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Fiction Friendship

Time meant very little to an immortal.


The movies and books and stuff portrayed that pretty well, having the person chopped to pieces physically and emotionally until they really couldn’t care either way how life sliced you. And here he was, Icarus of a thousand something years, burying a time capsule in the middle of a secluded forest. For the irony, he supposed. Or just to tick it off his bucket list. His forever bucket list that was probably a car crash of words at this point. 


The capsule’s nesting place was big enough for a sea turtle; which meant he’d expended too much effort on something for once. But well, at least this much should be done to bury some memories, no? Those were precious, even if they did slip away in a century or so.


A small finger tapped him on the shoulder. One end of the time capsule – giant pill shaped for the added irony - was put into his hands and they did a tug of war before it popped open like two halves of an egg. Sunlight bounced off the gilded surface. It was far too fancy for a thing about to be buried in dirt and earthworms and ancient bacteria. Humans were so sentimental. He was so sentimental. Let’s say, the gold was a representation of his golden years of existence. Kind of cheesy, but true. Moving on.


“Don’t you have anything better to do than watch an old man digging holes in the ground?” he asked.


“Well, daddy said I could come,” said Skye, like she was stating fact. It probably was, for a kid. Daddy’s word was law. “Besides, you’re only an old man on the inside. And that’s not something you see every day.”


“I can’t tell if you’re an adult on the inside or out.”


“I can be both. You promised me stories by the way. Because time capsules. That’s the number one reason I’m here, if you didn’t know.” He rummaged in his pocket, tossing out lint and paperclips and of course, she had to get on his case about it. “You’re littering.”


“Alright, small sponge.” He scooped up his ‘litter’ and palmed the three most recent things he planned to bury. It was poetry, in a way. Burying the past. He could probably work on his nuances some time. “What do you want to know?”


She gathered her orange summer skirt and plopped on the grassy edge of the hole. “Tell me about the memories, one by one.”


“How boring.”


“Well it won’t make much sense if you mixed them up. And if you just show me why they’re special, that’s boring too. I want to know what you think, old man.” The wind picked up and blew her soft curls into her face like some high-quality shampoo commercial.


“What if I sing it, to make it more exciting? Like a real life musical,” he suggested.


“No thanks. I have a ways to grow before I get old and deaf.”


“There goes my idol dreams. Dead on arrival, no questions asked. Youngsters these days. Where’s your respect? In hibernation?”

“I must’ve misplaced it at school,” she said with the straightest face.


He shook his head, as near to smiling as he’d ever gotten, and dropped the first item into his show and tell capsule half - his phoenix pin. She peered inside, then up at him expectantly as if he owed her. He supposed he did. Promises didn’t grow on trees, and broken promises were just very sad. He’d have enough sadness for ten lifetimes.


He sighed. “I really should’ve brought water. If I lose my voice for class tomorrow, we’ll both know who the culprit is.”


“Lick dew off the leaves. That’s what survivors do.”


He gave her a look, which she countered with her innocent one.

“Anyway. So, there once was a boy who moved to a town pretty far from here, and he was tired of moving because he’d moved to so many towns they were all blurring together into a messy paint splat of sights and sounds. He was tired, and he didn’t want to be. So he followed his ears and ended up at a partying bar…”


The strobe lights hurt his eyes. Icarus eyed the bottle in his hand, purple-blue strobing various shades through the liquid. He didn’t even know what kind, unlabeled as it was. Laughter on the dance floor. Ten versions of what couldn’t be called singing. Hurt his head, and he wasn’t even drinking. The DJ was alright.


“Not a big drinker, eh?” A wild fellow, lion-like, flumped into his booth. They didn’t know each other. He had to shout above the clamour.


“No.”


Wild guy leaned in. “Whazzat?”


“No, I said.”


Wild guy pushed the tangle of blonde fringe from his eyes, peering out. “Not a partier either?”


“No.”


A grin. “Why you here then, mate?”


“Change of scenery.” Seeing people you knew wither and die from old age, different each time, over and over on life’s broken record. It wasn’t a fun hobby.


