“A date.” The sky would rumble, if a sky existed in a place half-built beyond the walls of dreaming. The ocean’s darkness casts shadows upon a terror.
The servant burbled nervously. “The god-eater was very specific.”
“I am no god.”
“You are not outside her power, O Great One.” The voice is terrified in its wisdom. “It will allow access to earth, in a – a suitable human form. You must do this every so often, or the – the gate will be too narrow. The stories keep it wide; this could add to them?”
There is a rumble; it is not laughter. Nothing so small, nor so sane. “Consider me interested. You will explain what a date is.”
“Oh,” the voice says, even smaller than before. “Oh, dear.”
A story to add to my legend. There will be suffering for this that will be legendary even among my own kind. I sit at the table, plastic seat under me, and I wait. The restaurant is large, specializing in quick meals with few questions asked about content. I have learned much in my moments of waiting, but I have not spread my influence far – this body is small, and I do not know stresses it can endure.
And there is a magician near. Not close, but near enough. I examine my body again. Human, male. Young, as humans reckon years. My skin is dark, and I attract some stares and wary looks even though I do nothing; have humans come to so little that they fear this alone, knowing nothing of Me?
The boy who comes in moves almost shyly, staring at a phone before walking over and standing beside the table. “Hi. I’m Jay!”
“I am... Tulu. I believe we are to have a date?”
“I guess? I’ve never done one: are they hard?” he asks as he plops down into the seat across from me.
“I have not had one either; they are – not something I do.”
“Oh! I’m only eleven – which is old for a Jay – and I figured I’d learn lots about it later. I know humans kiss, which is like hugging but not!”
I blink. “I believe that is true, yes.”
“Also,” he says, flinging the word out the way some do invocations to their gods, “you’re male too, right? I get that confused about humans sometimes because they’re pretty weirdy!”
“You are not human?” I say it carefully, extending my senses. I am far beyond anything humans know, but he seems entirely human to all my senses.
“Nope! I’m a Jay, which means I’m sometimes a Jaysaurus and everything.” And he grins then, the grin impossibly wide and friendly, an offering and binding both.
Even the god-eater that called me here would not bind me as this boy does. Even the magician I sense could not; even the stars themselves cannot. “What are you?” I say, and my voice is deep and terrible, the language nothing humans speak.
The kid blinks, looking shocked. “I just say: I’m Jay. It’s also a what and you’re scaring people and that’s pretty mean! If everyone gets scared, we won’t get any KFC and it’s all kinds of nummy you know.”
“Yup!” And I don’t know if he does a binding, or if whatever power embodies him is deeper than than, but people cease fleeing and he gets us chicken and pop and asks me to tell him about myself, which he informs me is a line he learned from the Internet.
“Know me,” I say, and Jay blinks.
“Oh, I know you,” he says. “I totally saw you when I came in.”
“This is not my form,” I try.
“I have other ones too, but I like this one because I can be all kinds of jaysome and not scare my friends and I bet we would be friends too!”
“I do not have friends.” I mean it to be a threat; I am certain he doesn’t take it like that at all.
“We could be friends, then! You have tentacles and I have some too when I want to and –.” He actually falls silent. For a moment I think he has truly seen Me, and then his smile is somehow even bigger, delighted, an eclipse of the world around us. “We both have tentacles, Tulu,” he almost shouts.
I say nothing, trying to process the power in his smile.
“We could have the most epic snowball fight ever!”
It takes me even longer to process than than it did the power of Jay’s smile. “You wish to have a snowball fight.”
“I bet it would be the best ending to a date ever. We can throw lots of them, and find a hugey field so you can be all big and I could be big too and we can have lots of fun!”
I eat the chicken; Jay has already finished his. “I have never had a snowball fight.”
“Really? They’re a lot of fun.” And he is out of the booth faster than even my eyes can track, tugging my hand toward the door. And he reaches in, somehow, pulling at the rest of me as well without even thinking about it.
I stand. I follow. As much from shock as anything else. To all my senses, the boy appears entirely human. Even though he cannot be that at all. I consider the power it must take to hide such power and shudder a little despite myself; I am ancient, but I am not forever, and I can be bound. I was long ago, and that binding still holds much of my power deep under the waves. I do not think that what bound me could touch this child at all.
“Are you cold? I know what to do for cold,” he says, pulling off his jean jacket and putting it around my shoulders.
“My home is under the oceans where there has not been light for millennium. I am not cold,” I say.
“Oh.” And Jay pouts. “I thought that was a good date thing, though!”
“I know,” I say, without even meaning to. “It was.” I catch up with myself, brace my nature against the power of the grin that is hurled my way. “You confuse me.”
“Charlie and Honcho say I do that a lot! It’s totally a talent,” he says, then pauses. “So, uhm!”
“Uhm?” I ask, hoping my form does not sound worried.
“Do we hold hands? That’s totally a dating thing, right? Even if we’re kids?”
“I am not young,” I say, careful.
“But you’re not old either,” he says with appalling certainty. “And you made yourself look young too and that means a lot you know!”
He holds out a hand, hesitantly. I take it, and we walk. People stare. Humans are strange about this as well? Truly? I make to speak, but frowns turn into smiles as Jay says hello and waves. Hatred dissolves; even madness breaks under his cheerfulness. I have a cult even in this world, and their members are many and terrible – I think he could destroy them without even intending to.
We find a field, and I let some of my power out. Tentacles that tickle Jay mercilessly until he releases some of his own; he still seems human, even when doing this, and then snags up snowballs and hurls them toward me with a whoop of joy.
I respond, and we battle with snow for hours before Jay declares us both the winners and looks entirely human again after; it is harder for me, but I manage to pull the seeming back into place.
“I could help with that, but I bet you’d be cross?” Jay says.
“Oh.” He kicks grass in what used to be a snow-covered field. “I know Charlie put you up to this, but I hope you had fun, Tulu?”
“It was very informative,” I say, which is not a lie at all.
And Jay grins, and slams into me. The hug is not tight. There is no binding, no power beyond simply being himself. It is enough that I am left almost breathless, who does not breathe at all. He pulls back first, and thanks me using a name nothing in this world should know.
“There are safer names to use for me in this world, such as C –.”
“But I like Tulu more, though! Could I come and visit you sometime?” And he looks worried, and eager, and nervous all at once.
“It will need to be arranged. I will have my people contact you.”
Jay grins, and is gone in a blur moments later. I make a way back home, into the depths. I tell myself it is not harder than it should be, and almost I believe that.
“Great One?” my servant says, shaking a little.
I do not know how much he saw or sensed of the journey. “The boy I dated will want to visit R'lyeh. You will arrange this, Dagon.”
“Of course,” my servant says in relief, unaware that this means he has not escaped punishment at all.