Not Napalka

Gurara Waterfalls from Google Maps for Pegman

Gurara Waterfalls, from Google Maps

All my life, I’ve sung prayers to Nepalka, the river god.  Taught by my grandfather, taught by his beforehand.  I never thought to meet Nepalka.

This spring, the waterfall burst early.  The fish jumped towards our nets, our boats, our shore.  What bounty!  A face appeared below the surface. Who else could it be?

The clan celebrated at water’s edge, tossing flowers and fruit and lucky fish tails, chanting joyously.  In the chaos, two children were lost.  Swept downstream, we thought.

Later, a fisherman went missing.  Then another.  The fish disappeared, and the water birds. No sounds but the churning, muddy water.

I hobbled in, placed the sacrifice basket, chanted supplications.  The face rose, exposing tentacle arms, eelish body.

It grabbed me, pulled me under. I’d failed my clan.

My last thought was of my fleeing grandchildren.  I wondered what prayers they would learn, to which god, of which river.

Word count: 150.  Written for this week’s What Pegman Saw challenge. Click the link to read the other stories written for this location/image, or to join in!

The photo is of the Gurara Waterfalls in Nigeria.  As the Gurara river was named after two gods, Gura and Rara, I was tempted to make the story about the Eneana deity Ranamanar, who resulted from the joining of two deities, Ranam and Manar.  But Ranamanar is a deity of love, and when I saw this fiercely rushing, muddy water, I knew my story had to be about fear and death.

So instead, I’m giving a bit of insight into the fey of Eneana.  Cultural depictions across the Triune (the continent we’re on now) show river and sea fairies, or nymphs, as having the heads and torsos of beautiful women merged into a bottom half of a fish or eel, usually with two or three arms on each side.  Hmm, I guess if you squint?  These misrepresentations result from very hopeful thinking or illusion magic, which fey can use to lure stupid humans closer.  The reality, as hinted at here, is much uglier and meaner.  I had to cut much of the description, like when the mouth opened wide to show double rows of teeth in a parody of a smile, and how the body rose from the water impossibly far, moving sinuously side to side like a snake, hypnotizing the viewers.

Seriously, just don’t mess with the fey in my world. The bards-tales are deceiving.  It’s not worth it.


37 thoughts on “Not Napalka

  1. I’m not sure which I like best: the story, or the explanation. I like the way you’ve taken the very ancient and widespread folktale of the water spirit and morphed it to slide into your fictional world.
    BTW I have a theory as to the origin of these folktales: no argument about the existence of the water spirit, but its form, so I believe, developed from the votive offerings, better known to archaeologists as the Paleolithic Venus.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I realize a lot of folks skip the notes, so I wrote the story (I hope) so that it stands alone, but I knew that you, of all people, would read the world-building information! People of many cultures have worshiped rivers (and lakes, mountains, and volcanoes) across the whole real world, so it makes sense in Eneana too.

      I’m not quite getting your connection to the Paleolithic Venus. All the images I can find show distinct legs, not something that might be mistaken for a fish body. Or do you mean something else?

      Liked by 2 people

      • There are a group of these Venus figures with kinda joined legs. It’s thought they used the ‘legs’ to stake into the ground. Also, some have arms that look more tentacle-like. They’re perhaps not Paleolithic but Meso- through Neolithic, and I think they’re found mostly in Danubean cultures. But I could be wrong on that. I’ll see if I can find some images.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Dang, I thought I made up the multiple arms / tentacles — none of the mermaid legends I know of include those. Okay, now I had to go look up the history of merpeople… and apparently there are depictions of mermen and mermaids even as far back as Mesopotamian artwork. So this is a (strangely) common and persistent theme!


    • Take it from me, it’s better to look at most of this world from a safe distance. 🙂 I’m disappointed that I haven’t been able to do more of the Pegman prompts. Some of them are just too urban for me to transport to Eneana, but mostly I’ve had to cut back on all of my flash posts to make more time for work and my other (in theory, publishable) writing. I’ll definitely stop by again when I next can, though!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Joy,

    I suspect that there’s a thin line between Eneana and our present world for you. I admire your dedication to creating authenticity and being true to it. Heart stopping tale with this prompt. Well done.



    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s important to me to make the cultures and people of Eneana feel real and true (without just being copies of our world), so I’m always happy to hear that it’s coming across that way. Thank you for your lovely comment!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Alicia! Yes, that definitely turned bad quickly! I was thinking he’d learned his lesson, though, if too late to survive his mistake — maybe that didn’t come across — that he’d realized this wasn’t his god but actually a monster, and yet his clan would have to flee, go to some other river, develop new traditions with a new river god. Well, at least the terror part came across, I’ll take it!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t thought of it that way but I agree with you — their practices would seem just as foreign to us as I’m sure ours would seem to them, good point! Thanks for the great comment Penny!


  3. Isn’t that the way with deities? Shower them with gifts then take it all away?
    How often “mankind” keeps hoping things will change and realise it won’t until it is too late.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s true, they do work in mysterious ways more often than not! Although in this case I was hoping the title gave it away — the monster is not the deity they thought it was. Although perhaps there never was a deity living in the river – either way, there’s a monster in it now, so FLEE! Thanks for reading, Dale!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Never trust a bard! They make stuff up so people will by them more ale 🙂 Love this story – how the trusting believers saw what they wanted to see until the evidence of the missing told them things were not as they should be. A tragedy of misplaced faith. Love the sound of your longer story – all those tentacles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In their defense, they’d been praying to their god of the river for generations and it had been working just as well as praying normally does. It was only when something showed up — that as you say, was NOT what it seemed — that the problems started! I like how you put it: a tragedy of misplaced faith. Thanks for the great comment, Lynn!

      Liked by 1 person

      • My pleasure, Joy. I really enjoyed it. It stirred some interesting questions in my head. I watched a classy horror film yesterday called The Witch. Set in New England in the 1630s amongst a group of English settlers, it has what you might expect – a witch (!) curses, spells, terrible consequences, but I thought the most interesting questions it raised were about faith and belief in the supernatural. Their beliefs primed them to see supernatural causes to events and rely on their Christian faith to support them through their troubles. Very interesting

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s an important thing to remember, both in real life and in writing fictional characters, that people interpret what they see based on what they expect to see, and sometimes what they want to see, for right or wrong.

        Liked by 1 person

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