Every night at midnight, the purple clouds came out to dance with the blushing sky.
It seemed to Junichuri not so much a mystery as to why such a strange weather pattern had been found—he knew about these things. Well, he thought he knew, anyway.
He had more to live for recently, in his old age. A new development more surprising than the weather.
A new relationship. One he had found himself reeling in joy from but also fear. Fear of a question that had no recognizable solution, and no tangible, sane answer.
Over the last four weeks, he had been in communication with a sea creature. And he laughed at himself for it, but he knew deep inside, he was falling in love, and he didn’t care.
He brought the extra paper to the beach.
His note began:
How can you write me when you live in the water? How do you breathe? Are you a real person?
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way.
It’s only that whenever the dawn hits, and I wake up, I feel alive again— because I know I will see yet another addition written here for me. I write to you now, hoping this isn’t some childish prank or a teenager who wants to jerk me around.
In the middle of a world, my world, where I have no one, this is literally the only thing I have to look forward to.
My family is all dead.
I’m an old man. Not too old, mind you.
How do you measure time? Age?
How did you make this book?
Out of black seaweed and discarded dried paper?
It looks so delicate, and yet the tide cannot find it.
I used to be a physicist, that worked for a university back about fifteen years ago.
My research was grounded in teaching Space psychics and studying space weather patterns for NASA at one point, and other such relevant research facilities.
How do I know English?
I only know English because of my father. He was a diplomat for the Japanese government.
He traveled across Europe and the United States, and he taught me English.
I wish I could meet you.
I wish we could be together, even as I don’t even know what you look like. If you are a woman, even. But, I feel something so strong within these last few letters between us.
I noticed your writing has a phosphorescence to it, and I wonder if that has to do with the algae.
I won’t tell you my name yet, but it’s not because I’m mysterious or trying to be secretive.
I just want to know you are real.
If you could give me another physical sign of your existence please, show me.
I live by myself, and you sound in distress at times, and I am in a way, feeling distressed as well.
I will help you if I can.
Even if we never meet, I want to know more about you.
Your friend, Always.
The moon rose in the sky, and was blood red, shining like a mysterious shadow. The sea below the jagged rocks and mountain rose high for about two minutes, but went quickly to low tide, glowing menacingly, a bright teal and green.
Under the rock, was their carefully hidden message book.
The colors of the book were black, of the earth and the sea, mixed with green and grayish-white, where they shared a bond but couldn’t reach one another. The pages of mixed together seaweed and raw dried paper hardened together to form the most makeshift form of a book, that looked rudimentary and strange but felt right in his calloused hands.
Junichuri felt like his own heart had hardened him over the last twenty or so years, and though he had never had any children or wives, or anyone to call his own, and despite feeling betrayed by everyone, he longed for a companion deeply.
If asked by an acquaintance that he happened to pass by if he would ever meet someone, he would shrug, and be on his way, back to his pristine house near the mountain by the sea.
He felt like nobody, and that once he passed away, he would be forgotten very quickly, much like sand being swept by a random current, and once replaced, no one would notice.
Even as he knew his work in Space physics was very important and he had made many important discoveries, including some prominent essays on space-time and plasmas, he was long forgotten now by his self imposed exile and by being incredibly anti-social.
He had once believed that his career would skyrocket him out of obscurity, and he would finally become someone worthy of love.
But, alas, that moment never happened for him, and now, he was alone more than ever.
So, that one day he was walking along the beach and found that strange collection of seaweed and dried paper, and read the scrawled out writings of what appeared to be a creature that needed someone to truly be their friend, to see them not for what they were but who they were, he could not say no.
He was too old to be skeptical and toss it aside like he would’ve done years ago.
He needed this.
He didn’t need money, he had his health, but what he didn’t have was someone that needed him.
He felt as though he reached the peak of insanity, however, believing that this relationship could be real. That some kind of aquatic sea creature was capable of creating something that resembled a notebook, that it could write, and communicate, and that he actually wrote it back.
A sad, sorry, small little black seaweed book full of ill-shaped pages, with scratched out little drawings for letters. He really felt like a fool.
That night there was a terrible storm.
Junichuri had gone outside, as he could not sleep after a particularly intense dream, and had to get some fresh air.
He noticed the signs of a geomagnetic storm and saw what looked to be an Aurora Borealis forming in the sky.
He was worried that the power would go out and went back inside.
“Tonight will be a long night,” he said out loud, sighing.
He realized at sixty-two years old, having all the freedom and luxury he could’ve ever needed, with his career and his life never in chaos, he was never once happy.
Being alone, he had found tiny ways to feel happy temporarily, but it would subside.
His mother was a woman who had from the beginning, been someone who was fun and full of spirit. He remembered her as he decided to go outside again, to check out the storm.
