THE WATER NYMPH’S TALE
“Is there a point?”
“Is there reason?”
“Is there love? Is there still hope? I’m…lost. And, that sucks.”
The glare from his computer screen lit Tim’s still handsome face, highlighting the lines of fatigue and sorrow etched deeply around his mouth. He recalled when he’d been a beautiful young man, and the wide world was filled with endless opportunity. That seemed so very many years ago now. The once vibrant green of his eyes reflected the light back dully now. His lids grew heavy as he mused about the fateful winter hiking trip with his best friend Josh that had ended so badly for him. He’d been losing feeling in his feet and hands so gradually in the months before the trip that he’d been unaware of how bad it had gotten.
In the glow of the monitor the fluttering of his lashes as he slipped first into sleep, and then into a dream seemed almost surreal. Tim floated in a grey state of semi-consciousness for a brief time before he fell into the same dream he’d had countless times since that trip.
It had started in the hospital. They’d given him a diagnosis of frostbite when Josh managed to get him there. He’d been optimistic at first, thinking it would heal in a while. Then the gangrene had set in, and nothing the doctors did seemed to slow it down. For a while he’d actually been in danger of dying, sliding into a coma state as his body waged war with his spirit. That was when the dream had started. It was always the same, starting with his face, and the pain pouring from his soul to permeate the very air around him. Across time and space his sorrow echoed to resonate in a scrying pool set in the center of the royal compound of the water nymphs. A father and child pair sat watching the play of emotion unfold across his anguish filled face. Their sound of their voices would sometimes still resonate in his ears as he woke.
“Father, he’s so alone. He-he’s one of us, isn’t he?”
“Yes child, he belongs to us.”
A shining tear splashed from the child’s eye onto the edge of the marble basin they gazed into. It hung shimmering in the light for a moment, a crystalline sculpture of unearthly beauty. Then the tear was pulled inexorably downward to shatter against the floor. It embedded itself into the floor, adding to the pattern there, altering it ever so slightly. The father glanced down at it, nodding his head in approval. It was well done, glittering as only the true gift of a grieving heart could. His attention turned back to the conversation, drawn by the flute-like sound of his child’s voice.
“Why do we leave him there father? That place is so very dark, and he is grievously wounded.”
“Oh child, you break my heart with your simple questions. He stays both because he has forgotten how to come home, and because he is waiting.”
“What could be worth waiting in that awful place, Father?’
“Shush child, and watch the pool. It is a story told and re-told from the beginning of time. Some say, and I believe them to be right, that even when all the stars have fallen from the sky, there will still and forever be the echo of The Water Nymph’s Tale.
Obediently the child turned back to devote his full attention to the scrying pool. His father noted the changes quickly taking place in his once gender neutral child. He didn’t think the boy had noticed yet. Soon his rapidly maturing body would force him to acknowledge that those changes were taking place. King Leander wasn’t sure what would happen at that point. He hoped that his child—his son now—was up to the challenges coming his way. He had done everything he could to prepare him.
It was so hard for their people to come of age. It happened after they caught their first glimpse of their souls-mate. For some the volatile changes were too bewildering, and they sought the solace of abandoning their mate so that they might return to the comfortable simplicity of childhood. The king sighed to himself, and turned back to the viewing pool as well. Only time would tell which path his child…his son now…would tread.
“What do you think of him, child…aside from his sadness?”
The young man at his side started in surprise. He glanced up at his father, and then back to the man pictured in the pool. He swallowed audibly.
“He’s…he’s very beautiful father. Like the sea-glass they have there.”
The king nodded. The tight feeling in his chest eased a bit. His son had set his foot firmly upon the path that would eventually lead him to his mate.
Tim would startle awake at this point. He never got to see what the younger man looked like as he fully matured. Once the child had become a young girl, and Tim had woken with tears streaming down his face. It only happened once, and Tim was fiercely glad. He didn’t like the tight hotness he’d felt in his throat and behind his eyes that day. It…he didn’t like it at all. The dreams with the young man left him feeling soothed. They came more often as he got sicker. Once the doctors stabilized him they went back to being infrequent. Tim took to writing them in a small journal he kept at his bedside. Sometimes, when his day had been particularly trying, he’d pull the journal out and read the entries over and over, trying to recapture the warm, safe feeling he got from the dreams.