“Ha! ‘Scenery’? If I were drinking, I would’ve spat some.”


“Good thing you weren’t then.”


A wider grin. He threw his arm around Icarus’s shoulder. “I like you!”


“Platonically, I hope.”


That got a chuckle. “Come join my posse. We’re not bad, I promise. Well-“ He winced. “Aside from that thing called singing.”


“I’ll have to politely decline your generous offer.”


“Aww c’mon man. Live a little.”


“Why don’t you pick the random in the next booth?”


“That’s easy. I’ve taken a liking to you – even though we’ve known each other for ‘bout two minutes?”


“Glad you’re self-aware.”


Wild guy looked at him and then stood, throwing his hands up. “Yeesh. Talking to you is draining my positive energy.”


“Leaving?” Icarus pushed the bottle away, finally.


Shaking his head, Wild guy gave a tilted smile – and called out to the loudest corner of terrible singers.


“And then?” Skye’s eyes sparkled and she was sitting up, her half of the capsule laying on its side in the grass. She could be an enraptured child when she wanted. It fit her more, with that baby face of hers.


“Against his better judgment, the guy who hated partying returned every night to have his ears sung off. The nights were loud, sure, but it was the present. He had no time to worry his socks off when he could be whisked away to the dance floor any moment and be murdered for stepping on everyone’s toes, or forced to a dare that ruined his dignity. Still, it was a surprise when on his birthday, lion hair guy gave him this.” He tapped the phoenix pin.


“Flaming freedom!” She raised her arms like the bird, stretching high.


Yes, that sounded right. Lion hair had been wild, intimidating to some, but his ‘posse’ had been made up of rejects and recovered kids all searching for their homing ground, a place for their heart to be what they were meant to be. The carefree had rubbed off a little on Icarus. If not for the main guy of that cast, he’d have been wilting in a corner somewhere long before he’d met Skye.


Speaking of, she was waving her hands before his face, bouncing impatiently. “What’s next? You said you had three. Two more to go, don’t fall asleep.”


“I was just thinking how infinitely more peaceful it’d be if your butt wasn’t planted in this very grass.” He picked the second item – a tiny raven skull’s bracelet with the chain going through the sockets.


“That’s morbid. Another bird?”


“You’d be surprised. People have been throwing symbols at me since the beginning of time.”


“Who from?”


“A girl.”


Skye grew a smirk.


“Yes, like that. She and the boy met in college, and had tolerated each other for about… eighteen months? It was long enough that he accidentally told her about his woes…”


Icarus and the girlfriend sat in each other’s company on the flat of the school’s roof, hand feeding a dozen or so ravens.


They’d bought frosted buns for themselves too, but the girlfriend had forgotten all about lunch. “Im… Immortal? You-” Her attempts at English were thwarted. That was what happened when you snorted your laughter. Don’t do drugs, kids. Though, her fine impression of a strangled chicken was to be admired.


He shrugged. “Yeah.” See. This was what happened when people wanted truth. First came ridicule. Then there’d be fear or some other. She just didn’t know it yet.


“Alright, Mr Immortal. I’m all eyes.”


He showed her; from his back, his friend the gun, a shot to the head. It was effective. Less pain. The most brutal reality, which he felt she didn’t deserve. But truths were harsh a lot of the time. Life. When he woke minutes later, head reformed, wet blood gone, her wide eyes were trained on him.


She’d bit her lip to keep it from trembling. She’d thought a long time; deciding to run or stay, he’d bet. Her brain ticked and clicked and whirred. Then she did the most meaningful thing a wordful girl like her could do, because at the heart of her, there was an empathetic person. She touched his arm ever so lightly. And somehow, just for that moment, that made it okay among the flutter of wings.


He wished the ravens would stop cawing. He was having a moment here.


But she was what saved a piece of him back then, nestling it in a snug ring box, giving it the get well pat it needed. The piece that was still trying hard to forgive the world for the gift he’d never wanted.


“In fact,” he mused. “She was the one who’d pestered him to tell his big secret. It reminds me a lot of a nosy somebody whose name rhymes with the roof of the world.”


