I peered through the fogged windows, looking inside the warm-lit room. A christmas tree sat near the fireplace, with large presents wrapped in red and pink. My human sat on the floor, shaking the boxes, her ears straining to hear any rattling noise. She whined at the older humans, but they shook their heads refusing to let her open the presents.
I should’ve been there. I was supposed to be at my human’s side. Always.
But I no longer had that right.
“Still obsessed with your human?”
I whirled around to find Radu standing behind me, with his eyebrows raised. His eyes were bright as the green summer ruling over winter. They were the only warm thing about him. His hands were jammed inside his jean pockets. His feet shuffled in the snow, trying to keep his bare feet warm. Contrary to popular beliefs, we could actually feel the temperature around us. We felt pain just like the humans. We were a similar species, only they couldn’t see us.
I bit back my retort. Radu never failed to pluck my nerves at every opportunity, teasing me for being overly-protective over my human. Then again, our humans didn’t like each other very much either. Mine was the smallest in her class. She was often teased mercilessly by Radu’s human. Radu claimed it was because his boy had a crush on my girl. I didn’t believe him. Who would bully someone they liked?
“You’re thinking again, Elsa. Your eyebrows are knitted together like one thick ugly unibrow.” Radu smirked.
“Still? Why can’t we just call it a truce? Stop taunting me. I’m tired. You and your human are the same; Always trying to hurt us.” I rubbed my eyes tiredly. Snow dusted from my eyelashes, splattering over my numb cheeks. I shivered slightly, pulling my long waves of white gold hair over my shoulders in attempt to keep me warm.
Radu’s expression sobered quickly. “I told you. My human teases yours because he likes her.”
“What kind of human would bully someone they like?” I said irritably.
“Males apparently. Not just humans but our species too. We want their attention so we can only do one thing: tease. It’s the only way for you to look at us,” Radu said without mockery.
I frowned at the tone of his voice. Why did he say that in such a sombre tone? Suddenly, my heart became to ache for some reason, as if it knew something my brain couldn't comprehend.
“Anyway Elsa, you should go. She no longer needs you. You’re on borrowed time so you should cherish your last moments and live to the fullest. Fly around the world. There are more remarkable things than serving your human like a faithful puppy.”
“I’m not leaving her.” I jutted my chin out stubbornly. “She needs me.”
“She doesn’t even remember you!” Radu yelled.
I flinched and his face quickly turned into regret. He ran his fingers through his silver hair in frustration.
“You know our lives are dependent on their beliefs on us. So what happens when they stop believing? Do you think we can still exist? No, we die. And there is no heaven on the other side of the veil. We simply… cease to exist.”
“Stop, stop!” I clamped my ears with my hands. Tears squeezed out from my closed eyelids and ran traitorously down my cheeks. I didn’t want to believe in Radu, but I knew he was right. I remembered watching my human in her room, waiting for her to turn towards me and ask me to play with her. But she’d gone straight past me, her eyes blinked without acknowledgement of my existence. She could no longer see me. I had lost her.
A warm hand touched my cheeks and I opened my eyes- my vision blurred with tears. Radu cupped my cheeks, his gesture uncharacteristically sweet as he held me like I was something fragile. His eyes held warmth yet glazed with torment as they drank in their fill of me.
“Look at you, Elsa. You’re fading,” he said gently.
I held my arm above my eyes and covered the moon, yet I could see the pale white orb glowing through my translucent skin. I was fading. I was dying.
“It’s my job.” My voice broke as if my vocal chords were shredded apart. “I was with her when she came into this world six years ago. I chased away her nightmares and protected her from darkness. She lived her childhood in wonderment and happiness because I was there. She knew I was her guardian. I protected her, Radu. She knew she didn’t have to fear anything because I was always watching her.”