His father, not at all. He was rigid about rules to a fault, and never strayed from tradition or schedule, from plans, and had kept himself so in line with what he perceived to be the strong head of the house, he never actually was a father to Junichuri.
When he saw the strange phenomenon in the sky, he couldn’t help but feel that he should go to the rock, to see if there was a chance he could see his friend. He thought of his mother who had been slowly stripped of her fun by her father’s strict culture of silence and soft tyranny, and wished it had been different.
He had no siblings, and his friends had either moved on from him, or they passed away. He didn’t like to socialize much, and people noticed it after so many no’s to social invites and dinner parties.
He wasn’t funny, either.
He tried, but he just couldn’t make a woman laugh.
He attributed it to his strict upbringing.
But, his mother had a wonderful laugh.
He felt a pang of sadness hit his stomach that felt more like physical pain, and he stopped walking down the beach path for a moment, breathing heavily.
He felt his age at that moment. He also had arthritis and his leg was hurting.
He decided to go back and wait until morning, going straight to bed.
He was retired and didn’t have much to do in the day. His routine was simple: wake up, dust his house, drink tea, morning walk on the beach.
Today, he decided to go into town for something to eat.
The baker mentioned to him of the strange weather and of how there were odd lights in the sky, to which Junichuri merely shrugged. He realized how abrupt and short he was with people, and he felt a bit ashamed when he left the bakery.
He saw someone else that he usually ignored on the way to the store.
A young girl with dirt on her clothes, holes in her socks, and whose parents were famous for being drunks and lazy. Her father would constantly haunt bars day and night.
He stopped in his routine, feeling bad for her, and said good morning.
“Good morning.” She said back, looking at him with stern eyes.
He tried to smile at her but felt a bit sad.
“Do you go to school?” He asked her.
She shook her head. “I stopped going last year. We couldn’t get the payments anymore.”
“I’m sorry.” He said softly, feeling out of his element.
She looked down and shrugged.
“How old are you? What’s your name?” He asked. He couldn’t believe how loquacious he was this morning but for some reason, he felt like he needed to talk to her.
“I’m twelve. My name is Sayuri.” She bowed her head slightly. “What is your name?”
She smiled a bit. “Good name.”
“Your name is good too.”
He handed her one of the bags he bought from the bakery.
“Here, I bought too much today.”
She took it and thanked him.
He nodded and walked off.
He felt brave suddenly as if finally having a conversation with another human being gave him the strength to stand up straighter.
A lady who he usually saw him in town immediately noticed a change in the man’s demeanor.
Usually, he walked looking downward, his coat covering part of his face, his shoulders slumped, and walked in a small shuffle.
Today, he was standing tall with his shoulders back and his face forward.
She waved at him and he smiled at her.
She was so shocked she almost dropped her groceries but smiled back once she got over her surprise.
He went to the store to buy his stuff and then ate some breakfast.
He was excited to go to the beach and find the new message. They wrote back to each other every single day like clockwork.
He remembered one of the first things he had read from the notebook, a reply from something he wrote back:
I have seen you before and I want to know you. Your peoples fascinate me, and I particularly like how you pick up shells, look at them, and put them down. I hear you sing. I sing, too. I will sing one day for you. Sometimes it is hard to find time to write to you, as some of the other inhabitants down here need my help. A white shark just had me help find her babies earlier. I was glad to at least write this to you.
The writing was very crude in the beginning and written in scratches, but he could read it. The grammar and spelling were off a lot, too, but he didn’t mind. Some of the writing was in cuneiform, which he did know a little.
He was biting his lip, thinking about his friend actually talking and interacting with sea creatures. And a white shark!!
That was crazy. But, he thought, very cool. He wished he could live with them under the sea. It seemed his friend garnered respect.
The one thing he read that actually got him to believe it might be real was that someone had heard him sing.
He sang low, so lowly, so softly, with no one else around for miles, and he knew it was impossible for anyone else to know he sang except if there was someone listening to him in the ocean.
He did like to have some evidence to support his insanity even if it was very rudimentary.
After all, even as a prank, it was very elaborate and well done, and he appreciated it nonetheless.
He thought of Sayuri as he finally reached the beach.
When he died, what would become of her?
He looked at the immensity of the ocean, and it terrified him as much as it made him feel dizzy and fully aware of his mortality, he languished a bit, sitting there by the seaside, immersed in the beauty of it all.
He finally got up, stumbling a bit toward the rock.
He lifted it and saw the book.
And yes, to his delight, there was indeed another entry.
You ask for answers yet you will not give me your name. I am not offended by what you said, but I will say in my culture there would never be a discussion of what defines a person or not. I’m not ageless, but we do not have ages here. Time is different here, too. I cannot describe it. One day, I will show it to you. I will tell you my name. Akiho. I made this book in hopes that you and I could communicate. I see you walk by here. I see you, and I think you are someone I feel connected to, very much. I do not need any help. I just wanted to know you. I have no one, just like you. There is something about my world I want to share, and now I know more of you, I know this was really meant for something more. You study space. I know space. I know it, I can travel through it. I can alter things in my world, not time but physical things. In this world. Please, tell me your name. I do not know what is going on inside of me, but I know that between us, there is something strong that I cannot hide.
