Water’s Edge

Jack walked down the hill to the stream to fetch some water.  It was dark, but starlight showed him the path. As he walked along he was troubled in his heart, for the foe they faced tomorrow was strong. But he resolved to obey.  He arrived at the stream and tried to push his fear away, and turned to the task at hand. As he knelt and lowered his bucket into the cool flow, he heard a splash. He looked up, and saw a figure silhouetted against the star scape on the other side of the narrow stream.

Jack stood and raised his arm. The figure raised his arm in return.

“Who are you?” Jack asked.

“Who are you?” the stranger echoed.

“Do not mock me,” Jake answered, and set the bucket down.

“Do not mock me,” the  voice replied.

A scout perhaps. Jack thought. He clenched his fists, and stepped forward into the water, which climbed his legs with each step.

The shadow advanced towards him, until they met in the middle of the stream, the water now up to their knees. It was too dark to make out his features, and all Jack could hear know was the trickle of the stream and the sound of their breathing.

“Reveal yourself, or test your strength” Jack commanded, looking beyond the stranger to see if he had company. He saw no one.

“Reveal yourself, or test your strength,” the man ordered.

Jack lowered his head and lunged. He hoped to flip the man into the water, and force his submission. His opponent had a similar plan, and they grappled with their arms about each other. They made an awkward dance couple, stumbling a few steps forward, and then a few back.

Jack knew a few tricks, and was able to trip his foe a few times, tumbling him into the water. He was not able to pin him though, as the man proved slippery and would stand up to continue the fight.

After a while, Jack broke his hold to catch his breath. His foe did the same. The man never called for aid, and Jack knew that he was alone and not of the party of his enemy.

“Join me, and I will make you rich,” Jack offered.

“Join me, and I will make you rich,” the man replied.

Jake rushed forward again, and the wrestling continued. Time passed, and yellows and oranges began to creep above the horizon.

“I must go now, let go,” his foe spoke in his ear.

Jake grunted, and tightened his grip, and he was immediately thrown down in the water. He grabbed hold of the man’s ankle, and would not release it.

“Who are you?” his foe asked.

“I am Jacob, and I am too weak to fight you any longer.”

“This is your name:  When you are weak, then you are strong. When you obey, then you are free. When you surrender, then you will triumph.”

“Who are you?” Jacob asked him.

“What does it matter? You have my blessing. Go and triumph.” The man melted away into the darkness.

Jacob was soaked to the bone, and weary, but his mind was clear. He got up and walked back to camp, never thinking about the bucket.



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Filed under Short Fiction

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