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time is a song

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You sit on the grass in the Temple of Time and try to feel something.

Zelda waits outside. A year of knowing you—a hundred and one years of knowing you—an eternity of knowing you—lends her enough instinct to leave you alone, here.

You pick up a blade of grass and tear it into pieces. (You always need something to do with your hands.)

It’s all ruins, now. Collapsed and grown-over and crumbling in on itself. Falling in on its own weight. You almost want to apologize to the old thing.

Sorry for all this. Sorry for leaving you to rot.

What a joke. Even time’s own Temple cannot escape from its passage.

You look up. Hylia stares down at you, all stone and light and moss. The song she hums is soft and it is not hers. It’s your song. Yours and Zelda’s. Not hers. Not this time.

The statue is new. It is hundreds of years old, but it is new. It sits right where the Master Sword should. Ironically, you like the statue there. Imposing and stern, yet soft-featured, barring you from the inner sanctum like a gentle wall.

You like it there. You don’t want to know what would happen if you put the sword back in its pedestal. Better to have no pedestal, better to have no inner sanctum at all.

It’s time to go, Zelda calls softly.

She’s wrong. Time is a song that you sing, and you can sing it as twisted and warped as you like. If you have anything right now, you have time. You can afford at least this.

But Zelda has done a lot of waiting. You get it. You understand her impatience. Zelda has waited for hours. For weeks. For months. She’s waited for a hundred years. She’s waited for a thousand years. She’ll wait for so much more.

She can wait for you.

So you sit on the grass in the Temple of Time and try to feel something.

It doesn’t work. There is only an… an absence of something.

Does the absence of feeling still count as a feeling? It aches, all the same.

You’ve only ever lost things, here. Companions. Friends. Time. Yourself. And now you are losing even this Temple.

(You’d like to say that all things will inevitably fall to the march of time, but you don’t like lying.)

You clutch the grass with your trembling hands, tearing it up from its roots. When you open your fists, the gentle wind blows the grass bits out of your hands. You watch them go.

For all that time is a song that you sing, you’ve never had enough of it.

Zelda waits. You don’t get to wait.

You fall at Fort Hateno and you wake up and start again. The sky falls down and you wake up and start again. The sword is too big for you and you wake up and start again. The island was never real and you wake up and you can’t start again.

The world existed, and then you blinked, and it was a whole new world and you knew nothing at all. You blinked, and you were tall, and everything was ruined. You blinked, and she was gone, and you didn’t know where. You blinked, and the sky fell again. All you did was blink.

All you could do was wish for more time.

You could have had an eternity, if you wanted—singing time over and over and over again, looping the strains of sound around and around and around like a noose around your neck, and it still would never have been enough.

The sword on your back hums to you. It’s the wrong song, but it’s all she knows how to do, so you appreciate it anyway. She’s always been with you. She’s never had enough time, either.

Time is a song that you sing. Maybe if you sing it loud enough you’ll drown out the rising sounds of everything else, and you’ll make this moment last as long as you need it to.

You’re not very good at being loud. But time, still, is yours. For now, until it’s taken from you again.

You blinked, and it was a hundred years later, and you were nothing and no one at all.

It’s odd. You were centuries old when you were seven, but when you were a hundred years old, you’d never felt more seventeen.

You are one-hundred and eighteen years old right now. But you’re also just eighteen. You could be ten-and-seventeen, if you wanted. You could be ten for a long, long time. You could be any age, because you don’t really have one of your own.

You were centuries old when you were seven. No one believed in your ‘imaginary’ friends and singing statues and islands in the sky and songs upon songs upon songs. Not until you picked up a sword.

You lost all those memories, though. You lost them to blue water and blue light and blue fire and blue clothing and blue blue blue (you’re getting really tired of that color).

And when you started to remember, you remembered all the wrong things.

Are you truer to yourself now, now that the memories that don’t belong to you outnumber your own? Are you truer to the spirit inside you, to the brand that burns on the wrong hand? Or is it just kind of sad? Pitiable?

You don’t know. What a joke. You almost want to laugh. Don’t people usually discover themselves on long journeys? How did you manage to do the opposite?

You lost yourself. You lost yourself a long, long time ago, and you won’t ever get it back. It doesn’t matter if you sing and sing and sing until your broken voice finally gives out completely, shattered and shriveled and dried-up like a corpse. There’s only so much that time can do.

But at least—

You breathe. The gentle wind blows your hair away from your face. Silent princess flowers wave in the breeze, glittering in the dim light of the ruins. Hylia hums in harmony with the sword in your back, low and quiet.

But at least time can give you this.

Zelda peeks her head in the crumbling doorway. We need to leave. Before it gets dark. Her voice is gentle. Understanding, but insistent.

Time is a song that you sing. You don’t need to do anything. You could stay here, on your knees in the grass in the Temple of Time, for one moment stretched into an eternity.

But you’re not that cruel.

So you stand up. You let the breeze steady you, blinking at the low-hanging sun when you step through the doorway. Zelda greets you outside with horses that are named the wrong names and a smile that feels like the closest thing to home that you’ve ever had. A wolf in the distance howls in solidarity.

She holds out her hand. You take it. And you wish, once more, for just a little more time.