Friday, March 7, 2014

Only water 2.0

Weird... maybe I'm getting too used to writing flash fiction 'cause I wrote almost exactly 500 words before stopping...

There was only water, and then, a small raft. 

Essa hadn’t realized that the end of the world was so calm. Like the pause of heartbeat and lung at the end of an exhalation, there was that same kind of dead-air, of waiting, of uncertainty whether another breath could be drawn.

Far different from the rocky coastline, the capricious currents, and the storms that shook and spun until her bearings were more tangled than a rogue fishing net dredged-up from the reef.

The water was still. A moment between moments, with only the ripple from her paddle and the bow of what had once been a boat, before the waves, before the dark, before the wind that scooped her like a gull scoops an oyster and dashes it to splinters.

But instead of relief, of sanctuary and rest, this was an uneasy quiet.

For only gods and monsters lived at the end of the world, and Essa had come to beg and barter. To sacrifice, if necessary, if that was the price asked. Out here, or in the Wilds, there was no guarantee who would answer first: one who could be persuaded to help, or one who would devour with the swift ruthlessness of a winter gale.

With one last smooth stroke, she lay the paddle down and drew a whale-bone knife from her seal-bladder pack. The trick was where to cut, where it would bleed deep enough to summon, yet where it could easily be bound and would not hinder movement. Hands were definitely out. It would be impossible to make the long trek back.

If there was a long trek back.

Choosing where to cut, that was a small, manageable decision. Thinking about what would happen after...

Essa lurched back from the edge, the paddle knocked wide with a splash. It was the reflection of her own eyes that had spooked her. Too wide, too scared, too young-looking for a warrior, for the one chosen and blessed by her village.

Blood thrummed in her ears, pulled and pushed by the gravitational force of her fear.

This too was small. This too was manageable.

It was important to master what was in her reach, because so much was not. Not the ocean, not the sky, not the run of fish spawning in the rivers, and certainly not the gods and monsters at the end of the world.

Retrieving the paddle, yes, that was within her means. The seal-intestine towline was strong, supple, and still tied tightly to her ankle. Essa pulled it in, span after span, the paddle slicing a low wake until she dipped her hand and fished it to safety. Snug at her side, she rolled the towline and tucked it into the open mouthed pouch strapped below her knee.

She crept forward and stared past her reflection, past the surface, past what she could see and control, into the far-off deep.

And above her temple, along the hairline, she cut, and she bled.


  1. applauding wildly - one of your best

  2. Oh, this is awesome. I really loved 'too small' and 'important to master what was in her reach'. Major kudos :)

    1. Thanks :) ...thought I should have edited it... there are a few lines that I kind of cringe at re-reading today...

  3. There was only water, and then a small raft. I didn't notice the raft at first since I was too busy drowning. That is what happens even in dreams when you fall from the sky into the Ocean. I woke in the dream falling, staring down – I blanked out before hitting water as the ocean was too big to take in: bruised sky blue, too deep and too dark. I somehow came up from currents (fat floats, something whispered within me) and the raft was closer. It was made of fingernails and hair, but I didn’t notice that until it was closer and Death steered it with a long bone through the water.

    Death wore black, a robe torn and stained, with bone visible under it. And Death looked just like Mom had. After. When we'd had to identify her. The water was cold, but no longer as cold as the morgue had been.

    Why are you afraid to breathe?

    I ignored the question. “Change your face,” I said and my voice – I’d never known I could sound like that, like the ugliest bully in the world. I was breathing water as if it was air; I tried to ignore that. Hate helped.

    The raft cease moving. You think to order me?

    “You're death. You will happen to me. That doesn't make you my fucking master,” I said, spitting out the words. I’d never swore like that before; I didn’t care. Glared into empty sockets. I was in the air, white dream-clothing untouched by water. I could feel the ocean below me, deeply hungry.

    Very good. I think my death smiled, but Its face was a skull now.

    “Why does it matter to you where I die, in the real world or a dream?”

    It does not. But your death would hurt Qirjin, and he is … important.

    “To death?”

    Among other things. The raft moved closer toward me. If you live, I will not take him. That is our bargain.

    “I didn’t make –,” I began, and found myself speaking only to the ocean. The raft was gone, and my Death with it. I floated above the water, part of me wondering if I could fly since I’d been marked by the air. The rest of me concentrated, as hard as I could, on waking up.

    1. well I could go into detail about what I loved about this but don't have that long. Mostly the humour though After these I ain't posting here!!

    2. No! Post yours, damn it! More is always, always better :) Plus your one about the altar break-up is niggling away at my head as an idea for a romance story, which I almost never write.....

    3. Nice, Alcar! I so want to read more of this!

      I just love your dream-land-ish style

    4. It is, amusingly, one of the more important ones in the story, since it's the first one where Jonas gets a hint of what is up with Qirjin; if even a dream of Death doesn't want to take him, something is going on .... mostly that Qirjin is, entirely unknown to himself a Chosen One(tm). And Jonas will eventually have to figure out how one survives as the best friend to such a person.

    5. Haha: (tm)

      Playing with conventions again, eh Alcar?

    6. Moi?! It was mostly me thinking about Chosen Ones and the motion that, if it is hard to be them, then it's surely harder to love them, to befriend them, to know they're going to go places you can't follow and all you can do is wait ...

    7. ...and how potentially annoying that is?

      "How about going for a beer on Friday?"

      "Sorry man, might have to save the world. Ask someone else."

      aka: the friend who never shows up on time, or ditches at the last minute... ya don't keep friends like that ;)

  4. how did you get in the text

    1. oh it was html - ok - had to do a lot of that for Amazon -- never mind as the chruch lady said (not sure you'll get the reference)

    2. Yeah; one reason I didn't even attempt to finish and post that on my phone. Trying to get html to work on an iphone in the limited text box to post comments in would have been a wee bit crazy :)

    3. Oh my goodness, you wrote it on your phone?!?! CRAZY GUY!!!

  5. VERY nice! Only gods and monsters live at the end of the world--that line will stay. I'll probably dream of it tonight. Brava!
    Guilie @ Flash Fiction Friday

    1. OHHH! I can't wait to read it, you have such a beautiful writing style... thanks for posting the link ;)