I sniff, wiping the tears from my cheeks as they freeze my skin. Controlling the water is harder than it looks but Kaede doesn’t seem to understand that. Despite it being warm outside, I huddle against the wind outside the main castle of the Guild, watching the waves crash against the towering cliffs that mark the end of the island and the beginning of a seemingly endless ocean of water.
Still, I do not know where this island really is situated compared to the rest of the world. It seems so far apart from everything that I once knew and held dear. Everything here is different; everything is new. And everything is difficult. I wish I had never come here.
Kaitlyn told me I had magic, and I didn’t believe her. I can move water with my hands, make it appear from nowhere and I can turn it into cool shapes like a fish, or a whale, but I can’t make it go away.
I lift my hand, raising it towards the ocean. I pull at it, a small amount and summoning it to me. A ball of ocean water hurtles into my hand, forming itself into a little goldfish. It glistens in the morning sun like it was made of glass, but it moves. The water shifts within the shape like it was a living thing, ebbing like a breath. It’s fascinating and scary at the same time. I don’t much like it.
Naum doesn’t understand me either. He throws me into these crazy training methods, scaring me to death as I sit beneath the water for hours listening to it all around me. It tells me things I don’t want to hear. Sad stories of men who died at sea, animals caught in nets and drowning, fish who can’t sleep because of the noise of the machines. It screams about the greasy black oil that spills into it and the garbage it collects.
That’s not the worst of it. It tells me things I don’t understand. Things I think it shouldn’t know. Things about people long dead and those I think are not yet alive. It’s freaky and I can’t make it stop.
I release the fish and it spills from my hands, soaking the ground in front of me. The rock I sit on is cold beneath me, worn smooth from waves that probably once pounded its surface. I crane my neck, looking down the edge of the cliff. The height makes me a little sick so I pull back. I’m afraid of heights and depths.
I let out my breath and feel a welling of fresh tears spill from my eyes. Kaede just doesn’t get it. This magic, it’s dangerous. I wish it wasn’t mine.
Watching the ocean reminds me of the lesson Kaede came to and nearly didn’t leave from. Naum had thought it was a great idea to use Kaede to teach me to control the water, allowing another to be able to breathe underwater. I doubted his logic at the time. It sounded crazy. But without warning, he threw Kaede into the pool, clothes and all! Kaede doesn’t even know how to swim!
So there I was, watching him panic and Naum wouldn’t let me pull him out. He said ‘help him breathe’. I gave him a skeptical look, watching painfully as Kaede slipped beneath the surface of the pool.
Naum didn’t expect what happened next. I had screamed. I screamed so loud that the columns of water shock and the ice began to crack. The water in the pool rippled with my scream and a whirlpool formed, draining the water from the pool as it collected on the ceiling above it. I’d slid into the pool to find Kaede, lying still and lifeless on the bottom, not breathing. I had pulled the water from him, drawing it out of his lungs and chest and through it to the ground beside me. The water cried as I did, but my own crying was louder.
Kaede began to breathe, but he looked at me funny like he was afraid of me. Like he didn’t want to be near me. He didn’t thank me for saving him. He crawled out of the pool and left the hall of water without saying a word.
The tears are hot against my cold cheeks. My vision blurs and I feel a tightness in my chest. Why didn’t he say anything then? Surely he knew I had saved him? Surely he knew I hadn’t thrown him into the water to drown? Why did he talk to me anymore?
We were becoming close, before that. I was almost ready to say let’s try sleeping in the same bed. But now, that is the farthest thing from my mind. My shoulder sag and I let the tears flow freely, no holding back. The water, unbidden, falls off my face and collects into a ball in my lap. When the tears finally stop, the ball is nearly the size of a baseball.
I wish the water would go away.
No, please! Not that!
No! I don’t want that.
‘Well, I don’t want you.’
I want you. Even if you don’t want me.
I will not.
‘GO!’ my mind screams.
… I can’t.
The water sniffles and I can’t believe my ears.
‘Are you crying?’ I think to it in disbelief.
I can’t leave you. I am apart of you. If I leave, you will die. All will die. I am … everything, everyone, everywhere.
