At the door, Paul was greeted by his wife, Linda. In the back, he could see his boy, screaming and ranting in nothing that could be construed as language. Linda merely shrugged when she saw where he was looking. Paul walked into the guest room, where a wizard of great renown by the name of Roland sat waiting. He stood and greeted Paul, then turned to business.
“Paul, you know the deadline. Have you reached a decision?”
Paul shook his head mutely.
The wizard said, “The boy Gabriel is a wonderful child. He’s ten years old and plays the lute beautifully. I am truly sorry to have to be the bearer of bad news, but…”
Paul nodded, still unable to speak.
“If you wish time to think it over, I’ll wait.” The Wizard walked to a chair and sat down, looking out the window.
Paul left and walked to the kitchen, where the letter sat. That damned letter! He picked it up and looked it over, even though the words had already been burned into his mind. Phrases seemed to jump off the paper. “The boy’s name is Gabriel…” “…terrible accident…” “…will die without dramatic treatment…”
“The wizard Roland knows of a way to take the identity, or mind, of Gabriel and put it into another body. The body must be alive, and this will result in the death of Joseph. You would keep the child, raise him as your own; it will be enough to know that our precious child is still alive.”
Paul looked over at Joseph, still screaming incoherently at nothing at all. He imagined Gabriel sitting there, playing the lute. A sob racked his body, and he walked into the room where Roland waited for his decision.