Inside the dark grey concrete building, when the sun was just setting behind the glass-encased skyscrapers, the poor scared boy was ushered into the strange machine. It was large, circular and grey; it was nearly the size of the room. It consisted of a large metal door, which was closed after the boy, bolted and sealed with rubber, and tubes going this way and that. With lights blinking on the control panel as if they were stars, the doctor, in his lab coat, stepped behind a glass window and pressed the start button and the machine whirred to life.
The doctor twiddled his thumbs and began talking with his assistant about the latest news about contact made with extraterrestrials. “They’re a fine bunch,” he comments. The whir settles after some minutes. When the door was unsealed, unbolted, not one, but two poor boys stepped out into the cold room.
They were identical, even having the same number of hairs on their head, not one hair, limb or eye missing. (That did happen with previous trials.) Both were wearing a plain red plaid button-down and soiled jeans with some rips in it. But there was a difference: One was smiling and one was not.
The doctor dismissed them after some measurements and they went on their way. The Unsmiling One, seemed larger although the doctor’s careful measurements proved that they were identical in size and shape. He held his shoulders back and chin high and walked into the cold street. As the moon was rising in the town square, he walked hurriedly to the nearest department store to buy some clothes, not wanting anyone to see him in his disheveled state. After he made himself look presentable, he asked for a job to be a store manager. From then on through the course of years, he excelled into a manager at the store, then the region director, then CEO. Only then did he feel happy, a short-lived joy that disappeared without a moment’s notice. His great achievements brought him great satisfaction but only for a few weeks. He was happy for a few weeks only to turn sour again afterwards.
He would want to be higher, more powerful, earning more money. His extreme wealth by this time did not even satisfy him. When his colleagues would elevate, he would alter their position and eventually fire them in order for him to continue to be CEO. The large house that he owned did not satisfy him. Neither did his full wardrobe of suit and ties and neither did his many sports cars and flying cars.
His stature slimmed, and in a last resort attempt to gain happiness by money, cheated and committed fraud. The ensuing scandal forced him to resign and pay billions of dollars. He sold everything in order to pay for the fees and fines, and was left out in the streets, just as unhappy as ever.
The Smiling Boy stepped out into the cold street, shivering from the cold, walked into a nearby soup kitchen to get warm. Seeing how few volunteers there were, he asked if he could join them and ladle soup in the bowls of the homeless, and was overjoyed when they agreed. At the end of the evening, he ladled soup into his own bowl. He had neither money nor shelter of his own, and slept in the local homeless shelter. He would gaze out the window, and wonder. He would wonder about the stars, and wonder about his clone from that distant day, as distant as the stars in the dark night sky. He would wonder where he was, and what heaven looked like. But he never wondered whether he should leave the kitchen and shelter behind, so he always dutifully returned to the soup kitchen every night.
He would walk about in the daylight and do some odd jobs. The money he earned just enough to buy him some clothes to last the year. He even once vowed to save up some money and do something to improve the shelter, but when he would walk back to the shelter in the night after his job, his heart would mellow for the homeless who sat on the street, and would join them to look at the flying cars that would pass overhead. His long-lasting joy seemed to be an infectious disease, spreading through the soup, affecting everyone and thing in sight. He would feed the stray dogs, cats, even pigeons that would come to the door of the kitchen. He was the light of the neighborhood.
On a night quite like the one when they became clones, the ex-CEO straggled into the soup kitchen, his shirt ripped, eyes red from exhaustion, and hair poking this way and that way. His eyes met those of his clone, who was smiling his biggest smile ever, and realized what a foolish little boy he was. He held out his bowl to his clone, and accepted the soup from his ladle because then, they were not clones anymore, because they became one, together in heaven. It is there when the boy did not wonder what heaven looked like, and when he did not feel unhappy. Is it not wonderful, what a little bit of soup can do?