Hello again! This is another one-shot written for the Labyfic LJ. I hope you enjoy it :) Reviews/comments most welcome.
Disclaimer : I don't own anything of the Labyrinthine world, except the maze of my mind.
Singing Her Down
Her skin was blue with the promise of death.
Long coltish legs lazed back and forth in the current, only recently bereft of thought and will to move them. Her hair, long and fine, tangled with the water weeds like a black stain of ink. She had a lean, boyish figure as most girl-children do when only ten years have passed. It would have been a few scant years before that form began to blossom. Time would have played with this one with great delight, merely needing to coax rather than force mother nature to assume that which had been laid down at birth. A promise and a wonder.
Such a pity.
"What is a pity?". Ah, her mind was still her own. The fragile brain, dying so far from the breathing world above, sought perhaps to give her this final moment. Again, she tried to guess who thought her a pity. There were voices like her own in this dark place. Girlish, lilting voices, singing her down...
They were weeds, or were they hands? They grasped her, holding her gently. She tried to remember how it was she had come to be here. She was tumbling backwards through her life, from first breath till last.
"No, not the cold one" they sang, spinning her around and around. But there, laying in the muck at the bottom, yes, that was what I was looking for wasn't it?
"I'm cold. I don't want to die in the cold"
"Is this better?"
"Yes". Someone brushed their finger along her cheek. She didn't know if her eyes were open, but she could see him. He hung in the water but he was not part of it. Not like she was a part of it, with the coldness seeping into her pores, flooding her lungs. It slid around him. He was warm. He held her close on the bottom of the lake. She let him put his long arms around her like a father she had always longed for.
His face was full of long shadows as he smiled at her. His eyes; one was as blue as her own and the other, the other looked just as dead as grannys' had been at the bottom of the stairs that day.
"Are you dead?" she asked.
"No, little girl. But you will be, soon"
"Oh I thought I knew...I do know how to swim. Mother taught me I'm sure"
"Even the strongest swimmer will not survive the water-sprites' song"
"Why would they want me? I'm nobody. I'm just a girl" she said. In the corner of her eye she could see them now. Long green shapes that swirled in a timeless dance with drowned souls.
The man stroked her face again, forcing her gaze away from the nymphs. His mouth seemed to shape the words. Don't you know why?
"Who are you?". It seemed a likely question to ask, she thought, given that this was not at all like she expected dying to be. It was nothing like the Priest at school had told her when he'd come to tell her where granny had gone. Unless..."Do you have wings?"
The mans' smile grew broader. "Not today Jenny"
"Why are you here with me now?"
"Because I always care for what is mine. And, I would not ever have it said again that I am not generous" he answered.
There was a faint pressure on her arms and legs, an insistent tugging now. All through the dark water, the sprites' singing became louder. It was a coarser song now, nothing like the sweet melody that had lured her. Above her, a great white light came closer and closer and still the man held her, his strong legs moving ponderously as the sprites clung to them.
"Are we going to Heaven?". She cried out as pain seared her, her body convulsing. The brightness enveloped them now completely, dazzling and soft. Below, the sprites screamed and churned the waters of the lake in anger. From far away, she heard someone shout out in alarm. Look, over there!
The man laughed. "No, beautiful Jenny. Heaven is not mine to open for the likes of us. You need it not and you never will. Here" he whispered. Something heavy rolled into her palm. As she watched, the shining globe spun and the sun caught it, sparkling. "Keep it safe for me, won't you?". His cold lips pressed against her forehead.
She wanted to say 'yes' but the demands of life returning to sundered flesh prevented her. She gasped, choking as the dank slimy water of the lake forced it's way out of her lungs. She flailed on the surface. Desperately she sought something to cling to, but he was gone. A hand, rough and strong, gripped her. Men shouted.
"I've got her, I've got her. Tell them I've found her!"
The green grass of the park grounds accepted her like she'd never left it. All around, people ran to and fro. Police sirens quieted as the word spread. Someone shook her shoulder.
"It's alright honey, you're safe. Just take nice deep breaths for me now, that's the way. We've been looking for you for more than an hour you know..."
"Jenny!". The word was repeated, over and over, in the long minute it took her mother to reach her.
The mortal rescuer, his role momentarily forgotten, withdrew to savour the reunion of mother and daughter. Ah yes, it was times like these that made his job bearable. Never mind that other thing...that thing in the water that he'd seen, slipping away into the depths even as he laid hand to the drowning child. Water could play tricks on a mans' eyes...
To Jenny it seemed like her mothers' arms were both frail and unbreakable at the same time. It was a circle of protection that she chafed under some days. "I'm sorry mother, I'm so sorry. I know you said never to come here I know but I was angry and I had, I had, he was..."
"Shh. It's okay Jenny. I'm not angry at you. I'm just so happy you're safe now".
Senses and memories were coming back at her now. She shouldn't have run off like that, least of all to this place, this park that her mother refused to take her to and who made her swear, never never never to come here. But it was alright wasn't it. She had the old dog with her didn't she? The old friend who would keep her safe. Old dog, too old to be chasing a ball into the water.
"Oh mother! Merlin! He's still in there, in the lake. Oh I couldn't save him, mother, I couldn't..."
"Hush. I know you would have tried to. You are such a brave, beautiful girl. And he was an old boy. I had him when I was a girl you know. He was a good friend"
"But now he's gone"
"Yes Jenny. It's not fair, but that's the way it is. And no one can turn back the clock forever, no one" Her mother scooped her further into the blanket that the ambulance man had given her.
"We really should get her to the hospital. We need to check her out properly" he was saying. Jenny found herself being lifted, handed into the arms of the paramedic. They had drawn the ambulance right up to the lakeside. Cold stethoscope, plastic oxygen mask. Clutched in her hand, a tiny sphere of crystal, shrunken now to the mere size of a pebble, all the better to go unseen of course.
Her mother stroked her damp hair away from her face as the sirens sounded and the ambulance lurched. "We've been so lucky today Jenny. God has been so..." she stammered, tears starting afresh. Jenny wondered at the words, for surely her mother had never been so religious as to thank God like that. But a child's sudden insight came to her and she reached to take her mothers' trembling hand in her own. The tiny orb pulsed between them.
"Yes mother. He's been very...generous"