My eyes fluttered open like the wings of a butterfly about to take flight, peering up at the faint balls of light plastered onto the heavens. I swung back and forth on my hammock, each swing prompting bliss, until my body was engulfed in ecstasy. I looked around me at the vast, sweet grassy lawns surrounding me, each tendril of grass twirling around faster than the most talented dancer could ever wish to accomplish.
The mansion that I lived in, stood towering behind me with the most exquisite gold engravings on its edifice. The walls made out of the finest stainless steel, and then coated with a thin sheet of gold that made the windows seem like they were splashed on the walls like paint on a blank canvas. My house had approximately 300 rooms, with about 10 servants on each floor, which left our family of 3 with a multitude servants. These servants were paid, but a rather minute amount, for each servant got just a cent for every hour of labor.
The blankets that covered the hammock in my garden were made of the most extraordinary linen, forged from the heart of the Middle East where hundreds of workers labored for months to create every square inch. I was submerged in layers of these covers, each one so incredibly soft, I felt like I was one with my hammock. I slowly lifted my hand and brushed the linen apart, eager to meet with my parents. I treaded carefully onto the meadow (that over 50 servants tended to and kept perfect) and walked into the gilded doorway that lead to my house. The lawns were over 50 acres long, and had almost every type of exquisite flower growing in it except for some poisonous varieties.
I opened the golden metal encrusted door, which seemed to spellbind anyone who walked through it except me. I could not understand why so many people were awed by our family’s wealth. Some said that it was lavish, others simply shouted at my parents telling them that they should not parent me in this manner. For me however, it was a normal life, and I liked to think that anyone who was poor had not done enough labor to achieve the incomprehensible beauty and wealth that our family had achieved.
The interior of my house was a marvel, again, to anybody but me. It had a large silver ball hanging from a long, threadbare rope attached to a ceiling so high that you could barely see the top of it. The silver globe was one of our family’s masterpieces, for it took over six years to create. Slits, crevices, and crannies had been cleverly placed along the globe so that it reflected light to the adequate astonishment of the visitor. My house and I lived in quiet harmony with one another, and it was so perpetually luxurious that my mind often did not have the capacity to process it all. Beneath the ball lay a large table, over 20 feet wide. It caused a plateau in the impeccably smooth polished floor beneath, and was one of the favorite places where my family united to partake our gorgeous meals. The floors were covered with a fluffy, white carpet that was as soft and silky as the fur of a beaver, which is actually what it was created from. Over 1,000 beavers were slaughtered for it. Some people might have thought that we were an unforgiving family, but I disagreed. I thought of beavers as a resource, just like every other animal, plant, and thing. If it was easy to harvest, it should be used until the source has been diminished to naught and it was time to find a new one. Some people call this cruel extinction. I simply called it the depletion of resources.
Since it was breakfast-time, I could hear my parents descending in their own glass elevator, getting ready to enjoy our meal. My parents were tall looming figures, at about 60 years old and in very good shape. Their faces were of a pale, opaque color and their bodies were very lithe and well kept, each inch scoured by the best plastic surgeons and cosmetologists. I was always astonished and very respectful when I met my parents, as they were the stars and heroes of my life. They had many burdens when they were younger, such as a small loan of 10 million dollars when they started (Some people say that 10 million dollars is a lot but I disagree!). They were able to build up from there to a worth of over a billion dollars through hard work.
We sat down to eat our meal consisting of 5 courses, composed entirely from organic produce from our own farm. My parents started to talk about the day as usual. “So Tom, now that you are 12 years old, you have to think of your future plans, are you going to continue to improve in your studies, so that you can be independent when you grow up? ”
“Of course,” I replied. “This home was a part of me since I first started walking and I am not about to give it up. I do not have a job yet, but I thought that I would just inherit your wealth when you die.”
My dad’s face turned stern, “I know that, Tom, but you know that you cannot just rely on money to survive. After all, skills are very important too. Why did we go through all of the effort in sending you to the best school in the world? For nothing?”
“Ok, I understand,” I said, “I will try to study hard and be as successful as you.” After the meal that I had consumed, my family departed and I ran off to hang out with my friends.
Our estate had a forest with thousands of trees. My friends and I chased each other, racing through corn stalks, each fiber gleaming a crisp golden pigment. The kernels inside were like snails hiding inside of their shells. As we raced through the stalks, we left a thin wake in our path, which dozens of gardeners scuttled immediately to fix, making it seem like nothing had ever happened. As the forest approached us, the leaves merged together to create a thick blanket, draped over the millions of boughs that protruded out from the trunks. I never liked the trunks of these trees, as they are always in stark contrast to the beauty that my eyes had adjusted to living in. The tree trunks, with their drab, brown hue and dilapidated barks were a monstrosity to my eyes, that I had to shield my eyes with my hands although there was not the faintest trace of sunlight to be found.
