poco a poco cresc.
Thirteen △ Sail the ship, Boom bam boom, Chop the tree
Somewhere along his thirteen years of existence, this incarnation had gone horribly wrong. It undoubtedly would not matter in the grand scheme of life and rebirth; his brief life here would barely leave a stamp on the long sequence of Arthur Pendragon-Arthur King-Arthur Blackwell-Arthur Davis-Arthur Riley-Arthur Orson-Arthur Penn and back to Arthur Pendragon again.
He barely remembered his past incarnations—there must had been at least two dozens—beyond their names and how they died. Their birth parents always named them Arthur, and once they grew up they would follow the compass set in their soul and find Merlin. After several short, happy years they inevitably died, held in Merlin's arms.
Except that wasn't how it went last time. Arthur had grown old and frail and Merlin had taken care of him, giving him baths, feeding him bland food and endless pills until his last breath.
Perhaps that, right there, was where it went wrong. They were greedy for time, and now they both had to pay the price. He had not seen or heard from Merlin in seven months and nineteen days.
Arthur looked at the pills cupped in his palm curiously. If he leaves now, which nearby hospital would he be born in nine-and-a-half months later?
Twelve ※ Pink, brown, yellow orange and blue I love you
Arthur stared at the yellow-brown walls flanking the small window, hands buried deep in his red hoodie. Merlin had always liked seeing him in Camelot red. One time, Merlin had laid him out like a feast on his throne, wearing nothing but his crown and a red cloak. It was one of his favourite memories to relive at night, so much so that he wasn't sure where memory ended and fantasy began.
The woman behind the desk laced her fingers together and placed them on the immaculate surface. "Arthur, do you know why you're here?"
Arthur turned his gaze to her. "Well, Miss Alexander—"
"Please. Call me Emily," she said with a small smile.
Arthur went on as if he had never been interrupted, "It's probably because I was caught with another student in the boys' toilets."
"And why did the other student have his trousers down?"
"We were in a toilet."
The psychologist gave him an unimpressed look.
"I was about to give him a blow job. He didn't force me or anything." He had repeated this story over and over to teachers, the headmaster, his parents, the school psychologist... Leon was fifteen; they weren't doing anything illegal.
"Arthur, you're twelve."
Arthur shrugged. I'm not actually twelve, he didn't bother to say.
"Your parents are understandably concerned because you have become sexually active seemingly overnight."
When he didn't show any reaction to this, she sighed. Arthur looked out the window; he thought he had seen a glimpse of black hair in the parking lot.
She looked up from her notes. "How would you describe your relationship with your history teacher—"
Arthur sat up straight in his chair.
Eight ※ A, B, C, D, Can I bring my friend to tea?
"I don't understand why this is happening. Arthur has been out of his nappies since he was two!" Mrs Penn bit her thumb in consternation.
"Don't you think you're fretting too much, Alice? The boy wet his bed once or twice—it's hardly the end of the world."
Alice Penn dropped her arm in her lap and turned to face her husband. "But Stuart, he's almost eight! First the night terrors, and now this."
Stuart reached for her hand. "The doctor said he'd outgrow his night terrors, and he did. This would turn out to be nothing too, you'll see."
She laced her fingers with his. "You're right. I should be worrying about his birthday party instead."
"There you go. Are we expecting a guest list of forty?" He teased her gently.
"I asked him what he wanted for his birthday. I thought he was going to invite his whole class, but he only asked for 'Merlin and ice cream'."
Six ※ Black, white, green, red, Can I take my friend to bed?
"Mum! No, bring her back!"
He wanted his mother.
This was not his real mother.
His mother was nothing but lies made flesh by a bad witch. Evil witch Morgause.
"Arthur, sweetheart, why are you screaming?"
He was going to cut down his father. Not the man with glasses and kind brown eyes. His real father was the lying monster and murderer.
Arthur's face contorted as he screamed, eyes open and unseeing.
"Alice, what's wrong?"
"Stuart, he's drenched with sweat and he won't wake up!"
He had nobody real. Morgana was a liar and a witch. Gwen and Lancelot were liars and betrayers. His one friend Merlin–the only one left for him–was a wizard all along.
Arthur lashed out at the arms holding him.
"It's been fifteen minutes. Is there really nothing we can do?"
"We can only wait it out," Stuart said, standing next to his distraught wife. "Make sure he doesn't hurt himself."
Arthur didn't choose this endless wheel of existence. "I want no part in this, do you hear me?" he shouted at Merlin—his friend, his lover, the immortal half of his soul.
Arthur whipped his head side to side, limbs shaking. "Let me go! I don't want this!"
Five ※ E, F, G, H, I, J, I love you
Alice fondly remembered the days when Arthur always had a hug and a smile for her. She sighed, wishing she could've kept him safe from the world just a little bit longer.
"What's wrong, Alice?" Stuart looked up from his computer screen. "Trouble at work?"
She gave her husband a brittle smile. "You would think I'm being ridiculous."
Stuart raised an eyebrow in inquiry.
"I think Arthur is being bullied at school."
"What, at Reception class? Four and five-year-olds are hooligans now, are they?"
"I told you you'd think it was ridiculous," she retorted. "It's just—he used to be such a happy and affectionate child, and I don't know what happened to that little boy."
Stuart waited for her to continue.
"The other day, when I picked him up at Reception, he pushed me away instead of giving me a hug. Just a month ago he would've been talking my ears off about slaying imaginary dragons, scaling towers and saving princesses."
Stuart's eyes flicked back to the computer screen; he had three new e-mails in his inbox. "I wouldn't worry about it. He's just growing up and learning to be a little man."
Five ※ Skip the rope, Boom bam boom, Look at me
Arthur walked over to the basket of toys excitedly. He didn't bunny-hop like he wanted to, because errant knights have dig•ni•ty. He had taken a peek at the book Miss Louise was holding earlier, and it had a knight and a dragon on the cover!
Arthur loved storytime. Miss Louise always brought props so they could properly playact the story.
Eyes shining, he picked out the most impressive-looking plastic sword from the basket. "This is Excalibur," he pronounced the name solemnly. "Because my name is Arthur."
"I wanna be the dragon!" His friend Christopher piped up.
"You may," Arthur said, feeling generous and kingly. "You get to roar fire at me until I hit you with my sword."
Gamely, Christopher started roaring while Arthur chased him into a corner. "Dragon, you ate sheep and killed the villagers. Prepare to die!"
He swung Excalibur at Christopher the Dragon, but his sword was stopped before it hit anything.
Mr Ambrose, the new teaching assistant, held the plastic blade in his hand. Blue eyes crinkling, he smiled. "You're not bad with a sword."
〇 One, two, three, four, Can I have a little more?