A Boy And His Whale

Through even the mist of the hilltops, the chapel stood a restless, even unnerving humanoid on its mountainside. The time of day was early morning, after midnight but still before dawn.

Walking by the silent goth town with a serious expression on his face, a hooded man. Wearing a silken, handmade robe frayed by time, he has been walking for hours maybe days. It was clear the traveler has been through a lot to reach the location. His clothes were far from clean and torn in some parts. Clearly this place was not close to home. His reasons for being at St. John's Church were unknown, maybe to finish some business, maybe to start some more.

And so in the middle of the road the hooded man walked through the common town. Though obscured, his hesitation to reveal his face was clear, The man on its surrounding nervously talked about him. He answered with complete patience and with a calm tone in his voice, the stranger seemed to know what's going to happen next, like an instinctive feeling. And when he reached the church, he felt a cold gust down his spine. Only one step forward, he knocked on the door three times with the huge door knocker. Only one, old man answered, opening the door slightly. The priest's brow was furrowed, an expression of distrust etched into his waning face, as the door stopped suddenly. The visitor, oblivious to the man's state, stated with a speck of growing hope:

"I am here to make a visit."

The young one was quickly silenced by the raising hand of the elder figure who watched with judgmental eyes as the cloaked figure slowly pulled down his hood, revealing a wooden body and mask with horns. The horns alone almost reached the sky from the elder's perspective and, of those horns he broke each one in half and offered them, bowing as the broken horns were placed into the elder priest's hands.

"The motives for which I'm here for are not important, what is important is who is inside there: a long time friend of mine who is in need of help. I came here to do so."

The old man, still doubtful, began to close the door. As he tried however he was stopped by the visitor, quickly blocking with his oaken/birch/whatever hand on the door. To anyone else, that would have been four broken fingers, but to the young fellow? Only one. As he mumbled in pain he pled once more, now looking directly into the man's eyes.

"I haven't seen Jonah in more than a decade. He won't remember this face anymore, but he would remember my name - tell him that Ephraim is here."

The old man had a slight discomfort to see that type of circumstance happening in front of him as if he had lived enough to know what is coming next. And even so, he closed his eyes, sighed one time, and said, as he closed the door.

"Stay here, and put that hood back on."

After some time of the man waiting impatiently, sitting on the stairs and looking at the stars of that cold night, the sound of the door opening could be heard once again. The wooden man quickly raised to hear what the man had to talk about. Once again, the door only opened slightly.
"He says he remembers it all, please wear this and enter."

As the group of priests looked from afar, the wooden humanoid started moving towards the door, the man at the door raised a hand and said.

"I said to him, not you lot."

Outside the church, walking on the town, a group of priests had mixed reactions, some saddened, others, suspicious, for the man had walked for hours, sleepless to meet the one called Jonah on the church, and now he would finally be able to enter.

With an understanding reaction, they started walking away. The door revealed a huge room as it opened, the home to Jonah. The wooden man changed his clothes into a traditional monk uniform and started to follow the elderly man. On the way, they start talking. “Ephraim? He has been spelling your name wrong for a long time then?"

Ephraim laughed.

"He always did. Used N instead of M or E instead of A… We used to laugh those off in his house as we waited for Jehortes and Jalihya to get home."

The elder man smiled, but his smile quickly became one of doubt and concern.

"Can you truly help him like you say you can? I do not know your ways but I have known Jonah since I've entered this establishment.”

He stopped. The mask faced the elderly priest, the eyeholes boring into the saintly follower's eyes. “I care not for the consequence of what I’m about to do…" Ephraim finally admitted. The priest had no reply, his legs refusing to walk in disbelief/horror/whatever - it took a few moments before he lead on.

"All I want is to make a friend smile one last time." Ephraim put his hand on the old man’s shoulder as he raised his head once more.

"Please allow me to show you, there is nothing to worry about."

After that interaction, they went back to walking, to the deepest depths of the cave, where many mysteries awaited discovery. Soon enough, they reach a large portion of the cave where a giant whale lived. In the center laid a poor fellow - the aged whale and the defiled spear. His name was Jonah Charte. Ephraim seemed to be coy in this moment -

The hooded man didn't want his presence to be known, trying to avoid disturbing his friend. But woken was Jonah, and in waking found himself face to face with a familiar face. His steps became less silent as he quickly approached the whale in the pond. But once he reached the moss area, Jonah realized who was approaching.

