[Valentines’ Writers Comp 2023] Latibule
I am called King, but I am no monarch, merely a pretender.
We are all pretenders, our roles giving us identity, for without a role to play we’d be lost. We have no past memories, we have no true form, merely a sheet for a body with two dark ovals for eyes. We simply exist, so we all play a role, and we all wander peacefully as we pretend.
I am no exception. My role as a king is indicated by a worn plastic crown with false jewels that floats a mere inch above my head. I do not remember where I found it, but it doesn’t matter, it’s my prized and only possession. I wear it proudly as I wander the beautiful world around me, even if I am not always seen.
What does matter is the sun nearing the horizon. The setting sun will mark the end of another beautiful month, a month of wandering with many stories to tell, and a very special person to tell them to, but I fear I might be late.
They are already there when I arrive, beautiful as ever blanketed in the golden light of a setting sun. They are called Angel, their role indicated by the set of light and glittery fabric wings floating gently above their shoulders but what made them beautiful was their sheet, patched, mended, and stained by their adventures. No doubt they had as many stories to tell as there were stars in the night sky. I immediately felt shy. My sheet was spotless. I was no adventurer like they were. I doubt I had a single story that would interest them.
I hear their voice and I smile, yet I still feel uneasy. I walk towards where they sit, but stop to gaze for a moment at the view before me. We always meet up here, on the very top of a colossal building overlooking a vast city, the names of both forgotten. When the sun finally disappears below the horizon, the golden light fading, and the lights illuminate the world below . . .
“It’s simply magic,” I softly say as I finally take a seat next to Angel.
“You seem troubled,” they say to me. They know me too well.
The truth is I find no interest in myself, so I often wonder how someone as bold as Angel will still be early at our place, here on this building, for every meeting at each month’s end.
“Angel, what do you find of interest in me?”
“I enjoy your presence.”
“Do I not bore you?”
“I like to listen to you.”
“However, you! You have better stories to tell. You are brave enough to explore the vast world before us and return with the experiences engraved on you. You have seen history made and legends born, you have seen empires end and legends begin. I could never be as bold. I can never be as interesting. So again, what do you find of interest in me?”
“King . . .”
The sky darkens with every passing minute. Angel wraps a patched sheet around my shoulders and whispers, “I love the way you see the world. I wander the same world everyone does, but the worlds you describe to me, the ones you make in your head . . .” they playfully spin the crown above my head, “Those fascinate me. And you may not realize it, however, you are bold, you are interesting, because your imagination astounds me. You fascinate me, King.”
“You fascinate me too, Angel.” I reply, moved by their words.
Perhaps that was all I needed to hear, for never again did I doubt myself. We spent the rest of the night telling each other the most wonderful stories, whether they were true experiences or fantastical tales. When the time came to depart once more, we walked hand in hand down the side of the building and embraced as a promise to meet again. Wherever our separate adventures take us, we’ll always find each other here, to talk, to listen, or to simply enjoy each other’s presence. It is here with Angel, at the top of the world, I am home, and there is simply nothing more valuable to me.