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Ocean and Sky

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The ocean was still far away, even when she stood as close as she could get to the tide. It was just that sort of thing. Like the sky. Unreachable. The closest she could get was the feeling of saltwater and soggy sand underfoot, and the breeze caressing her face.

But that wasn't enough, even though it had to be. She wanted to feel more: the entire expanse of ocean and the world that slept beneath it. And the sky: those white clouds, and beyond it the sun shining through a clear sky as colourless as the ocean's true face.

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Sometimes, her tears could fill rivers.

She was more of an ocean girl, normally, but the ocean waves always lapped to and fro and it wasn't a pleasant thought, thinking that when she walked barefoot in the wet sand with the breeze playing with her hair, she was only soaking up those tears again.

At least a river carried away those tears. And that was an idiom, wasn't it? A river of tears.

As long as they didn't cling to her, she was fine with them being a river.

She could be a little happier at the beach, watching waves.

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She was standing by the ocean when she met him.

It didn't seem very significant at first. After all, she was standing by the ocean a lot, and she met a lot of people.

But, somehow, that meeting felt different to all the others.

It wasn't like anything odd had happened. Though it had, she supposed. But it was something else. Something about that man.

He'd looked lost.

Well, they were birds of a feather, then. She was lost too, in a sense.

And, unlike the other nameless people she met, he kept coming back.

She kept seeing him again.

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He was sleeping on the shore, soaking in the water.

Sometimes, she wondered if he was soaking in the tears. He did seem good at collecting the inner demons people tried to hide.

Theirs was a quiet town with quiet people and even quieter demons until he came and somehow dragged them out into the open.

She can smile more now. She's grateful.

She can cry more too, though. And that's the price she wishes she didn't have to pay.

Perhaps the correct way of putting it is that she can feel more. Happiness and sadness are a packaged deal.

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Sometimes, she wondered how her life would have been if she'd floated down the river and let fate guide her to her family.

Maybe her parents would have put her in a basket when she was born, to spare her the agony of separation afterwards. Or maybe she'd have run away and leapt onto a small fishing boat herself, looking for another home. Or maybe she'd be one of those people who tried to make a boat their livelihood and home. Like the floating shops, or the fishermen, or the tradesmen of old who'd follow the wind down the river.

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Sometimes, she wondered how her life would have been if she'd floated down the river and let fate guide her to her family.

Maybe her parents would have put her in a basket when she was born, to spare her the agony of separation afterwards. Or maybe she'd have run away and leapt onto a small fishing boat herself, looking for another home. Or maybe she'd be one of those people who tried to make a boat their livelihood and home. Like the floating shops, or the fishermen, or the tradesmen of old who'd follow the wind down the river.

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There's a festival where people send lit candles down a river.

She never had anyone to send them for, though. Her parents, as far as she knew, were still alive – and after they'd left her alone, she didn't think she'd mourn them even if she found out otherwise.

She sent paper cranes into the sky instead. They were her wishes, tinted with bitterness.

And then, at one point, those wishes came true. Perhaps she'd sent a thousand after all.

Or maybe not. Because she lost her family as soon as she realised it.

And sent a candle down the river.

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Rivers ended in oceans, in the end.

Every year now, she sends a paper boat with a lit candle for her aunt.

Every year, she sends another boat as well. She doesn't remember who it's for.

She knows it's for someone.

Sometimes, she sees a black crow following the boats. It's hard to know which one in particular… or maybe all of them. Crows are symbols for death, amongst other things, after all.

Still, that black crow in the sky seems familiar, somehow.

One year, she sends a boat for him.

Maybe he's a lost spirit looking for his home.

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She saw a man asleep on the beach. She never forgot him.

In another time, she saw a crow perched on a fence. She was quick to forget him.

But both man and crow were constant presences, and soon she remembered them forever.

The poor crow though: couldn't talk, couldn't tell his tale or explain his interest or do much of anything with her. So he only watched. From perches. From the sky above. Not always, of course, for he had other places to be as well: other friends to watch.

But, at least once a day, she'd see him.

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It was a shame chicks didn't grow into dinosaurs after all. Though maybe it was a good thing, too, because chicks really didn't like the water and dinosaurs drunk from rivers with a gusto.

Probably not the ocean, though. Could they stomach the extra saltiness?

The river though… That was oh so sweet for them. And the fish too, that slipped away from the fishermen. And maybe she could climb onto their backs and they could take her around the world.

They could scare away the bad things, too. Her steed and loyal knights to carry her along the river.

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A lot of things got lost in the ocean.

She visited it a lot of times. So she lost a lot of things too. Lots of thongs especially. She'd be standing where the waves could brush her feet and then step away, and she'd leave a thong there and not realise until she was halfway home.

Lots of shells too, but they weren't really hers to lose.

And, sometimes, she'd find other's treasures. Things the wind snatched up and tossed to the sea, or what the waves snatched themselves.

A lot of things were lost and found in the ocean.

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Rivers began as lonely people. But people, by their nature, gravitated towards company and so all the rivers gravitated towards a singular ocean, as well.

And then, of course, humans came and split the ocean and named them, but all the ocean water was connected, in the end. Humans were powerless to stop that. Humans didn't really care to stop that. Some sailors went to see, but for the most part humans made land their domain.

Then there was the sky, which they flew in but didn't even try to quantify.

Too bad she wasn't a fish… or a bird.

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She didn't like the occasional news article about a body floating down the river. The river was heavy, yes, but it should be heavy with metaphorical things: the weight of people's thoughts, and tears, and regrets, and the things they wished the river would carry away.

It shouldn't be heavy with the weight of a dead human body it carried… or even the refuse that collected the further downstream it flowed. Or the poisoned spotty fish that sometimes floated belly-up. Or that odd murky colour that made her wonder how the dinosaurs of old could have drunk from it before.

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She walked by the river every day, but never in it.

She was old enough to walk in it, for a little bit anyway. She wouldn't find herself over her head and the current was weak. She could do it and be soaked half through, if she really wanted to.

Instead, she walked along the banks, completely dry and with the wind at her back. She walked along it instead of in it, because people didn't walk inside rivers on principle. They swam, sometimes. They road boats. They crossed on bridges. They only really passed through, unlike fish who lived.

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Sometimes, now, she swam with the fishes.

Sometimes, she even had a silly thought that the black crow will catch her. He does chase the fish, after all. Probably eats them too, but she can't blame him. She eats fish as well.

She's not sure why she thinks the crow to be a male. She's never seen him close enough. She's not even sure she could tell a male crow from a female one if given the chance.

It doesn't really matter. It also doesn't matter that it might not be the same crow. It always was.

And she waited.

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The river made a nice date setting.

It wasn't as romantic as the ocean, but she wasn't a romantic at heart and neither was he. He was a drifter, anyway. If she took him to such an open space he might float away.

She'd come to him via the ocean or the sky, anyway. The river at least only ran in one direction. If she lost him there, she'd only need to follow it to the end.

She didn't think about how it wasn't a pot of gold at the end of a river, but the ocean and open sky.