When Neela woke up the next morning, she was once again excited for her morning walks to the pier; she was certain Cheveyo would be waiting this time. Henry had already left for an all-day fishing trip, and she was scheduled off from work. She had the entire day to spend with her love, totally uninterrupted. Her excitement fueled an impromptu concert in the living room. She sang some of her favorite songs as she danced around each piece of furniture. She was having so much fun enjoying her excitement that she lost track of time. It was hours before she realized that she had left Cheveyo waiting at the pier alone. She hurried to get ready and then exited the cottage swiftly through the back door.
“Ahh! You scared me!” she said as she smacked Cheveyo’s arm.
“I was beginning to worry about you.”
“I’m sorry for the delay. I got a little carried away this morning.”
“It is all right, but I would like to show you something now.”
“Where can we be alone?”
She was immediately nervous. “Alone? Um, I’m not sure. I guess we can go inside.”
“Your grandfather will not mind it?”
“He’s been going out more recently. Today it’s a fishing trip. He’ll be gone all day.”
“Is it okay with you if I come in?”
“Yeah, come in, I’ll give you the guided tour,” she said jokingly.
She opened the door and pulled him inside. She continued to try to mask her anxiety with humor.
“Okay, I’m Neela, and I’ll be your tour guide this afternoon. Before we get started, a few rules: please hold all of your questions until the end and refrain from any flash photography. Thank you, right this way. We are approaching the east wing of the estate; it includes the eat-in kitchen, living room, and butler’s quarters, of course.”
She walked backward and used exaggerated directive hand gestures, none of which you would see an actual tour guide use. They were a mix of movements Neela could recall flight attendants and air traffic controllers using during her trips to the States. Cheveyo thought the gestures both amusing and appropriate, having never experienced a guided tour before.
“And this is the west wing. It includes my bedroom, a bathroom, and that’s about it. Okay, so that concludes our tour, any questions?”
“Not at the moment.”
“I was kidding, Cheveyo.”
“Oh, okay then.”
Neela laughed at his inability to completely understand human humor.
He guided her by the hand into her bedroom and over to the foot of her bed. He sat down and anticipated that she would follow suit, but she didn’t. Neela stood nervously about two feet away from him.
“Is everything okay, Neela?”
“I’m just worried about what you think this means, being in my bedroom alone.”
“I think that it means we are alone in your bedroom.”
“Yeah, but do you understand why that would make me nervous?”
“Do you know what happens in bedrooms sometimes?”
“Oh. I know what you are trying to reference.”
She wasn’t capable of blushing in a common sense, but her version of it was obvious in her expression.
“I promise I will be respectful,” he said in a comforting tone of voice.
“Please sit with me, I have something I must show you.”
She sat next to him, and to her surprise she struggled not to touch him. She’d thought he would be the only one with any urges in need of suppression. He moved her hair out of her face and placed it behind her shoulders, which only strengthened her desire.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
“For?” she said, terrified of how he might answer.
He lightly touched the scarring on her arm.
“Oh, that. I’m ready for that, go ahead.”
She was relieved that he hadn’t meant something else she certainly wasn’t ready for yet. He placed his hand around her arm. She immediately felt the rush of electricity from his touch flow through her body.
The first image he transferred to her was that of a young woman she could quickly recognize as herself at this point. She was alone on the beach, searching for her cane. The visual was new to Neela, but she knew the memory all too well. She was frightened but thankful that she didn’t have to see her attack or the attack on Hatari.
As she ran out of view, the scene turned dark and unfamiliar. The visual appeared as though it were recorded from the tip of a bullet shooting downward through an incredibly dark space. Passing objects were blurred and became scarcer with depth. When everything came to a stop, a bright light turned the darkness to pure white. A figure seemed to be the origin of the light, with its features difficult to discern through the blinding rays. As they drew near, the light dimmed and revealed the appearance of the being.