He was so shocked and happy, but scared, reading it over and over again.
He wrote back immediately, but he brought the fresh paper to do it, sitting down and started fervently scribbling his reply.
He was so excited he broke his pen.
He cursed under his breath, using the half-broken pen to finish the letter.
Akiho, My darling, my name is Junichuri. You live in the ocean, but also in space? Between two plains of existence, you can alter your reality? Could you explain that further? It’s not that I don’t believe you, but it’s just something I never heard of. I talked to someone today. I never do that. This little girl is all alone too. She is poor, and she has parents who drink too much and she cannot go to school. I feel like I must help her, too. I do not know how. Are you a female or a male? I am a man. What do you look like?
Also, if you heard me sing, what was I singing?
I am not a trusting person, but I want so badly to trust you, Akiho.
I think the strong feelings you have inside of you are love, and I feel this way, too.
For you. As a friend, I love you.
I think if we could live together, we would be happy.
I never had a wife, just a string of girlfriends, and they all left me.
I’m sorry for all my questions as I am just so shocked by all of your answers. They leave me more curious than ever.
He carefully placed the letter inside the book, and then under the rock again.
He stayed at the beach for a while, praying that maybe he could catch a glimpse of Akiho.
He realized that name could be a male or female name.
He really didn’t care anymore.
He just wanted a friend.
Tired, more like exhausted, he decided to go home.
He took a long nap when he got inside his home, and dreamt of being underwater, weightless, and with Akiho, traveling through space and then swimming in the sea, happy and free.
He stayed in bed, decided to skip lunch, but got up to have a light dinner.
He really just wanted it to be the next day, so much so, he didn’t realize there was another geomagnetic storm that night, and all the power went out for several hours until the morning. The swirling thunder of purplish and gray clouds were muddled under the strange Aurora lights, and this time, it was more intense than it had ever been. The electricity stung the air, and it felt like a stinging bee.
When he woke up, he didn’t do anything but get dressed to go to the beach. He didn’t even know his food in the fridge had gone bad from the power outage, from his enthusiasm to go to the beach.
He ran to the rock and saw no reply.
It worried him, and it made him think maybe it was all a prank after all. On the off chance it wasn’t, and Akiho was real, maybe something happened and they were hurt.
It made him feel scared that he was all alone again.
But it made him want to find a way to help Akiho, and make sure that they were okay.
He never worried so much at that moment then right as he lifted the rock, not seeing a single word of reply back to him.
He ran about the beach, looking to see if there was any sign of his friend, or of distress, but no one was on the beach or in the water that he could see.
“Akiho!” He yelled.
As soon he called the name, he felt himself recoil at his foolishness.
He might be calling out a fraudulent person, a fake, a setup, and he found himself worrying and caring about this fictitious person that lived in between the space and the sea, so much, he was willing to die for them.
He stayed for a while, feeling incredibly depressed. He was starting to feel hungry, but he waited just a little longer.
They had been talking back and forth for about four weeks, and this was the first time they hadn’t replied.
He felt hurt, but still, tried to stop from thinking it was intentional.
He went into town and got something to eat.
That was when he saw the strangest thing.
Sayuri, in a brand new, pressed uniform, her hair done and clean. New socks, new shoes, and she was with her mother. Her mother looked sober and clean.
He was so incredibly floored by this, and as he saw Sayuri hug her mother goodbye on her way to school, he felt as though his feet were stuck on the ground.
She saw him and came over.
“Good morning, Junichuri!” She said, smiling.
He nodded. “Good morning. How are… how are you, Sayuri?” He felt a bit flustered. How can someone’s circumstances change overnight?
He never saw her so happy, and it made him happy.
“I’m going to school!” She jumped up and down. Then all of a sudden, she looked around and whispered, “My father found something very weird by the beach.” She sighed, and her eyes narrowed. “A Mermaid’s purse.”
Junichuri felt his heart thud in his chest.
“What?” He asked with a raspy voice.
“It is one of those egg pouches that resemble a satchel or a purse. It’s black. My father said his colleague from school called it a Mermaid’s purse. It had no eggs in it. Or fish. But, it had gold!” She said excitedly. “Real gold!”
His eyes widened. “How very fortunate,” He said, but he felt sick and nervous, and also had a very odd feeling that his friend had something to do with this.
“And it was worth twenty thousand dollars!” She said, her grin wide as ever. “Now I can go to school. It was a very odd coincidence the bar he was at had to shut down because of the power outage last night. But, a good coincidence, after all!”