“And now she no longer needs you. She’s growing up, Elsa. They always forget us. We were their best friends. Then they started to forget and soon, we’ll disappear from the remnants of their dreams and fade into nothing. That’s our fate. We’re just a figment of their imaginations, or so they think. We sustain because of their beliefs. That’s magic in itself. As they grow older, they no longer believe in magic, so we, magical creatures, can no longer exist.”
“I don’t want to disappear,” I said in a timid voice. To die was one thing but to be forgotten? It was as if I never existed in the first place. And that was a frightening thought.
“Nobody does. But it’s inevitable for our kind. The fae has gone extinct because of humans. Our species will soon follow suit because of humans. Yet we serve them with all our souls and make them our gods,” Radu said bitterly.
I frowned at him. “You shouldn’t think like that. We exist because of them.”
Radu turned his angry eyes on me, and I almost shuddered at the sudden waves of violence emanating from him.
“Why do we exist? For them? There’s more to this, Elsa. We’re not just guardians for the humans. I feel we are created for more. Find it. Otherwise there will be none of us left.”
I blinked, my heart stunned. Could we live without depending on humans? Was there more to our existence than just serving our humans? Not that I minded. I loved mine dearly. I stayed by her side for six years and cherished every moment of it.
“If you’re so adamant in looking for answers, why don’t you look for it yourself?” I asked him.
“I would, but I can’t. My time is up,” Radu said simply.
I frowned, not comprehending his words.
“Wait, why are you not with your human? You’re his guardian. You’re supposed to be with him.”
“I no longer had the need to. I’m retired.” He smiled painfully.
My eyes widened. “Your human stopped believing?”
“Aye, longer than your human.”
My heart jolted with horror. “So what are you doing here?” What was he doing here with me?
“To say goodbye. I want to see you before I fade into nothing. And now I’ve seen you, yet my heart is unwilling to let go,” Radu said ruefully.
“I know. It’s heartbreaking to lose your human.” I nodded sympathetically. I would soon be in his position.
“No, you idiot. It’s not my human that I care for. It’s you. It’s always you. I assigned myself to him because I know he lives right next door to your human. I knew I could see you every day. It’s one of my greatest rewards to exist.”
Suddenly I felt hot despite the snow falling down heavily, coating my skin with its frost.
“Why?” I asked him, my eyebrows knitted together.
Radu stepped backwards, his silver hair billowed gently in the wind. His lips curved into a beautiful smile that reached his eyes.
“Because, dearest Elsa, I love you with all my heart and desires. You're the one I look forward to see everyday. You are my present. My gift for existing. I know we’re supposed to prioritise our humans but it’s you I care for. I love you for eternity, and even when I fade, I hope to become the wind and caress you when you’re hurt, hold you when you despair, and sing my aubade as the sun soaks the night into dawn. I wish I had more time but this is it, Elsa. It’s time for me to go.”
My body jolted in shock. Radu... likes me? All this time? The revelation stunned me from replying. Flames burned my cheeks, melting the snow on my skin. I lifted my eyes to face him and watched in horror as his body became more transparent. Bit by bit, his body crumbled into thin air.
“Why didn’t you tell me before? Why tell me now? If you had told me, we could probably spend more time together. I wasted years thinking that you hated me.” I wiped the tears angrily.
“I’m sorry. I wish I told you before. I regret the waste of time. I was afraid that you might reject me. I was a coward. Live, Elsa. Find a way to exist. You can do it. You’re more strong-headed than anyone I’ve ever met. I wish I can journey with you and find the solution together but regretfully, I must bid you farewell. Remember who you are. You are as real to me as the snowflakes falling from the dark sky. Farewell, my heart."
“No, no!” I stepped forward to reach for him as his body dissolved into mist. My hand reached out for his cheek. Warmth flooded on my fingers before he disappeared in front of me, leaving me without a shred of his presence. His green eyes were the last thing I saw before he was gone.
I looked around me, the wind singing deep sorrowful notes. There was no longer Radu. I was truly alone under the starry skies. I sank into the snow and wept.