They looked similar to an Ojigong, but in body shape alone. Their skin was lavender—well outside the Ojigong range of skin tones. A netted pattern of a much deeper purple overlaid the lavender at the temples of the figure’s face. There was life that flourished on the surface of their skin in various areas. Mostly coquinas, partially buried into the skin, but others enjoyed the habitat provided as well. Their appendages lacked the Ojigong density. They were transparent and continuously illuminated, with a fluidity and elegance to them that matched the rest of their being.
For the first time, sound accompanied a small snippet of the imagery. Neela could hear Cheveyo’s voice in conversation with the soothing voice of the figure. She listened to Cheveyo profess his devotion to her and ask for guidance from the figure. Without any verbal response to his declaration, the angelic figure bent down and drew a circle in the sand that encompassed both beings. When it was complete, the circle lit up with pastel colors that danced in its circumference. The figure then returned to an upright position and gradually extended their arms with their palms facing upward. They remained perfectly still with a fixed and intense gaze directed toward Cheveyo.
“You are troubled and most uncertain of your purpose. Everything that happens now is necessary to prepare you for future greatness.”
“You have said this since my birth. I just want to be with Neela. Is there any way she could be my destiny?” Cheveyo asked.
“You are destined to become one with the king’s daughter.”
Cheveyo swam furiously within the circle, seemingly unable to leave the boundary created by the figure. Water squirted out from underneath the center of his appendages, which propelled him with great force. His appendages continuously unraveled as they cycled through multiple shades of green and black.
“That is absurd; the king is without children,” Cheveyo said harshly.
“It is written in the sand—”
“Blast the wicked sand!” Cheveyo roared.
“Your love for her is strong; it radiates from you.”
“Tell me how to be with her.”
“You will need to stay away for now.”
“For how long?”
“Until the sand settles.”
“Then can I be with her?”
“You are destined to become one with the king’s daughter.”
“I care not, tell me how to be with Neela!”
“You will not.”
“The answers are there if you can make her see.”
“Permanently? How? How am I to make her see? Just tell me what to do, and I will do it,” Cheveyo pleaded.
“The way is within you; you will find it.”
The colorful illuminated circle and sound quickly disappeared with the figure. The images then rushed in much faster. Neela saw multiple scenes of herself walking on the beach before the images slowed and transitioned to a different setting. She could see herself seated in her bedroom in front of a woman braiding her hair. The woman was of advanced years, slightly tan, with vibrant red hair. She wore blousy and flamboyant clothes and had a warm and loving smile. Suddenly, a short and scruffy gentleman entered the room.
Darkness abruptly resumed. Cheveyo let out a sigh of overexertion as he leaned back from his seated position on the bed. She curled up next to him, somewhat drained by the lengthy transference herself.
“I am sorry I could not show you more. I could feel my energy leaving me,” he said, with heavy disappointment embedded in his voice.
“Don’t say that. I appreciate everything you’ve shown me. I can’t begin to tell you how it feels to see Mari and to see my grandfather’s face again. I’ve missed his face. It was almost exactly the way I remember it.”
“I only wish I could give this to you permanently.”
She pressed up against him a little tighter. “You have.”
“Now do you understand what happened that night?”
“Kind of. Where did you go after I ran away? The images came so quickly.”
“I went to the seafloor to see the Boogolli. It was probably the swimming that made everything so confusing for you. I am incredibly fast,” he said smugly.
“Hello there, Mr. Arrogant,” she teased.
They shared a laugh as they reminisced about their first encounter.
“I guess you have even more reason to be arrogant now that we know yet another talent of yours. I can’t believe you can shift into a bird.”
“I cannot transform into anything but a human.”
“Then how did you see me in my bedroom?”
“I can influence certain creatures to be my eyes temporarily and then retrieve their memories, but it takes a great deal of strength to break the connection once formed and even more to transfer their memories to another.”
“Are you okay?”
“I have only been able to achieve the connection twice in my life, and I believe that will be my last.”
