dead water

Competition Eleven Highly Commended: Dead Water by

She’d walked most of the way along a deep, dry river gorge, its uneven boulders easier to navigate than the treacherous craquelure of parched farmland; a vicious fissure had twisted her ankle.

 

The desiccated remnants of a lone sheep, fleece intact, the sole sign of life. She’d stroked it, unable to resist the temptation to touch softness, feel a caress. Two years since her parents; seven months since Felix. Some days big-sister guilt was all the nourishment she found. Was what kept her moving. That, and reciting words for rain like an enchantment: mizzle, drizzle, shower, squall; spitting, henting, hoying. Cats and dogs. Bucketing down.

 

From outside, service reservoirs resemble prehistoric barrow graves: low, man-made mounds in the landscape, covered with earth and vegetation. Inside, the architectural vibe is more Cold War; unembellished functional concrete. No ancestors haunted this one, its sole inhabitant and treasure the ‘dead water’ Cara sought.

 

Cara dipped her can, smelled the liquid. Fusty, sure. But uncontaminated. She drank cautious sips, aware guzzling meant colic.

 

It was hard to believe she’d found the reservoir from clues in the old man’s book. He’d passed it to her as his eyes dulled, tongue too cracked to speak. After all the bad luck, finally some good. Last night hardest of all; making herself wait, couched under skeletal trees on the overhanging riverbank, shrouded in leaf litter. Shuddering, alert for the tell-tale growls of those she must avoid. Brittle, wrung out like the shrivelled leaves.

 

Cara settled in a dry corner of the tank, took off her boot. Felt the structure rumble; it couldn’t be rain?

 

A murmur; a whimper. A wet nuzzle against her cheek; another on her bare leg. A snuffling terrier, a ginger kitten. Miracles of life.

 

Cara clutched them tight, stunned into sudden, purring hope.

 

 


 

 

Jo Clark is a developing genre-fluid writer living in the north of England. She enjoys running, sailing and rowing, and begrudgingly endures co-habitation with a cat who takes his alarm clock role far too seriously. Jo started writing flash in 2021 and enjoys experimenting with form and perspective in fiction. Her words have been featured in Funny Pearls and Daily Drunk, and she took 3rd place in the Spring 2022 Propelling Pencil Flash Fiction competition.

@the_joclark

 

Photo by Joetography

 

 

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