When I saw him, I knew him.
When I saw him, I loved him.
When I saw him, I knew he was the one for me and no others could compare.
After the vision of my future beloved, I had no choice but to find him.
Every twenty-five years, the perpetual red sun relinquished it’s throne and gave way to the renowned blue moon for twenty-five days. The Coupling Moon, as it was known, showed and led all lone youth of the most recent generation their future life mates. From the lore passed down from prior generations, your other half is shown to you on the first night in a dream.
For me, my first dream created a longing that I could not imagine becoming more intense, yet it did. The dreams become more vivid and consumed my sleeping, and often waking, world. My desire increased each day. I longed for my match. This yearning pervaded every aspect of my existence making me ache in my muscles, sinews, bones, and most of all, my mind. I began looking for him immediately.
Our township is not a large one but is guarded on all borders. Large walls prevent entry or exit, the forest, which was absolutely forbidden due to the myriad of creatures wishing to tear us to shreds, and even the streams and rivers, not that anyone had boat to even attempt traversing the waters. Nevertheless, guards patrolled them all.
However, I felt confident I would find this god made flesh within our borders. Over the next week, I had a clearer visions and was even able to draw a likeness though I am no artist. I showed my drawing to everyone I passed and no one had seen him. I walked the cobblestone streets daily taking special notice of everyone I passed. I visited every tavern, shop, market, and even the unsavory parts of town my mother told me never to frequent. I spoke with the guards on all borders. All said the likeness and description was close enough to be my brother, but this was no help. I searched every corner I could find. Yet, none of my ventures proved fruitful. No one had seen him.
I repeated the search for ten more days. I grew disheartened. Twenty-five days pass quickly leaving me with only eight days left, and if I did not find him, my chances at love were forfeited. It had happened to others, whether by choice or failure, and I did not ask nor did I wish to become one of those without love slowly wasting away with loneliness.
I began to wonder about the borders beyond our land. Were they truly dangerous? Could my soulmate lie beyond those borders? Could that be why some had failed in the past and had they not search far enough? Perhaps, their choice was not merely a choice, but a coverup to save face due to failure outside of their control? I didn’t want to find out. The longing removed any other option I might have considered.
That night, I dreamt again; this time of a forest I had never seen. The luminous blue moon shone through the trees marbling the forest floor and all the plants within. I saw a crystal silver pond made bluer and more ethereal by the light. The silver changed from blue to purple and shifted as the light caressed it. Surreal is the only word I can use to describe what I saw. I could feel the tingle of magic infused air along with the alluring exquisiteness of the forest, which would captivate anyone who caught even the slightest glimpse. Then, I woke in a cold sweat instantly dissatisfied with the waking world that held no enchantment.
Moon dreams never lie, so I felt compelled to take action since my time limit was quickly approaching. The only place that could hold such wonder was the forest. I began devising a plan to slip past the guards. Even if I died, my attempt to find the one was better than death or not trying at all. Through my searching, I had learned much of the patrols, and the forest was barely guarded at night. I packed a small nap sack so as not to draw excessive attention and dressed in shades of black and green in hopes to camouflage myself. I waited. I watched, and when the moment was right, I slipped into the forest, hoping I would be unnoticed, or at minimum, ignored. Whether by magic or sheer luck, I was unseen.
Immediately upon entering the forest, I felt the aura in my dream, one of endless possibilities and wishes granted. However, I did not see the elements of my dreams, and I walked further on. Despite the positive feelings, I heard creatures rustle and seemingly follow me through the trees, but so far, none of them acknowledged my presence.
Before long, I found a small break in the dense forest. Here I saw the dappling of light through the trees, complete with mushrooms, and all manner of plants I had only seen in my dream. This must be the spot. However, there was no pool. I was exhausted, but the ground was soft and I had packed my blanket. I decided to sleep in case another dream gave me further guidance. To my great fortune, it did. However, the instructions were given, not by my mate, but some other glorious being with hair like fire and eyes the color of the brightest yellow daisies. She told me that the pond was only a stone's throw away, but hidden by tall grass and rocks.
I woke abruptly, ate what little food I had, and drained my remaining since I knew my thirst would be quenched by water and by love. I walked on finding nothing.
I shouted into the forest, “Is it here? Am I close?”
To my surprise, a voice with a delicate timbre, not unlike silver bells, answer, “Close.”
I walked on, and within minutes, I saw a patch of overgrown grass and rocks just like my dream. I set to work immediately removing the rocks and pulling the grass away just enough to see the pond. I don’t know what I expected, but it was even more beautiful than my dream. I doubt anyone had ever seen such majesty before. Exuberance filled me particularly since I had only three days left.
I leaned over to drink. Yet when I lowered my face to the water, a face stared back at me. This was the man in my visions, my beloved, my eternal mate, and the only one for me. He was more beautiful than any of my dreams. Locks of curly gold, violet eyes, and a face that only existed in fairytales. I did not know how someone so splendid could be destined for me.
