The old man sat in the room, sunlight sliding in through cracks in the grimy window, and waited. There was cheering outside, joy and laughter; the sounds of children learning adult games of war, dominance - but hush, he told himself. It was never like that, when you were young. It was only a game, not a tool. Only a game.
He stood slowly, joints letting him know he was alive with the occasional twinge of too-familiar pain. The children had stopped coming, for lessons or for stories. Time had moved on; other heroes, other legends: some of them went out to make their own. He could see it in their eyes, remembered the hunger in his own.
“The price is having to be the best,” he’d told them, desperate and sad and yearning. Nothing remains: you grow old, lose, try again. Then you are too old and there is nothing left but a pale mockery fighting the same old fight.
He turned on the lamp beside the bed, electric light filling the room, and stared at the ball in it, whispering: “I choose you,” and remembering his youth.