-- Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Gexin saw the Old Man’s hands. Venturing forth from his suit, they were tough and sinewy, and their veins gripped his skin like iron chains. Stains of discolouration and lines of creases bore testament to a vigour slowly withering away, but they receded underneath his skin whenever he readjusted his grip on his pen. As the Old Man continued writing, Gexin took occasional glances at the streaks of white on the underside of his arms -- the only hints of tenderness. In some ways, the Old Man’s hands were a perfect extension of his face. But his face occasionally broke out into smiles. His hands never smiled.
The Old Man had finished penning, and there was a momentary stare of silence as the ballpoint ceased its frictions against the surface of the paper.
“Sign here, please.” He sighed as Gexin cautiously took the pen from him. “What happened to you, my dear Gexin? You used to be so well-behaved. Did we fail you? Or is this your hidden nature?”
Gexin remembered this office from years back: its old tomes and ancient cedar; the sunlight that could only peek in; the electric candles that cast many shadows. Once it had seemed so vast – vast in its imposition, vast in its majesty, vast in its ability to induce fear. But now he was a little taller, a little more cynical, and the office seemed a little smaller, a little more suffocating. The awards and distinctions that decorated the office now somehow seemed less monumental, less – what was the word? Less superhuman.
“Perhaps it’s because I grew up sir.”
The Old Man frowned. But the youth’s expression did not waver.