The countenance was prematurely aged. But it was not the face that was disheartening. Time brings those superficial changes, the face described as having character, aging gracefully or not. No escape. But from the mind and soul emanated an aura of hope abandoned, of a defeated life. Intractable, hard-edged, unyielding were the words that popped out. Joy only for the old, the familiar. A mind of shrink, not stretch. Of retraction, not expansion. Of dullness, not wonder. Of weakness, not strength. Of decay, not growth. A life facing the unknown as if already known. It is not the end.