“I’m here to see Professor Lin. My name’s Rob Whelan–I made an appointment.”
The secretary–who looked like a student of the university itself–scrolled through a list on his tablet. When he found my name, squeezed between a Professor Doherty and Doctor Lyon, he rose from his seat and gestured at the oak door to my right.
“She’s expecting you,” he said.
Already late for the appointment, I thanked the young man and stalked into the mahogany-themed office–a uniform decor of the historical establishment.
“You’re late,” she stated.
Lin was seated behind a polished wooden table, surrounded by books stacked high on the carpeted floor–the bookshelves against the four walls offered no space for the newer editions.
“Sorry. Bad habit,” I replied.
“Have a seat,” she prompted.
Lin’s dark straight hair, deep set eyes, and thin lips were the same as how I remembered them to be. But on that sunny afternoon, Lin wasn’t in a pink, silk gown. She donned–what most educators in a place as such would–a dull, black and white suit.
“It’s been awhile. How’s your book doing?” she asked.
“Not good. My publisher wants another. Soon,” I admitted, planting myself on the velvet armchair across her desk.
“And… that’s why you’re here.”
“Partially.” I smirked.
Lin chuckled. “So, what do you want to pick my brain on?”
“The myth of Politicus and Zhen.”
“What about it?”
“I have a few ideas to run by you.”
“Something you could’ve done via email.”
“True. But I wanted to see you–it’s been awhile, like you said.”
Lin and I met when we were ten. She lived with my family for two years, while her parents had ‘some issues to sort out’. We kept in touch after she returned home. And, once in a few years, our families would get together for Christmas. But since she began teaching at the university, it was almost impossible to meet her–she was a fourteen-hour flight away and always working on the holidays.
“We can catch up later. Let’s get to work first,” she said.
“Right. So, Politicus and Zhen–do you think they could’ve actually existed?”
“The Empire of Chrysus isn’t in any historical records, neither is King Politicus and Queen Zhen. I would say their story is parallel to Greek mythology.”
“But, I did some reading online, and some people theorise that Queen Zhen was the youngest daughter of Emperor Gaozu.”
“None of Emperor Gaozu’s daughters left their country. That’s a fanboy theory, Rob. But, a good one to roll with. Is that your intended direction?”
“No. I just wanted to know what you think.”
“I don’t think they’re real.”
“I see. Personally though…” I hesitated.
“I believe otherwise,” I stated. Lin raised her eyebrows. But as her lips parted to question my belief, I continued, “Anyway, do you think it’s possible for Politicus to retain his memories after each life?”
“The original tale didn’t say he could. But since you’re writing fiction, anything goes.”
“Do you think, that with his memories, he can help Zhen remember their past?”
“How–with true love’s kiss?” Lin chuckled. “Wait, is this new book a romance novel?”
“A little romance doesn’t hurt.”
“The themes of this myth are greed and violence. The consequence of Politicus’ brutality was an eternal curse–witnessing the death of his lover in each life cycle, with no hope of happiness. You can toss in a little romance, but a happy ending will be far-fetch, not to mention, cliche.”
“He can break the curse.”
“By wakening Zhen’s memories?”
“That’s a good idea, isn’t it?”
“Not really. It doesn’t quite make sense.”
“Is your story set in the twenty-first century?”
“Then first off, Politicus claiming to be Politicus will make him seem insane. Nobody will believe him, let alone Zhen. Secondly, Zhen recalling her memories won’t save her since thematically, the myth isn’t about love. What I logically foresee, is Zhen living in an endless loop, well aware she only has twenty-nine years each cycle. And, the idea that Politicus helped her remember–under the pretense of breaking the curse–paints Politicus as selfish as he was before. It won’t be a show of love. Making the love of your life aware of eternal damnation isn’t love. Love is Politicus suffering alone until he breaks the curse, which is unlikely to involve wakening Zhen’s memories.”
“But, that premise can make quite an adventure–Politicus and Zhen working together to free themselves from the curse.”
“It just… doesn’t make logical sense to you.”
I sighed. Why couldn’t I see it before? Still, I had to ask. “One more question,” I prompted. “If you were in Zhen’s shoes and Politicus awakened your memories-”
“I might grow to resent him,” she interrupted.
I nodded. “Well, I guess it’s safe to say romance isn’t my forte.”
Lin chuckled. “Stay away from romance, Rob. Stick to your action-adventure-treasure-hunting stuff. It’s what you’re great at. Honestly, I thought you were going to ask me about Politicus’ sword of vengeance. The sword makes a good set-up.”
I forced a smile. “It sure does.”
There was no need to ask about the sword–I knew a lot about it already. And she was right; the sword did make a good set-up. It brought upon a curse I could only blame myself for. But trust me, I’ve tried. No matter how far and wide I’ve searched–in this lifetime and the ones before–I’ve yet to find anything that will break this eternal damnation. But admittedly, I am selfish to wish I wasn’t alone. Is it wrong to desire recognition from the one I love? I’ve lived more than a thousand lives with her by my side, but not once has she looked at me the way she did when she first died. Even in this twenty first century life–a month and fifteen days before her death–there was no love in her gaze. And, if I didn’t want her to resent me, I will have to watch her die… again.
“Free for dinner tonight?” I asked.
“No questions about the sword?”
“I should be free tonight.”
“Great. It’ll be awhile before we get to meet again.”
Lin chuckled. “That’s life, isn’t it?”
I nodded. “That’s… how it always seems to be.”
Perhaps in our next life, I’ll finally break the curse—ending this vicious cycle–and make what Zhen calls a cliche ending… our reality.
12 Genre Months © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)