art by Seth Alan Bareiss
The Chosen One
by Huston Lowell
Singh watched with a skeptical eye as the little boy came woohooing down the cyclone slide. Could this be the snotty nose of the Chosen One?
"We've definitely found him." Jhadav took a step forward. This was his first run, and it was no secret that he wanted to prove himself. "Let's go."
"No." Singh grabbed Jhadav by the arm and gently pulled him back. "There is something to be said for the energy you bring to your work, Jhadav. But a mistake would have unforgivable consequences. We must be certain."
The little boy pushed his way past a group of children and climbed easily to the top of the jungle gym.
"I am certain, Singh."
"I used the word 'we.'" Singh's tone was even and philosophical. "One of us is still not certain."
"How could you not be certain?" Jhadav turned away from the playground to face Singh, his face bent into a frustrated plea. "He was born within five minutes of noon on the winter solstice under a total solar eclipse with Vashistha's Comet in the northern sky."
Singh slowly shook his gray head. "Seven hundred and forty-seven surviving boys meet that description."
"What about the baby video his father posted on YouTube?" Jhadav said, watching the boy run fearlessly across the top of the monkey bars, "How many prelingual babies can say, 'Father, I have arrived' in flawless Ardha Magadhi?"
"Those could have been chance utterances," the older man said, lowering himself onto a bench, "or the video could have been faked to misdirect us. Then, there is the matter of the prophecy's final requirement."
"You mean that he will be pure of blood?" Jhadav grimaced. "Yes, but what does that really mean?"
"That," Singh said with a dry grin, "is precisely why we can't be sure, yet. His mother is of Icelandic ancestry. If 'blood' is a metaphor for ethnicity, this is certainly the wrong boy. Best to be patient. Observe a little longer."
A crow landed beneath the monkey bars and began pecking at a clear plastic bag stuffed with the crusts from a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The little boy stopped dancing on top of the rungs and dangled himself upside-down to watch.
"How long do we wait?" Jhadav settled himself onto the other half of the bench with a sigh.
"Until we are certain." Singh put an age-withered hand on Jhadav's shoulder. "There will be a sign."
"And if there isn't?"
"There are only nine hundred and thirty-eight years before conditions become right again for the birth of the Chosen One."
A larger boy picked up a rock and winged it at the crow.
"Hey!" The little upside-down boy twisted out of the rock's path by scant centimeters, setting him to swinging like a pendulum.