Dark Waters

“Has anyone looked at the river’s dark waters and wondered how inviting they might actually be?” I asked no one in particular. None of my characters answered me. They didn’t have anything to say this time. So I pulled onto the exit ramp and finished my drive to riverfront. When I parked, I could vaguely see, across the street, the water’s reflection in my headlights. A deep breath turned everything off. Long strides guided me to the bank. The river flowed about ten feet below.

I didn’t know how many times I had come to this spot. Whether it was to clear my mind, enjoy the day, or find inspiration for my work. I even made the mighty river a character. I liked to think Jormungandr, the great serpent, resided beneath the surface. So many times had I come to him for advice. Tonight, he was silent. It was if he knew my true intentions. My alterior motives.

Sighing, I sank to my butt and drew my knees to my chin. Never taking my eyes off the body of water. Jorg, you there? The river remained still, but I imagined a giant black snake head rising. His gazed pierced my soul. Yes, fleshling. My eyes watered. I’m done. A tongue flicked in and out. Again?   This time it’s for good. I mean it.   What happened? I buried my head in my arms. I’m selfish, uncaring, hurtful. I don’t think. I never think. I just ruin everything. No one would miss me. I’m not good at life.

His head came closer. Eyes bearing into me even more. Who is? We’re allowed to make mistakes. We learn and move on. I sniffed. Wouldn’t it be ironic if I was eaten by the Devourer, the one I gave to this river?    I’m not eating you. You jump, and I’ll spit you right back out. My head lifted as I glared. Why won’t you help me? Can’t you see I’m broken and can’t be fixed? His acidic laugh drowned the rushing river. No one is broken beyond repair. Not even me. Think about those you would leave behind–    I did. They’re better off without me. All I do is make things worse. He shook his head. If you did, they would never be around you. Think about your work. All those characters who will never see the light of day because you’ll be gone. No one will be able to meet them. They’ll never exist and be lost. Don’t you want them among the world? 

I sighed once more. They’re not even that good. I startled when someone suddenly yelled my name. Jormungandr vanished to the back of my mind. My name sounded again. I glanced over my shoulder. It was my love. He sprinted toward me. Slid next to me and enveloped me in his arms. He buried his head on top of mine. “I thought I was too late. What are you doing out here?” I stared at the water before bursting into tears. “I don’t know.” He took my face in his hands, pressing his lips against my forehead. “Do not take yourself away from me. That is a hole the world could not fill.”

My eyes squeezed shut. I trembled but allowed myself to be held. Finally buried my head in his chest. “I can’t keep making everyone’s lives worse.” “You don’t, hun. You don’t. You make it better. Each person brings their own challenges. Do you love me less for my imperfections?” His question caught me off guard. “No.” He held me tighter. “Then why would I love you less for yours? How about we get you home, okay? Can we do that?”

Opening my eyes, I saw Jormungandr again. The snake gave a nod. Go. Be loved. Remember I will not eat you. You have too much potential for something so trivial. I swallowed as he merged with the river. Nodded. “Yeah. I’ll go home.” I was helped to my feet. Led back across the street. I looked behind me. Jorg had said his peace. He offered no protest with my decision. His image had vanished. He would not take my life. All that remained were lethal dark waters.

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