Sitting by the shore, tail dragging gently through the sea water, Emil waits.
| Atop a grey stone, large, weathered away by the pounding waves, Emil sits, long glistening tail of strong steel curved over gracefully and disappearing into the murky depths of the sea water.
There is nothing out at night, all is silent, and Emil waits, for that beautiful face and warm skin, for the brilliant flicker that is life, hot and passionate and as stunning as a falling star, with just as short an existence. It is gone all too soon, and with nothing else to do, Emil threads white, white fingers through soft hair, pale and pigmentless against such an explosion of brilliance, and sinks down into the depths of the sea with the prize. Emil loves to kiss the face as it begins to go numb and cold, and after Emil finishes playing with it, Emil leaves it on the seafloor, prisoners in chains of seaweed with the fish as its guards. That way, Emil preserves the beauty, for Emil loves and kiss and stroke and press cold webbed fingers and ice coloured torso against the corpse, seeking the transient warmth seeped away long before. For Lukas as well, Emil takes them, caring for Lukas as any good younger sibling would, because although Lukas is strong, belonging better in the shadowy depths than Emil ever did, Lukas is also fearful, so afraid of forgetting.
“Matthias, his name was Matthias, he was a prince of the kingdom North from here. His name was Matthias, he was a prince of the kingdom North from here. His name is Matthias, he is a prince of a kingdom North from here. His name is Matthias…”
Emil waits, and Emil is patient, has to be patient. Every love is a whirlwind romance for Emil, the innocent love of a child, the hurried romance of an adult, the bittersweet endearment of old age, until finally, they are gone, just another ghost in Emil’s ever-changing memory. The humans that come to this small nook are few and far inbetween, so Emil sits and waits, patiently, carefully, as Lukas had taught, not to make a single mistake.
Emil forgets, quick to move on to another victim, another lover, but when Emil loves, Emil loves with all the cold bits of heart there is, passionately, as a human would. For a brief moment in the water, they are Emil’s everything, Emil’s liege, Emil’s master and Emil’s slave, and the love they share with Emil consumes them like a flame until they sink down and the last breath leaves their dying lungs.
Emil perks up eagerly as noise bounces off the water’s surface, the delicately soft pad of cloth slippers. A grumbling voice, ‘ow’, and a spot of dark colour comes into view. This person, a young boy, glowing with the brilliant flames of youth, ignites a fierce sensation within Emil, and if they didn’t know better, they would have called such a foreign thing heat.
Of course, it wasn’t heat. Emil couldn’t have heat, didn’t deserve it. Emil’s kind lived far from such a thing, with the only blessed contact being the moment they embrace a human in the water, entwined with the inferno and breathing deadly liquid into lungs meant for fire and air. Suffice to say, the heat left quickly, leaving them holding a cold vessel.
Emil is met with golden orbs, curious and luminescent. The boy’s speech is strange and clear, swinging up and down like a song with soft tones and hard clicks, and Emil smiles in appreciation at the sound, tail swinging slowly from side to side.
Emil coos, fluttering long, silvery lashes and stretching out spindly white arms, smooth and glistening with seawater, inviting the human closer and closer. The human approaches slowly, hesitantly, and with such small hands, it takes a moment of struggle before he makes it across the rock. Then, he stops.
“...Who are you?” The child’s voice is far higher than any adult’s, soft and curious and still filled with wonder. Emil pauses and frowns in confusion, but the frown is gone as soon as it appears.
“Emil.” Emil is patient, for this beautiful child, Emil can wait.
“I’m Leon. It’s nice to meet you.” Emil pauses, unsure, pondering how to reply.
“Yes.” Emil opts for something simple, and Leon laughs.
The human was mocking Emil.
Colour rises to Emil’s cheeks as with a flick of the tail, they sink into the depths of the water, spiralling down head-first, leaving a burning trail of red.
The human comes to the shore daily, or perhaps weekly, Emil cannot tell. He quickly becomes adept at scrambling over the rocks without slipping on the slick sea spray. It is cloudy, always cloudy, and it doesn’t take long for the boy’s firm, parchment-coloured skin to become pale and luminescent. Despite that, his eyes never lose their golden luster, and his mother tongue remains a melodic mystery to Emil, who lays on the rock, letting the wind run its fingers through long white hair, and with closed eyes and parted lips, listens. The boy’s song is different from anything Emil has ever known, it tells of somewhere far away, in the east, warm and dry and covered in greens and browns with tall golden-and-crimson buildings foreign to Emil, all too beautiful to be true. Somewhere heartbreaking and striking and smelling of heat and dust and cherry blossom trees. Leon smiles as he sings, or speaks, sometimes pausing to press calloused fingers into his dry eyes and compose his face after it twists in pain and longing, but his voice is a steady thrum that never dies.
Sometimes, he comes with wooden sticks he calls pencils and scribbles on the pieces of paper he smuggles from his home, crudely marking out a portrait of the two of them against ocean scenery, proudly showing Emil with such a wide grin. Emil trills happily in return, even if the subject of the boy’s art is not always clear.
