"Wild roses on a bed of leaves in the month of May
I think I wrote my own pain
Oh, don't you?"
- Of Monsters of Men, "Wild Roses"
I think I wrote my own pain
Oh, don't you?"
- Of Monsters of Men, "Wild Roses"
"Where do you think I'll be in a few years?"
My legs dangled over the the side of the cliff, the ground so far below. Alexander, ever by my side, had stayed standing while I tempted death. The sun was gently setting, the last brilliant rays reflecting onto the sea. It was calm, with few clouds. The wind was quiet and far-off into the distance.
"I don't know," he answered simply.
Somewhere far away, a seagull squawked.
It was the next morning.
I woke up in my bed, my sheets on the floor. I'd left the window open and I felt sticky. I got up and closed the window, turning on the air conditioning too. I sighed, letting the cool air hit me.
"It's pretty quiet, hm?" I whispered to myself as I looked out the window. The clouds were dark and low-hanging - few people were walking the streets. "What did I even have planned today..?"
I left my room, closing the door behind me. I turned the AC on in the living room, where Malphas lay on the couch. The fluffy puppies he'd picked up some days ago were piled ontop of him. I smiled at the sight, but I had something else to do.
It didn't take long. Alexander was waiting for me in the dining room. He held up a newspaper.
"Look at you. You're famous," he said, tossing it at me. He was grinning.
I picked it up, the paper sticking to my damp fingers. "This is Dad, Alexander, not me."
OIL TYCOON BUYS OUT HUNDREDS OF LOCAL WELLS
"This isn't even that important." I put it back on the counter, heading for the Keurig for my usual coffee.
"Won't that be you someday, though?" Alexander's voice was quiet. "You're worried about the future, aren't you?"
I stilled, looking back at him. He met my eyes, his yellow to my hazel. "Even so, it's not like you to worry for my sake."
"That's literally my job, cretin."
"Pfft." My coffee finishing, I turned away and added milk and sugar. "I've got time. I'm lucky he's not pushing me to get married, but he'd never be that way."
"Mm." Alexander was still scanning the paper. "You're going to inherit all this, you know. All the money, all the land. You'll find someone to have a child with, whether you want it or not." He turned the page. "And then you'll die and pass all this on to your kid."
"Why're you talking like this? It's not even eight in the morning." I sipped at my coffee, locking eyes with him again.
"I just want to make sure you'll be fine for the future."
Sometime later, I had to meet with my dad about something or other. Alexander and Malphas had remained outside the office while we talked.
I was spinning in one of those wheely chairs when Father started to talk like Alexander.
"Aren't you worried on what you're going to do now? You're out of high school, and you could easily start college, Chier."
I faced him, my fingers tapping out a rhythm on the arm rest. "I'm not really worried. I'd prefer to take it slow."
"So a gap year? That's perfectly fine with me. I just want you to be happy."
"I know, Dad, I know." I kept spinning, looking up at the ceiling as I did. Around and around in circles..
"How are Malphas and Alexander working for you?" His tone changed with the subject. It was less forceful and more affably and chatty.
"They're doing well." I kicked my legs out, the chair slowing down. "Malphas brought home a bunch of puppies the other day. They're really cute."
As the conversation continued, my chair eventually stopped to face my dad. He was smiling as I spoke, years of age disappearing as he did so.
"I'm glad you're having fun, Chier." He rested his head on his hand. He was at ease, the first time I'd seen him relax in a while. He glanced at the clock and cursed under his breath. "I'm sorry to interupt, but I have a meeting with the regional manager in a few minutes." He rose from his chair.
"'sall good," I said, standing up too. My legs were wobbly, but I leaned on the chair until they were well enough to stand. "We don't usually talk like this, so any time with you, Dad, is good time to me."
He was smiling again when we hugged. He kissed the top of my forehead. "Thank you, Chier. I love you."
"I love you too."
When I left his office, I just started walking. Alexander and Malphas had caught up by the time I'd reached the elevator.
"What's up, boss? You don't look happy."
I was slouching against the wall of the elevator, hands in my pants' pockets. "Maybe not.
