Water flowing over his head, Amanaki could feel the rising burn in his lungs, but a little longer. He could stay a little longer. Sitting at the bottom of a small lake, his fingers idly poke through the mud. Drawing looping swirls, the fish begin to swim frantically around him, urging him to head to the surface. Nudging into his face, pushing against the soles of his feet, their voices crowd his head, “Amanaki get air.”
Begging and begging, Amanaki finds himself giving in, his feet pushing off the ground, water rushing over his ears but unnaturally silent. Fish sound way too sad when they cry. Breaking past the surface, air forces its way down his throat. The pain makes his eyes tear up and with it he can momentarily forget about the other things that threaten to burst through his chest.
“I didn’t introduce you to this place so you could try to drown yourself once a month.” Perched on a branch, Kishl caws at him with a mixture of exasperation and sadness.
Body shaking with the force of his coughs, Amanaki keeps his head down, wet hair hanging over his eyes. He doesn’t want to see that look on Kishl’s face. “I’m not trying to drown myself.” And it’s the truth, he’s not.
The sun makes the rocks in his hair shimmer and he can Kishl’s wings flapping before he lands on his head. Claws digging lightly into his scalp, the bird settles down, a familiar weight. “Then I’ll ask again…what were you trying to do?”
“…I don’t know.”
Falling back into the water, Kishl caws out in surprise, claws frantically pushing off his head to avoid the water. It’s not really a lie…entirely anyways. Floating on the surface, Amanaki stares up at the sky. Long silver hair weighed down by trinkets into the water, there’s nothing for him to hold on to. “I don’t know.”
Suddenly on Amanaki’s stomach, purple wings fluttering, Kishl sighs, eyes unreadable. He remembers the first time the bird landed on his stomach like this, so many moons ago. It wasn’t a bad time. “How are your kids?”
The look in Kishl’s eye softens. “They’re fine and growing well. They’re trying to learn how to fly. They want to come and play with you…so do me a favor…and don’t kill yourself before that happens.”
It isn’t subtle but it still stabs into him regardless. Saying nothing to that, Amanaki just lets the two of them continue floating in the water. He doesn’t want to think about it.
Sun shining over their heads, Amanaki can barely feel the pulse of the water surrounding him. It’s dying. Soon enough, it will dry out and cease to exist. He doesn’t know who to feel sadder for, the water or himself. “Do you think it’s happy where it is?”
Stretching his wings, Kishl simply shrugs. “Who knows?”
But for some reason, at that exact moment, Amanaki can’t let it go. “Do you think it’s happy, where it is?”
“I would hope so.”
Standing at the edge of the meadow, it’s as if nothing changed at all. Even as the wind brushes her hair, the blades in front of her don’t move a single inch. She can’t do this. She doesn’t want to do this. “Save me please.” But nothing can help her. This is her unavoidable future, the life she was meant to lead.
The land screams her name, demands her presence, her energy, her essence. The land wants to live, just as she does. Only one can be happy. It won’t be her. Gerke’s aura pushes at her back. It demands that she accepts her place in this world. “Accept your responsibility,” it says. “Enough is enough.” But all she needs is just a little more time. Just a little more.
But it’s too late. It’s too strong. Slipping against the
grass, her foot slips into her territory, the land cries on delight, grabbing
on, refusing to let go, it will never let her go again.
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