Yearning for Wonderland
This is for Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction.
The word this week is: Flight.
“Your hair is such a bird’s nest,” said her mother.
She ran a comb severely through Ellie’s ringlets, neatly dividing the curls from one side to the other.
Ellie wished she wouldn’t say such things. When her mother tugged too hard, the birds always took flight.
The birds did make such a mess.
This was my entry in the Jeff Tsuruoka’s Mid-Week Blues Buster from two weeks ago. I earned a 3rd place mention with it. Feel free to listen along to the song that inspired it.
I have always found this myth especially tragic, the story of a doomed water nymph whose love of a human makes her mortal. I hope you enjoy this retelling.
The Death of Undine
Would the sea be the ink and the sky the paper, could I not write then how deep my love is. – “Ink”, Faun
Thorns tore at her water-laden skirts. These mortal fabrics weighed her down as she stooped at the water’s edge.
She dipped her hand in the water eagerly, but it was brackish and did not caress her skin as it once had. She tasted blood where her lip was cut by a small stone.
Her fingers traced along her leg, where the fishermen’s net still bound her. As the cords dried, they cut cruelly into her pale-washed skin.
She plucked at them hopelessly. They bound her as surely as Hans did. Water lapped at her feet, bringing her an unfamiliar reflection of a woman with dark, empty eyes and hair stiffened to seaweed strands.
She spun at the first twig-crack. “I told you to leave me,” said she, “or they shall see you die too.”
His dear hand, thick-fingered and studded with riding calluses, traced the tear down her cheek. Hans tasted it, “You are the only woman I have met whose tears never taste of salt.”
She closed her eyes and kissed him once more; she couldn’t help it. Every drop of her feelings trickled to her fingertips as she touched his face. When she opened her eyes, her sisters rimmed the far edge of the pool.
“Undine,” the first said.
“Please,” Undine begged, “you take too much. Why can I not suffice?”
“Undine,” said the second.
“Cruel sisters, I implore you…”
It was too late. Hans folded up like a leaf in the current, her tears on his lips.
Undine turned to her final sister, who stepped into the edge of the grey-tinted pool.
“Say it, then,” Undine said.
“Undine,” the third sister whispered.
Undine looked with mild surprise at the man curled at her feet, “Who is this handsome man who lays here?”
Undine’s first sister drew near, taking her hand.
“Sister, can you not heal him?”
The wind through the trees murmured of impossiblities. Her sisters tugged her gently beneath the surface of the water.
“Pity,” thought Undine, just as her mouth filled with water, “how I should have loved him.”
Sometimes when your heart is hurting, all you can do is write. The prompt is from Angela Goff’s Visual Dare.
Even after fifty years of adventures, of hand-holding and dish-breaking, of her winding his watch and him ironing her newspaper, Solomon had thought she’d live forever.
“Set me as a seal upon your heart,” she used to sing, “as a seal upon your arm. For love is strong as death.”
She’d tease him about his name and those Bible verses. “They’re the naughty ones, y’know,” with a mock-demure look through eyelashes.
Now she lay inert, a madonna enwreathed with wires and an irritable chorus of machines.
“…something for the pain,” he said, again.
“Not long now.” The nurse removed the untouched lunch tray.
He held her transparent hand, traced deep blue deltas winding sluggishly to the pulse, that metronome keeping her here.
Solemnly, ceremonially, he detached each plug, then wound his arms around her. He laid his deep-furrowed cheek on her still breast and set his seal upon her heart.