“What can I do to help you?”
“Do you feel like swimming?”
“If it will restore you.”
She helped him up from the bed and walked with him to the beach. She knew that he needed to regain his strength, so even though she was fearful of swimming in deep waters, she agreed to go farther out than she had ever been.
They walked out as far as their human legs could take them without total submersion. He placed her on his back and swam toward the horizon to reduce any visibility from the shore. He was able to transition quickly, without causing her any discomfort. In his true form, he removed her from his back with one of his appendages and cradled her with another, as he had before. He swung her back and forth and fought the urge to perform parlor tricks that would require him to raise his appendages above the surface. They were a good distance from the shore, but he was sure they could still be seen if they were to draw attention to themselves.
“Are you comfortable, my pearl?”
“Yup,” she said with a giggle.
“What is funny?”
“Your suction cups kind of tickle.”
“I am sorry; I will try not to touch you with those.”
“They’re just grazing me, don’t worry.”
“Would you like to stay here, or can I take you somewhere else?” he purred.
“Are there other people there?”
“Why do you want to go?”
“It is a small and uninhabited island surrounded by deep waters that will allow me to stay mostly submerged and close to you simultaneously.”
“How long will it take to get there?”
“If you hold on tightly, I can have us there in just a few minutes.”
She clutched onto his shoulders with her hands and floated her body out behind her.
He moved through the water rapidly but was careful to keep her head above water. When they reached the island, he removed her from his back and placed her on the remnants of a dock that extended from the narrow shoreline. She sat with her legs dangling from the dock, submerged in the water to her knees. He floated next to her and was thrilled that he could now spend time with her in his true form without making her feel uncomfortable in the deep waters.
He picked up her hand that rested on the dock. “You are so beautiful, Neela.”
She squeezed his hand, which she was now holding. “Thank you.”
“I love you,” his velvety voice admitted.
“I love you, too, but can I ask you something?”
“Do you believe what the Boogolli said about the king’s daughter?”
“No,” he said, with some abrasiveness to his tone.
“You said before that they’re wise.”
“They are, but there must be something more to it, something I am missing.”
“What do you mean?”
“The prophecy must have some other meaning. King Azul is without children.”
“Maybe he will have one in the future?”
“He has to have been alive for more than one hundred years, Neela.”
“Charlie Chaplin had children in his seventies.”
“The silent film actor?”
“The most famous silent film actor.”
“I hate to ask this, but how do you know who he was?”
“I’ve read his biography in braille. Just because I haven’t seen his work doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate his story. Plus, I could’ve seen it as a child… It’s unlikely, but still…”
“Very true, I apologize.”
“Stop distracting me. Don’t you think it’s possible the king could just have kids later in life, like Charlie?”
“I cannot be entirely certain, but I do not think that King Azul wants to emulate any human, even the very talented Mr. Chaplin.”
“Never mind. You are either trying to distract me or taking me too literal or both. So, what if he doesn’t have any children? Where does that leave you?”
“Here with you,” he replied.
Pleased with his response, she leaned over to kiss his forehead. She misjudged the distance and lost her balance. As she started to fall, he caught her with several appendages simultaneously. Her body trembled violently, and her eyes blinked rapidly. He quickly repositioned her on the dock. Her eyes became fixed on his. Up until this point, he had not been able to look into her eyes and feel she was truly looking back at him. He wanted so badly for this experience to last longer than the few seconds that it did.
“Are you okay?”
Neela didn’t respond.
He released her from the grasp of his appendages and tried to slowly lay her on the dock with his hands. She resisted.
“I’m okay, I can sit up,” she mumbled.
She traced his face with her hand.
“I think I could see you.”
“How can that be?”
“It’s the same feeling I get with transference, but much more intense, almost painful.”
“Do you think it is memories?”
“No, I think I could see you, and your beautiful dark eyes staring into mine.”
He picked her up from the dock and placed her in the water in front of him, determined to recreate the experience. He supported her with several appendages.
