#AtoZChallenge Visitors from Beyond – Nettle the Nymph

Nymph woman in a magical forest

Morning sunlight glistened off the cool water as Nettle frolicked and played more than she bathed. This was her favorite time of day when swimming with the fish and jumping with the frogs was more important than duty and responsibility. She floated on her back letting her long, dark hair cascade around her as she squinted up into the bright blue sky.

A doe and her fawns leaped into the brush, bringing Nettle’s attention back to the forest around her. She looked around, sensing the presence but not seeing him right away. Finally, her gaze settled on the tall, lean form in the distance walking casually along the path as he whistled a tune she’d never heard before. Curious, she swam to the water’s edge and quickly dressed.

The birds chirped their warnings but Nettle paid no heed. It was rare she came so close to a human and she wouldn’t let this opportunity slip from her grasp. When she wanted, she could move amongst the trees unnoticed. It was certainly one of the more advantageous perks of being a woodland nymph.

As she moved closer, she got a better look at him. The sunlight highlighted his short golden brown hair. He couldn’t have been older than seventeen. There was still youth in his features which looked almost unnatural with the hints of a beard attempting to grow. She smiled as she watched him pause and admire a pair of birds singing in a nearby tree.

“Nnneeeetttttllleeee,” whispered the wind, “Your father is looking for you.”

Nettle sighed. Father had returned much sooner than she’d hoped. That meant the arrangements had gone well and in two weeks time her hand would be promised to a god, a fact that should have excited her but actually left her with an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.

“Nnneeettttlllleeee,” whispered the wind, “Leave the boy and return to your father.”

Nettle jumped down from the branch in which she’d been perched and gave the human one last look. She tipped her head from one side to the next trying to decide what it was she found so compelling about him. Just as she was about to run back to her father, the boy turned his head and looked straight at her. His bright blue eyes reminded her of the water in which she’d splashed and for a moment, she felt as though she were drowning. Neither of them moved.

“I thought humans couldn’t see me?” Nettle whispered to a group of rabbits grazing nearby. The rabbits looked up and twitched their noses but offered no speculation. Nettle was caught between wanting to interact with the human and the need to flee. As if fate had decided for her, the boy began walking toward her but stumbled, twisted his ankle, and fell to the forest floor. He cried out in pain sending a flurry of birds skyward.

Nettle heard the wind’s warning caressing her cheeks as it wrapped around her. “Let the boy be and return to your father.”

But he was hurt and she couldn’t turn her back on him now. She approached him slowly. He sat massaging his ankle, looking up at her with a mixture of anticipation and fear in his eyes.

“Is it bad?” Nettle asked, sitting down beside him and pulling her legs underneath her.

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Let me see.” She put her hand over his ankle and closed her eyes, concentrating a moment on the feel of muscle and bone beneath his skin. The boy didn’t flinch. After a moment, she was done.

He looked at her with wide eyes. “How did you do that?”

She shrugged. “My name is Nettle. What’s yours?”

“Adam.”

“You must be far from home, Adam.”

He looked away and she could feel the flush of heat through him. She understood. He had meant to get as far away from home as he could.

“It isn’t safe here after dark,” she told him.

“I’m only passing through.”

“No matter,” she said jumping to her feet and stretching out a hand to help him up, “Tag. You’re it!”

He blinked his eyes and looked dumbfounded for a moment. She half expected him to protest at playing kid games but even if he thought it, he pushed those beliefs aside and took off running after her.

Nettle ran fast but she’d underestimated the speed at which the human would catch her. She squealed as his arms wrapped around her waist and pulled her close. They spun around and fell into a bed of leaves giggling.

When finally they’d come to a rest, Nettle looked up into his eyes. She only had a fraction of a second to process his intentions before it happened. His lips covered hers and she closed her eyes, knowing she should push him away, but feeling so hopelessly pulled into him that she knew it would take more strength than she had to do so.

