October Contest Winners: Magical Realism
We are so happy to announce the winners of our October Contest! Both "El Duende" and "The Blind Oasis" will be featured in our First Annual Two Sisters Writing and Publishing Anthology of Fresh Writers, which we aim to publish in December 2017. Thank you to all entrants! Please check out our monthly contests!
"El Duende" by Casandra Hernández Ríos
The day a duende appeared in Emilio's room, he ran to tell his mother and father, but they looked at him with disappointment and shook their heads. They told him it was just his imagination, but Emilio insisted. He tugged at his father's sleeve until he gave in and agreed to look under the bed, where Emilio had seen the small, child-like creature run into. His father lifted the twin mattress from its frame and slid the wooden slots out of the way for a better look, but no duende. His father repositioned the slots, fit the mattress back, and sat on the edge of Emilio’s bed.
It hadn't always been this way, but for the past year, Emilio's father spent a lot of time explaining that gnomes, monsters, or creatures from his grandfather's stories couldn't be dreamed into reality. “Your abuelito told me the same bedtime tales when I was your age, but they’re just that—tales and stories,” his father said. Emilio caught himself beginning to re-explain, but he could see his father's patience had thinned by the way he looked and spoke at him. Both his parents looked at him differently, but he couldn't remember when it first happened. He just knew they had two ways of looking, the one they had for him and the one they had for Carmen, his baby sister.
Weeks passed and with each sighting, Emilio came to know the duende. He had a mischievous laugh, the kind of laugh Emilio had heard at school, a laugh shared by playground bullies. But Emilio didn't feel intimidated by the creature, he felt at ease, actually, when in his company. The mysterious creature had become his guest and Emilio tried to feed him, but the duende never ate the pan dulce or milk Emilio left for him. Emilio only caught glimpses of the duende, but was able to put together mental images to form a complete picture. The duende ran on skinny legs, the pant hems were closer to his knees than his ankles, and his large belly prominently featured its belly button. If Emilio had been more brave, he would have tried to capture him to clothe him, but like him, the duende was doing just fine on his own.
Most afternoons, he spent them in his room flipping through story books his grandfather had left behind for a clue as to why the duende had chosen Emilio, or he'd imagine being able to have a conversation with the duende and be able to ask him himself. Other times, when his mother didn't push him to leave his room for dinner, Emilio would sleep through afternoons. There were some days when he was overcome by an unexplained exhaustion and he'd tell his mother he couldn't eat or go to school because he was tired. It wasn’t a lie; he was tired. He thought the weight of keeping quiet about the duende had exhausted him. But he didn't want to get rid of the duende, for when Emilio wasn't home, all he could do was look for the duende in quiet corners, in the depths of shadows. He yearned for his company and the warmth he felt by being near the creature.
Winter and summer break always brought his grandfather back to Emilio. His grandpa lived in Guadalajara, six hours northwest from where Emilio's family lived in México City. Because his grandfather lives so far away, he'd stay a week or two at a time with the family. He had always looked forward to his grandfather's visit, even if it meant having to go to church on Sundays and having to sit on rigid pew benches. The awkwardness he felt, as he sat among people wearing their best clothes and best behavior, while they prayed or spoke softly to an invisible entity Emilio knew nothing about, would cause him to feel small. When his grandfather asked Emilio how he wanted to spend his domingo, the ten pesos his grandfather gave him after church to spend that day, he'd say “Xochimilco!”
Lake Xochimilco was Emilio's favorite place in the world. He had grown up hearing stories about the people his grandfather had met when he worked there on a chinampa, growing flowers and selling them to tourists, and about how during that time of his grandfather, he spent more time floating water than on land.
Before the duende, getting up on Sundays wasn't difficult. His grandfather would always knock on Emilio's room and Emilio would open the door, wearing a long sleeve shirt and pants his mother had picked out for him the night before. But this morning, Emilio's mother had had to drag Emilio from bed and helped him into his clothes because his grandfather was waiting for him.
“I'm really tired,” Emilio said, dragging his feet as they made their way from his room toward the front door. “Please let me stay home.”
“What's wrong with you?” she said. “You love going with your grandfather. It'll do you some good to leave the house for once.” She crossed her arms.
He plumped on the front steps, surrendering to his fate. He felt his shirt's collar tightening and the sweater, suffocating. He unfastened the top buttons and pulled his clothes away from his neck.
“Oh, it's okay,” his grandfather said, as he emerged from the house. “Let him stay. I can come back after church and take him to Xochimilco.” He smiled at Emilio and began to cross the yard toward the main highway.
His mother shook her head in disappointment. Emilio remained on the front steps, as he watched his grandfather disappear around a building.