“What was different?”
“I’m not sure. It happened so fast. It tickled for a second, and then… I don’t know.”
He quickly adjusted the appendages that supported her so that all of his suction cups made contact with her skin. She shook uncontrollably for a moment before she locked eyes with him again. She was in pain but beautifully distracted by the clear vision he was able to provide.
He removed the appendages one by one and watched for any reaction. Through process of elimination, he was able to determine which appendage was allowing her to see things in present time. He repositioned the appendage several times and found that he had to make certain that all of his suction cups were in direct contact with her skin for her sight to continue.
“Should I stop?” he asked.
“No,” she said, as firmly as possible with her voice weakened by the pain.
He used his other appendages to lift her from the water on top of a self-constructed pedestal at least three feet above his head. It was the first time she could feel and see the full length of his appendages. He spun her around to face the island. Her pain lessened the longer he held onto her. From her perch, she watched the birds fly by and a variety of clouds drifting leisurely. She paid close attention to the anatomy of the trees that grew in the center of the island.
Overwhelmed by the abundance of detail and movement, she tapped her pedestal and requested that he lower her back down. When she was face-to-face with him again, she traced his features with her hand, as she had done so many times before. For the first time, she said I love you with her eyes before saying I adore you with her kiss. She could feel his excitement radiating through his suction cups, still stuck firmly to her leg.
“This is amazing,” she exclaimed.
“Yes, it is.”
“How did you do this?”
“I wish I could boast about my ability, but I have no idea how this is happening.”
“I’m glad you have hidden talents.”
“The Boogolli says that we all have a treasure chest of untapped abilities and that it takes special circumstances to unlock it. It would seem that they were right.”
“Let’s hope that’s all they’re right about.”
He placed her back on the dock and held tightly onto her leg. He was uncertain if the pain truly lessened or if she was so taken with her temporary sight that it overshadowed the pain. The hours passed, and the sun was soon to set.
“Will you watch the sunset with me?” he asked.
Her eyes fixed on his, and he knew her answer was yes. As they waited for her first sunset in a very long time, he entertained her with tricks that he could perform minus one appendage.
“Do you remember how we spoke of a chameleon and its abilities?”
He smiled as he melted into the background of her visual field. Most of his body blended into the colorful skyline and the rest with the water beneath it. His appendage that wrapped around her leg converted to her skin tone, with a small section of it that rested on the dock next to her transforming to its likeness. He was perfectly camouflaged, perfectly invisible.
She giggled. “Cheveyo?”
He rapidly reemerged.
“I could feel you but really couldn’t tell where you began and everything else ended.”
“You are impressed?”
“Very, what else can you show me?”
With a mischievous grin, he lit his body from within. The light coursed through him on a complex series of tracks. It lit up his skin to a translucent state wherever it traveled. He changed the pace and color of the light intermittently for her enjoyment. Neela sat in wonder of it all.
The lights went out suddenly as he sprang out of the water and enveloped her with all of his appendages gathered on the dock.
“Are you going to be okay out of the water?”
“For a short amount of time. I would like to wrap my arm around you and make this as close to normal for you as possible.”
She smiled widely. “None of this is normal.”
He smiled brilliantly back at her and placed his arm around her securely. He was focused on her reaction to the changing colors in the sky but extremely careful not to loosen the grip of his appendage that allowed her sight.
“Are you sure I am not causing you any pain?”
“Are you sure you’re okay out of the water?”
“I am more comfortable in the water, but I want to be wherever you are.”
“Can you breathe?”
“I will not suffocate, if that is what you are worried about.”
“How do you breathe, anyway?”
“Oxygen transfers through my skin.”
“What has made you laugh now, my pearl?”
“I thought you might have hidden gills somewhere.”
“What if I did?”
“That might have been a deal breaker,” she said jokingly.
They both laughed and held each other a little tighter as the sun set on their perfect day.