I could not reach him and assumed he was trapped thanks to the fabled curses and enchantments the forest is rumored to hold. I plunged my arms into the water and he reached out with his arms to grasp mine. I needed to rescue him and feel the warmth of his embrace. However, every time I tried to pull him out, he reached for me, but then he disappeared replaced only by ripples in the reservoir. He returned once the water had settled. I repeated this more times than can be counted to no avail. I rapidly went through ways to break a curse told to me by my elders. None of them applied to someone trapped in watery depths. The only option that seemed might work was true love’s kiss. Once his face returned, I bent down and kissed him for this was certainly true love and should break any spell. This only disturbed the water again, but had no effect on releasing my love.
Then I began to weep, “Why are you trapped, my beauty? Who did this to you and how can I save you? When I stretch my arms to you, you do the same, yet I am unable to meet your embrace. When I try to kiss you, I am met with only the cold water imprisoning you. Until I find a way to release you, let me stare upon your beauty since I would rather be in your presence than alone.”
When I saw him, I loved him.
Many creatures walked the woods, some with malice, some with benevolence, but I have not seen a mortal in years. Possibly decades. Possibly a hundred or more years. Time moves differently for my people.
I watched the mortal move. Passing through treacherous paths. I doubt he knew the trees were alive and whispering secrets throughout the forest to any being that cared to listen. Most were unimpressed while a few were looking for a rare and tasty delicacy. However, I heard these whispers before the others and laid claim to the mortal. My claims could not be denied.
I followed from a distance and contemplated how to make him fall in love with me. A witch had cursed me years ago, so my speech was limited. I no longer had a way to begin a conversation. I could only respond, and even then, my words were limited to repetition of those spoken. I knew this would become problematic, but confidence overwhelmed me, and I felt hope for the first time in a thousand years. I felt that maybe, just maybe, I could still win his affection.
I followed him on his journey until he slept. Fortunately, I could still communicate through dreams. So, I told him how to find what he was looking for and hoped my advice would win favor.
He found the pool, which is normally a silver glow brighter than any smith could forge. However, it had changed and incandescent colors reflected its natural silver to include purple and blue shimmering beneath the changing moon. Despite living in the forest for as long as I can remember, the beauty of it astounded me. I never knew such colors could exist there. So, as not to alarm him, I stayed in the shadows behind a tree. I was frightened to show my face to him though my beauty is renowned amongst all manner of creatures and gods. I stood and I watched waiting for a chance to speak.
I saw him gaze into the pool. I saw him reach in repeatedly grasping at what I do not know. I saw him kiss the water.
I heard him weep, and I wept, too. I never wanted him to feel pain. I heard his desperate cries. Finally, I was able to respond.
I echoed back, “...let me stare upon your beauty since I would rather be in your presence than alone.”
At this point, he looked up, clearly startled, “Is that you my love? Are you here?”
On the verge of tears, I could only utter, “Here.”
I watched him survey his surroundings and then gaze back into the pool. His curly blonde hair covered his face as he looked down, which was a shame since he was ever so lovely.
I continued to watch wondering if the water held some magical property I was unaware of and did indeed trap poor souls there. Despite my better judgment, I inched closer. Trying to maintain the cover of trees. I got close enough to see the pool and the reflection within.
To my shock, horror, dismay, and a thousand other emotions which had no names I knew; I saw that the man I loved was staring at his own image. He was entranced. He tried speaking to it to no avail. He already knew that touching the water rippled and scattered the image within so he merely stared. It was then that I realized his true love was himself.
My heart broke and I sobbed uncontrollably. Hearing this, he demanded, “Who is that weeping? Come to me.”
I replied, “Come to me,” as I ventured out of hiding and rushed at him with arms ready to embrace and lips ready to kiss.
As I rushed toward him, he drew back the instant I came within reach, which knocked me to the ground and covered me in dirt, debris, and a myriad of scratches and bruises.
“You are not the one I desire, and though I thank you for leading me here, I have no desire to look upon your face ever again,” he uttered this with hate and malice I could not believe existed in such a charming man. However, it was then I learned his heart, darker than it should have been, but I loved him all the same.
I retreated as fast as my legs could carry me and scurried back to the unseen area that allowed me to view his reflection since I could not see his face when he gazed down at at the water.
My despair grew over the time I watched him. I couldn’t divorce my eyes or heart from this ravishing man whose name I did not know.
I did not eat. I did not sleep. I began to fade into the tree that was my hiding place. My skin shriveled and turned to bark. My hair became bright red leaves, but it was all okay since I could continue to be with my love even as a tree and shriveled being with no true life left within me. I relentlessly watch, and the view made me even more sad as I watched him whither as I had.
The longer I gazed in the pool, the harder it was to look away. Perhaps it was magic; perhaps it was love. I may have been there for days, weeks, months, years, but I had no desire for anything other than the face I saw there. I did not sleep. I did not eat. I did not dare drink the water that encased my soul mate. I felt my body wasting away, but it gave me no concern since my life purpose was to be with him. ‘Til death do us part, and my death was approaching rapidly, but that did not bother me in the slightest.