As I ran through the forest, I surveyed my surroundings and realized that I had been stranded deep within it, with my friends, or my house, nowhere to be found. I ran faster and faster, but they were still nowhere to be found. The forest that I feared was like a cage, trapped me behind its thick brown bars. I instantly produced a wad of 100 dollar bills from my pocket, trying desperately to find a store so that I could pay them to lead me home (which was the way that I had been solving all my problems for years), but unfortunately, there was no such store or human to be found. Even though I knew that I was hopeless, I kept looking for one, for that was the only method that I had even known or used to solve my problems.
I wandered and wandered until I found a small hut made of wood harvested from our forest. It was so small I could barely see how someone could fit inside of the door. The hut was like a tent, except a bit larger, with large boughs strung together to create a triangular shape. Suddenly, my pent up rage increased, and I was about to demolish the hut when I heard a faint weeping coming from inside. I saw a small baby, about the age of 2 writhing inside, crying, probably because its parents had gone somewhere. I tried to console the baby, but again since I did not know what to do, I started to throw hundreds of dollars on the baby, thinking that it would stop the sorrow. Unfortunately, this idea did not work, and since I did not have any other remedy, I left the crying baby, thinking that there was nothing that I could have done to help.
I continued my trek through the forest, and as I walked, I felt strange feelings of shame and anger (as I had been taught they were called). “What is the magic remedy that can be used to solve all these problems that I have encountered. I must know now!” I muttered under my breath to myself. But as I walked, I encountered another problem, I had brought no food with me. I was about to draw more money from my pocket, when I realized that I had no way of spending it. I pondered about the ways that I had gotten food before, each time involving money and some person to give it to me, but this time I had no one to rely on to supply me with food. Instead, I had to use my own skills to get it.
I looked around thinking what I could do, and then I found a small bush growing in a neglected area of the forest floor. I looked more closely at the bush and found small red triangles sprouting on it. At close inspection, I realized that what I was looking at were actually strawberries. Picking one from the bush, my hunger got the better of me, and I ate them without thinking too much about what it was. The berry had a miraculously sweet and sour taste, much more appetizing than the strawberries that my money had given me.
With my pocket filled to the brim with these fruits, I continued on my adventure through the forest, completely losing the intent of getting back home. Wandering on, I bumped back into the hut that I was inspecting before. As I peeked inside, I saw the baby’s parent carefully cradling the baby and rocking it back and forth. I felt, for some reason, much happier just looking at this phenomenon, than any money had ever made me feel before. I thought that this must be the magical power that I was always looking for to solve my crisis, and it seemed to work, because in an instant the crying baby turned into a content one, without any money involved. My parents never did that to me and for the first time I thought that my parents had done something wrong.
Many hours seemed to have passed. I finally found myself at the back of the forest’s edge with my mansion at the end of the vast lawns. As I walked to the forest’s edge, I saw a tall, looming figure appearing before me. This figure actually happened to be a tree-like object so drab and dilapidated, that my eyes were repelled from the sight. The tree had hundreds of crooked boughs that were completely devoid of leaves, the branches so utterly twisted that I felt like they could break off at any moment. The tree took on a pigment of pitch black, and had the unostentatious stench of burnt wood struck by lightning. The putrid sight induced nausea in my body, and I shouted for my servants to come and eliminate it from my forest.
Unfortunately, there were no servants around, but after a few more shouts, my father’s workmen came with heavy lumbering axes. They tried to repeatedly strike it down, but each hit had no effect on it. The tree stood tall and refused to break. “Continue, you blithering fools. You were paid to work for me and you do almost nothing,” I screamed. “But sir, the tree might hit your house!” one servant cried. “Just do your work and do not question me. It is impossible that the tree will hit my house!” I screamed infuriated.
After a few more hours of relentless chopping, my servants finally cut it down, and released a cry of joy into the air. I too was delighted by the sight, but the large limp log on the ground started to roll even though there was no hill. The log rolled through the forest, taking lots of the beautiful vegetation with it. I followed, and saw that its width was rapidly increasing. Soon, it would be half the size of my house. The tree trunk continued to roll until it exited the forest, and appeared to be headed straight for my hammock. Instantly, hundreds of servants appeared around it, but it kept rolling on and on, and soon smashed right into the bottom of my mansion. My beautiful home folded in half like a floppy pancake, smoke and debris spewing out of the crash site. The steel, which seemed so thick, was now flattened by a piece of wood. My once wonderful home now looked like a garbage dump, with broken furniture, glass shards, and silver ball strewn all over large estate. Everything I had vanished in an instant.