Emil likes to imagine touching Leon, who time treats kindly, growing into a youth with beauty surpassing his childhood. They like to imagine the warmth of his skin, the feeling of his eyes between their webbed fingers, the torso, firm from climbing, and pinkish red tongue plucked from the throat, but Emil only smiles when Leon approaches, because Emil is patient, Emil has lived, has waited so long, and Emil can wait just a bit longer. After all, what is a lifetime of a human to Emil, who has witnessed the rise of the sea and watched as the rock grew from a cliff of stone to a few scattered shards? Emil doesn’t leave Leon behind in embarrassment any longer, and when Leon laughs, Emil learns copy that sound until it is almost genuine, almost real.
While dreaming of kissing Leon and consuming that laughter, Emil waits.
Leon is angry and impatient in the evenings, hissing out words unknown to Emil in his language, which Emil learns can turn from a calm flame to a spitting inferno in a split second, and he broods with his head on his knees, liquid bleeding from his eyes and mingling into the ocean. Emil can do nothing for the youth, who lashes out in a fit of anger far too easily, so they sink down until only the top of their head is visible and watch as Leon screams out his young heart.
Even still, with tears staining his cheeks and saliva dripping from his mouth, wiped away with the dirty fabric of his t-shirt, Leon is beautiful in the careless way only humans reaching the end of their childhood can be, and Emil only waits as Leon takes his first shaky steps into the human world, away from the sea and all the childish promises Emil can offer. Emil knows not of Leon’s pain, because Emil has never had a cause to scream so, and Emil cannot touch, cannot stroke Leon’s cheek and embrace him like a lover would, cannot offer themselves for Leon to hold as he cries. Emil can do nothing, because Emil’s kind cannot leave the sea, the home and protector, and for the first time Emil wonders about living, remembering, loving for more than an instant, but each time, Leon returns with a smile, cleared of tears and hurt, and Emil watches with pulled-up cheeks and slitted eyes, a smile in return, to the best of their ability. Emil learns, though they knew all along, that Leon’s smile is beautiful and natural in a way Emil’s can never be.
Leon is still young, still not ripe, and for a prize like Leon, Emil can wait for just a moment longer.
Lukas trembles at night, rocking back and forth in the water, swimming in circles, round and round until Emil had to step in, had to stop Lukas. Lukas whispers about that human prince whose ashes have long since dissolved into the water, who lived back when they were princes in a kingdom of their kind and humans still acknowledged them, still feared and loved them. Emil takes an arm and leads Lukas down to the cavern they share, pausing as the other holds them close, wondering.
Lukas eats nothing but fish, and even though Emil has lovers with flesh still clinging to their bones, wrapped in seaweed, Lukas turns from them, undoubtedly thinking about that human. Matthias. Emil leaves Lukas trembling and crying out, a shell of the powerful being that had taught Emil to hunt and love and seduce and swim.
Leon visits often, but his visits are punctuated with sharp breaks in between. If Emil truly has improved in that strange language, then it is because of something he has to do, ‘university’, he says, ‘schooling’, large words Emil has no concept of. He sometimes brings books, stacks and stacks to the shore, and pours over them feverently as Emil watches. Leon, Emil cannot touch, but the books are fair game, and Emil likes to run slick, webbed fingers over the textured covers and thin pages, the same crisp, pale shade as the skin stretched tight over Emil’s thin bones. Leon smiles and allows this, not even flinching as the books become damp and torn with water.
Sometimes, in the summer, Leon comes with a stack of books unlike the thick hard-covered textbooks he usually brings, and reads to Emil. There are strange, foreign symbols in the books along with colourful paintings and sweet, fantastical stories, and Leon shows them to Emil, pointing out each symbol, saying each word. Emil is not a quick learner, but Leon is patient, and only smiles when Emil splashes away in a huff of embarrassment and frustration. Leon’s language is thick on Emil’s tongue, but when Emil finally finishes reading the first little storybook Leon had brought to shore, the feeling that wells up around them is something that causes Emil to click loudly in excitement.
Emil is happy, for now, staying with Leon like this, and Emil knows that waiting a little longer wouldn’t hurt.
Leon’s visits are shorter, he is distracted, because there is someone waiting for him to return. He tells of her to Emil, wistful, smiling, of long, dark tresses and pink blossoms and a scent that is sweet, that smells of home. He speaks of sparkling golden eyes just a few shades darker than his own and the mysterious world of another kind of human, a female type of human. He brings the paper she writes on and the books she reads, studying them and wondering, trying to learn to what she sees, what she wants, what she cares about. He sighs of first love and whispered promises under park trees, awkward, sticky kisses tasting of ice-cream and fingers meeting each other in the theater.
Emil smiles and laughs and congratulates and smiles and smiles some more, and when Leon is gone, to his love, Emil cries.
Emil lies on the rock, sighing. It is unusually sunny, and Emil can feel their skin slowly drying out, a dangerous feeling that is not entirely unpleasant. Leon appears in the distance, and Emil perks up, but the human heads towards the shore beside Emil’s, where there is the glimmering white-gold of sand. Beside them, a small figure trips, running and jumping and clinging onto Leon’s hand. A girl-child, about as old as Leon had been when they first met, small and blessed with her father’s striking golden eyes and hair of a slightly darker shade, presumably from her mother. Leon smiles as he leads her, big hand cupping a smaller one, and near the end of their visit, as the sky grows dark, he shows her Emil, who sits on the rocks and watches curiously as the tiny thing stumbles and coos.
