Summary: "There is a boy. And he isn't just waiting for his reason to breathe; he is waiting for his oxygen." Merlin's story is not over yet. / An obscure re-telling of Albion's return.
Notes: Well. When I say obscure, I mean it. This is meant to be a quirky format - confusion, apprehension and hopefully intrigue are simply part of the package. If you can't already tell, there are two speakers here, in normal and italics, but it should be pretty self explanatory. And I hope you enjoy!
There is a boy -
Isn't there always?
Yes, alright, there's always a boy. But it's a little different this time.
That's what they all say.
True. But this boy - man, now, he's older but he hasn't changed - is different. He is that one moment before you go to sleep, when you feel like you'll be awake forever. He is that empty space between the journey and the destination.
He is... for want of a better word, waiting.
Waiting for what?
No, no, I don't mean it like that. He is waiting. He is the personification of hospital waiting rooms and that infinite stretch of time between the last lines of the song and the next beginning.
That's nice and poetic and shit, but what the hell are you going on about?
Let's say, it's like this.
If you're waiting for something, you have no idea how long you'll be waiting. You have a vague idea, of course - your mother said she'll be home in five minutes. But there's that infinite nagging in the back of your brain that says, wait longer. Because she might not be five minutes - she might be ten because of traffic.
You might end up waiting forever because she got in an accident on the way home and never made it out of hospital.
It doesn't really have a time frame. It's this little paradox of consciousness in a sleeping world. Do you understand?
I don't get what this has to do with the boy - man, whatever.
Well, I suppose you young ones would call him "immortal", but in reality, he is so much more than that. And this is his story, after all.
What's this, a fairytale?
Oh, he'd disagree, but it's not actually that dissimilar, you see. There's magic, and princes, and castles, and love. And of course, death, because if you've ever read a proper fairytale, you should know that they only ever start tragically. And some of the best ones don't exactly end happily either.
And after all, it depends on who's telling the story.
You ask Cinderella, and it turned out perfectly well for her. You ask her stepsisters, who only really had their mother's influence and weren't old enough to know themselves yet, and it wasn't quite a fairytale after all.
So, if you ask this immortal if he lives a fairytale, he'd probably light a cigarette and spit in your face.
He doesn't exactly sound nice.
This immortal is one of those people who has profoundly given up on being nice. Nice doesn't get you anywhere, boy. And he's so old now that he doesn't think much about good and bad and manners; nothing really interests him anymore.
That's another thing, with waiting. It's alright if you come out of it - if the infinity of waiting is actually more finite that you originally believed - but there are some whose infinity lasts longer than most.
And those are the ones who give up on good and bad and manners, because they've seen the effect each has on the ocean of the world, and they are just ripples, in the end.
So what's this immortal, a boat?
Don't be ridiculous.
And what's his name, anyhow?
Merlin. Yes, before you ask, The Merlin. He doesn't have a beard though; that's the thing with immortals. They always look too young.
And this adds to the fairytale side of things, because Merlin's story has been adapted and twisted and changed so much that it isn't really his anymore. But he hasn't been forgotten. Isn't that a little remarkable? An immortal - hovering in the infinite, forgotten space of time - being remembered for all eternity?
Look, is there an end to this story?
Of course not! What kind of story has an ending?
Um, all of them?
Oh, little boy. Sometimes I forget how young you are. No story really ends. We could have ended Merlin's story when he had what he was waiting for, couldn't we? Or maybe beforehand, when Merlin didn't really know the meaning of waiting. But that wouldn't have been the real end, would it?
Just cutting off the story so it has a happy ending.
But I digress. Merlin is waiting. And you were a little right, I think, when you asked what he is waiting for. There is always a catch in these things, isn't there? Humans. So fickle.
You're getting distracted again.
Of course. Merlin is waiting for - well. I never know if it has a name, really. These things can't be limited to words young boys such as you have given them. Because he isn't just waiting for his reason to breathe; he is waiting for his oxygen.
Do you understand yet?
So, what? He's waiting for his better half or something?
Better half. Isn't that an interesting turn of phrase? He is waiting for his other half yes, but only because his edges have become so weary, over time, and have eroded away like rocks on a beach that no other halves will fit them anymore.
That's kind of sad.
I think it's a lovely idea. There is someone out there whose jagged edges match yours - someone who is not perfect and contradictory and living. Someone who is as soft as thunder to match your lightning.I imagine the idea appeals to Merlin very much.
Alright. Let me get this straight. So Merlin, the immortal, is waiting for - what, his princess?
Oh, little boy, how funny your mind is! Does it always work like that?
No, no, he is waiting for his prince, of course. His king, if you wish to be precise about it. In the tales, Merlin is the faithful servant of - well, who?
You're kidding me? King Arthur?
But of course, child. Who else could it possibly be? Their halves fit so well - in all my years, I have never seen two opposites so alike. That is the paradox, I suppose, of an immortal loving one who is mortal, but not exactly.
