He would only speak at night.
Often, he told me about his adventures. I already knew of Termina, of course, but the stories of Hyrule were worse. One night, he spoke of a Gerudo king that refused to be beaten and the monster that had risen from his ashes; another, of corpses that wrapped around him and tried to eat him; another, of fighting his own shadow, which predicted his every move. He told me about what it was like to suddenly grow up, to be expected to face fiercer foes when he hadn’t actually grown at all. He said Termina was easier, even though it was scarier, because he had been through Hyrule already.
That didn’t mean he was okay, of course. He wasn’t okay. But he tried his best, and he did what he could to save both our worlds.
He didn’t speak in the day, not even to me, but his actions spoke for him: a smile when he was happy, a slight raise of an eyebrow when he was skeptical, a smirk when he was amused. And the bone-crushing hug when he couldn’t take it anymore, when he couldn’t stand the screaming in his mind and needed a moment of respite.
Then there were the times when he couldn’t move. Sometimes it was because of memories, or flashbacks, or a small happenstance that triggered a panic attack. Sometimes it was because of a muteness of the mind, a shadow that blankets the thoughts and renders one emotionless. And sometimes it was the pain.
I wished I could rid him of the pain. I still do. But it’s better now than it used to be.
It used to be a raging monster, tearing down his arms and legs and torso, everywhere a monster had ever touched. He used to scream, writhe in the bed as the pain took its course, and then cry until he fell asleep from exhaustion.
Now, it’s softer. A burn here, an ache there. Sometimes, he flinches, and we stop walking until it passes. It only flares on the bad days, when the memories are strong enough to take control, and those days are few and far between.
He used to never laugh. He would smile sometimes, but nothing more. I suppose he couldn’t. The memories blocked out everything.
Now, he laughs all the time. It’s one of the few sounds he makes in sunlight. He laughs when I tell him a joke, or when Malon makes a funny face, or when Zelda teases her father. And he laughs when he runs about spinning.
It’s almost a ritual for us now. It was the only thing he could do, waiting for time to pass; it was the only thing I could do, the moon frozen in the sky. It was the only thing we could do when we returned, and now, it’s the only thing we do on the anniversary, when memories of Majora and the others consume us both.
Tonight, I find him sitting outside, legs hanging over rocks, staring at the stars.
“Pain,” he whispers, and I know he’s been hiding something.
He glances at me. His eyes hold secrets and truths alike. “I don’t know.”
That’s rare. Usually, he can pin the source. “What do you need?”
He gives a long sigh. “Nothing. Just… memories. Dreamed of Majora; I was too slow, he ran rings around me, the usual. Woke with the moon in my mind.”
I notice he’s holding a mask. Most of them are put away; only the occasional useful one is hung near the door. The Stone Mask, for invisibility, and I’ve never seen this one before. “Which mask is that?”
He turns it over. “Fierce Deity.”
“A transformation mask.” His breath fogs. “The fourth and final. The power… it’s overwhelming. Almost like Majora’s Mask itself.”
At my questioning look, he tells me about the Fierce Deity mask. He intended to never use it; he didn’t want the power. But after he died the first time, he turned to it as his last resort.
“It was horrible,” he whispers. “I could barely control myself. It felt like… I was being possessed. And the spirit is still contained within the mask, taunting me. It wants me back; it wants a host, and I used to be strong enough to contain it.” He slowly shakes his head. “I’m not strong enough anymore. It would overcome my consciousness, the same way Majora’s Mask overcame Skull Kid’s, and then nobody would be able to stop it.”
“Nobody would be able to stop… me.”
He sounds unbearably defeated, as though this unknown future has already happened.
The sun is setting, painting the sky a rainbow of colors. Link traces his fingers over the mask’s markings, then copies them on his face.
“They would have scarred.”
He turns to face me. “The marks, the red and blue stripes. They scarred. Disappeared when I was healed, but…” He touches his face gently. “It burned, as though I was being branded. Marked by his possession.”
Then, he tells me about the moon, about the Happy Mask Salesman sitting inside, about the four clones dancing about with the masks of his enemies. He speaks of what they said to him, the questions they asked.
“I wonder…” he whispers, “the face under the mask… is that… your true face?”
“What does that mean?”
“That’s what the last clone asked me.” He stretches his feet out in front of him. “Your true face… what kind of face is it? Except… I wasn’t wearing a mask.”
“He must have meant the curse. I was older than I looked. Like you.”
“Or not. Maybe… you were a different person than everyone thought. You had to hide all your memories away when you spoke to the others, pretend none of it had happened. But you remembered.”
He smiles at me. His eyes complement the sky, blue with golden flecks against a backdrop of purple and red and green. A rainbow of colors.
“Maybe.” He grins and raises an eyebrow, and I know he’s going to be okay. “Maybe so, maybe not. But we’ll never know.”
“True.” I smile back, and his face lights up, happiness etched in every crevice.
We watch the sun set. The past gives power to the present, but that is not always a bad thing, and our memories help us become better people. Without our experiences, who would we be?
I would be Anju’s husband. I never would have met the shapeshifting boy, the hero of two worlds. Anju and I would have been together easily; just like that.
Link… I don’t know where he would be. In Kokiri Forest, perhaps, an adult among children, or maybe husband to Zelda. I don’t know enough about the life he lead before Ganondorf to be certain.
All I know is that we wouldn’t be who we are. We wouldn’t be sitting here, together, watching the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen in my life, dreaming of the future.
Our experiences, and our memories, make us who we are. It’s difficult sometimes; when Link is paralyzed from the pain, or when I have flashbacks, we don’t think fondly of the past. But at times like these, peaceful times of joy, we can remember the good that came out of everything, and remind each other that we’ll always be okay.