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And There by the River I lost my Glasses ~ Krobak
And There by the River I Lost My Glasses
There were no boats in that part of the river. Not on that day, and not on the days before it.
The streams rang swiftly by; like a bell, the waves tolled. However peaceful and gracious the waters were, the rumours made up for every ounce of guilty neutrality.
“Ther ‘us somethin’ lurkin’ in it, and those who fail to pass it are de’sinned to drown.”
Every Friday morning, I walked down to see if a ferry would be brave enough to try it. Friday mornings were always the busiest, and the waterways were crowded. It was likely that a new vessel may decide to test the bitter currents to reach their destination faster.
It was my morbid pleasure, hoping to find an unlucky soul taken by surprise. I felt awful, I felt excited. Could you blame me?
None were swept under the currents. Like a cultural norm, the whole world avoided that narrow pass.
The whole world… Except for me.
I was strong. I was brave. I had courage, unlike those blustering oarsmen. I could do what they could not. I had skill where they had none.
I remember the day I took myself down there, hat in hand. My glasses had brimmed my nose like the sunlight that flashed over the water.
Heads turned, women called to me. I smiled crookedly.
I rolled up my pants to the knees, and slowly stepped into the river. I could feel the waves whooshing over my feet and ankles like ribbons, tickling me, serenading my limbs to let go and float down to my death near the rocks. I laughed aloud.
There was a stick caught in the mud, a branch glued to the ground. It was tall when upright, maybe up to my chin, and about as wide as my wrist. I pulled it up, letting my sleeves drop past my elbow. More people gathered. They all knew what I was doing by now. I talked about it all the time; how I’d go through with it someday, prove it could be done.
“Yeah right, John. Just keep planning.”
The day was here, and I was going to be famous. Perhaps infamous if they got jealous. There was one thing I had made certain to myself: I was not going to die. And I believed that.
With the makeshift walking stick, I produced small steps. No boats interfered with my crossing; they all stayed upstream. No birds flew above me. No words were spoken.
I spotted a group of vultures making circles near the banks.
I heard someone ask if I had a will prepared. Another man was telling his friend how much of a pity it’d be to find my disfigured corpse; no one would get to it if it stayed among the forsaken pass.
With more determination, I continued. Stride after stride, I smirked, happily defeating al of the boats that had gone before me. I was now in part of the deepest water. It reached my chest.
Now my neck.
Now my chin.
I could feel the anxiety pulling into and out of my heart, washed away and replenished with the strength of the river…
I took in a deep breath and my head went under. After three leaps I was back in the better half of danger. My glasses had fallen off while I was frantically pushing against the pounding river’s voice; Follow me. Follow me. Follow me.
The bank was fuzzier without my clear lenses. I couldn’t see much, but there was a definite grey blob facing me; probably a woman hoping I would cross over to her and she would get the credit of saving me. I wondered why more people weren't there. Glory was treasured in this town.
I grinned again, beating the old superstitions. Were they really afraid of this? This puddle?
I braced myself when I approached where the current liked to linger. My throat constricted, and my legs ached. I could do this. I’d done it two-thousand times in my dreams.
I turned back to the grey blur. She was in my dreams. The woman was beautiful then (I supposed she still was even though I could not see her), and had those shades of white and black all over her, somehow shifting and stirring like light on the clouds, on the water, on my eyes.
In my fancies, she had a man beside her. He was her husband I knew, and they were on a honeymoon. I tried to think back to the stories I had heard, stories about a bride and a groom and a day never to be forgotten.
I heard men calling for me to come back, saying they saw something dangerous and I would die if I didn’t. They called that I had shown enough bravery and that I needed to come up.
“Please come up. Please, John. It isn’t worth it.”
I dug the tree branch deep into the slimy mud, and pushed myself against it. I felt the debris flutter by my arms, my body, and my face. I took in a gulp of that dirty water, but I made it across. Like a patchwork of bones and skin, I slammed onto a rock.
I was so tired, and I finally recognized the idiocy of this stunt. The paranormal aspects weren’t true, but it was still a river, which was indeed quite dangerous. I started fifteen feet upstream, and realized that the looming cheese grater o’ nature was not as far off as I would have liked it to be.
The grey woman held out her hand from her spot earnestly. I took it, choking on the stream. Her husband… Where was he? I knew he was an important figure of the story.
Drowned. That was it. He drowned here.
The grey lady yanked me up and out, rough and mercilessly. The woman handed me a pair of mildewed glasses, old and fashioned long ago. Her gloves were a strange hue of muddy brown that seemed to match the frames.
I slipped the spectacles on. They were definitely not mine.
I felt my stomach flip.
She was damning me to my death.
The grey I once found elegant and interesting was spattered with nature, with blood. Her teeth were as yellowed as her lace dress. She had drowned her love so very very long ago. Decades before I had even been a fetus.
The dress she wore was similar to the beating current of the river; intense, fierce, moving.
Her husband, I thought. Her poor husband.
I looked back, but it was too late. The river had consumed my line of sight. I was stuck behind her, and my body was quickly decaying.
She dug her hand into my slippery arm, licked her lips, and slammed my head into the water. I could hear her rasp the words “Who is she?” from beneath the waves.
My glasses filled, the water around my neck rose, and I recalled the adulterous affair I had with my own wife…