Emil smiles, ignoring the pang, and whispers and sings like the sea breeze. The little creature giggles and claps its hands in delight as they imitate the cry of the gulls and the hiss of the waves.
The rocks are slippery, and she is barefoot and soft and vulnerable as she falls. Emil reaches out to catch her, nearly touching her, and it takes a second for Leon to react, snatching her up and out of Emil’s reach, eyes wild with fear before leaving with his baby in his arms.
Leon returns the next day, and the next, and doesn’t say a thing, but never again is that beautiful child brought to the shore.
Leon’s strong hands are paler, slimmer than before, and it takes him a second to make it over the rocks, so Emil patiently waits for him to settle, before he turns to Emil and speaks. They can converse in that language of Leon’s mother tongue now, and Leon smiles as he takes out a few scraps of paper and a pencil, and sketches. He has taken up art lately, he says, because work has been so hectic, and the feeling of pencils and paper sends waves of peace throughout his entire body. Emil doesn’t mention his past artistic inclination, which Leon seems to have forgotten.
The flow of pencil on paper is light, like a dance, so different from the etchings he had once loved, but it was the same human holding the pencil, the same human making the marks of Emil against the sea spray and horizon. Emil watches as he works, never daring to touch, because there is still time, and Emil waits.
Leon comes, crying and screaming as if he was a youth once more, lost and confused and fearful. ‘Mei, Mei,’ he says as he trembles, rocking back and forth the same way Lukas does, begging for someone gone from his life. Emil coos and whistles like they did when they first met, and it is Leon’s turn to close his eyes and listen as Emil sings of times past and kingdoms yet to come, songs Lukas had once sang as Emil slept. Leon spends the night by Emil, leaning against the rock and breathing softly, slowly, and when he turns to go, his eyes are dry.
The little child, now a youth, with hair darkened into black and eyes a familiar shade of honey often stares at Emil from afar, perhaps too afraid to come closer. She is there daily, only forgoing her visits when her father goes to see Emil, or she goes to see her mother. Emil smiles invitingly, cooing, but she never approaches, never does more then watch with wide eyes as Emil threads through the water and air.
Leon smiles now, the scar Mei left has healed over to leave only a pale print, and sometimes, he reaches out a thin hand with skin like crumbling parchment paper, as if wanting to touch Emil, but he never does, never truly lets himself go. His hair is thinning now, turning from the brown of a healthy trout to a hard, steely grey. It takes him quite a few minutes to make it over the rocks. Emil lies down on the remaining stone a little ways in, waiting for Leon to make it across.
Emil listens to Leon lament about the past. Emil remembers every word, every event described, because to Emil, it was just yesterday, but seeing Leon lean shakily against the stone and squeeze tears from the creased slits of his closed eyes, Emil feels strongly, so strongly it hurts.Sometimes, when Leon stretches out his hand, Emil nearly takes it and pulls Leon close, but Emil knows there is more time yet.
For just a little bit more, Emil waits.
Leon’s gaze is failing, and the next time he comes out, he is accompanied by a female human clothed only in white, clutching feebly at a large stick with a bag connected by a tube. The human female waits, not quite paying attention as she pokes at a small lump of metal, and Emil speaks softly as they call out to Leon, reassuring the human of their presence. Emil thinks there is a special brand of beauty to the delicate feebleness, and Emil smiles as they lead Leon with their voice.
Leon is still hanging on, and Emil thinks, tells themselves, that no matter how little, time still remains. And so, Emil waits.
Leon cries. He reaches out for Emil with a single, trembling hand, but cannot reach. Emil only watches as he sinks to his knees and weeps, begging for Emil in a ghoulish mixture of languages to come and touch him already, to take him into the waves, because Emil knows that there is still time. Emil wants not only to touch Leon now, Emil wants to watch Leon sketch, wants to speak to Leon and learn more of Leon’s language, and so Emil coos out promises, just a bit longer, and then they will leave together. Leon calms himself and smiles one last time before leaving, and Emil watches, waving and shouting out trills in the language of Emil’s kind, promising the world to Leon the next time he returns to the shore.
Leon’s visits have stopped. Emil doesn’t mind, because if it was for Leon’s sake, waiting for all of eternity was nothing.The beautiful youth, Leon’s daughter, no longer comes to the shore, and Emil lies on the rocks, singing alone. Lukas sleeps now, restless and shaking, but unable to wake.
Emil is bored, without Leon, each day seems slower in passing, and Emil’s mind fills with the Leon of childhood, the Leon of youth, the Leon of adulthood, the Leon with greying hair, and the fragile Leon that had climbed over the rocks with no small effort, just to meet Emil . Even for Emil, the time Leon has been gone feels a bit too long, but it is okay, because Emil is patient, Emil knows that Leon will come, hair wispy white and leaning heavily against his cane, and he will smile as he meets Emil for their first and last kiss.
And so Emil waits.