"Malphas, drive us somewhere nice. I want to do something different today."
"As you say."
The elevator dinged again and again and again until we reached the bottom floor.
A few hours outside the city, Malphas pulled over into a parking lot. I could hardly see the gravel - it was so overrun with weeds.
"What kinda 'somewhere nice' is this, Malphas?" Alexander kicked a stone into the trees near us. We were alone in the parking lot.
"It's a hiking trail. Don't worry, I brought water. The view at the top is supposed to be stunning." He shouldered a bag onto his back and handed Alexander one.
"Never heard of a trail out this way," I commented, sitting back inside the car to change my shoes. While not super suited to the terrain, they'd do.
As we started the trail, I paid attention to the trees and things around us. Birds flew between branches, a squirrel clambered up a tree and leapt to the next. A snake darted past us, slipping into a river I hadn't even noticed.
I nearly slid down a ravine, my shoes losing traction quicker than I'd thought. Malphas pulled me up and away from danger, Alexander making sure nothing had been lost.
The sun had started to set when we were about an hour in the trail. It was sloping upwards, slowly but surely around a hill. We could see the top as the sun touched the horizon.
"Here we are." Malphas was the first to reach the top of the hill. I was blown away when I stood beside him.
The sun, yellows and blues and pinks, spreading through the clouds. The trees, gently blowing in the wind. The ground, so far off, gently sank into the ocean itself. A distant sailboat slid up and down the waves on the water.
"I..how have I never been here before?" My voice was quiet, hushed in awe. My eyes were fixtated on the distant horizon, awash with colors, some of which I'd never seen before.
"I don't know, Chier. I don't know." Alexander was sitting down, leaning against stone. He drank from a water bottle.
"There's a lot we haven't seen either," Malphas confided, turning away. He found a bench and laid down on it, staring at the sky.
"Maybe we should travel the world," I murmured, mostly to myself. Then I turned to both of them. "We can go visit everywhere! We have lots of time."
"..? Are you sure? Isn't that expensive?" Malphas tilted his head.
"Idiot! He's loaded! We'd be fine!" Alexander splashed him with water from the bottle. "How can you keep forgetting that?!"
"A-ah..yeah. Apologies." The raven looked at me. "Can we bring the puppies?"
I sighed. "I don't see why not.."
"Good! I'll be sure to train them to be good guard dogs for if we ever become compromised!"
I thought for a minute, sitting down on the second bench. "Is it possible for you two to find others? Other..guardians, did you say you were called?"
"Maybe, and yes." Alexander was tossing a stone up and down. "There's not a whole lot either of us could tell you, besides the fact that the longer we're with you, the more like you we are. I've been with you for..how many years has it been? Two or three? And Mal has been here for a few weeks, but that's alright. You're his first, right?" He looked over to Malphas, who nodded. "Sometimes, if the need is dire, there's a sort of adrenaline rush we get. I've had that once, no, twice, while I've been with you."
"Does it matter how long I've had you, really?"
"Yeah. Our..'bond', I think, deepens with time. The longer we've been together, the more of a rage we get into when you're in danger. It allows us to kill more easily, and after a time, there are things we can do that others can't. I don't know what I can do yet." Malphas searched the sky as he spoke. "However, the more bonds you have, Hecatonchier, the longer it takes for each of them to deepen."
"Makes sense that way. Maybe I'll look for more of you. I'm sure that some of them are in terrible situations and need to get out of them.." I kicked at a rock. "Even if I don't keep them, maybe Mariah will want one.."
"Ever so noble, Chier. Ever so noble." Alexander's voice was quiet. He looked as if he was ready to fall asleep - the sky had already grown fairly dark, and the stars twinkled above us.
"Thank you for taking us here, Malphas, but I think it's high time we go. I don't want you two to be too tired in the morning." I stood, smiling some.
"I agree." He also rose, nudging Alexander with his foot. "C'mon."
The path back to the car was quicker than the one we'd taken up to the hill. I nearly slipped a few times in the darkness, but one of them was always there to help me back up.