Photo Source: Refracted Moments
Yin is lying in her favorite corner, half immersed in the stagnant waters. At first, I can only discern her form in the darkness, but my eyes slowly adjust. Her guardian frogs are all around her, staring at me with their bulbous eyes, occasionally croaking in throaty voices.
Tianna, her favorite cat, sits in her arms, soft and furry. Her other cats tiptoe around, waiting for their turn to be petted, making annoyed noises at the slimy water lapping their paws.
Magic, all-pervading, is around her, though I can't see it, and it's making my skin tingle.
I once shed all my inhibitions, and made love to her right there, in her cold rancid pool. But that was ages ago, when we were almost too young. And before we knew them.
"Yanni," she says, and a shiver runs up my spine, as this is the name Lampi used to call me by. "Oh Yanni, I miss them so much". There's no need to explain who them is.
I dig my hand in my pocket, reaching for the crumpled note that was Lampi's goodbye to us. I don't need to take it out and read it, I know it by heart. As does Yin.
I love you, Yin. I love you, Yanni. I love you both so much. But loving you made me lose myself, and I need to leave you both to find myself again.
Now I feel I'm losing Yin too, as she sinks deeper into apathy.
It's like she only came alive when she was making love to Lampi. Whenever it was me that thrust into her instead, she just lay on her back and looked at me with her huge dark eyes, without moving, without even once sighing.
This can't go on any longer. I feel Yin's apathy engulfing me, sapping my will to live. But I resist. Tomorrow will be a new day, I think.
Then I correct myself. Today is a new day.
"I'm leaving to find Lampi, Yin," I say. "And when I do, I'm bringing them back to you. To us.”
And what if I don't find them? But I try not to dwell in negative possibilities. No gain in such speculation.
"I'll shake the universe upside down," I go on, "if needs be, and I'm bringing them back.”
She looks at me with a shade of her old affection. I know she doesn't believe me, or share my optimism, but at least she doesn't contradict me, for which I'm grateful.
"Will you be alright here on your own?" I ask.
She smiles and waves her hands in an intricate pattern. Lampi stands there in front of her, radiant and shiny as the last time I saw them, and it's all I can do not to rush madly into their arms. And then, next to them, I am. I --my phantasmal double, that is-- take Lampi's hand, and together we approach Yin, stepping into the pool. We make no ripples. Cats watch us indifferently, frogs stare impassively.
"Maybe it's for the best, Yanni," she says. "You need Lampi more than I do. You only ever slow down when you're with them." She laughs, a rare sound coming from her. "I think this quest will make you happy, whether you find them or not.”
I love you, Yin, I want to say. Even without Lampi, I have never stopped loving you. But she's already in her phantoms' arms, kissing their illusionary lips.
I turn my back and leave.
George Nikolopoulos is a speculative fiction writer from Greece, and a member of Codex Writers' Group. His stories have been published in Galaxy's Edge, Nature, Daily Science Fiction, Factor Four, Grievous Angel, The Year's Best Military & Adventure SF, Best Vegan SFF, and many other magazines and anthologies.