Skye maintained her innocent look. “Are we finishing in time for Christmas?”


“You wound my storyteller’s soul.” She imitated him flopping back on the grass. He reached inside his chest pocket and her gaze followed like a pet on a laser pointer. “This third one is the most special of all.” He paused for drama, and she puffed her cheeks in displeasure. He bopped her on the nose. “So listen very closely. Here, look inside.” He pulled and quickly cupped his hands over the last, very precious memory piece, holding it out to her.


She put an eye to the darkness… then jerked back, all smiles. “I already know this story! You made it glow. It’s a real star now.”


“This wooden star has a different story to what you think. Listen, I said.” He looked up at the pieces of sunlight flecking the leaves. There was nature’s mosaic, the tip tap of leaves as percussion, earthy perfumes wafting and a favourite person beside him. Life was quite alright. “There was once a little girl who found peace and quiet in the back of a rowdy classroom.”


“But aren't you the-"


“Shh. We're changing protagonists. Keeps things fresh. This little girl paid no attention to the student teacher who'd just walked in on his first day. As lessons passed, he found her trapped in her own mind-"


“Content,” she interrupted.


“Content, so that even when the nicer kids talked to her-"


“Because they pitied her.”


“Did they?”


“Yep.”


“Hm. So when the others tried to talk to her, she decided they were just air.”


“Hey! You're making me sound like the bad guy.”


“Oh, are we talking about you?”


She folded her arms and turned her face away. But she was still listening.


“It was at morning tea and lunchtime that he discovered her for real. She would peek into the staff room and all the teachers would light up, lighting her up in turn. When she was with people she liked and who liked her, she became the most alive, most helpful and most attentive girl. Because to her, the adults were the friends who understood her best.”


No smart remarks for that. Actually, she was worrying her lip, wondering where this tale was going.


“One day, the student teacher was feeling very tired in more ways than one. This was in hard materials. So he slumped in his chair - still keeping his eye out mind you, you'd better not get me fired.”


“My lips are-" She drew a pinched thumb and finger over said lips.


“Thank whatever's responsible for existence.” He held the star overhead to let it catch some sun. Bury a piece of sun, increase the poetry, why not? “So he sat and wondered: Why was he here? What good does it do? And that was when the little girl popped up beside him and gave him a star. 'Don't fall in,' she said, and she scurried away without looking back once. She was worried, you see, that he wouldn't like it or he'd show everyone, and then everyone would accuse her of being a teacher's pet, which they already did.”


Skye looked at him, eyes wide.


“You know mothers have eyes on the backs of their heads?”


She looked confused.


“Teachers have ears under the desks.”


Her face cleared and she tried to stifle a giggle. "That's gross!"


Made you smile. “So for the rest of the day, she watched the sad teacher puttering around like an old man and by the end of the day, she didn't see the star even once.”


She plucked at the grass. "She thought he'd thrown it away."


"But you know what he did?


She was smiling again. "He kept it."


“Yep...”


After the longest pause, she bolted upright and looked down at him. "What? And what?"


“Oh, I finished talking.”


“No, you trailed off!”


“Alright, little detective." He sat up too and looked inside at his memories. Yeah. They'd be safer underground. He twisted the two halves of the capsule together and tossed it into the hole. It rolled quite a ways before nesting in the crumbled dirt. “The moment he got that shooting star, he realised it was a message.”


She stayed quiet.


"'If I can make friends, so can you. You don't have to be a teacher all the time.'"


“First, the boy went to parties and learned to let things go. To live in the present so he didn’t have to look behind. And then he learned self-acceptance on the rooftop. Let others see you for you, and see them too. Finally, he learned living could still be something. Something beautiful, like a sky after rain, or the gift of a shooting star." With that, he magicked a gold crown hairclip from behind her ear.


She took it.


He turned his face to the sun, eyes closed. "Princesses shouldn't cry."


“I'm... not." She covered her face, so he put an arm around the shoulders of his first friend in a very, very long time. 

October 09, 2020 01:45

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