Adam sat up and looked out over the expanse of trees that surrounded them. Slowly, she gathered her senses as she joined him, taking his hand in hers.

“Nnnneeetttllleeee…” the wind whispered, “Your father grows impatient.”

“I must go,” she told Adam.

“Wait. Will I see you again?”

She shook her head. “In two weeks I will marry.”

His face twisted into a frown. They’d only just met but somehow she felt as though she’d known him forever and without words she felt his pain, a different sort that she couldn’t make go away with a touch.

“Come,” she said putting out her hand, “And I will make sure you pass safely through the forest.”

**

Maybe Nettle will choose to run away with her new friend? 😉

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.

Advertisements

#AtoZChallenge Visitors from Beyond – Mesmerized by the Mermaid

 

mermaid

As a kid, I’d been enamored by mermaids so much (thanks, in part to the movie Splash starring Tom Hanks, and in part due to my love of swimming) that I’d used every birthday wish to become one. It’s only fitting, having just celebrated another birthday earlier this week that I let M stand for Mermaid! Incidentally, I have yet to sprout fins but if I do, you can bet I’ll be blogging about it!

“I thought I might find you here.” Adam handed his brother a cup so hot that steamed poured into the chilly morning air. Mark took it and mumbled his thanks. He held the cup close for warmth. He couldn’t remember how long he’d been sitting on the pier overlooking the ocean but the fact that the sun had broken into the sky was a pretty good indication that it was longer than he’d intended.

“I was hoping maybe you’d snuck off with that blond you were talking to last night,” Adam continued as he settled in next to his brother, “But I guess I should have known better.”

“What are you doing here, Adam?”

“I thought you could use something to warm you up.”

Mark shifted, feeling the stiffness in his back and legs from sitting so long. He was getting too old for this but he refused to admit it, least of all to Adam.

“We came to the beach to have a good time,” Adam said.

“You seemed to accomplish that last night.”

Mark could feel the tension from his brother. There was silence while Adam searched for an explanation but they both knew there was no point. Mark had liked Renee. She’d been good for Adam. Seeing him with someone else broke him in inexplicable ways.

“Renee and I broke up a week ago,” Adam said softly.

“I know.”

“Anyway, that isn’t what I came out here for.”

“I know why you’re here and you can save your breath. I’m still going through with it.”

“Mark, it was fun when we were kids but we’re too old for that shit now. Come on. One of these days you’re going to get yourself hurt. Stop playing pretend and join the rest of us. Have a good time for once.”

“It isn’t pretend. You remember the stories Dad told us when we were kids?”

“Stories,” Adam said, “That’s all they were, told by a drunk.”

“I saw it. And so did you. Why do you waste so much energy denying it?”

Adam let out a slow breath and looked out over the rolling waves. Mark studied his brother’s face, looking for some sign of the boy who used to believe as passionately as he did. Where did that boy go? What happened to summers by the beach when they’d devise plans and expeditions to track down the creatures of the sea?

“Doing this isn’t going to bring back Mom,” Adam said finally. He pushed up to stand a moment longer, teetering at the edge of the pier as if he might jump in.

“Go back to your new girlfriend or play thing, whatever she is,” Mark said, “and go back to your parties and your drinks. Become the man you hated for so long.”

“Mark…”

“Save it, Adam. It’s done.”

“The others are asking about you. What am I supposed to tell them?”

“Tell them whatever you want.”

“And the blond?”

Mark said nothing because they both already knew the answer. As far as Mark was concerned, the blond didn’t exist.

Adam shook his head as he shoved his hands deep in the pockets of his leather jacket and walked away, leaving Mark alone with the coffee he’d never drink, and the fantasies about what lay beneath the water’s surface. In the distance Mark watched dolphins jumping and playing and envied their freedom.

Maybe Adam was right? Maybe he was getting too old to hang on to stories told by a drunken old fisherman about alluring creatures who were half human and half fish?