“I’m sorry, Sayuri, I must go. Have a good day, please, excuse me,” He said, and her expression fell but she nodded politely.
He walked quickly and didn’t know where he was going, but felt like he had to go somewhere far away.
He walked for almost a mile, far away from the town, and the ocean.
Then, feeling frozen, the anxiety of it all became too much. It started to rain.
He was soaked by the time he got home, and when he cleaned up and finally changed, he felt too tired to do anything else the rest of the day.
He decided he wouldn’t bring this up to his friend.
He hoped to God that Akiho was still alive.
He also hoped that he wasn’t crazy. He wasn’t sure which he hoped for more.
But, after lying in his bed, he fell asleep slowly, having nightmares of strange noises and being strangled by a creature with a strong human likeness and a mermaid’s tail, and a large mouth with sharp teeth grinning at him. That made him wish he was crazy. What if his friend looked like that? What if his friend was actually a foe?
He woke up early and decided to take another walk into town.
Sayuri was not there, but he saw other people he usually ignored.
He said hello to several people he had worked at the university with, and one of his old colleagues had actually been looking for him.
He had been reading over one of the scientific journals that Junichuri had published years ago and was wanting to work on a project with him on plasmas relating to medicine. It overlapped on his own theories and could be applied to something practical already done in hospitals.
He was very excited by this prospect and would talk to the gentleman later in the week on it, to collaborate further.
He also talked to a florist for a few minutes, and they shared a laugh, which made him buy some flowers.
She asked him who he was buying the flowers for.
He wanted to say it was for Akiho.
Instead, he said it was for Sayuri.
And when he saw her, walking to school, he gave her the flowers.
“Good morning,” He said, and handed her the flowers.
“Good morning! Thank you!” She smiled.
And he forgot about Akiho for a little while.
But then he went back home and felt so angry at himself.
He really did forget to check on the notebook, completely, and he realized why.
He actually went out of his comfort zone to talk to people.
He felt good and bad from the experience, equally, and decided to take a day off from going to the beach.
The next day he went straight to the beach and went to the rock, his heart thudding and his breath shallow.
He turned the pages and saw their whole story together.
All of their words, and their commitments and stories, and slowly, he felt like he was truly in love.
Then he saw a long message. A new one.
My dearest Junichuri,
I know I missed our last communication, and I missed you, too. I had to do something. It took me a while, and when I came back, I saw you didn’t write me again either. I hope you didn’t think I didn’t want to talk to you. I did. Thank you for telling me your name. And that emotion, love. I think I love you, and it feels like the strongest riptide is pulling my whole body and soul toward you, and we collided by chance, but now, it cannot be undone. I am glad you gave me a chance now to help you, and though it was difficult, I know it was very important. I used to think that things that were important to yourself only mattered, not other people, but you really let me see that others are important too.
I live in a dark galaxy, where there is no light and almost no stars. Where there is dark matter, which is much of space, and then the small filaments that make up the webs of our galaxies, our worlds, there are channels that can be crossed for certain periods of time. I am composed of spectral light there, and when I am here on earth, I live in the sea. I can breathe air and water, for short periods of time. I do not understand what male and female is, at least, for my people.
In my life, I never felt like I wanted to help anyone, but when you told me of the poor girl, I wanted to.
In a dying star, the most beautiful, dangerous thing happens. The process of supernova can create heavy metals like gold, and I heard that is valuable to humans.
I found a way to acquire some of this gold for your friend. It took a tremendous amount of effort to not let it be hurtled randomly somewhere else in space, but once I got back to the sea, I put it somewhere a human would be curious to look. I cannot control everything, but knowing that you told me the parents drink, I started another storm that could knock out the power, so the bars would close.
He stopped reading it right then and dropped the book.
He was so much in disbelief at this point, he felt conned, and almost stepped on the book angrily. But he stopped himself.
He picked it up again and skimmed it to the end. It said:
You sang beautifully that day. You were singing about a Pennsylvania with a lot of numbers in it, and something about your hair, I couldn’t make it out, but I liked it. I like you, and we can both meet tonight. Then you will see what I look like. Midnight. Here. Love, Akiho.
He swallowed hard, feeling his mouth go dry.
He wrote back quickly.
Akiho, okay, I hope so. Thank you for everything you’ve done. And I was singing a Glenn Miller song, Pennsylvania 6-5000. It’s my favorite song. I will see you then. Yours, Junichuri.
He put the book back under the rock and walked back home.
He decided that he would make up his mind tonight about what to do.
And he thought of everything, from start to finish. He thought of the black seaweed book that they both wrote in, the progressive way they communicated with more and more openness and understanding. Junichuri loved the way Akiho’s writing had gotten better and more expressive as the weeks went by, with more attention to detail and emotion.
He thought of Sayuri and how her father had found that gold in the Mermaid’s purse, and how Akiho had gone through much trouble to retrieve this gold. All because Akiho realized the importance of other people, because of their relationship. Because of Junichuri.
