The work of art was there. Placed right in the middle of the wall. Jealously guarded. Covered with different alarm systems. When visitors came to admire it, they sometimes stayed several hours to contemplate it, to comment on it, to take pictures (without flash, so as not to damage it) or to try to draw it. It was a very beautiful work, which had its place in this museum. It had even more than its place, since it was the centerpiece of the precious collection of the place. It needed a whole team of guards to prevent theft. No one had yet tried, but it was better to be careful. This team of guards had a leader who coordinated their rounds. Surveillance cameras also allowed them to keep an eye on the roof to see what was happening in the area of the work. Night and day, they surveyed the corridors adjacent to the work’s hall. Some of them placed themselves directly in the room to be closer. No, really, this work was certainly the most closely watched in the world. 

The chief of guards made twice as many rounds as the guards under his command. He was directly responsible for the security of the work of art, after all. His duty was to protect it. Well, in reality, the artwork was far too big for a theft to go unnoticed. That’s probably why nobody thought it could ever be stolen. That and the impressive security system seemed to make it impossible. It wasn’t until one day, when the painting was sent to the restoration shop, that it was realized that it was the wrong painting. Someone must have stolen the real one and replaced it with an excellent copy that had been believed to be authentic until then. 

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They came every day to listen to him speak. He was an old man who lived on the beach. No one knew exactly where he came from. When they asked him, he said he came from everywhere, which was an extremely vague answer. He had apparently traveled a lot, and perhaps he couldn’t remember where he was really from. He was old and sometimes his memory was a little fuzzy. But when it came to stories, it never let him down. He remembered a lot of the moments he had experienced. And he told them in a calm voice that made them fit into the story. His stories were always coherent, and they fascinated the locals who came to listen to him as often as they could, sometimes even paying him to continue telling them his past. 

A group of young people were particularly interested in this old man and his stories. One of them had asked the old man if he could write them down so that others could read them if he was ever not around to tell them. The old man agreed. Since then, the young man had come to show him the transcribed stories. He planned to publish them under the old man’s name. 

One day, the old man told them a rather peculiar story. Usually, his stories had humans as protagonists, but this time the heroes were animals. It was the story of a friendship between two animals. A puffin and a dolphin. It could happen, but it was still quite rare for these two animals to become friends. So the old man began to tell the story. 

It was a summer evening long ago. A stormy evening. The thunder was roaring and the lightning was having a blast. The storyteller was a teenager during this story. At midnight, he had woken up with a thunderclap. Then he didn’t go back to bed, having found the spectacle of lightning in the sky fascinating. Being young and unconscious, he went out in the rain to see the lightning more closely. Stopping in his story, the old man told the group of young people not to imitate him, that it was very dangerous. It was better to stay inside during a storm. So he had gone out under the torrents of water. Nothing could have stopped him. He had gone to the pier which gave directly on the sea. To this day, he still did not know exactly what drove him there. The hand of fate? In any case, when he arrived on the pier, he had seen a bird fall into the sea, probably exhausted from having to fly in the rain. He had taken his binoculars out of his pocket, the ones that had never left him since he had received them for Christmas, and he had seen something amazing. The bird hadn’t drowned as he might have thought. No, it had just been saved by a dolphin.

The dolphin had come to carry it to the pier. The teenage boy who was the storyteller at the time had been amazed to see that. The bird, lying on the pontoon, had begun to move weakly. Then, little by little, it had regained strength. The dolphin was still there, right next to the bird, which was a young puffin. Usually these birds had no problems with the sea, but this one had been exhausted. His forces had abandoned him and he would have died without his savior. The teenager had watched the whole scene from a distance. He had seen the encounter that would lead to an incredible friendship between the two animals. Since that night, he had seen them together very often. Ims had never left each other. He even remembered taking a picture. But he didn’t know where it was. He had come every day to see if the two animals were still there. One day he never saw them again. The day after the old man had told them this story, the young people returned to the beach. They looked for the old man. They could not find him. No one ever found him. Several years later, the young man who had transcribed the stories had a book published in the old man’s name. It was very successful. The stories went on but the old storyteller had disappeared. 