Except he couldn’t shake the image from his mind of the girl in the water who had once saved his life when he wasn’t more than five. Adam had seen it too even if he refused to admit it. And ever since that day, Mark had been plagued by dreams of her calling to him, begging him to return. It made sense to no one, not even himself, but he couldn’t escape the pull of the tide as he sat on the pier and waited.

Too many years had passed. He wasn’t a boy any longer. Slowly, he stretched his legs and placed the coffee cup to one side before getting up and splashing down into the calf deep water and wading over to the small boat.

His hands shook with anticipation as he made his way out into the depths of the ocean. If things went as planned, he would not return.

As he squinted toward the shoreline he thought he saw Adam waving but he brushed it off as imagination. There were some rifts that could never be repaired, even between brothers. The coffee cup sat abandoned on the edge of the pier and for a moment, he wished he’d taken it with him as a reminder of the life he couldn’t live.

He cut the engine and dove into the ocean before second thoughts took over. The icy cold water cut through his flesh and stole his breath away. He dove down again, forcing his limbs to carry him deeper, ignoring the burning in his chest when he ran out of air. His ears threatened to explode and his body resisted his movements.

But finally, he saw her. She smiled and waved to him, beckoning him closer, long dark hair swirling around her head.

Her arms pulled him into an embrace and dreams blurred into reality.

They were together, at last.

**

I can’t tell you what this year’s  birthday wish was because if I did, it might not come true… Yes, I still believe in wishes! Rest assured it has more to do with getting my stories into the hands of readers who will love them than condemning myself to an aquatic life. More realistic? Maybe. 😉

**

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.

#AtoZChallenge Visitors from Beyond – Lured by La Sayona

beautiful girl ghost, witch bride in a white dress holding a bla

According to Wikipedia, La Sayona is a legend from Venezuela, represented by the vengeful spirit of a woman who shows up only to men who have love affairs outside their marriage.

Technically, perhaps it should have been filed under S but I’m using creative license once again, this time with the alphabet.

** Warning ** This story contains adult themes. If you are under 18 or sensitive to stories of this nature, please don’t continue. Thanks!

Craig replaced the phone in the receiver and glanced at his watch.

“Shit,” he mumbled under his breath. He’d been so busy, he completely forgot to pick up a gift for his wife, Lea’s birthday. He was trying to decide how he could make a quick stop and still make it to the bakery to pick up the cake when Jenny walked in and handed him a stack of files.

“You feeling okay?” she said.

Craig sat back in his chair and took in the sight of her. She was wearing his favorite skirt again, the one that almost showed a hint of the lacy garter he knew he’d find underneath it. He tugged at his tie and wondered if she was wearing the matching black panties.

“I’m fine,” he said, “Just feeling a bit tired.”

“Oh, I almost forgot,” she said. She disappeared a moment and came back holding a small box wrapped in elegant silver paper with matching bow, “You’ll need this.”

He reached over the desk but instead of taking the gift, he grabbed her wrist and held it tight. He watched the look in her eyes darken and he wondered if he had enough time to lean her over his desk and do all the things he knew she liked. The scent of her perfume was making him heady with lust.

“You’re my lifesaver, Jenny.”

“I do what I can, Mr. Larson. You asked me to pick this up a week ago, remember?”

He’d completely forgotten, of course. When it came to Lea’s birthday, nothing stuck. When it came to the feel of Jenny’s smooth skin under his fingertips, however, he remembered every little detail. He inhaled deeply and closed his eyes.

“Craig,” he corrected. He hated it when she called him Mr. Larson.

“I hope she likes it.” Jenny tugged her arm free and smoothed her palms over her thighs. She looked a little shaken, like he’d had an effect on her and wanted to hide it. His fingertips itched with the need to tangle his hands in her hair as he kissed her breathless. He pushed up from his chair and crossed the short distance to reach her. She looked up at him with wide, brown eyes.