Wow, that is deep. I ponder the words it says, still not willingly believing I can talk to water. The water, my tears, shimmers in my lap. It ripples and starts to form an image. It takes a while for the image to become clear enough for me to recognize, but when I do, my chest hurts. It shows me his face, Kaede’s face.
“Why do you show me this?” I find myself saying out loud.
I show you what I see. I see you and this boy. You are connected, as you and I.
“What does that mean?” I wonder aloud.
What I said. We are connected. I cannot leave. He cannot leave. We are connected. No one can leave…
What is it trying to say? If the water knows I like him, that doesn’t mean he can’t leave me. People leave each other all the time. Relationships start and stop, begin and end. People can leave when they want, and it seems Kaede’s ready to leave me… and I want to leave the water.
“We ‘can’ leave each other. It’s simpler. You turn around and walk the other way.” I say to the water.
No… we cannot leave.
I growl under my breath. “You don’t get it! I can leave! I can leave you! I don’t have to stay here! I have a life! I want it back! I want him back!” I’m suddenly standing, shouting at the ocean like some crazy person. My sadness has turned to frustrated anger and I want to get away.
I glare at the ocean. I can’t cross it. I would be entering the water and I feel like it might stop me if I do. I need a boat. I need to get away.
I search the edge of the cliff, looking for a way down to the water. Maybe, just maybe, there is already a boat.
There is no boat. The water says.
I ignore it. I don’t want to listen to it.
You cannot leave me. I cannot leave you. There is no boat.
“Yes I can, and I will,” I say to it sternly. I stomp along the edge, seeing no way down, it’s a sheer drop all along the coast. How did the founder even find this place? By flying? I stop after maybe ten minutes of endless walking. There’s no way down in sight and my anger has started to ebb.
Do not be angry. You need not be angry. We are one. We are all one.
“We aren’t one. That doesn’t make any sense! How can we be one if we are different?” I ask it, my voice cracking as I turn around and head back the other way.
I… cannot explain. I only know. We are all one.
Talking to water… must be like talking to a brick wall; one-way communication that makes no sense at all. I think I’m going crazy.
I mull over the water’s words as I stomp along the cliff, trying to make sense of it. The waves crash into the cliff below, providing a soundtrack for my thoughts. It pounds the earth, crumbling it to a fine sand that will eventually settle to the floor of the ocean. The sturdy plants that live along the cliffs must relish in the waves, soaking up its nutrients and growing stronger. Thinking about it makes me thirsty.
Suddenly, I stop. The words… the water. ‘We are all one.’ It does make sense, sort of. Water is in all of us. Without water, we would not be alive. We would not have evolved. We are all connected by the water, just like all the lands are connected by the sea. Everything grows because of water, even the plants in the desert.
I’m an idiot. Why didn’t I see this before? It’s basic scientific knowledge and I completely forgot… or maybe I just didn’t connect the two, since science and magic often rival each other… Thinking about it that way makes me feel a bit better about it. I turn out towards the ocean, still upset about the incident. Knowing what the water means doesn’t solve my problem, and it certainly doesn’t mean I want to keep it around.
Yes, it does.
Not again, I whine. “How?” I ask.
It doesn’t say anything more. I stare out at the ocean, just watching. I don’t want to think anymore. I wish… Sometimes, I wish I could just blend in with the water and disappear. It’d be nice to ebb and flow with the tide, wander without effort and just watch and listen. Just know. Just be.
I sigh, turning around to find that smooth rock, but I realize I’m not alone.
“How long have you been there?” I ask Selene.
She stands like a statue, her expression somber. “Long enough.”
Great, I’m definitely the crazy girl now. Selene offers a sympathetic smile.
“Well…” I say, not sure how to continue whatever this is. I look at the ground, embarrassed and trying to hide my face, lest she read my thoughts on it. Sometimes, I’m an open book.
“I don’t need to read your face to hear your thoughts.”
I look up at her in surprise. “How’d you… What?” She’s worse than the water! She’s just plain creepy.
Selene chuckles dryly. “I have many abilities. Like you, they frightened me. Although, in my case, they frightened my family even more,” she shrugs as she wanders closer. “Don’t worry, Caroline. He will come around,” she says encouragingly.
I frown at her advice. She couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like. Her magic is so different. I only just got this, and now Kaede’s scared I’ll kill him.