He was thinking about everything from start to finish, and he realized that in the end, if it was a prank, it wouldn’t actually do anything to hurt him, technically.
But what of Sayuri?
How did that actually happen? How does gold just appear out of nowhere from the ocean?
How did Akiho know what he was singing that day? That he was even singing at all?
He had to know.
And he was lying to himself if he told himself that he didn’t care, or that it didn’t matter to him.
It mattered to him more than anything. Akiho mattered to him.
For the longest time, he had ignored humanity, and even down to his own mother, he had pretended to not notice anything and everything because he didn’t want to be close enough to be hurt or hurt anyone else.
He realized that was cowardly, and he didn’t want to be that way anymore.
Did he really need Akiho?
The sky was dark blue, and it was raining lightly.
The full moon was high in the sky, and the sea was misty. The stars were bright.
Junichuri was there by the edge of the precipice, and he looked down at the ocean.
He decided to walk down there and wait by the beach for Akiho.
Then, after, he reasoned, he’d maybe make a real life for himself.
He sat there for a while, by the rock, waiting.
Looking at his wristwatch, it was about a quarter to midnight.
He fell asleep.
When he woke up, he forgot where he was and felt afraid, and threw sand up in the air, startled.
It had only been seven minutes.
It wasn’t midnight yet.
He sighed and felt anxious, hoping to see Akiho yet, dreading it all the same.
He was nodding off again and thought of kissing Akiho, a face that looked delicate, androgynous to an extent, and yet more female.
He knew Akiho wasn’t male or female, but he fell in love with them, anyway.
Then, he heard it.
Faraway, out in the ocean.
He got up, trying to see where it was coming from.
The faint, ethereal sound was so unearthly, it made him want to cry, and it moved him deeply.
It didn’t sound feminine or masculine either, just a wonderfully romantic, sad sounding song.
He had had so many dreams of this moment.
Suddenly, as though it was a true to life reenactment of the painting The Birth of Venus, Junichuri saw something slowly rising from the seawater.
He held his hand over his heart, feeling incredibly terrified, and overwhelmed.
He wanted to run, but his feet stayed firmly planted in the wet sand. He felt as though he might have a heart attack.
He kept wanting to scream, but his vocal cords seemed displaced, and he kept saying over and over in his mind,
‘What have I done? What is this creature, really?’
But it wasn’t until he saw Akiho, when he finally took in a shaky breath. He reasoned that if this was really the same person he had been conversing with for about a month, they wouldn’t be an enemy.
“Ak-Akiho?” He barely muttered, feeling out of breath, and once he finally was able to say their name, he was able to fully see his friend.
Long hands, blue.
Long arms, bluish-green.
Long body, scales, and then… Akiho’s face.
It was covered in long hair, black. But it looked human, in a way.
Eyes, light brown.
The rest of Akiho’s body was in the water.
Junichuri didn’t know what to do. He still felt frozen.
Akiho merely said one thing, “Hello, Junichuri.”
The voice sounded soft, watery, and sweet.
“I must be dreaming, Akiho,” He said aloud.
Akiho shook their head. “No, you are not.”
“I miss you. Every day. Do you miss me?” Junichuri asked impulsively, feeling braver. He took a step closer.
“I do. Very much,” Akiho replied.
“I think I am actually in love with you, Akiho,” he whispered.
Akiho, who was still halfway in the water, started moving toward Junichuri closer. “What is that? In love?”
Junichuri shrugged. “To be there for each other, always.”
Akiho smiled slightly. “We can do that, but we will not be able to live together as you said.”
“Why not?” Junichuri asked defiantly.
Akiho frowned. “That is not the way of our reality. I know you can see that.”
“Do you love me?” He asked, taking a few steps more toward Akiho.
“Can’t you change me then?”
Akiho said nothing in reply.
“Please?” Junichuri pleaded.
“I can not change physical forms, my love,” Akiho answered. “I can try, but it may not be right.”
“I may die soon, I don’t care,” Junichuri sighed. “I really have no one else.”
“What of the little girl?”
He nodded. “Thank you. You helped her.”
“But you can help her more. You live among her, I can only do so much.”
He sighed. “But I want to be with you.”
Akiho moved their hair away from their eyes. “I am not really from this world. I have never been tethered anywhere. I am like a ghost. I thought that you could be my anchor, yet that is selfish of me. I will always look after you because you believed in me.”
And at that Akiho started to go back into the water.
“Akiho, no! Please! Come back to me!” He said panicked, and ran to the water, grabbing Akiho’s arm. “I love you! Please!”
“Junichuri, calm down,” Akiho said softly, placing their other hand on his arm.
“I can’t stand it. I won’t let you go.”
“Then you will come with me?” Akiho asked.
Junichuri shook his head. “I can’t breathe in the water.”