“Mr. Larson, I don’t think we should…”

He didn’t give her the chance to finish. He needed the taste of her on his tongue, his hands filled with her shapely bottom. She didn’t resist as he nudged her back until her legs hit the desk. As she sat on the edge, he was already freeing buttons on his shirt with one hand and gliding his palm over her thigh with the other, determined to find out what lay out of his sight.

“Mr. Larson, your wife is expecting you…”

“She won’t mind if I’m a couple minutes late.”

“But it’s her birthday.”

He pushed her hair over to expose her neck as he kissed and nibbled his way from her ear to her shoulder. When it came to Jenny, he had a hunger that would never be sated. She made little sounds as he reached around and unclasped her bra, eager to taste her nipple. He was so drunk on her that at first, he couldn’t understand why her palms were pressing against his chest. Finally, he stepped back, acknowledging her desire to stop.

“What’s wrong?”

“This isn’t very romantic.”

“That’s not what you said last time.”

“I’m sorry, I should have never…”

“Never what?”

“That weekend you took me on the business trip, you told me you were leaving your wife.”

“I am.”

“When, Craig? That was six months ago. We can’t keep screwing in the supply closet like animals. It isn’t right.”

“Well, I can’t leave her tonight,” he said feeling the irritation rise. Why were woman so damned demanding? “It’s her god damned birthday.”

Jenny had a look on her face like he’d slapped her but she pulled it together and started readjusting her clothes. So that was it then? He thought she would last a little longer than the last one before getting all needy on him. He’d given her a generous raise, enough that she’d gone and bought herself a brand new car. What more did she want?

He snatched the gift off his desk and his jacket from the back of his chair.

“Craig, wait. We need to talk.”

“There is nothing to talk about, Jenny. You made your feelings clear enough. I need to get home to my wife.”

“Craig… I’m pregnant.”

He stopped. He could feel the weight of her stare on his back. How could she even be sure it was his? He had a pretty good idea he wasn’t the only man in her life. Typical bitch resorting to manipulation to get what she wanted.

“Clear out your desk, Jenny. You’re fired.”

He heard her gasp but he didn’t stand there long enough to listen to her cry. He hurried out to the elevator, punching the buttons until the doors finally opened, welcoming him into their serenity. He tried to calm his breathing as he hit the button for the lobby. He didn’t even notice he wasn’t alone until the sound of her voice caught him off guard.

“Tough day?”

He turned around to the most stunning woman he’d ever seen. She could have stepped right off the runway of a New York fashion show. His gaze traveled the length of her body, reveling at her low cut blouse and long, lean legs. He was pretty sure he’d never seen her in the building before and he’d worked here long enough to catalog all the women worth knowing.

“You could say that. I fired my secretary.”

“So hard to find good help these days,” she said with a smile. The sound of her voice and the look in her eyes drew him in. He found himself smiling at her despite his earlier agitation.

“I don’t suppose you’re in the market for a new job?” he teased.

“You can’t afford me.”

“I could probably make a few cuts in the budget to accomodate your, um, high demands.”

She laughed and the sound of it filled his ears and made him hard. He hoped he wasn’t reading her wrong. She reached forward and hit the emergency stop button before the elevator had a chance to settle on the main floor.

“My employer makes certain I am well compensated for my special skills,” she said plucking the gift from his hand and holding it up, “You look like you have somewhere you need to be.”

“Nowhere special. It can wait.” He inhaled sharply as she stepped so close their noses nearly touched.

“Do you like to play?” she whispered in his ear.

“Baby, I’ll play with you any day.”

His cell phone vibrated in his pocket. Much to his dismay, the woman reached to grab and answer it before he could stop her.

“What the hell?” he said, trying to get his phone back. It was probably Lea wondering when he’d be home from work. She was having her parents over for dinner and probably felt the need to remind him to pick up the cake because she knew he’d forget.

He heard Lea’s on the other hand asking who was speaking and wondering where was Craig?

“I’m so sorry,” the woman said, “but your husband has been in an accident.”

