"Don't keep any more journals."
The request was so out of the ordinary. He looked at her in surprise.
"No? But why not? I'll want to remember everything that happens later."
"You shouldn't. Things will be better that way."
He didn't understand.
"But remembering everything will make me happy."
She didn't answer him. Not really.
"Sometimes it's better to forget."
He looked at the careful stack of logs sitting beside him next to the cozy fireplace, his handsome face glowing reds and oranges from the firelight. The shadows behind him jumped sporadically, all the edges flickering and flying over the rest of the room. Darkness shrouded everything behind him, and he knew without looking that he would find what he always found behind him -
An empty room.
He started speaking, almost as if to himself.
"I wonder why you knew before I did that this would happen."
His voice sounded odd to his ears. It'd been a long time since he'd heard another person talk. But then, after all that had happened, he didn't want to be... here. He wanted to be out there, where they'd been so happy.
His hand, rough from hard work, moved slightly on the carpet. The soft fur, worn through use over time, slipped between his fingers as he leaned on the arm, feet stretched before him. He tilted his chin slightly, and his cheek rested on his shoulder, like she always used to do when they'd spent time together. The smell of pine and oak, familiar and clean, reached his numbed senses as he shook himself out of half-sleep, and lay himself flat on the ground, staring up at the ceiling, where shadows continued to dance will-he, nil-he. If he looked hard enough, he could see the cracks between the wood, and sometimes only the shadows between slats where they fit together almost perfectly, but not quite. Shadows continued to dance, and he saw some of the smoke from the fire drift along the wood before disappearing into the air.
Everything felt so different. When they were together, it hadn't felt like this. He would feel relaxed, relieved, optimistic, cheerful. Happy. The carpet would be soft and inviting, the fire warm and glowing even though in reality its warmth didn't even reach as far as the middle of the room. Nobody would mind the splinters they received from accidentally touching the rough walls sometimes, and they would play around on the smooth wooden floor, sliding about as if it were ice and snow instead of... well, wood.
"I remember writing about one of those times... it's actually in here. Wait a moment while I find it - here it is."
He began reading.
"Earlier this evening, Ivan was just lying on the fur rug sleeping, cuddling in the soft animal fur, when suddenly Garet tugged the thing and dragged it to one end of the room, both of them slipping and sliding. They laughed hard and much, and I was glad for it, after the experience… the journey. Even though we were still cold after walking through all that snow, nobody minded because finally we'd finished and here we were. I smiled and I looked at the girl I was falling in love with, and she looked back, surprised, but she smiled and blushed, then looked away. I couldn't keep my eyes off her. She was so much like the others I'd known from home, but at the same time she had this special quality about her, and even if she was quiet, she was so alive at the same time."
He stopped reading.
He closed the journal slowly, slipping it back near the bottom of the stack from where his hand had slipped it from.
He didn't want to read anymore.
He didn't remember why he'd started writing in them in the first place. Why had he wanted to, if all he felt was like this now?
This terrible, terrible loneliness.
"How did you know it would be like this?"
The question was for her, but she didn't answer. Couldn't answer. He waited, but only the snapping and crackling of wood in the fire interrupted the endless silence.
He hadn't noticed before, but... his voice sounded so hollow and empty surrounded by silence now. There was supposed to be laughter and conversation around him.
Years and years ago, there had been.
Now, they were only in his fading memories.
"Sometimes I think about the future."
How odd. Didn't everybody?
"Everybody does, you know. You shouldn't worry about it too much."
"I don't. I'm thinking about you."
She looked at him with those eyes, the kind, gentle eyes that soothed and calmed.
Even when they asked questions or demanded the truth.
"Me? Why me? You’ve nothing to worry about."
They were quite for awhile. Wind blew in their faces, and he sniffed appreciatively.
He loved the salty air of the sea.
"There's plenty of time to think about the future. Now isn't one of them."
She looked away when he chuckled. He didn’t see the expression of pain – of sadness – on her face.
"Sometimes I wonder if you will regret you ever met any of us."
Now he wished he'd asked her questions too.
