Leo the Mer-Guy! Chapter Thirteen: Who You Are

Ash cleared their throat, brushing a navy blue strand of their rainbow hair out of their face. “So, um, yeah, that’s cool that you get it now, but we still have to figure out… this,” they said, gesturing toward the pond.


Yasmin called her moon back into her hand, some of the gentle light leaving the glade. The bonfire was burning lower, too, leaving things in a red-orange darkness.


“For me, I just had to trust,” Ji-fu spoke up. “And the truth came to me.”


“I’m not… much of a truster,” Leo hedged. “I don’t know if I can just believe hard enough and make it happen.”


“It’s not about belief,” Juan said. “It’s healthy to question things, to have doubts and worries. It’s about trust. Trusting yourself and trusting us to make sure nothing bad will happen to you.”


“Wait a minute. Something bad could happen to me?”


Juan’s eyes went big. “No, I mean, well, not recently–“


“Not recently?” Leo squeaked.


“Alright, alright,” Ruby spoke up, her loud voice echoing through the glade and making some small creature skitter off through the trees. “Leo, what do you think it means?”


“I-I don’t know. I don’t really have a manual for this kind of thing.”


“This ain’t DND, we don’t need no stinking manual!” Ruby barked out. “Trust in me, dude. Trust in Yasmin’s crazy magic. What could it mean?”


“The wish had to do with me, who I want to be,” Leo said tentatively. Juan smiled at him, encouraging him to go on. “And the stone shot out of the fire and into the water. So maybe it has something to do with… water?”


Tinashe nodded. “Good start, but I didn’t figure out my public speaking abilities by saying that it maybe had something to do with my vocal chords.”


Leo flushed. “I don’t like fire, I do like water,” he continued, scrambling for some kind of connection. “Maybe I need to change who I am to be more like water, to be more fluid. More accepting.”


Onyx giggled, face still neutral. Leo had never seen anything like it.


“What Onyx means is, while that’s good therapy, L, it doesn’t really have to do with magic,” Ash said. “What kind of magic do you have?”


Leo didn’t know. He didn’t have any clue.


Maybe that was the clue.


“I know where I’ll find out,” Leo declared with a confidence he didn’t actually feel. “In the pond.”


Theo Poling is a Creative Writing and Arts double major at the University of Michigan. In their free time, Theo enjoys fostering cats, baking, and going on hikes. Theo is transgender, nonbinary, and bisexual, and is passionate about representing LGBTQ people in positive ways in genre fiction. Theo's series, We Exist! is a weekly serial that publishes short story chapters about empowered queer protagonists in science fiction and fantasy settings, where queer people have previously been excluded. Check out the newest installment of We Exist! every Thursday.

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