“Shit. Give me the damn phone,” Craig yelled. “I am okay, Lea. I’ll be home soon, Honey.”

Whether she’d heard him or not, he wasn’t sure. The stranger disconnected the call, never taking her eyes off Craig.

“What the hell is wrong with you? That was my wife.” He snatched the phone and the gift and hit the elevator buttons, trying to make it start moving again. The elevator wouldn’t budge.

“She will miss you. As will your pregnant mistress. Those two will have a lot to talk about at your funeral.”

“How do you know…?”

The woman smiled before nudging him aside to activate the elevator again. At her touch, it came to life instantly except, instead of going down, it started moving up.

“I’m getting the hell out of this elevator,” Craig said poised at the door to leap at the first chance.

“What’s wrong? Don’t you like my games, Mr. Larson?”

“Psychotic bitch.”

“That isn’t very nice.”

The elevator came to an abrupt stop and Craig readied himself to exit. He couldn’t stand another moment being next to her. But instead of the doors opening, the elevator began freefalling. He grabbed the side.

“Goodbye, Mr. Larson. It’s been a pleasure.”

She smiled and gave him a little wave as he looked at her in terror, unable to form the words to speak.

Just before the elevator crashed, she vanished.

**

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.

#AtoZChallenge Visitors from Beyond – Kidnapped by the Kasha

Demonic eyes
According to Wikipedia, the Kasha is a Japanese yokai that steals the corpses of those who have died as a result of accumulating evil deeds. According to a site dedicated to yokai, they are a type of monster cat and live among humans disguised as ordinary house cats or strays.

Think of that next time you pet your cat!

Karen juggled three heavy shopping bags as she settled on a shortcut between two buildings as a faster route home. She cursed under her breath as she looked up at the darkening sky. The weather man hadn’t said anything about the possibility of rain in the forecast but it would be just her luck to get caught in a downpour while she was forced to carry groceries home on foot.

The car would have been fixed by now if it weren’t for the fact that her sister had fallen ill. Having no one else to turn to, she’d ended up on Karen’s doorstep and although she hadn’t seen her sister in years, she didn’t have the heart to turn her away. What little extra money Karen had was currently being poured into an endless stream of medical costs for a woman who she felt she barely knew.

“How do I get myself into these situations?” Karen mumbled as she hurried along the cobbled path, glancing warily at the sky as she moved. One of the bags threatened to topple but she managed to get it back under control. She should have turned Kiera away. If the roles had been reversed, she had no doubt Kiera would have done exactly that for her.

The first thick drops of rain began hitting the top of her head and splashing the brown paper bags in her arms. She groaned and broke into a run. She was so close to home. Couldn’t the rain hold out just another five minutes?

Karen tripped and stumbled, sending one of the bags to the ground scattering its contents. Apples rolled down the alleyway. She put down the other bags as she tried to gather her groceries together although it was a hopeless cause because the bag had torn down the center and the other two were already overly packed. Rain poured harder.

Something small and black stepped out from behind a garbage bin. Its green eyes glowed in the dim light.

“What are you doing out in the rain?” Karen said as she stooped down to pet the cat. It was so thin she could feel its bones as she stroked the wet, matted fur. “You must be a stray.”

The cat meowed and Karen looked back at her bags.

“I think I might have something for you,” she said. She dug through one of the bags searching for the deli cheese and opened it to give a couple of slices to the cat. It ate the offered food gratefully and rubbed against her legs and she stood up to gather what she could and make it the rest of the way home. She shouldn’t have been surprised when she reached her house and turned around to find the cat waiting expectantly.

“You followed me home? Oh no, Kitty, you can’t live here. My sister isn’t much of a cat person.”

The cat meowed but didn’t budge. Thankfully the rain had eased up a bit but Karen’s clothes had already soaked through and her groceries were in a dreadful state. She unlocked the door and sighed as the cat bolted past her legs and rushed into the house.