"How did you know?"
He still wondered, every day. At least several times a day. Sometimes she seemed more like a young goddess than a regular girl. Or a prophesier. Maybe a Seer of time. Certainly not a regular girl, a small-town healer. Or maybe she'd just been wise. Some people didn't have to experience things just to know things. She'd been one of those, whose wisdom transcended their years.
As the embers began dying, he sat up and stoked the fire, making flames dance in the fireplace again. He tossed in several more logs of wood and made sure they were caught in the flames and were burning before moving away, his face very warm from the slight exertion. On his way back to his melancholy thoughts, he flopped onto the ground and flung his arms out wide, knocking several of the journals from the pile and sending them flying. With a sigh he got up, his body honed and powerful still. Kneeling carefully, he picked up the precious journals, wondering how one from the middle of the stack had gotten tossed beneath the table. As he returned the stack to its tidy single spot, he opened the journal curiously, not knowing what he would find.
The words were a little cramped, probably from fatigue, so he sat closer to the fire, his finger running beneath the dark ink as his mind processed each letter. He began to read to himself, aloud.
"I don't remember when I first saw her. Maybe it was this time, maybe not. We were just walking along, and all of a sudden we hear shouts, scrambling, and shrill cry. Rushing out the door, I was momentarily blinded by the light, but I continued afterwards. She was down there, frantic, but still so beautiful. I couldn't recall the last foreigner I'd seen who looked like-"
Suddenly he shut the journal.
He didn't want to remember anymore.
"You were right," he murmured in the silence, the popping of the firewood punctuating his pronouncement.
"Sometimes I think it might have been better to forget that I ever met you."
He replaced the journal, and continued to sit in the silence, in the darkness, waiting, but knowing that solace would never come. That in his lifetime, he would never see her, or the others, again.
"Regret meeting you, any of you? That's impossible!"
He exclaimed it without hesitation.
How could she say something like that?
He asked her. Why such a question?
"Why would you say something like that?"
She didn't answer, but she looked away.
He followed, and tilted her chin up so their eyes met.
She was crying.
"You'll want to forget us. You will."
He didn't know what to say.
She didn't know how to answer.
She just shook her head soundlessly.
The tears continued rolling down her cheeks, sparkling crystals of sadness.
He continued to stare up at the ceiling, wishing he didn't feel this way. He had to remember. He had to. If he'd never met them, then things wouldn't be like th-
His quiet whisper challenged the darkness and suffocating emptiness, and for a moment silence reigned.
"I want to remember."
The shadows kept dancing, and the fire continued snapping in the hearth, casting its faint light on him.
He glanced at the pile of journals beside him, and pulled the bottom one from beneath all the others, sending the pile tipping over and sliding into a slight slope of papers and leather binding. Flipping quickly through it, he reached the last page and read the last entry.
"Things are very lonely here. It's not the same anymore. Is this what she meant by all those weird conversations? It's lonely. I don't want to stay in Lemuria, but sailing the seas is very painful sometimes. I keep remembering a snatch of conversation here, an anecdote there. I see Jenna popping up out of the hold and scaring my wits from my head, and then I see Garet trying to sneak away from the kitchen after stealing a bite. When I go to fix the rigging and the mast, I see Sheba up along with me, laughing haphazardly and waving her hands in the breeze. I'll be cleaning the decks, and I'll suddenly see Isaac or Felix practicing with their weapons out in the open. If I'm poring over maps, Ivan will be right there beside me, asking a few questions but otherwise just being a silent shadow. I'll be watching the constellations at night and Kraden will come along and start mumbling and nattering about myths and stories and legends. It's the worst at night."
He wanted to stop there, because he knew by hear the next paragraph, but this time he forced himself to keep reading. After all these years, he didn't cry anymore, but it still hurt to remember.
