disarmed her for a moment. He certainly didn't talk like a crack-pot, in fact he sounded much more like she imagined Gandhi or Mother Theresa talked. She couldn't help but compare them, there was just something....

"Please," he continued, "Can you and I just talk for a moment? I know you were blind-sided with this, but perhaps if we could just talk for a moment..."