His grandfather returned after church for Emilio, as he promised, and collected him and Carmen for the trip to Xochimilco. Emilio wanted to oppose Carmen's company, but he knew that it wasn't up for discussion. Now that the three were on the main pathway into Xochimilco, that morning's events felt silly. Emilio watched his grandfather and Carmen walk hand-in-hand several feet ahead of him. He felt better and was relieved to know that his grandfather wasn't mad at him. He had also managed to get the duende off his mind. But he couldn't leave him behind, not completely, because every now and then, Emilio thought he heard the duende's laugh. Every time he heard the sound, he turned and look around him, but no duende in sight, just other children running circles around their parents.
“Look at the pretty flowers!” Carmen said, bouncing in place. She turned to look back at Emilio. Her face was glowing. He hadn't noticed how pretty she looked in yellow, the color of the dress she was wearing, but he wouldn't tell her. She was three, but her features had sharpen, and Emilio could already imagine what she would look like when she turned his age. She had captured their parent's gaze and soon his grandfather's.
“Emi, Emi, look at the pretty flowers!” His sister was pointing at a woman in a chalupa, selling flowers.
“Yeah, yeah, I see them,” he said and rolled his eyes. He wasn't in the mood to put up with her. She had already ruined the day by tagging along. Couldn't she just leave him alone?
They continued walking until the part when the road forked, one side leading to a docks where trajineras, draped in red, yellow or blue paint, were anchored. The other path returned them home. Normally, they took a ride on the canal, but today was different. His grandfather stopped and thought for a moment. He looked at Emilio.
“Let's get some raspados and rest for a bit,” he said. Emilio nodded. Carmen pointed at a man grating a large block of ice and pulled their grandfather toward him. They ordered a lemon-flavored raspado for each and then walked over to a bench facing the edge of the lake. Emilio found the sun's reflection on the lake's wavering surface and wondered if the light was strong enough to blind someone.
“Abuelito? Do you believe in duendes?” Emilio said, afraid that his grandfather would snap at him for asking. Emilio raised his brows expectantly. His grandfather was eating the raspado with a plastic spoon.
“Sure,” he said, and took another spoonful of lemon-flavored ice.
Emilio looked down at his cup filled to the brim, the grated ice melting into the green-colored juice.
“Carmen, sweetie, why don't you go see if there are fish in the lake. You don't have to get too close to the water,” his grandfather said, pointing with his chin toward the edge of the water.
Carmen smiled and began walking toward the lake, taking small, steady steps.
“There. That's close enough, sweetie” his grandfather said. She stopped and bent her knees to lean in for a closer look. Emilio watched her. For a moment, he imagined her falling, face-first, into the water. The thought startled him.
“I'm going to tell you a story, but it has to stay between us. Do you understand? Your mother mentioned your duende and she was pretty upset,” his grandfather said.
“Okay, I won't tell her, or anyone else, I promise,” Emilio said. It seemed like his grandfather believed him and Emilio felt relieved.
“When I was about your age, ten or so, I saw two small children playing in the fields from the tree I had climbed that morning. They wove their dancing between the maguey plants, their one-piece gowns were the same color, as the dry soil below their bare feet. I wouldn't have noticed them if I hadn't heard their laughter. It was light and musical, like watercolors. I could have watched them all day from behind the curtain of leaves and branches.”
“And did you?” Emilio said, leaning in.
“I took my gaze from them for a second when I heard my mother calling. And then they were gone. When I told my mother what I had seen, she said they were duendes, and warned me to stay away,” his grandfather said. “Have you seen any fish, sweetie?”
“Not yet, abuelito,” Carmen said.
“Why did she say that?” Emilio asked anxiously.
“Because she met them when she was a child. They tried to take her, but she knew their tricks.”
“Well, they convince children to play their games, and sometimes these games last for days. They invited my mother into the forest to see their house, but she said no and ran as fast as she could, leaving the sound of their laughter behind. They're naughty little things,” his grandfather said. “Come on, Carmen, it's time to go.”
“I don't believe it,” Emilio said, crossing his arms. It was the first time he didn't want to believe one of his grandfather's story. He couldn't imagine duendes as evil. Maybe the duende hid Emilio's shoes or spilled all of his Legos on the carpet, but the duende would never harm anyone. Besides, the duende never left his room, and was too shy to even show himself. He'd never trick anyone.
His grandfather shrugged and led Carmen around the bench by the hand. Emilio stood from his seat and followed them. He was feeling better, his feet were light, and he wasn't as tired as before. He hadn't liked his grandfather's story, but at least he believed that duendes were real.
They took the path home and walked for some time along the rim of the lake, until the path began to narrow and ascended. Their grandfather let go of Carmen to walk in front because three of them didn't fit. Emilio was still holding Carmen's hand. She kept looking over the edge, down at the deep irrigation channels that veined from the lake.
He knew it was a bad idea when he let go of his sister's hand to tie his loose shoestring, as soon as he did it. Carmen began pointing at something over the edge that Emilio couldn't see from where he was. He heard her say, “Flower. Look at that flower,” softly, as if whispering to herself, and continued to lean closer and closer over the edge.