"I'll just be standing at the bow of the ship, smelling the fresh salty air of the sea, and suddenly Mia will be beside me. I'm sleeping at night, and sometimes I'll wake up, and I smell a hint of lilies in my pillow. I keep seeing her everywhere. It doesn't stop. These memories - will I have them with me forever? Will my months of smiles and laughter haunt my life eternally? I don't cry anymore. There are no tears left in me. It has been a long time, a very long time, since they died. I do not even remember how long. Sometimes I wish I can forget them, so I won't be lonely anymore."
The entry stopped there. He glanced at the date, but it was blurry. To his surprise, tears crept silently down his face. Rubbing them from his eyes, he tried to look at the date he'd scribbled after the entry, but it was smudged and he couldn't make out the last part of it.
Still, it had to have been many, many years. At least decades. Or was it now centuries?
He didn't remember anymore, but he did know one thing.
He could never forget.
He kissed her gently. She clutched at him tightly.
"I wish I could live forever too."
He didn't ask why, but she answered herself.
"Then I could be with you forever. And you would never be lonely."
They kissed again, and tumbled to the bed, with her smiling shyly and he easing her fears away.
"I love you," she breathed, before she pressed another warm kiss to his lips.
"I love you. I always will."
Suddenly, he pulled himself off the ground. He found one of his feathers - a special one, it'd been left behind by one of the Wonder Birds they'd encountered on some island in the far north - and a bottle of ink, then pulled a fresh journal from a shelf.
He opened it, and wrote a single date where there were usually two years, a beginning and an end. He spoke as he wrote.
"It has been a long time since I wrote in these journals. Mia was right, even though I didn't know it at the time. Immortality, the ability to live forever, is more of a curse than a gift, though she didn't say it as such in as many words. Sometimes, in these centuries since I last saw any of them, I wanted to forget. I wondered why I was the one left after they were all gone, and I would sometimes regret the tidal wave that swept me out to sea.
If I hadn't met them, I wouldn't feel this way now. I wouldn't be so lonely. Sometimes I would regret meeting them, but I would feel guilty instantly afterwards, because it wasn't their fault.
Now I know why I am the only Lemurian to have ventured beyond our borders in so long. No other wants the burden of meeting someone they care about beyond our isolated waters, because they will certainly live beyond their time. I have. I know what it's like.
Love is a liability for a Lemurian. We cannot afford the want to travel and explore, because if we do… we spend our entire lives wishing we could have that time of our lives back. And we can't turn back time. Nobody can. Time is precious, and yet seeing so much of it, is depressing.
I haven't changed in hundreds, thousands of years, and my friends have been dead in their graves for so long I can't even remember when anymore. All I have is that one painting on my ship, and all these painful memories that I want to forget.
Why is it that people do not remember everything? Ivan said once that the violence we commit is too terrible to be branded in your mind forever. It's good that we forget, that memories fade. I agree.
But I regret now, that I can't recall Felix's sharp chin too clearly, or Jenna's lively crimson eyes as well as I used to. I don't remember Ivan's various sayings as well as I should, and I can only faintly recall the exact shade of Isaac's long yellow scarf. Of Sheba, I can only remember her distinctive face, and those sad eyes of hers. Of all of them, I can only wholly remember Mia, but I can feel my memory slipping, her image fading in my mind as time washes the colors and details away.
But even though I can't remember everything anymore, and I will probably forget more with the passage of time… I'm glad everything happened the way they did. That I was swept out to sea, stranded then rescued by them. Adventuring. Exploring.
Living. Truly living. I am glad that I lived more in those few precious years of knowing them, than in all the centuries before that moment my life changed.
Because even if the most painful part of living forever is remembering...
The most joyful part of life is also in memory.
Thank you - to all of you - for those good times.
I hope one day we can meet again."
Nobody remembered them anymore. They were just another fairytale, another bedtime story of heroes who saved the world. He replaced the feather in its holder, and recapped the bottle of ink. Waiting for the ink to dry on the page, he picked up the pen again and wrote something at the bottom of the page. He smiled and slipped to bed, closing his eyes and sleeping a dreamless sleep for the first time in a long time.
Even if nobody else remembered, he would.
It was connected, after all, to the other seven names. The tale of their adventures - their memories - were his to carry for the rest of his time.
Until they met again.