Sometimes you choose. Sometimes you are chosen.
Photo credit: Daniel Dietrich
Amman’s small boat rocked gently on the deep blue water. The cliffs of Evarren rose high behind him, towering bleak rocks ever in shadow, and the wild Unpassable Forest guarded the distant shore. But here, in the center, the lake was warm and inviting. Other than the lack of fish. Amman had rowed right to this spot by instinct, sure that it was right, but nothing had so much as nibbled.
He prayed to Xangan, opening his heart to her depths, his hand dipped in the water, sun beating on his closed eyes. The familiar feeling filled his chest—cold, wet, peaceful. So immense. So beautiful.
Something grabbed Amman’s hand and tugged. He had only enough time to yelp before he was overboard. Wielding his knife in his other hand, he prepared to fight off whatever sea creature this might be. His eyes gaped. He remained captive, but the water was clear.
While he struggled, uselessly, the unseen force dragged him deeper. Soon he could see the bottom. Amman had dived enough to know his endurance, and he was running out of time. He calmed himself, hoping to save what strength he had left. If the invisible monster freed him, he might still return to the surface in time. If it was Xangan’s will that he drown, so be it.
Then he spotted it, sparkling, on the lake bed—a necklace of green gems, around the neck of a half-buried skeleton. The same as those worn by the water priests and priestesses. For a moment he forgot his own dilemma. He must return it to the temple. Was it blasphemy to touch it? He had no choice. With his thoughts churning madly, Amman didn’t realize he was free until he reached forward. He grasped the necklace, pulling the dangling ends away from the skeletal neck.
A fierce current yanked at the necklace. Amman flailed, grabbing at it. It flitted back and forth, and then somehow was around his neck. The central gem affixed itself to his bare chest, burning cold.
This was blasphemy, he was certain. The urge to inhale intensified, overwhelming doctrinal concerns. If he didn’t get to the surface quickly, his last act would be stealing a sacred amulet from a corpse.
Movement below him caught his eye. The skeleton shifted, its bony hand flitting up almost like a wave, and it sunk into a crevice in the mud, disappearing.
Glancing up, the shimmering sun seemed ages away. Amman pumped his arms and legs but it was no use. His lungs were bursting. It was too late. He prayed to Xangan. Take me if you will.
A thought came to him. Just breathe.
Amman was at the end. He inhaled, wondering how much it would hurt to drown. But no. He breathed in, his lungs filling, impossibly, with air. He exhaled and inhaled again, his swimming rhythm easing as his desperation ebbed.
Breaking the surface, Amman made his way to his boat and pulled himself in. The lake was calm, normal. Nothing betrayed his bizarre experience, or explained it. The green amulet was no longer cold. He cupped it in both hands to examine it. Oddly heavy, it pulled toward his chest, like a magnet. He returned it to its place there. Its correct place.
So quickly, a life changes.
All around him, colors flashed. The fish had returned, in numbers. He smiled. Soon he would have to go to the temple, explain this, hope they believed him. For now, he would fish.
Amman dipped his hand into the water and prayed to Xangan. Take me if you will.
A ripple tickled at his fingers. It might have been a fish. But he thought not.
Inspired by the Blog Propellant’s Picture Prompt #48. Thanks for the inspiration, LRose! The challenge was to write a story with the theme “against my will” and one of the two photos, including the one shown below. I love this photo, but the resolution wasn’t high enough when I blew it up larger for my header. 😦
Photo © Mark Tippler