All children would grow up, except him.
Even with the warm breezes through the window, his breath felt cold. His head felt too heavy to lift off of the sack. His arms wouldn’t listen.
The boy’s parents lay nearby, exhausted from a long night of prayer. He stared at the roof, the cracking mud sending jagged lines across his vision.
The waves outside calmed him down just a little bit, but the fact that they were so far away annoyed him.
Just one more time on the water... One more time to sail... Give me the strength to sail forever, away from this bed, away from my hurting body...
The child’s love was the sea, just like his father. He dreamed of sailing the seven seas, including the eighth one hidden from the world.
The sun started rising as the dark blues and blacks turned to orange and pink. This was it, he thought. His body refused to move, turning into rocks beneath him.
He would close his eyes again, and never wake up.
He knew it the moment a nightmare sent his eyes flying open.
He saw a shadow on the window.
His voice was too hoarse to yell; his eyes expressed the fear for him. The shadow slid away.
If his parents were awake, they would have seen it too.
He turned to his mom. Her beautiful brown hair fell down her face, the same kind he had but cut like a boy. His eyes came from his father, but tonight they were tucked away behind heavy eyelids.
As he turned back, the shadow appeared closer! He let out a peep before a bright light appeared between them.
“Hello there. I mean you no harm.”
This was no monster. It was a boy, with a mop of dark hair and a tunic of leaves over his thin body.
The sick boy's hands forcibly, painfully, pulled the blanket over his head, only to peek out to see the boy step back and stand in a triumphant pose. A light, looking like a bigger firefly with only four arms, floated in the air beside him.
“If I did want to hurt you, a quilt wouldn’t help. Who are you?”
While his body lay heavy in the bed, he whispered his name through the pain.
“Aymaco, a pleasure to meet you.”
The standing boy bowed his head, the dark eyes glowing in the firefly's light. He turned his head slightly as if confused by Aymaco’s lack of movement.
“Why didn’t you bow?”
The boy's chest heaved like it pulled a bucket out of the well.
“Well, why not?!”
The firefly hovered in front of Aymaco’s eyes. Its wings glowed with the lights of a million colors as its body shone in one color. As it flew around his face, its legs turned to those of a human, with long slender hands and the voice of whistling winds.
“Aymaco, are you dying?”
His tired face couldn’t act any more sad by that discovery, so he just nodded.
Aymaco double-took as the boy stepped closer.
“What does it feel like? How do you know you're dying? Does it hurt? Why does it hurt? Why aren't you happy about it?”
Aymaco stared at the boy with shocked eyes.
“It hurts, and I don’t know for how long. Beloved Zemi made it hurt so that I can pass to paradise and-”
Suddenly, a lump grew in Aymaco’s chest. Sobs began to choke out of his mouth. The firefly’s light turned purple.
“I’m going to die... I’m going to die...”
The little fairy swooped to the boy’s ear and whispered. The little boy with red hair and brown eyes listened and walked closer. Aymaco stopped when he felt a soft hand touch his.
“It must be scary, to think of death like that. You probably think death as disappearing into nothing, like a cloud of steam on the water at night.”
Aymaco sniffed as he listened to the boy’s question:
“What do you think paradise is like?”
Aymaco said he had always heard that paradise was full of good spirits and old relatives, but the boy waved it away.
“That’s what grown-ups think. What do you think it is?”
The child looked into hazel eyes and realized he had no idea what it was like.
“I’ll tell you,” he began, the firefly swooping around in colors of the sea; blue, aquamarine, teal, and white.
“It’s a sea, a wide ocean as far as the eye can see. The wind is always with you and the water is clear. The sky is never cloudy, and only to let you see beams of light shine through them like trees. The boat is always ready to sail and changes however you want it. It could be a canoe, or a raft, all at a moments notice. The beaches are covered in white sands, and the palm trees have the most delicious coconuts. The locals on the island are forever happy and always love a good celebration. The food is delicious and-”
“Will my family be there?”
The boy didn’t see Aymaco’s finger point to his parents.
“No. They will when their time comes.”
The bed-ridden child looked down for a second.
“But you’ll be able to do something you never thought you could. Fly!”
Then the boy jumped up and Aymaco got to see a miracle happen in front of his eyes. The little boy floated in the air, too far away from the bed to be pretending. He immediately forgot about his family.
“Will I fly too?”
“Yes, Aymaco. And you could soar above the boat and fly for as long as you want. You never have to land!”
“Is that where you’re from?”
“Did you die to get there? Are you an angel?”
The boy paused for a second, watching Aymaco lay back down in bed. It flowed over him like a wave. He felt sad for the boy, much more than the jealousy he should be feeling. The firefly swooped in with an idea.
“Yes, Aymaco. I’m an angel, the protector of children. I guide them to the world where you never have to land. Of... Neverland.”
The little boy’s eyes lit up. Finally, he had a name for the place!
“You can join me in Neverland if you’d like. From what I heard about death, it’s not meant to be sad. To me, death would be an awfully grand adventure.”
Aymaco smiled as his head softly touched the pillow. The young boy dived in close, sitting cross-legged above him. The other boy saw his pipe flute and tunic of skeleton leaves, with short pants made of reeds and corn husks.
“I’ll guide you to where the water is pure and the sun never sets. You can leave all of this pain behind. Just keep believing that it’s there.”
The heaviness reached every part of his body. His hands couldn’t reach for the flying boy. Darkness was falling in.
“It’s getting dark...”
“Don’t worry. I’ll play my flute. You won’t have nightmares anymore.”
Too tired to stay open, Aymaco’s eyes closed for the last time.
A bright song started playing.
The most beautiful song in the world.
The ocean called him. The beautiful waters called to him.
He will guide you home. Just believe Aymaco...
“I’ll see you in Neverland, dear Aymaco.”