Akiho frowned. “I cannot go with you, either. Look at me. I can’t walk.”
Junichuri was frustrated, but he nodded.
Suddenly, they embraced, and Akiho kissed him on the cheek. Akiho surprised themselves with the gesture, feeling incredibly happy with the new feelings it gave them. Junichuri was elated and breathed in with a soft smile.
“You kissed me?” Junichuri asked, surprised.
Akiho looked coyly at him. “I wanted to have this last forever.”
“I have a feeling it can’t…” Junichuri said sadly.
“We can try… we can both make this last….” Akiho said breathily.
They both looked at one another, and Junichuri felt his body freeze up, and his heartfelt as though it were thundering in his chest. His breath was shallow, and they were still holding each other.
He took in a deep breath and rested his body against Akiho’s for a moment.
Akiho sighed softly, feeling peaceful and happy.
He leaned in closer and took in the details of Akiho’s face. It was remarkable how human they looked, angular, delicate, pale blue. Their eyes were big and brown.
“Your brown eyes are very beautiful,” Junichuri whispered admiringly.
Akiho smiled. “Thank you.”
In an impulsive and passionate display, Junichuri leaned in, closing the gap between them to kiss Akiho.
Akiho kissed back.
It had been the first time Akiho had any real contact with anyone, and it meant more than they ever could express. For Junichuri, it had been way too long, but it felt like the first time, more importantly, it felt like something better than any other kiss or embrace he ever had before.
“This can’t end. I wish it would never end…” Junichuri said softly as they started to slowly leave their embrace.
“For me, it has to. Everything ends,” Akiho said with a finality that made the other realize it was time to say goodbye. Junichuri didn’t agree with that finality. He decided to keep talking to Akiho anyway, taking their hand.
“You said time is different for you. What does that mean?”
“It just means that time moves slower for me, where I ultimately reside.”
Junichuri sighed. “What is it that you do every day? I want to know more about you.”
“I swim, I create what I can. I try to stay out of the way of most creatures, and not bother others. What do you do?”
“Kind of the same thing,” He chuckled, “But lately, I’ve been trying to figure out how to be more open. I am tired of hiding from people.”
“You hide from your people?” Akiho asked curiously. “Are they cruel? Or do they misjudge you?”
“I misjudged them, I think. I also notice more than I let on,” Junichuri started, and Akiho looked at him in affirmation. “It started with my mother. I thought if I stayed quiet, hidden away from everyone and all the noise, that I could keep myself in a safe place. Blending into the background, while around me, everyone was living. But, I never realized how much… I wanted to be there with them, to appreciate people.”
Akiho nodded in understanding. “But for so long you kept yourself at a distance. So quiet. You were a silent chameleon, blending in, and surviving the only way you knew how,” Akiho commented.
Junichuri looked silently impressed at the comment. “That’s exactly right. In fact, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve never been so open or social. Between this conversation, however, is the most I’ve talked to someone in years.”
“I don’t speak to others either. Our people do not socialize. We stay separate, and hide away in our main galaxy, to not be seen by others who will misunderstand our existence. Though, there was this whale I’ve talked to before. She was really manipulative,” Akiho laughed.
Junichuri looked amused. “Manipulative?”
“She tried to get me to find her food. She was a grey whale. Since we both stayed at the bottom of the ocean, she had to roll around the seafloor to see what could come up from the sediment… for her to eat. She said she was too ill to do so,” Akiho said in disbelief. “I did it for her!”
Junichuri shook his head, chuckling. “Did she do anything in return?”
“Yes. She sang me a beautiful song afterward…” Akiho looked out at the ocean longingly as they said it, then back at Junichuri, smiling fondly at him. “Did you like my song? I learned my music from the whales.”
“Yes I did. It was really breathtaking, thank you. But, Akiho, you don’t have a family? Anyone at all?” Junichuri asked.
Akiho shook their head. “No. I make friends sometimes by helping others. Like that beautiful white shark, she brought me back the Mermaid’s purse I used to hide the gold, as gratitude for helping her find her babies. But, I know you did. What were they like?”
“My father was strict and liked order and rules. He tried very hard for us to thrive and be well off. My mother was very kind and loved to sing. She could dance well. She loved me, but I didn’t show her the appreciation I should’ve when she was alive. I loved my father through fear. But I cared for them both.”
“It sounds very complicated to have a family, but nice.”
He nodded. “It is.”
“You said you haven’t had a wife. What is a wife?”
“It’s…” Junichuri looked down, trying to put his words together properly. “Someone who you commit your whole life to, and you truly care for and they care for you. You are there for one another no matter what.”
“Why haven’t you found one?”
He shrugged, his eyes closing with painful tears settling down his cheeks.
“Junichuri?” Akiho asked gently.