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Every night she went there. Every night she had to come home. Every night she hoped. And every night it was the same. She would look at the horizon, she would stay there for hours, and nothing ever happened. It never happened. So why did she come back there every time? Mystery. She herself wasn’t so sure anymore. What was she really waiting for? What did she want to happen? The more time passed, the more she was lost. She had hoped so much, and it had not happened. In fact, she was beginning to seriously think that it would never happen. She really wished that one day, looking at the sea from the beach, she would see something unusual. Something that would make her smile. Something that would make her run towards the water. Something that was just a dream. And dreams, we always ended up coming out of them. By waking up. Her dream, it imprisoned her. She came back every day to see if something was going to happen by the sea, making the water shake and disrupting her life. 

It had already been turned upside down for the first time, her life. She wasn’t sure if she could handle that kind of big change again. That was why she wasn’t sure she wanted something to actually happen. In addition to waiting every night, she would check every day to see if the ship carrying the food and letters had any mail for her. Of course, she could have waited for the city hall employee to make his rounds, but she didn’t want to wait. Tonight, she was still on the beach, and she was hoping. As always. That this person was going to come back. Or at least send her a letter. To give a sign of life after her departure from the island by announcing a quick return. This person had already left 5 years ago. And she was still waiting. Her life had stopped because of this person. 

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Miracle. Usually, hearing this word, something positive was expected, something wonderful, something unexpected. It was a bit like good weather after rain, a real rainbow in a lifetime. It was a good thing, and above all, it was rare. Rare enough that you can’t get tired of it. It only happened once in a lifetime, and sometimes it didn’t happen at all. So we hoped for a miracle. It was hard to get, a miracle. It was random. It was precious. It was the ultimate. A great happiness. Few people had seen it, and even fewer had personally experienced a miracle. So in people’s minds, a miracle was wonderfully positive. 
But not everyone thought like that. Sitting on a bench, she had just experienced a « miracle ». She usually experienced it several times a day, and she was not happy about it. Why was she not happy about it? Why had she experienced so many when it was supposed to be very rare? Was she luckier than others? 

Simply because for her, the word « miracle » didn’t mean what most people thought it meant. It wasn’t something positive, unexpected and rare. It happened to her every day, she suspected it was going to happen, and it was the opposite of something positive. It was even really negative. In fact, her version of the word was the exact opposite of the meaning adopted by ordinary people. A miracle was (ironically) a moment of profound misfortune, like the fact that she had accidentally broken her coffee pot on a day when she was particularly in need of caffeine, or a moment when, in an extremely wide street, she had managed to bump into another pedestrian because she was looking at the pretty houses in the neighborhood. This time, she had missed a step on the stairs during her workday and found herself in the arms of her boss who was just climbing the stairs. The story could have ended there, but it wouldn’t be funny otherwise. She had a cup of hot coffee in her hand when she fell and she spilled it on her boss’ shirt as she fell. What a piece of bad luck! That day, she had hoped that no more miracles would happen to her. And that was when she had dropped her keys out of the sixth floor window….

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His career was at its peak. Everything was going well. Really, everything was going great. Life was smiling at him. Everything was on track. At last. He had long hoped to become famous. And then one of his songs had suddenly become more famous than the others, making him a star, one of the greatest. His fans loved him, his songs were successful. He was invited to all the fancy parties. He knew all the celebrities who were on the rise at the time. He was constantly receiving gifts, letters, emails from fans. But then, what was wrong? At first glance, nothing. But he felt bad, in a way. He didn’t really know what was bothering him, but he cared enough to have his loved ones start noticing it. 