"I can't believe it… Ephrein, Ephram is that you?" Ephraim smiled, when with it his mask did too. The wooden man came running to hug his long lost friend. Time might have passed but their friendship was never closer than right now. Tears came down the whale’s eyes.

"I thought I would never see you again, I missed you so fucking much."

The whale scolded him playfully.

"Watch the language boy… even though you are too old for the title."

Ephraim stopped hugging his friend and quickly started to lay on the whale’s back.

"Just grew a few inches… but god, I have so much to tell you, where should I even start?"

The whale was quick to answer.

"My children, Jehortes and Jalihya, where are they right now?"

Ephraim realized that Jonah hasn't seen his children in decades. Ephraim started to remember what the children did recently.

"Jehortes entered the academy in first or second place, Jalihya has chosen a more free-spirited path and decided to join the scouting team."

"But I thought she hated-"

"Exploring? She did… and also going outside. But since you left she started realizing that those were the things you loved the most and to come closer to you, she started practicing to become as big as her dad one day. Back in the day you were a big deal though… so when we heard the news, it was…"

Silence took over the room as both started to think of something to say.

"I am so sorry."

"You shouldn't be."

Ephraim put his hand on the creature's stomach.

"You did something you loved more than anything.”

He starts to pass his hand around the body, through the moss, as they started to float in the air.

"You left us with nothing but only your memory but I understand. You shouldn’t have been punished.”

The whale pointed his head to the roof as he said.

"No you’re wrong, I should have been. I was naive enough to go to what I found out to be the forbidden lands."

Ephraim started tapping slightly on the part of his stomach close to the harpoon, then he started talking with a worried tone.

"I heard it, the deep is alive and well then… doesn't matter much though, the only problem is, I knew you were alive, somewhere, and when I found out you were hiding…"

"By my God I swear that I did no such thing."

"You were running from your responsibilities Jonah, people thought you died in battle, in this dangerous world, instead you ran, never to coming back… you…"

"Fell in love with humanity."

A silence came upon the room as Ephraim moved his hand close to the harpoon.

"And so did I."

Ephraim grabbed the Harpoon and started screaming in agony as soon as he did, glyphs appeared on his hand as he wailed in pain to his friend who was completely caught off guard.

"I finally understand Jonah, I really do."

"What are you doing, Ephraim?!" Jonah screamed, then moaned as he felt the painful spear begin to slowly but surely leave his body ever so slightly, he thought this was the end.

He grabbed the harpoon with both hands, firmly, almost like he was asured he was never going to let go if necessary.

"What I should have done long ago."

The surroundings start to shift - the air starts to become heavier as the presence of both entities start to clash severely. Ephraim's eyes dilated while roots encapsulated the harpoon and slowly pulled it out. His hand began sinking into the spear, inch by inch, but Ephraim was quick to slash it off without hesitation - before it affected the rest of his body. The Harpoon clattered upon the floor, finally free of the elder being.

"I see why you love this so much more than your home… It's so full of… mysteries and undiscovered truths… It's literally the perfect home for someone like you, Jonah."

"Ephraim… the Harpoon, y- your arm!"

"Eve blessed you with the ability to explore. She blessed me with abilities of healing. This is what I will do with this world, Jonah…"

"I'm not feeling good Ephraim… My vision is getting blurry, my body is getting light… Ephraim, I'm… I’m scared…"

"Jonah? Jonah no, you just came back, you can’t die here!"

After heavy breathing from the whale, Ephraim threw the harpoon to the wall with his remaining hand as he started to concentrate. Roots quickly came from the cave floor.

"If we reach the area in time we can bring you to Eden and… and.."

"Please listen to me, Ephraim, I want you to hear what I need to say before I die."

"You’re not going to die!"

"Tell them I'm sorry, I was a coward… Naive… and extremely stupid-"

"Shut up!"

The roots start to rise to the roof, where they started to dig to the outside.

"You are none of those things, you are my friend… and our dearest family, they need to see you one last time, you need to continue your…"

"I don't want to continue… I have lived through too much already."

"Jonah, stop saying that! For all that's holy, stop! You have so much ahead of you…!"

There’s silence for a few seconds, followed by Jonah's voice.

"If this life has taught me anything it’s that we plant what we want, but we don't always want what we get."

Ephraim is silent.

"I want to see the stars, Ephraim, it is my last wish to see them as close as one can be."

The silence continues for a minute and Ephraim stops digging into the roof. He lays on the floor and begins to quietly laugh.

