Rusalka Awakened

Rusalka Awakened

Bayveen O’Connell

I lay with my love where the silvery water lapped at the river bank and the cherry blossoms shivered and released their petals to float down towards the village. In the root-bed of the blooming tree, he pressed me into the earth while the sweet spring breeze sent dandelion seeds spiralling around us. He breathed in my ear as he thrust:

“I love you. I want you. I will not share you.”

I heard the warble of a blackbird as I sank further down into the bursting earth, into dark, moist nothing. My love buried me muddily with his body, silencing me with his hand round my throat and his tongue in my mouth. I tried to twist. I could still perceive the scent of the grass and the sound of the river undulating. I attempted to kick upwards but the blossom roots wedged me tight. A panic of blood filled my brain, the bellows of my lungs spluttered and the furnace of my heart began to grow cold. Blossoms and blackbirds and dandelion seeds danced in front of my eyes and an earthworm whispered:

“Do not fear maiden, you will live again.”

***

I thought I was blind for there was a fog before my eyes. I brought my fists to them and blinked. Around me were rocks and waving weed fronds. Seeing their movement, I stirred my arms only to see them flail in slow motion. A school of minnow darted past pursued by a leaping salmon. It minded me of my legs, and seeing light teasing down from the water’s boundary above, I made to kick from my feet through my calves and into my thighs to shoot upwards. But I moved not an inch and it seemed as though my muscles were not entwined around bone.

I wondered if I was lame. I looked down at my body: from the curve of my shoulders, to the white of my breasts, and the sweep of my sides down to my belly. But where were my hips and what happened to the dip at the spread of my legs? Gone! In their place was a shimmer of scales that tapered into a fish tail and I saw that I was half and half. Yes, half and half and neither one nor the other: maiden and fish. My hands swept slowly along my neck and my fingers touched upon little slits, three under each ear, where my love had choked me thumb to middle finger. I recalled the earthworm and the final moments of my life before. My legs fused where I was used. Healed now, I resolved to find the rhythm of my new skin. I took in the water; I would swim it and it would swim me.

***

Daylight shone down in beams piercing the ripples, reminding me that the land and sky were still there though not part of my world any longer.

Strangely then, I swear I heard my love’s muffled voice through the depths. Curious, I swam to the surface and breached it with the top of my head. Again I heard the utterance. It was him, for I knew the sound of him, and he was grunting. I tilted my face and neck out of the water and saw him in a violent tumble with a young woman. As he rolled with her to the wedging roots, I slunk to the river’s edge and rose up with my muscle tail treading water. Exposed to my belly, my papery skin revealed my heart pumping once more for him, only this time it pulsed with cold blood. My love looked at me, recoiling. Letting go of his prey, he scrambled to get the earth under his feet. Opening my mouth, I sang to him:

“I love you. I want you. I will not share you.”

 

I reached out my arms to him and he fell on his stomach, dragged by my voice, and came sliding over the grass, mud and reeds toward me. His eyes were screaming as I pulled him down into the river with me. He struggled, shaking against my grip, kicking and hitting out as I held his head under until all of his strength had seeped away and he was still.

The escaping maiden glanced at me over her shoulder. The tears streaking down her muddied cheeks were her thanks. And as my love floated away downstream to the village, I sank back into my watery domain.

Bayveen O’Connell

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