The pinnacle of a career was normally what every artist wanted. But he didn’t feel that way now that he had reached that point. Had everything become too easy? Too golden? Was he bored, after having wished for it for a long time? Did he finally not want this life anymore? Had he reached the peak of his career, a place envied by many artists, only to tell himself that finally it wasn’t for him? In the end, it was perhaps a weariness that had fallen on him. By the time he got there, he had gotten a little older, and the crazy schedules of an artist’s life were becoming a little difficult to manage. Constantly on the move, lost between time differences, always sleeping in a corner of the bus, he had perhaps lost his way. 
And so, at the height of his career, he decided to take a break to reflect, to refocus on himself, to decide what he really wanted. Because no one else could have known that. 

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The forbidden room

French version : La pièce interdite

It had always been closed, ever since she was a little girl. What was in it, she didn’t know. No one had entered it for years, judging by the dust that covered the carpet in front of the door and the door itself. This room was a real mystery to her. Nobody ever talked about it, it was as if it didn’t exist, as if it had never existed. Yet the door was very real, she was certain of it. She had tried to touch it one day. But her father had almost caught her doing it, and she had never tried again. This room was a huge taboo in the family. No one ever referred to it, but she knew how they all felt about it. There was something wrong with this room. Its aura was wrong.
After her parents died, many years later, she visited her childhood home again. She had been away from it for a long time and now had her family next door, but she remembered the forbidden room and now that she owned the house, she could go and see what was in it without her father catching her. She went upstairs, determined to unravel the secret of the mystery room. She tried all the keys she had, but none of them opened the door. She asked a locksmith to intervene. He had to break the door down because the lock was rusty.
Finally, she was able to get in. There, in the room, she discovered a crib, a mobile, various toys… A complete children’s room, that is. But full of dust. And a newspaper article about the tragic death of a three-year-old boy. She’d had a brother who had died too soon.
This room was frozen in time…

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The stairs

French version : L’escalier

It was a staircase. A simple staircase. Then why was it so special? Probably because hundreds of people came through here. Many lives had been lived there. A lot of people had just passed by, just for a second, before going to work. In all the time this building had been around, there must have been hundreds. Thousands, maybe. Who can tell? Whole families had probably lived there. The children would come down those stairs every time they went to school, or maybe when they went to meet their friends, to get bread or to shop for their mother. Their little feet probably echoed down the stairwell, filling this dreary, sad place with life, which was in great need of it. For what happened to the stairs when no one was getting upstairs because of them? Well, it’s simple, nobody went up, it was a deserted and totally abandoned place, a bit like it is today. An empty staircase. Empty of sound, empty of the laughter of the children going to meet their little friends in the courtyard at the bottom of the stairs. And these steps, so often cleaned to be dirtied again immediately afterwards when the children went back home, their shoes full of mud because they had played in the muddy puddles. But that was all in the past. 

The children hadn’t been running up the stairs for a long time. The place was empty, terribly empty. This staircase had seen children grow over time. First he had heard the cries of a newborn baby. Then the sound of his mother’s footsteps trying to calm him down before he began to disturb the neighbors.The father who was leaving for work and who at that time still had all his hair. Afterwards, he had seen a toddler venturing near him, intrigued by this strange construction going down composed of different levels. But the parents had prevented the child from coming too close, for fear that he would upset his balance and fall. For he hadn’t been able to walk for a very long time, and he was still twitching a little on his little legs. The stairs had been sad, it would have liked to see the child more closely, this little human being. Later he had felt the little steps of the child on him. He was stable enough on his legs that the parents let him go down the stairs. But he was always accompanied by one of his parents. Because they didn’t want him to hurt himself if he fell. So they would come with him, take him to the bottom of the stairs and leave him with his friends. Then they would go back up and pick him up again after an hour or two. 

Later, the stairs had seen the little boy come down the stairs by himself. He was growing up fast. Every morning he would leave. Probably to school. The stairs had heard his mother talking to her neighbour on the landing about her anxieties about her son’s first day at school. The staircase didn’t know what it was all about, but it must have helped the boy grow up, because he was reaching the banister now. He was going down and up with much more ease. Then time passed so quickly that the staircase hardly saw him grow up. Now he was a handsome young man. He hadn’t been back for years. The staircase had not understood what had happened. Overnight, the boy had stopped climbing the stairs to get to his house. And he had come back years later. He was a man now. And then he moved in in his parents’ apartment, who had died in the meantime. And children had started running up the stairs again. But that was a long time ago. Now the stairs were empty and probably always would be: the building was going to be demolished. The stairs would never again hear the footsteps of the children. Never again. He wouldn’t have a family to watch anymore. 
Never again. It was all over. It was over forever. He’d be demolished. 