He looked up at Akiho. “I… I don’t know why. I must push people away. I think… I’m scared to really find someone who will stick. But, I want to. And… I can’t make anyone laugh.”
Akiho smiled. “You make me laugh. Through your words, I smile. And if a wife is what you described, I would want to be that to you. Though, I am not sure if that makes sense.”
Junichuri smiled. “It makes sense. Where were you born? Were you born in a dark galaxy? Or on earth?”
“I don’t remember. But it is more of a gas cloud. I don’t know if it is really a galaxy. But the stars there are special, even as there aren’t many. There was one star I had kept my eye on for a long time that died… and it gave me the gold for your Sayuri. I had accelerated the nuclear fusion, and when it had reached peak temperatures, it triggered the reaction. It was so bright, I felt the intense light run through my whole soul. I wish you could have been there.”
Junichuri was completely shocked again, actually listening to the process of a supernova being done as if it were a normal, ordinary chore. Like doing the laundry.
Or taking out the trash.
“You acquired gold through this process?” He asked finally. Akiho’s tail flipped suddenly out of the water, and the moonlight hit it. It was pale blue, Junichuri noticed.
“I see these incredible, microscopic particles, and the way they interact create heavy metals. Some are faster than others, stopping their decay, and can interact…” Akiho stopped and looked at him with concern. “Does anyone know about me? About this?”
“No. Akiho, I haven’t told a soul. I won’t.”
Akiho nodded. “I knew you wouldn’t.”
“Are you like a Siren?”
Akiho shook their head. “No, I do not fly. I was taught much of what I know by the Sumerians, the Egyptians. Some English I picked up on over the last fifty years.”
Junichuri looked contemplative. “Oh? Have you ever loved anyone else?”
“No,” Akiho said flatly. “Never. Have you?”
“I have, Akiho, but not like you.”
Akiho looked at him directly. “I can try to take you with me.”
Junichuri said nothing for a minute, feeling out of place at that moment.
“I might be able to enable you to breathe underwater with me for a few minutes. I can’t stay out here much longer.”
“I can’t,” he managed to reply. “I’m nervous.”
Akiho frowned. “I see that Junichuri, and I know it’s hard to see that I will protect you. But, I would never let you come to harm. I’d rather perish than that.”
“How old are you? Really?”
“Probably close to thousands of years. We don’t keep track of that.”
They moved closer toward one another.
Akiho moved even closer. “My people.”
“Do you eat?”
“Do you smell?”
Junichuri felt content with the answers so far, and they both said nothing for a while.
“I brought you something, Akiho,” Junichuri said suddenly. Indeed, he had something in his pocket, wrapped in a cloth.
“Brought me something?”
“Yes. I made it for you. It took me about two weeks. I actually started making it the first week we started talking.” He took out the small wrapped gift and handed it to Akiho.
“These are glass beads that I colorized and shaped myself. I bought the silver band, however. I superheated sand, soda ash, and other chemicals, then by weaving them all together with a blowing tool I created the beads. I learned this trade from my grandmother.”
Akiho looked at the bracelet curiously, their slender fingers playing with the midnight blue glass beads and silver thread of the jewelry in awe.
“This is beyond anything I’ve ever seen before. What is it I’m feeling now? More than love,” Akiho smiled at him.
Junichuri beamed, happy that Akiho liked it so much.
“I can feel the warm energy you put into it. The good feelings,” Akiho said.
“Here, my dear,” Junichuri said, fumbling a bit nervously, taking the bracelet and their hands touched. “I’ll put it on you.”
Gently, he placed the bracelet on Akiho’s hand and wrist, and he noticed it fit well.
“I’ll always keep it on.”
“All my life, here on this island, Hokkaido, I have tried to find my niche. Something I can be truly happy with. I have hidden this talent from everyone as well. Glassmaking.” He sighed. “But I thought that I might be ridiculed by this trade. As a man, I thought it might be better if I was an educator or a scientist.”
“It is a very beautiful talent to waste, and I hope you do not hide it anymore,” Akiho said, admiring the bracelet. “I’m so happy you are here. I thought you wouldn’t come.”
“Well, I was-” Junichuri started to say, but couldn’t finish his sentence because of a very loud scream.
“Monster! Oh my God!”
Junichuri heard what sounded like a woman and got protectively in front of Akiho, and saw it was a teenage girl and a teenage boy that was walking down the beach. They both looked horrified.
Junichuri cursed his luck that this night of all nights he had to run into people at the beach. It was a weeknight, and he thought that meant school and work the next day. He apparently didn’t account for high school delinquents.
As his mind started to become distracted he didn’t see the teenage boy get closer to throw a large rock at Akiho, which almost accidentally hit Junichuri.
“Hey, go away!” Junichuri said.
Akiho looked at the teenagers furiously.
“Run! That monster might drag you into the sea!” The boy yelled.
“Hurry! It looks horrible!” The girl screamed, clutching onto the boy.