I started to weep uncontrollably, a thing that I would have never done before. The house was a treasure that had connected my entire life, and now a very strange feeling of loss, almost like pain from a wound crept over me. I had always thought that my money would solve every problem that I had, but now here I was, standing on a field just after my home was destroyed, with nothing. I tried to find my parents, but they were nowhere to be found.
I looked around at the area surrounding me. I had depended on wealth and superiority for so long, but now that it was destroyed, I was lost. My parents were not there to support me, and now that my servants were no longer under the control of my family, they were running loose like a pack of random mice dashing about. I tried beckoning the servants to escort me into the ruins of the house, but they refused, as they had already long ran away from the house that they resented so much.
Exhausted, knowing that my whole life had been ruined by this catastrophe, I lay on the grass closed my eyes and fell asleep, thinking that I would never recover. When I awoke I saw that I was lying on a hard bench directly underneath a dark rugged wooden ceiling with not the faintest appearance of air or stars. My instincts kicked in, and I immediately jumped up and went to punish the person who put me in that position. But I found something oddly peculiar. Instead of me being in one room by myself which was bad enough, there were many such beds stacked in every part of the room imaginable. There were even beds atop other beds! Enraged by the preposterous view, I jumped out of the bed, and commanded forth the servant who did this at once. Unfortunately, there was no such person in the room, and as I opened the door in front of me, I was confronted by a warden wielding a large baton, his face a deep crimson red.
“So you are the new kid who is all over the news eh? They say that your parents were the richest in the world eh? Well now THEY ARE GONE!! Welcome to the real world kid. No matter how rich you are, you are getting the same beating nonetheless.” That final word being said, the man took his baton and started to smash it across my back. My parents had never done this to me before, and I was infuriated beyond belief, but I realized that my days of absolute wealth were over.
After the beating, I slumped back into the bed and had a look at my clothing. My brilliant robes were stripped off me and replaced with a handful of rags stitched together. After a couple of minutes, all of the other children started to wake up and walk out of the room. After that incident I was too frightened to go anywhere near that door, and had time to recollect myself. I was still shuddering from the shock that my house was destroyed and my parents were dead. It was very strange, for my parents were with me for my whole life, guiding me every step of the way, and now they’re gone. It seemed like a hole had bored into my heart and would remain. It was another strange feeling that I was not used to.
Cupping my hands into my head I started to rage about the turn that my life had taken, but then I realized that hundreds of other people around the world go through this sort of treachery since the day that day were born. I started to feel some compassion for my servants, even though every other day of my life I had taken them for granted. Looking up, though, I saw the clock ticking toward the better part of 11am. I was wondering who would deliver my breakfast, but then realized that since I was in the “new” world I had to think differently.
“That must be where they go for breakfast!” I exclaimed, and leapt out of the door in the room, thankful that I was leaving the putrid place for hopefully a long time. Unfortunately, the area outside of my room was even more appalling than I had expected.
It was a long hallway which expanded to either side of the room. Cautiously I stepped out of the room and started to walk down the left side of the hallway. I was trying to find the cafeteria and could not find it anywhere. Suddenly I heard a faint scream coming from a room and a bunch of screams following that. I peeked through the small glass window implanted in the door and saw hundreds of children lined up, sitting at tables finishing up their meals. I walked in and took a seat at one of the tables. If this was how I had to eat all of my meals than I did not think that I would last here that long.
I was presented with a glob of black slime. Everyone started to dive into their meals except for me who stared at the meal in confusion wondering if it was even edible. As I was doing this, a kid about the same age as me walked up to me. I hopped off my chair and started to saunter around the house, trying to lose this kid that was following my path, but he persisted until we ended up walking down the hallway to a little grassy yard.
I sat on a wooden bench to one corner, and the kid sat on another one across from me. “Hello,” the kid said to me.” I had no choice but to reply with a, “Hi.”
“So, how did you end up here?” he started again. I started to talk about my wealth and the kid alongside me listened in awe. He started to talk back to me and within an hour we were both playing together, laughing about our past stories and experiences.
We continued to play in the field, even after the sun had long set, and I started to reflect on my experiences. It was a peculiar feeling that I experienced, talking to this kid. It was much more gratifying than any wealth could have given me.
As I started to bond with my new friend I felt this surging feeling once more, but more importantly I realized that other humans were also of the same level as me. As my friend went more in depth with his experiences. I started to understand that the attitude that I was imposing toward wealth and other human beings was all wrong, and my vanity was taking control of my mind. He talked about how he was at first very poor, and was a worker at a very rich man’s house, just like mine. He was treated so cruelly that he ran away and ended up here.
Days after that experience happened, my worries started to fade away, for I had discovered the one thing that was greater than money…Compassion. I vowed that if I were to ever become wealthy again, I would make sure to remain compassionate, something I would have never thought before!