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In his hands

French version : Entre ses mains

That day, he was wandering around the woods aimlessly. It was a habit of his. He loved to do that. He found that nature was best discovered without having a particular plan in mind, without knowing where you were going. The best way to visit a place was to get lost in it, as someone whose name escaped him had said. It was actually much more fun to discover places a bit randomly, going from one surprise to another. 

So he walked in the wilderness and took his time. Such a walk was worth its weight in gold to him. Some others, who obviously didn’t agree with him, often reproached him for disappearing for long periods of time, sometimes from sunrise to sunset. During the day, he wandered around in the wilderness, marvelling at each new find. That’s how he was. He loved nature and would have lived there full time if he had not had to work for a living. For to spend all day walking around wouldn’t have fed him. And then apparently keeping in touch with other humans was better, someone once told him. He still couldn’t remember who that person was. For him, plants were more important than humans. According to him, they were the most tenacious living beings on the planet, since they had managed to stay on earth longer than some species (aka the dinosaurs). 

So that day, he was walking around as usual when he saw it. Something that stood out well on the green of the leaves and the grass. Something that might not have come from nature. To tell the truth, he wasn’t sure. He bent down to examine the object that had caught his attention. But what was it? He’d never seen anything like it before. At least not in nature. Come to think of it, nowhere else but here. Was it something unique in the world? He took it in his hand, a little hesitant. What if it was a new form of bomb or grenade? What if that thing exploded in his face? In any case, for the moment, none of this had happened, which reassured him a lot. He took a closer look at him. 

It was some kind of glass ball or maybe a crystal ball. A rather fragile material, it seemed, in any case. He turned it in his hand. This object looked very familiar to him, but what? He searched for a moment, but couldn’t find it. How amusing! This object vaguely reminded him of a snow globe. Suddenly he almost dropped it, and caught it in extremis. At that moment, the earth beneath his feet shook. Slightly enough, but enough to make him wonder if an earthquake was coming. The ball slipped out of his hands again and he barely saved her again, but not without shaking. The earth shook much more violently this time. As soon as it calmed down, he started to run, still with the ball in his hand. He wanted to go home to see if it was a real earthquake. 

When he got home, he turned on the television. The journalist announced that the earthquake was happening all over the world and that no one among the eminent scientists knew what was causing such chaos. And then it had been so sudden! No one understood. He looked at the ball again. He shook it slightly. A strange idea had formed without his mind, but it was so crazy that he didn’t dare to think about it. The earth shook again as he did so, and his china cabinet fell to the ground in an abominable clatter of dishes and broken windows. Amazed, he felt dizzy. This object was not just an object! It was in fact a living representation of the planet Earth! It didn’t look like Earth, it WAS Earth. And it was him that caused all those tremors all over the world.

The current tremor made him lose his balance, and he let go of the ball. 

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A new era?

French version : Une nouvelle ère ?

