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  • Ponce de Leon crawled into the jungle clearing, blinking through encrusted eyes. He inched his way to the pool of burbling water. If he were still capable of weeping, he would have shed a torrent of tears. His stream of thoughts had dwindled down to single droplets: The Fountain of Youth. His. At last.

    The toll of this triumphant moment gave him pause. All but two of his expedition dead – and the pair of them hopelessly mad. Disease, despair, attacks by Indians and wild animals, hunger and thirst, always thirst. All because one man was afraid to die.

    He managed to part his cracked lips and began lapping up the water. He waited, not knowing what to expect. For a long while nothing at all happened. And then he felt tingling in every part of his body. It was not painful but it was not pleasant. With mounting amazement he felt himself shrink. No longer a stooped graybeard, he became a muscled youth, then a headstrong boy. Within minutes his soiled clothes had become his blanket. He was an infant, yet he retained the mind of a man of five decades.

    His delight knew no bounds. He would begin life again and do it correctly this time. He would avoid the heartbreaks and pitfalls that had crippled him, the rash decisions that cost him so dearly and the tender sentiments that had so often hindered him from reaching his destiny. No one would laugh at this Ponce de Leon, and if they did it would be at their mortal peril. Knowledge flooded his brain: if he played it just so, he could very well live forever.

    When the jaguar carried him off into the night, his cries were not of pain or fear but of the sheer unfairness of it all.

    Be very, very careful what you wish for, my brothers and sisters.
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