"Galinda, have you ever heard the myths about the sea?"
"I've heard of them. Why?"
Elphaba closed her book, set it aside. She stretched her legs out from their usual curled position and rolled her neck to get the kinks out. "I was just reading a book of old myths. The sea is so… strange to think about."
I turned around, still brushing my hair even though all the knots were out. 100 brushes at a time, my mother had always told me. 37, 38, 39… "What is the sea? A big lake, right?"
Elphaba rolled her eyes at me, then leaned forward, pulled her knees up to her chest, and rested her chin on them. "It's more than that. It's huge. So huge that you could never walk around it, or swim across it. It's saltwater, too, and full of all sorts of strange creatures. People with fins and tails like a fish, and snakes a mile long. There are heads with bodies attached, instead of bodies with heads attached, and plants that eat animals, and there are Plants and Animals, too."
"Are the stories about the sea or about the disgusting creatures in them?" 53, 54, 55…
"Both! They say that the sea constantly heaves itself up, and crashes down again. The shore near it is all sand, and the waves the sea creates are constantly lifting and pulling and throwing the sand. Sometimes a shell or bone or rock washes up from the depth, and gets pulled and pushed so much that in a year, it becomes sand, too. And the sea makes noise, gushing and spitting and hissing. There are stories about men who try to sail across it, or swim deep into it and the creatures they meet. There are stories about the creatures and the strange men they meet. It's amazing."
"I can hardly imagine it." 69, 70, 71…
"Neither can I."
"You describe it so well," I replied, carefully, and softer than I meant to. 74, 75, 76…
"I think the sea is alive. The waves are its breathing, in and out and in and out, constantly."
"I don't think water could be alive." 78, 79, 80…
"Not alive like a person, or an Animal. Just the whole entity. It lives forever, and it's so much more solid and real than any of us. It keeps the time, too. In one day, it goes as high as it goes, and then as low, twice. But it's always going to be there, like the stars, or the sky. Compared to the sea, our problems are… nothing."
"Well, that's a scary thought, isn't it?" 85, 86, 87…
"I find it comforting."
I continued brushing and counting, brooding on her comment. I didn't understand these stories. I didn't understand her. So I asked. "What do you mean, comforting?" 93, 94, 95…
"Even stuff that seems really bad, it doesn't matter in the big picture. It'll all be okay. The sky, the stars, the sea… things like that will always be the same."
98, 99, 100.
I never thought about that conversation until years and years later. I was on a carriage, riding from the Emerald City to Shiz. I fell asleep, and woke up in a cold sweat, with visions of Elphie slowly walking into the sea that she's described- no, created- with her words that day. And she was slowly melting away.
The dream came back to me years later, after I was married. This time, there was a dark shadow of a man standing on the shore, the water lapping around his ankles. He called out to Elphaba as she melted into the water. When she disappeared, the man turned to me. He had blue diamonds down his front. It wasn't until I was thinking about the dream later that I realized it was Fiyero.
The next one, there was a young boy standing next to her. But instead of reaching out for her, like Fiyero had, the child just stood there, helplessly.
Elphaba died a few years after. I forgot about the dream, but it came back one last time.
I was standing on the shore near the mythical sea, calling and calling for Elphaba. The green girl turned her back and walked through the waves until she disappeared. I stood by the shore, crying, still calling Elphaba's name. One wave came further than the rest, and washed around my toes. It left a pair of red, jeweled shoes on the sand. It was all Elphaba had left behind as she receded into the waves.