"You want to die in space?"

The whale looks up.

"Forever in the stars."

Ephraim starts to sit and look down, then he gets up and starts digging once more.

"I'm not doing that."

"You can't deny my last request."

"It's NOT your last request!”

"Ephraim I am dying."

Ephriam rushes to Jonah's side again, laying his remaining hand upon his tought skin. Energy pours out from Ephraim and flows into the elder whale but if its purpose was fulfilled, one couldn't tell until they took a look at the poor wooden golem. The man was distraught, body wracked with fear, pushing more and more energy into his old friend as the glow enveloped them both.

"This won't work."

"It will.”

"I needed the harpoon to keep me alive Ephraim, I'm at my limit…"

"No, you’re not.”

A slight pause is made as Ephraim grasps Jonah’s body.

"Don’t bullshit me!”

“Ephraim…"

Ephraim starts crying as the glow gets stronger and begins to weep…

"I have never been closer to someone, you can't die, Jonah, they need you, we need you… I need you."

The whale laid his full body on the floor, breathing heavier.

"Things change, whether you want it or not. Ephraim, these are my last moments. Do you want to spend them fighting change?"

Ephraim stops the glow and starts hugging him as strong as he can, and unwillingly, the roots start surrounding the whale too. A minute passed as they continued digging. Ephraim stops hugging and looks up, as they finally reach the surface.

"Next step… the stars."

After some practicing with stones, Ephraim manages to throw one with roots so far it appears to reach a place where he couldn't see it any longer.

"Are you sure you want this?"

He hesitates at first, but Jonah quickly answers.

"Never been so sure."

Ephraim looks at the stars, the soon to be the new home of Jonah, he got lost in the stars as he looked, he has never been more focused on something.

"What if you don't come back?"

"What if I do?"

He thought about it, but his mind wasn't working correctly at the moment.

Ephraim looked down at the floor, in dismay, as he started kicking stones around to the edge of the cliff, he seemed lost, almost like a child.

"My child…"

The whale starts looking up to the stars as he wondered what he is leaving behind - better, what he left behind, and with that in mind, he says:

"Tell them…"

"Please don't say what I think you are about to say."

They sat in silence, both staring at each other for a few moments before Ephraim returned to watching the stars, before Jonah continued speaking.

"Tell them I'm sorry when you meet them, will you?"

"You know I will, old man… You know I’ll miss you too.”

The roots start surrounding the whale and they started to grow from the floor of the ocean. It wouldn't be needed though, as Jonah began to float until he was several metres in the sky.

"I hope you do. It makes me feel younger"

A moment of quietude comes as their eyes meet for one last time.

"I can feel your soul, you aren't really dying now are you?"

"Maybe in a few days."

They smile at each other as they look at the stars.

"I do feel alive now though, this was the most intense day I had since the accident."

Both start laughing as they know this will be their last conversation, the grip on the roots start getting harder to make sure the throw is certain.

"My unofficial third child, this was the best life one could ask… no matter what happened in between. Thank you, Ephraim."

"I'll never forget you, Jonah. Thank you for everything you've done."

Ephraim bowed with respect as the roots finally acted. They curved toward the ground, almost like they were a ruler held to a table, before flinging forward and releasing the aquatic mammal skyward.

"Goodbye… dad."

Ephraim began his trek back to the door of the cathedral - from the hole he had dug up, through the caves and back out of the cathedral again. To his surprise, the local clergymen were waiting for him outside, shocked after the events that they'd no doubt witnessed. ready to start asking questions:

"What happened to your arm?"

"Did you find Jonah? How is he? Can we help?"

"Were you kicked out of the church?"

Ephraim makes a happy expression through the mask and starts walking in the other direction of the church. The members of the church followed him through.

"Hold those who are dearest to you closest to your heart, and never let go."

On the way, he comes close to a forest, there he creates a wood structure, from the ground up, slowly building itself from the ground, appearing to resemble a tree. The monks were shocked with such a performance, as they realized the tree had no leaves or fruits, only a stalk where he wrote a message with his remaining arm.

Forever In The Stars, J. C.

Ephraim placed his hand on the tree, putting the moss inside it and walked off.

"I'm going to go home, this was a long day, and I need some rest."

The monks waved a last time as they wondered, and Ephraim smiled, looking at the sky, the stars, the clouds, and all in between, saying the last goodbye to his dear friend.

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