So Arthur's immortal too.
If he was, then do you think waiting would be quite so infinite?
No, he is trapped in a different sort of realm. He is banging on one side of the door while Merlin is leaning against the other. Neither of them have the key, but neither of them quite wants to pick the lock. They are both waiting; it's just that Merlin's tale is a little sadder.
Because if Merlin is the consciousness in a sleeping world, Arthur is the daydream. Time does not pass on his side of the door, and he is simply sleeping.
He's dead, then?
Not quite. Arthur has lived thousands of lives, on the other side of the door, and Merlin - through a window, perhaps - has watched them all. He has watched every pitiful childhood, every romance, every child, every success, every failure, every death-
They say that in his last moments, Arthur remembers.
Oh, yeah. And who's they?
The people holding the key, of course.
You have Merlin, living life in the slow lane. He doesn't age, unless he wants to.
He doesn't die, even if he wants to.
And then Arthur, on the other side, who appears every hundred years or so, and lives his little empty life. Then he dies. Stays dead. And is born again. The cycle repeats and repeats and repeats until even the cycle can't live any more.
What happens then?
The end of the world, of course.
What, did you expect your happy ending? If we had wanted that, Merlin might as well not have been born at all. That certainly would've been happier.
But don't worry. The end of the world won't come just yet - I can't say when, of course, because that's the whole problem of waiting - but there will always be idiotic people around to stop it. I suppose that's the problem with heroes.
The world needs heroes, though.
Evidently, but the world and Merlin have never exactly agreed.
Arthur was what you would've called a hero. Blonde hair, arrogant, and a penchant for saving the world. Merlin too, of course. But he was a subtler kind of savoir.
Basically, Arthur was a bit of a prat.
Oh, child. Perfection is overrated. Because Arthur was generous and brave and kind and intelligent and he loved, you know. He loved his father and Lady Morgana Le Fay and his knights and Queen Guinevere and his Merlin, of course.
But that was a different time. The world is so much harsher now, and yet so much more accepting.
So Merlin's waiting for Arthur, and the end of the world.
Is he waiting for the world to end so that it will bring Arthur home? Or is he waiting for Arthur, only to have the world end? Maybe he is simply waiting for the end of the world. Not even the young warlock knows that.
This earth is so tired of living. Have you noticed?
It wants to die, you mean.
It won't, not yet. That's another problem with humans; they have an uncanny knack for surviving. Albion will rise, taking Arthur with it, and this world will end, as have many others. Will a new one form in its place? Will it be better than the last? I can't say.
I can only tell of the past, boy, not the future. And the present, of course. Which is why you're here.
Oh, people in stories - they're so candid, so plain in their vibrancy. I have looked into the eyes of every patron who has walked through these doors and never once have I seen emotions flitting through them. That's the problem. People in stories are so much more than they appear.
Merlin is a fairytale, after all.
And you! Why, if this were the real world - or any world at all - you would not be here. You would have stumbled into another bar and complained about your father, or your job, or your cat, or whatever life you are leading at this moment.
You would've forgotten.
I - I don't understand, I can't -
Boy, don't be so naive. Did you really think you had no part to play - that you would live your petty, childish, normal life after hearing of a sorcerer who is waiting? Of course not. This a storybook; why would I tell my tale to some unwitting minor character? I'm not an evil villain revealing my plan, Arthur.
So who are you?
A friend, I suppose. An interested party.
Oh, look at you! It seems you're beginning to remember. How odd. Tell me, do you remember the colour of Merlin's eyes?
They were - they are blue -
And of Guinevere's?
I don't... I can't remember.
A shame, but do not worry. The memories will come back in time - a thousand lifetimes in the fast lane do not come easily. Oh, yes, a thousand! The fast lane is slowing for you; it seems you are needed elsewhere. Have you never got tired of daydreaming?
But you said the end of the world wasn't coming yet!
It seems Merlin was getting impatient.
And just because his lifetime is a fairytale doesn't mean the rest of the world is - heroes must lose sometime.
Where am I?
Didn't you realise what you were knocking on?
This is the door.
Look, there are cracks already! You are not long for this world, and Merlin is tearing this place apart for you, my king - the intolerant warlock never did like the slow lane very much.
Will I remember?
In time. The cycle is breaking but there is still one more - one more life - and he has waited so long, for you. An infinity within a thousand infinities. He is so old, now, so harsh. You must fix him, do you understand? Your life must fix what your death has broken.
This is your duty, once and future king. In this life, the Dragonlord is not made to serve.
It will not be easy. Endings, and beginnings, never are.
I have to reach him; I have to get to him.
And you will; what fairytale leaves the door locked? You will be magnificent, Arthur; you, and Merlin, and this world. It is so loud and so vibrant, after all, and it will not give up quite so easily. I believe you will do well here. Now, let go of this life; he needs you.
I - I need - who are you?
Your kind will know me as Kilgharrah.
Now sleep, young king.
Merlin can wait a little longer.