“The water level rises every day, brother. The border between us and them is now too close to the mainland.” Gabriel’s unspoken uneasiness hung in the air between them.
The sky was painted gold, chasing the wending darkness of night. The brink of darkness held at bay by splashes of pink and purple. Soft amber light dipped into the folds of turquoise brocade and painted silk, the sea spilling out into the blistering white sand.
Alexander toed the water’s edge watching as the Ocean masked and peeled away at the sand. The silver lining. The edge of everything.
This is where the world ends.
Spying something shiny at the water’s edge, he bent down to pick it up. A sea pearl. How curious. A gift from the Ocean. After two thousand years of splintered silence, finally a quiet kind of thunder.
His brother hummed impatiently.
“Do you think the Ocean is afraid of dying out?” Alexander did not look his brother’s way. “Like we are? We lose land every day. A centimetre. An inch. We will die out.” He rasped a laugh. “The Ocean was here before us. Once, it was the only thing that ever was. Beautiful and Wild. And it will be here when nothing else is.”
Alexander refused to be cowed by the empire of seaweeds and silence. The Ocean.
I am to be the King of a vanishing throne. And broken disappearing lands.
Completely and utterly useless.
Finally, he turned to look towards his brother, his eyes catching on Gabriel’s outlandish purple hair standing stark against his hard and rather stunning vivid cornflower blue eyes, a twin to his own. “The Ocean is coming to reclaim what it had given billions of years ago. This land was never ours. It was given to us.” He ran his thumb along the sea pearl, the smoothness startling against his calloused hands from training with weaponry all day long. Smooth and hard. The texture of hope. “As a gift.” He breathed in the cool brine air feeling his heart thud loudly as he came to a decision.
Taking slow sure steps, Alexander came to stand before his brother. Away from the Ocean’s edge.
“The Ocean gives no gift. They only take. Take our lives. Take our land.” Gabriel glared at the Ocean. “They have a body of water and a soul of ash.” He bit out. “They wish they were us.”
Exhaling slowly, Alexander studied his brother, puzzling at the hate brewing in his brother’s heart. In his kingdom’s heart. “We have the blood of a thousand stars on our hands. We have killed countless species on Earth. Not a stone left unturned on our path to power. We are the roots of ruin. No one should wish they were us. We are too proud, too filled with greed and hate, ruling our city with a fist around our people’s neck. It is not they who have a soul of ash, it is us.”
Gabriel pursed his lips, not at all amused.
“Talk to the council and prepare three seats extra.” He twisted the sea pearl around his hand, feeling its weight as he made a decision. A new beginning. “I want them at the front.” As an afterthought, he added. “Just for the party. I want to get through the Coronation before I start changing things around.”
“But for whom? We have already invited—”
“The Oceanians, brother. Prepare seats for the Ocean representatives.” He avoided his brother’s eye as he posed the quiet demand.
Gabriel reeled back, aghast. “What?! No.”
“And why is that?”
“Our Father would never—”
“Our father would kill a kingdom to wear a crown of smoke. With his lofty arrogance, he has been stoking the embers of destruction into flames for his own ends and he will do so until there is nothing left to burn.” He exhaled. “Don’t talk about our Father.”
The two brothers stared out at the water.
Gabriel pressed his lips into a thin line. “Those born under the unlucky stars can never share the same sky as us.” Gabriel jabbed his fingers in his direction. “Their sky is the Ocean!”
“Our sky will also be the Ocean!” Alexander cried, his voice rising. “There will be no other sky except the Ocean if we don’t do something.” He finished quietly.
Gabriel fell silent looking at his brother. He blinked. His brother looked . . . exhausted. The 5 o’clock shadow looked out of place on his slightly tanned face from travelling to different towns for inspection. His brother needed a shave . . . and a rest. Even his usually pressed clothes were wrinkly. Seeing Alexander’s slumped form staring out at the Ocean with a lost expression on his face made his heart tighten.
Opening the top button of his lilac silk shirt, Gabriel plopped down on the sand heaving a sigh. “What are you doing brother?” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “This has never been our way. There has never been a seat for the Oceanians in our table. Never been a place for them within our walls. People will revolt.”
“Tell me what you are doing brother.” Gabriel softened his face losing the intensity in his voice.
Alexander looked at the tiny sea pearl, twirling it until it caught the light. Beautiful. “Catching a miracle.” His eyes were shadowed, weighed down by his duty and what he thought was right. “It wasn’t always like this, brother. There was a time when we co-existed in peace. I am just trying to resurrect that peace before we go extinct. Before we are swept away by crimson tides.”
“These are just temporary glitches.”
Alexander stared, dumbfounded at his brother’s ignorance.
“Do you hear the song, Gabriel?” He stared down at his brother, hard and unyielding. “Song of the current?” The relentless pounding in his head became louder as he closed his eyes. “There is the Ocean in my ears.”
“What do you hear?” Gabriel’s asked, alarm seeping into his tone.
He sighed tiredly. “They are angry Gabriel. They want respect like any one does. They are tired of being looked down by us. Tired of their home being our dumping site.” Alexander’s eyes skimmed the stretch of blue expanse stretching into the horizon. Mirror to the sky.
The abyss surrounds us.
We can never escape it.
He raised his troubled eyes to meet his brother.
“We will suffer. Suffer untold fates until we change what has always been done.”
Gabriel’s eyebrows drew together. “But why now?” He demanded, his voice rising.
“Everything moves slowly in water brother.” Alexander’s jaw tightened. “We were always sinking. Busy making a continuum of terrible choices, we just didn’t notice. And when we did, we were too far gone to care.”
“Is it really necessary to invite them?”
Alexander looked at the tiny sea pearl again. The Oceanians had reached a hand out. He would be a fool if he slapped the hand away. “Yes.”
Gabriel groaned when he saw the look of determination on Alexander’s face. “Can’t you stop thinking about the future brother? Stop thinking about tomorrow?”
“The price of duty is you can’t stop thinking about tomorrow.” Alexander replied.
Gabriel balled his hands into fists.
“Our world is going up in flameless plume and we have no one to blame but our self.”
Gabriel nodded. He knew his brother was right. But Alexander had always been a dreamer. And Dreamers often lose themselves in their vision.
“Will it change anything?”
Alexander exhaled slowly.
Can anyone know the future?
Alexander counted the steps before he reached the Ocean’s edge. Twelve steps. Twelve steps to peace? Twelve steps to chaos? He didn’t know.
Calling forth the power inside him, he engraved the inside of his promise ring with his invitation. To the party.
He hesitated, his hands tightening around the pearl. A silver of hope. He moved closer to the Ocean’s embrace feeling multitude of eyes staring at him from under the surface.
He threw his promise ring. His own gift to the Oceanians. He knew it was their only chance. This was the last beginning to save their burning world.
The two brothers watched the Ocean.
Minutes later, the still surface broke and the promise ring was in the Ocean’s grasp.
“The deck of omens stack up, brother. The world is ending soon. The Ocean will take everything back. I will do what I can to change it.”
Alexander watched the Ocean, a knot forming in his stomach.
“And maybe,” he whispered, “I will be worth something.” It was a sad response said in a barest shred of a whisper.