A serene stillness hung in the misty air of the ocean cove, broken momentarily by the occasional squawk of seabirds and the gentle lapping of waves against the sandy shore. Sprawled out along the beach was a series of broken pillars made of rubbled stone, each one protruding from the earth like a skeletal finger grasping upwards. Leaning against the base of one of these pillars lounged Lucy, with her feet buried deep within the fine grains of sand and her head resting on the shoulder of a man who sat beside her.
She looked at him, forcing longing eyes while tracing the outline of his box-shaped head. He looked back with an involuntary squint, forced by his puffy cheeks. Protruding from the middle of his face was a bulbous nose, reddened and round, cratered and scarred by acne of youth.
Lucy ran her fingers through his honey-yellow hair. And, with her other hand, caressed his cheek in one long stroke – before letting the tip of her finger brush against his lips, slowly. She let him delight in each tiny bump of her skin against his and watched keenly as his breath deepened, knowing he was basking in the acrid smell of her perfumed scent. She lifted his chin with a single finger, and guided his lips towards hers; Finally, Lucy thought as she brought him closer, and closer, until—
“—Look!” The man exclaimed, jerking his head away at the last moment while pointing towards the horizon, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” He asked.
There was a long-drawn-out sigh from Lucy, before she snapped back with a loving, yet, slightly frustrated sounding, “Yes, Louie. Isn’t it just?” And she wrapped her arms around his arm and rested her head against his shoulder once again.
The horizon beyond the ocean was not a blanket of sky but was instead cluttered with monolithic works of stone and mortar – great buildings that towered upwards, their colours were washed out by distance, but their sheer enormity gave a false sense of nearness.
“Is all that, as far as we can see, the Legend’s District?” Asked Lucy.
“It is, indeed. Impressive, isn’t it?” Replied Louie.
“And all this, all these vast crystalline waters and beautiful beaches, they belong to you?”
“Well, my family and by extension – me, I guess.” Louie sounded almost embarrassed to admit.
“Oh, darling! How pleasant it must be to live with such idyllic beauty all around you,” Lucy tightened her hug around Louie’s arm, “What I would give to experience a life like that.”
Louie did not respond. Instead, they both watched the sun settle and fold as the drop curtain of night lowered. And, they continued to watch as the sun disappeared – eclipsed by a tower that stood in the middle of the Legend’s District; taller than the surrounding buildings on the horizon and piercing upwards through the encircling clouds that snaked and spiralled around it. The World Tower, Lucy thought, and her mind wandered to her brothers. She wondered if they were there now. If they could somehow find and opening or a crack in its walls and if they could peer out and see her. See her building a new life for them. See that, they would be safe – and their fighting could end. Maybe then they would understand.
Suddenly, a cold shiver ran down Lucy’s spine and her thoughts abruptly snapped back to reality. She found herself sitting alone in the sand as a forlorn figure under the cover of night, hugging her knees. In a panic, Lucy glanced to her sides searching for Louie, and, quickly found him standing an arms breadth away. She realised that he had been talking to her.
“Could you repeat that, my dear?” Lucy asked and as she did so, noticed the concerned look on his face.
“I was just asking if you were feeling okay,” Louie replied.
“Oh, of course. I’m sorry, I was just… Admiring the beauty.”
“Understandable,” he said, not entirely convinced, but continued regardless. “Lately, I have found my thoughts to be scattered. I am unable to focus on my duties and I catch myself, more-often-than-not, reminiscing on our small, but delightful, period of time together.”
Lucy sat up straight, visibly excited, “Oh? Do tell,” she exclaimed.
“Well,” Louie continued, pacing back and forth, while keeping his hands held behind his back and out of view, “I’ve come to the realisation that, in order to show my appreciation for the countless moments of joy you have gifted to me, I would like to gift something in return that I’m sure will change your life for the better.”
“My dearest love,” Lucy spoke with sweetened tones, “You don’t have to gift me with anything—but—I’ll gladly accept. What is it?”
Louie smiled and brought his hands into view, revealing a book held tightly within his grasp and offered it to Lucy. It was bound in worn leather, knotted and limp and its edges were frayed, with laid lines poking out from pages that appeared to be only a breath away from splitting from their binds.
“You got me… a book?” Lucy asked, as she took the book from Louie’s hands and examined it quizzically, being careful to not disturb the pages.
“Not exactly,” Louie replied, “It’s a poem. Well, truthfully, only one of the pages contains the poem. The rest are just analytical thoughts, theories and commentary based on the poem, written by my family over generations. It’s incomplete, but we’ve tried to decipher what we can.”
“Even better,” said Lucy, hiding her clenched teeth behind an insincere smile.
“Can I, perhaps, read it to you?”
“Sure,” Lucy replied, apathetically handing him the book. Louie took a seat beside her and spent a moment fumbling in his satchel, eventually pulling out a candle, which he planted in the sand and lit with a spark from a shard of granite. In the dim amber glow, Louie flipped through the book’s dusty pages, and as he did so Lucy found her gaze meandering off towards the ocean ahead.
She watched as the still waters sparkled under the night sky. Not because of any stars above—as there were none, nor in history had there ever been a star or a moon in the sky—but instead, reflecting off this black canvas was the city glow of the Legend’s District ahead.
Louie cleared his throat and began to read aloud;
“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree…
… There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow…
… I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”
He finished the last word with a satisfying sigh, and for a time, only silence followed as Lucy continued her gaze outwards, and Louie stared deep into the impenetrable black abyss that hung above him.
“It took generations to decipher four lines?” Lucy asked, unamused.
“Well, we had to translate it as well,” Louie replied, his enthusiasm deflating.
Lucy noticed his sudden diffidence and quickly donned her avid mannerisms.
“Do you think it Innisfree exists? Out there, somewhere beyond our little island?” She asked, her voice soft and muffled as she buried her face into his arm.
“I can only believe so,” Louie replied, his passion reigniting as he kept his gaze upward. “Do you know why we call our city nation Hiberia?” He asked.
Lucy shook her head.
“Nor do I. Nor does anyone, for that matter,” Louie continued, “It has always been as it is, and it will always be. We spend our youth listening to great declamations of how we’re an enclave, surrounded by the turbulent territories of boundless ocean and that any fool brave enough to venture out beyond our coastal boundaries will surely lose more than his way home. There are those, of course, who believe this to be mendacity, an attempt to keep us insular and isolated; and those with influence may use great rhetoric to rally the masses into funding their expeditions to prove their beliefs. But every attempt has followed the same course—regardless of wealth, construction or luck, each and every vessel has only lasted a single day after passing the Tower’s boundaries, before succumbing to the ocean’s rage.”
Louie closed the book, letting loose a puff of dust. He looked at the cover longingly, delicately running his finger along its leather face, relishing in every bump and scar as if each was a memory written by time.
He continued to speak; “This isn’t the only book discovered in the World Tower. There is another, similar to this, that lay blueprints. Designs for great, hulking contraptions of metal and oil; but – they were not automaton beings of coiled springs and gears, instead steam and fire ran through their veins. These steel leviathans defied all forms of logic as they ascended upon the water’s surface, and, with great ferocity, refused to sink to the depths below…”
Louie paused for a moment to look outwards towards the ocean. A smile crept upon his face, and he pointed towards the waters and said, “Ah, and here it comes.”