“Well, it is my house,” she mumbled under her breath, “If Kiera doesn’t like it, she can go somewhere else.”

“Is that you, sister?” Kiera called out.

“Yes, I am back.”

“You were gone so long,” Kiera whined.

“I could barely manage the groceries as it was and then it started to rain.”

“I’m so hungry,” Kiera complained, ignoring the fact that Karen would have much preferred to change out of wet clothes and maybe soak in a hot bath before being forced to play nurse again.

“I’ll make you a sandwich,” Karen said with a sigh.

In the kitchen, she found the cat on the window sill licking its fur. It looked up at her as she walked in the room and jumped down, meowing.

“You’re going to have be quieter than that if you expect to live here without that sister of mine making a fuss about it. Hush. I will give you some milk and tuna.”

Karen gave the cat its meal before putting together a sandwich for Kiera. The cat paused from eating to follow her as she took the plate to her sister’s bedroom.

“Oh no, Kitty. You stay here.”

Karen pushed open the door and made sure it closed behind her before the cat could sneak into Kiera’s room. She helped prop up her sister and offered her the tray of food.

“Who were you talking to?” Kiera asked.

“No one.”

“Don’t lie to me, sister. I may be sick but I am not stupid and you were never a very good liar. Remember when we were kids?”

“Barely.”

“It does seem quite a long while ago, doesn’t it?”

“So many years I’d convinced myself you were merely a figment of my imagination.”

“You choose now to be cruel?”

“I have taken you in, haven’t I? Very few would in my position.”

Kiera made a sound but chose not to comment. Perhaps in her frail state, she finally saw her own actions for what they were? Karen didn’t want to ruminate on the reasons for too long. It would mean drudging up a lot of emotions she’d long buried. Instead, she went over to the window to allow some air into the room.

“Karen, when I’ve passed, you will see to it that I have a proper burial, won’t you?”

“Of course,” Karen said feeling the heat rise to her face. Kiera was right, she’d never been a very good liar. It wasn’t bitterness for the past that kept her from granting Kiera’s last wishes, but rather her dwindling savings account that would hinder how much she could do.

When she turned back to her sister, her eyes had closed. Her chest rose and fell in ragged breaths. Karen was not a doctor but she knew her sister’s condition was getting worse at a rapid rate. She considered calling a friend to help transport her sister to the hospital but she knew Kiera would refuse. They’d already had that argument.

Her sister’s health continued to deteriorate over the course of the night while the cat paced outside the bedroom. A couple of times, Karen tried to shoo it outside as she frantically called for help but the cat refused to move. The doctor, who was kind enough to make a house visit in the middle of the night, told Karen there was nothing left to do for her and she would likely not make it through the night.

Karen sat her sister’s bedside, rocking back and forth in the old rocking chair she’d inherited from their mother and tried to come to terms with the end. Before long, her eyes had grown heavy and she’d drifted into sleep, dreaming of the time when they were children, before adulthood stool their innocence and Kiera stole the man who should have been her husband. At some point, the cat managed to creep into the room and rested in Karen’s lap as she gently petted it. Karen considered scooping him up and throwing him out but he offered comfort she was reluctant to give up.

When Karen opened her eyes to sunshine and birds singing in the trees outside, at first she’d forgotten why she’d fallen asleep in the rocking chair in her guest room. Then it came to her and she bolted upright, guilty that she’d fallen asleep instead of staying at her sister’s side to her last breath. She stopped short when she realized the bed was empty.

“Kiera?”

Frantically, she searched through the house, moving from room to room looking for her sister. There was no sign of her anywhere. And there was no sign of the cat who had occupied the room with her.

Dumbfounded, she tried to come up with an explanation for the strange turn of events but nothing made sense or explained the trail of blood from the bedroom out the front door. Her sister had simply vanished.

**

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.

#AtoZChallenge Visitors from Beyond – Jengu

Water fairy walking into the moon

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.

Hope.

**

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.