According to Wikipedia, the Jengu is a water spirit in the traditional beliefs of the Sawa ethnic groups of Cameroon, particularly the Duala, Bakwei, and related Sawa peoples.
Obviously, I’ve taken huge liberties for the sake of my fictional piece.
The rowboat slid to a rest in the middle of the lake. Ben balanced the oars to one side and leaned back to reach the cooler and pull out a beer. He opened it but didn’t take a sip right away. Instead, he absorbed the sounds of nature as he watched the sun drip lower toward the horizon.
This was exactly what he needed. Taking a deep breath, he crossed his ankles and let the smooth cold beverage go down.
Today marked the anniversary of one month since his life had changed. One day everything had been normal and the next, he had come home from work to find a note from Sarah. She didn’t have the decency to tell him to his face that she didn’t want to be with him. She’d simply packed her bags and disappeared, scribbling a halfhearted note in her wake. It wasn’t until two days later when speaking with a mutual friend that Ben found out she had already shacked up with some guy from work. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to put two and two together.
Maybe he should have seen the signs but he’d been too busy planning their future to notice their present slipping through his fingers. He searched his memory for hints or clues. Had she been spending more late nights at the office? He didn’t think so. Did she sneak away in the evening when she’d claimed to be getting her hair done or going to the gym? If she did, she was damn good at fooling him. How could she have fallen out of love with him and in love with someone else so easily?
He dropped the empty beer can in the boat and dug his hand in his pocket, pulling out the diamond ring he’d picked out for her. The ring sparkled as it caught the late afternoon sun while he turned it between his fingers.
In only four weeks, he felt as though he’d aged a decade. Numbness filled him to the core and he walked as a shadow in his own life. Every once in a while, he encountered someone who would ask how Sarah was doing. At first, he told people they were no longer together but he had grown tired of feeling sorry for himself. Losing her had become an affliction he suffered. Now on the rare occasion when someone asked, he simply said she was doing fine and left it at that.
As Ben brooded over the broken fragments of his life and finished off another beer, the sun disappeared below the horizon. He didn’t even notice the dark clouds that gathered to the north. He didn’t acknowledge how much his boat had silently drifted on the smooth water’s edge. Occasionally he noticed a fish rise to the surface to snatch one of the insects skidding across the top. He closed his eyes and relaxed to the song of wind rustling the expanse of trees that surrounded the lake.
He was alone and that’s all that mattered. His body shook. The tears caught him off guard and he wiped his eyes with the backs of his hands before reaching around to grab another beer. Rain splattered down but he didn’t feel it. He opened his palm to the ring he’d been holding so tightly it left an indentation in his skin. With a deep breath, he pulled back his arm and tossed it as far out into the water as he could manage, hardly distinguishing the impact now that the rain poured down harder. He ran his fingers through his wet hair.
He could have sold the ring and got back some of what he’d paid for it but it wouldn’t have given him the same emotional satisfaction. Sarah had taken his heart and ripped it pieces. Money would never put it back together again.
But he’d outstayed his time on the lake. He grabbed the oars, suddenly seized by panic as he realized how far off shore he had drifted. The wind had picked up and the sun had given way to darkness. He had to strain to see through the driving rain. Which way had he come? Suddenly, he wasn’t certain. Although he’d spent so many summers on this lake, he felt disoriented.
Clutching the side of the boat, he tried to get his bearings. His thoughts scattered and for a moment he wondered if he hadn’t been brought to this junction in life by fate. Shaking off the chill that settled deep inside, he grabbed the oars and began rowing furiously, simply hoping that luck would bring him to land.
Lightning struck down, hitting him as he rowed. He collapsed, closing his eyes as he fell overboard and hit the water with a splash. Defeated by fate, he gave in and allowed his heavy body to sink. He thought of Sarah and the way she would laugh when he told her a joke and then he thought of nothing at all.
He felt fingers wrap around his waist pulling him and when he opened his eyes, he caught sight of the twinkle of diamond on the river floor. He thought he saw the face of a woman with long dark hair floating around her face. “Jengu”, he thought, “spirit of the lake come to claim me”. He gave in to darkness.
When he opened his eyes, he gasped for air. The storm had passed and in the east the first hint of dawn stretched over the horizon in brilliant oranges and yellows. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been unconscious or how he’d gone from sinking to the bottom of the river to waking on the shore but he had the unnerving sensation of not being alone. He rolled over to his side and caught sight of the ring partly buried in the grass a few feet from where he lay.
A soft breeze stroked his hair as he sat up. It seemed to wrap around him in an embrace, whispering his name, encouraging him to grasp life. He reached for the ring and sat watching as the sun emerged. A new day had dawned.
“Are you alright?”
He turned to see a young woman with auburn hair walking toward him walking a dog. The dog reached him first, covering him with kisses. When he looked up to see her worried face peering down at him with the backdrop of sunlight illuminating the world behind her, he felt a strange sensation fill him.
Last year, I only made it up to letter I in the challenge. Yay, as of this post, I have exceeded my 2015 accomplishment. If I make it halfway through the alphabet, I will feel successful!
Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your thoughts. Each day I am posting a ‘snippet’ based on a paranormal creature that begins with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. I am using this as a fun writing exercise which I am hoping will also be enjoyable to read, but keep in mind that due to the fact that I must post a new snippet each day in April except Sundays, the posts may be a bit rough. I’ll do my best, however, in the limited time I have available to me. 🙂 Let me know your favorites or the posts you find most intriguing because I plan to develop those into a full story later in the year!
Check out the other participants in the A to Z Challenge.