It wasn’t an end. It was the beginning of a story. But what kind of story? Would it be grand, insignificant? He didn’t know. It was far too early to tell. He’d find out later. Much later. When he’d lived through at least one chapter of it. Or maybe we could say he was starting a new chapter in his life. He’d embarked on it without even knowing what he was getting into. It was brave, though a little stupid. Yes, a clever mix of the two. The danger made it risky, the possibility of a new beginning made it positive. Who knew it was so easy to start a new chapter? If he’d known before, he would have done it much sooner. But that was the problem. In making that choice, the future was uncertain. Very uncertain. Mystery could bring excitement, but what it was hiding could also be a great disappointment. 
He played dice with his life, that’s what he did. He was putting himself in the hands of fate. He wanted to start afresh, in a new city, a new country, maybe. It would be a matter of chance. Who was he going to run into? Would it be someone good? He wouldn’t know until he met that person. Would chance do it right? Luck would probably have a lot to do with it. 
He’d really left everything behind. His home, his job, his routine. His family? He wasn’t particularly close to them, so to him, it was like he didn’t have any. He’d go off on his own, with a backpack and a slightly shabby hooded jacket for all his luggage. It was very risky to do that, and he knew it. He wasn’t sure why he was doing it, but he knew he had to do it. 
The sound of a horn violently dragged him from his thoughts. He saw that a car had stopped next to him and that the driver was trying to get his attention. The driver shouted:
– Hey, kid! What are you doing in the middle of the road? You’re causing a traffic jam and I’m going to be late for work! Go play somewhere else and go to school while you’re at it! I hear the bell ringing, hurry up! 
The child, frozen and surprised to have been taken out of his imaginary game so suddenly, ran off to his school, not wanting to be late again. He had already been punished several times for the same reason and was tired of having to copy lines. It wasn’t his fault that his imagination was overflowing! 

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French version : Cinéma

The light’s out. Everything is dark. All you can see is the screen, which, right in the centre of the wall, shines brightly. The night lights on the ceiling were on. Now everything is dark. The room has taken on a different appearance, now that it is no longer lit as it was before. Darkness has invaded the room. But maybe not. Not completely. The screen still provides light, but it wouldn’t be enough to read a book. But anyway, who would want to read a book in a movie theater? Who would be strange enough to read when the movie is about to start? All those people in the theater. They came to see the movie, not to do anything else. It’s like someone going into a library and saying, « No, I came here to watch a movie on my computer. I don’t want to read » when it’s still a place full of books. Or a person might come to the gym and say, « I came here to take a little nap »…

In that case, why move? Why bother coming to this place if it’s not for sport? It’s the same principle with books in cinemas. There would be no point in reading when you’ve paid for a ticket to see a movie. Let’s go back to the theatre. The movie has just started. People are getting a little deeper into their seats. They can find a comfortable position, they know they’re there for at least two hours. So some of them shake a little more in their armchairs before they stop and stare at the glittering screen. The screen is really shiny! You could almost light up a street at night with it! But at the same time, it’s normal that it’s so bright, since it’s so dark, in this room! It could almost be scary.

But that can also be a positive point, because you can concentrate better on the film that is projected on the screen if the room is dark. The walls are probably soundproofed or something like that. Otherwise you would hear the sounds of other films as you walk down the corridor of the cinema. But in the end, these corridors, they’re not used for much purpose. That must be why they put up the upcoming films there. You never pay attention, but one of the films on the walls might be the reason why you come back the next time. Because without realizing it, the poster of that film pleased us and got stuck in our heads. And when we see that same poster several months later, we might want to go and see it, or at least we’ll be familiar with it. In the theatre, the film has just started. We’re at the first lines. They’re fun.

Everybody’s laughing. Well, maybe not. Everyone except for the boy sitting in the back pouting. His friends couldn’t go to the movie with him. He’s all alone and he’s determined to stay in his corner, not to laugh with the others.
The film continues. One of the elderly ladies sitting in the front row seems sad, too. She couldn’t take her little dog with her because pets are not allowed. The film makes her laugh, she gets a bit of a kick out of it. She knows she will find her little companion after the session. The woman sitting in the third row on the left tries to relax. She had been working too hard lately and was almost burnt out. Her friends advised her to take care of herself and rest. So she chose this funny, all-audience film. She laughs heartily when she sees a busy worker coming on the screen.

The old bearded man sitting on the right side laughs too. He has taken his grandson to the cinema to show him what it’s like. The little boy is four years old and has never seen a movie on the big screen. The grandfather is proud and happy to show him this. As for the man sitting in the middle of the room, he is staring at the screen with concentration. He loves to go to the cinema and once he is there, he savours the moment. The film goes on and soon it’s over. The last line is given and the end of the film is shown.

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