The Water Roars

by Steve Campbell

It was late Autumn before any rain hit the barren fields that fed the village. Under the failing light of day it fell heavy and fast, hissing against the scorched earth. Black clouds broke overhead, stealing the sun and creating rippled mirrors of the cracked soil. The villagers were gathered around the well, drunk on the joy of raindrops against their skin. They never stood a chance.

The deluge continued throughout the night, pounding the barn where the young man had sought shelter. He cowered beneath the creaking eaves of the loft but the building offered him little protection, from either the rain or his troubled thoughts, they both seeped in and saturated every pore. He recoiled each time thunder boomed and lightning split the sky.

When the young man awoke the next morning, the barn floor was flooded and a river surged through the village. The water was littered with the debris of destroyed homes, uprooted trees and the emaciated corpses of cattle and villagers. The elder’s body bobbed along on the surface amongst them, his face upturned and his eye sockets filled with water. A crow perched on his face, drank from the shallow pools of his eyes and pecked at his tongue.

Huddled silhouettes sat atop submerged buildings and prayed for the water to subside or for salvation. Or for both. Some villagers fled, they paddled against the current with makeshift rafts fashioned from doors and carts, piled high with what remained of their lives. 

The river flowed, where only yesterday the villagers had gathered, the young man included, to watch the farmer’s daughter dragged to the well behind a horse.

The crops had failed and whatever had caused it needed to be cleansed. During his sermon, the village elder threw his arms wide and bellowed. He warned the villagers, and they listened. They gasped when he spoke of their God’s anger, and nodded in unison when a sacrifice was suggested to save the village.

The girl was stripped of her clothes, bound at the wrists and across her mouth, and strapped into the well bucket. The villagers cheers drowned out the screams of the girl’s mother. The young man didn’t spit or throw rocks with the others, but neither did he protest. As the girl was lowered into the well, she spotted the young man amongst the mob. ‘Don’t you love me?’ She asked through bruised eyes, matted hair clinging to her face. He heard her, clear as if she were speaking aloud, but none around him reacted. He opened his mouth to reply but fear of the crowd devoured his words. Ashamed, he averted his eyes and shoved the balls of his hands into his ears.

Before the last of the rope was fed into the well, the young man had fled to the barn.

But the villagers’ prayers had been answered. 

The river rushed through the village and cascaded down into the well, filling it with more water than they could ever need. The rope that held the bucket in place was taut and wet, but, hand over hand, the young man retrieved it. The water fought him, holding the bucket fast, but he persisted and soon the rope was spooled at his feet, the empty bucket in his arms. The girl was gone.

Gripping the sides of the well, the man plunged his head and shoulders into the water. The liquid was clear and he saw into the depths to the foot of the well. And there he found the girl. She was no longer who she had been, her body as translucent as the water that surrounded her, her face free of bruises. She reached up towards the young man, her eyes sparkled as they had done during their nights spent in the barn.

The young man released his hold on the well and plunged forward. The girl rose up to meet him, she wrapped her arms around him and planted kisses over his eyes. His sockets filled with water and he saw the girl for who she’d always been. He opened his mouth and inhaled the thick plaited streams of her hair. Once the water had absorbed him of breath, it divided him. The essence of him was separated until he was no more than particles swirling within the water. Dispersed.

Pulsing with life, the girl flowed up and out of the well, and she spread her tendril-like limbs far and wide, forging rivers and streams. She pushed through soil, leaving behind droplets to feed the land. She surged towards the shore, swelling, to join her sisters within the sea.

Finally home, she roared. Her tides clawed at the beach, destroying fistfuls of sand and rock with each pass. She raged and then calmed, raged and then calmed—dancing with the moon—and began devouring the earth, one wave at a time.

Steve Campbell has work published in places such as Spelk, Fictive Dream, MoonPark Review, Molotov Cocktail and Flashback Fiction. He’s Managing Editor of Ellipsis Zine and is trying to find time to write a novel. You can follow him via twitter @standondog and his website, standondog.com.
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