Sometimes it’s a punch. Sometimes a kick. On the good days they just breathe nasty words next to my ear. It depends on their mood really. On the very good days, there is nothing at all and I can stay in bed for a bit longer. But those days don’t really happen that much anymore.
I don’t mind it though. My mother used to call it tough love. That’s what they do, she would say, you just have to live through it. And always be grateful, no matter what. I am very grateful though. I have an important job. Without my long walks to the river, the family would not have any water. No water to drink, no water to bath, no water to wash away their sins. Also, no water means death. I see a lot of dead things on my daily trips to the river. They were not strong like me. They probably didn’t obey and fetch the water like they were told. I used to feel sorry for them but now I don’t feel anything at all. Stupid things really! Why couldn’t they just have done what they were told? Then they too would have an important job and a roof over their heads.
I was told never to enter the river myself. They will grab you and pull you down, the family say. I sometimes wonder what it must feel like to be pulled under and to see the world disappear. It must be thrilling! But I would never do something like that. What if I never came back? Then they would find another like me and give her my important job. I hate that thought. I am the only one who can carry the water. Without me the family have no water.
I love the morning walks. If I had a nose, I think I would like to smell the strange purple flowers that grow out of the dead things that line the path. I wonder about the flowers. I wonder why they are that colour and not another. Would they still grow even if the dead things were not there? Also, why does nothing else grow? No flowers or plants in the dusty soil. No nothing at all. I used to know the answer to that…or at least I think I did…no, I must have…oh, I can’t remember. It probably doesn’t matter anyway. Too many questions will rot your soul, my mother would say. Or was it that they would rot your teeth? Damn, another question I will never know the answer to.
Unfortunately the dead things don’t talk and neither does mother anymore.
Story written by Shane O’Halloran. Water Maiden originally published by Ink and Voices.