“Leave us be!” Junichuri yelled back.
The couple looked at him confused and backed away.
Akiho slowly was going back into the water, feeling incredibly stressed and threatened.
“Junichuri, I must go,” Akiho whispered.
Junichuri looked at Akiho. “No, don’t go!”
The couple was even more confused now by this interaction.
“Freaks!” The girl yelled.
The boy laughed, grabbing another rock, about to throw it toward the both of them now.
Akiho did notice this, and all of sudden, the ocean became very violent. The sky became darker, lightning filled the once indigo star-filled night. To Junichuri, the waves looked as tall as a building above them, yet far away.
The boy threw the rock, but was so startled by the abrupt change in the weather, it missed them, and the girl ran off.
“Tsunami!” The boy said, “Run, you damn fool!”
Junichuri didn’t run.
But the boy did.
As he was running, he saw the lightning almost strike the boy.
He felt like a bit of fire had hit his own heart.
Then, a hand on his shoulder.
He jumped, his eyes wide.
He turned around and saw Akiho. They looked incredibly distressed.
“I must go. I will die if I stay here much longer. Those people will surely tell someone of my existence. They will try to kill me.”
Junichuri took hold of their hands in his. “I would protect you from any danger.”
“I know you would,” Akiho said sullenly. “Come with me, for a few moments. Please?”
Junichuri sighed. “I’ll freeze in the water. I’m too old.”
“Not if I maintain your core body temperature,” Akiho said. “I promise I will keep you safe.”
The storm was still around them, and it was overwhelming the pair. Mainly, it was overwhelming Junichuri.
Akiho sensed this, and said, “I don’t know if I can come back, anymore.”
The waves were calming down a bit, but there was still lightning in the sky. Junichuri was considering going with them.
“Akiho, you are so important to me b-“ he tried to finish but jumped as he saw a strike of lightning within five feet of where he was standing. His nerves were shot, and his chest was tight, his stomach in knots, and now he was afraid that Akiho’s mental state was in shambles after everything and that they were creating a very unstable storm.
“Go,” Akiho said, their eyes looking down. The sea started glowing an intense green and teal and swirled menacingly like a whirlpool.
“My darling, my Akiho, I love you, please…” Junichuri said, not sure what he was even asking or pleading anymore.
“No, you must go.”
Akiho gently took Junichuri’s hand and pulled him toward them gently.
They looked into each other’s eyes.
“Go make the most beautiful glass, and create something out of something small and unwanted, like the stars do when they perish. Go for me. One day you will see space and time as I do. Hopefully, it will be alongside me.”
Junichuri nodded, but he felt torn up inside. “Where can I find you again?” He asked, moving closer, and they embraced.
“I don’t have an answer. I hope that we will find one another again.”
He closed his eyes, and he kissed Akiho for the last time.
The waves were moving closer and stronger.
They stopped their kiss and Junichuri didn’t want to let go of their crushing embrace.
Akiho frowned, “You make up my one true home, Junichuri, my whole world, now and always.”
“As you are to me, Akiho,” Junichuri said, now, he was unable to hold back his tears. “Please come back to me one day!”
They let go of one another, and Akiho shook their head slowly, “Look for me in the sea glass, the seafoam, and the stardust…”
And Akiho was gone.
Junichuri was devastated, and he fell to the beach, sobbing.
He stayed there for a while, but then picked himself up, his legs feeling heavy as he trudged home.
The storm lasted for only a moment after Junichuri left the beach, then everything was deathly quiet.
Junichuri stayed quiet too.
Days went by, so did weeks, and months.
Deep within the town, there was a stained glass window, and it had the most vibrant colors advertising the wares inside. Delicate pieces of curated glass art with parts of the sea. Black seaweed, sea glass, shells.
Many people went inside.
A new goddaughter, perhaps.
A colleague who published new scientific breakthroughs with him.
A wife who sang and laughed with him.
And many friends.
Laughter and joy filled this small shop.
And many people in the town called the owner a luminary who gave everyone hope that their dreams could also come true one day.
And though Junichuri had finally realized his dreams, and made lasting peace and happiness through his gifts and his relationships, he still felt one day he could reach Akiho, somehow.
A piece he had been slowly creating for a long time had the smallest pieces of everything from Akiho; some of the Mermaid’s purse where Sayuri, his now goddaughter had given him, part of the black seaweed notebook, and a piece of very bright blue sea glass. All in the shape of a glass wave.
To him, it served as a memorial of their relationship.
The dangerous beauty of Akiho was something he did not regret entangling with, nor did he talk about to anyone, but he didn’t feel like he should.
Sayuri had caught a glimpse of it, and admired it, and said it was very beautiful.
He thought, ‘Yes, it was. Like Akiho was.’
By the time he was too old to go to the beach anymore, he felt accomplished in every way a man could be and he touched the glass wave.