Listen to her.
“Couldn’t I?” Selene tilts her head. “Is it not fair to say that it is you who could not possibly understand me?”
I look at her, confused. “Did you have a normal life before this? Did it come to you after you made plans? Or before? Do you have someone you love?” I ask her.
Selene looks down, sadness falls like a curtain over her face. “I did. Unfortunately, witnessing my death over and over proved to be too much for them. Ultimately, I left for their sake.”
I gape in shock. “You die? That’s… that’s awful!” Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there is someone who could have it worse than me.
Selene smiles. “Yes. I’ve grown used to it. I was quite young when I first experienced death. I’ve learned that death is nothing to be afraid of, really. I’m almost fond of it… but that’s not why I’m here.”
“Why are you here then? How did you find me?” I’m always up early, much earlier than the others.
“I sensed your turmoil, so I came to check on you,” she states simply like it’s totally normal.
“Well… I guess I should thank you then. I… just need time to think. We’re a long ways off from the castle. Did you sense it all the way from there?” Her power is so mysterious to me, reading thoughts, sensing feelings, dying and coming back to life. I can hardly comprehend it.
“Yes,” she nods, “as I understand it, my power is rather unique, even for a so-called Guardian. However, in your case, as with Kaitlyn, there is an even stronger bond.”
“What do you mean?”
Yes! Always together! A bond… that’s the word!
Selene folds her hands in front of her, wearing a dark trench coat. “I am sure you feel it, somewhere in the back of your mind.”
“Feel what?” I say, trying to sound confused. I wish she’d be straight with me.
She raises an eyebrow as if it’s obvious. “What you are.”
“I’m… I’m just a girl who can control water. And it won’t stop talking to me,” I shake my head with a small frown. I really don’t get what she’s getting at. I feel that urge again as I glance out at the ocean. To be one and disappear. To be everywhere all at once… I don’t know what that feeling is and I don’t know why these past few days I’ve been having it, but it’s like the water is calling to me. It makes me want to run away.
“Yes. That feeling,” Selene closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. “The calling. It calls to you, as it called to me. It called to Kaitlyn as she fought for her life in that cell. It’s time to answer it, Caroline.”
My eyes go wide as the water’s voice inside my head roars triumphantly. “Do you mean… No, you must be mistaken. I’m horrible at controlling it. How could I possibly be anything like you or Kaitlyn? I can’t be a Guardian. I’m not even fit to be a mage!” I protest urgently. This is a little too much for me to accept so early in the morning, even if I am a morning bird.
Selene takes another step closer, within arm’s reach. “Do you recall, when you first met her? She too could not control her power. I’ve seen it in her thoughts. Your power will flow once your true nature is awakened.”
“T-true…” I stutter. “How? I don’t want to be tortured to become a Guardian. I’d rather stay just me,” I reason.
Selene laughs, a sweet sound, like bells chiming in a gentle breeze. “Well, you’re in luck. There happens to be another way. Will you give it a try?” She smiles, holding out her hand.
I look at her, hearing the water and her offer at the same time. I want to run, more than ever. I feel my hands shake as she watches me.
I drop my gaze to her outstretched hand, pale but strong. I raise my own, hesitating as it hovers over hers. Can I really do this? If I really do become a Guardian… bond with the water, then there’s no going back. I will be bound to the Guild and magic forever… Will Kaede stay with me? Will he still want me? There are too many variables. I need time to think this over, to run.
“Caroline,” Selene’s voice cuts through my thoughts.
“You misunderstand,” she speaks with the sternness of an older woman. “You do not become a Guardian – you are a Guardian. You have always been, and always will be a Guardian, whether you leave this place, or not. This is who you are.”
Drops of water rise from the ground around us, like little beads of glass that hover around us. I don’t know why they show up, I didn’t summon them or anything. The water at the bottom of the cliff seems to still and the voice of the water speaks again.
Yes! We are one. Let’s be! Let’s be one.
It sounds so childish when it speaks, yet it knows so much. The water is mysterious and marvelous all at the same time. It’s really quite astounding. I feel Selene’s warm grip as my hand drops into hers. I guess I understand now. It’s time to wake up, no running. It’s time to be.
By Kayla West