Emilio started to tell Carmen to wait for him, when she fell forward without a sound. She didn't scream, nor cry. She was only a few feet from him. It all happened fast. He shuffled toward her and found her, hanging from the side of of the channel, the murky water below, with nothing to hold on to. He lay on his stomach, to be as low as possible to the ground, and reached for his sister's hand, but she was out of reach.
That was when saw it, the flower his sister had been pointing at. It was a bright color blue, a strange, but wonderful contrast to the dark greens and browns of Xochimilco's wetlands. The flower was beautiful and captivating. He heard music in his ear say, Hold on to the flower and Emilio repeated the words: “Hold on to the flower.” He waited for Carmen to begin to reach for the flower's stem. “I'll go get help, just hold on,” he said.
Emilio wasn't sure why he waited for a nod or for her to say something. Tear's raced down her cheeks, but she didn't make a sound. She looked frightened. Emilio couldn't see the girl who had captured their parent's gaze and now his grandfather's anymore. When he saw her take hold of the flower's stem, Emilio rose to his feet. He saw his grandfather in the distance. It was strange how far he was from them. He would have to yell or run after him to get his attention. He began to take a deep breath to call for his grandfather when he heard it, the dunde's laugh, but it was different, it was tinged with something Emilio couldn't recognize, but he knew it wasn't good.
Emilo's heart fell into his stomach. He looked back at his sister, hanging from the channel's slick sides from a single stem, and realized what he had done. Through foggy eyes, he watched as the stem snapped, dropping his sister into the water. The splash didn't sound, but if it did, he didn't hear it. He stood there, watching the water calm from where it had been disturbed, cradling the blue-petalled flower.
© 2016 Casandra Hernández Ríos
About the Author:
Casandra Hernández Ríos received her MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction, from CSU Long Beach. She holds a BA in Creative Writing and Journalism from the same school. She is fiction editor at indicia: a journal curating literary arts, and is former Senior Managing Editor at The Offing magazine. Her work has appeared in The Acentos Review, the Santa Ana River Review, Verdad Magazine, and American Mustard. She teaches at Golden West College and Long Beach City College.
“The Blind Oasis” by Anthony Johnson
The itch behind June’s ear burrowed into the pulpy sponge of her brain like a clicking beetle. The irritating sensation began the evening she had dropped a wreath of azaleas into the ocean from the very same barnacled dock her brother had jumped from exactly a year before.
Her mother, ever fussy, had suggested June drop lilies instead. Azaleas are more of a love flower, the heavyset woman had told her. They're usually meant for women.
In the end, June stuck with azaleas and after watching the pink wreath spin atop a green whirlpool before vanishing into its depths, she dropped herself into the seething sea.
Pushing off from the pillars of the pier, June swam desperately for shore, fighting against the invisible pull of the waves until her eyes bulged and her muscles burned from exhaustion. Once ashore, she stretched out on the beachhead and napped in the angry stare of the sun.
The next morning, June discovered the itch quietly gnawing beneath her right ear, her favorite of the two. Thinking it nothing more than an errant bit of sand and seawater, she did her best to dislodge it with her finger. But this only seemed to increase the muffled buzz and, accordingly, increase her irritation.
At breakfast, she complained to her mother of her predicament in the hopes she might offer some sort of sage remedy only a mother would have knowledge of. The itch was a constant presence in the background of her thoughts and tinted her mood a deep shade of blue. June was sure she’d go mad if she didn’t find a solution soon.
Have you tried shaking your head repeatedly, her mother suggested. Like when you really don’t want to eat something?
June gave it a shot, shaking her head until she became dizzy and nearly fell over onto the floor. The remedy seemed to work at first, but the moment the room regained its equilibrium, the itch rebounded and continued on with its bothersome clawing.
Her mother then tried attacking the itch with a Q-tip. She dug with the confident thoroughness of a miner, and not two minutes later she stopped and said aloud, Now what do we have here?
June tried to glance around the side of her head as her mother inserted a pair of tweezers into her ear and removed a long gleaming string out of the girl’s head.
Tell me what it is, June said impatiently. Tell me what it is.
It’s just some sort of string.
Gross! Pull it out! Pull it out!
June’s mother did as she was told. But the more she pulled, the more string inexplicably came forth. Pretty soon, a spool of several feet lay wound in her mother’s hand.
She then tried cutting it with a pair of scissors and when that too failed, she tried burning it off with a lit match. Nothing she did, however, had any effect whatsoever.
What am I supposed to do? June whined. I can’t go to school with a string hanging out of my head.
I have a plan, but you probably won’t like it, her mother said. The older woman wrapped the string several times about her daughter’s head and tucked it beneath the girl’s black hair. There you go, she said, satisfied. Good as new.
June’s mother had made an appointment with the girl’s doctor the following week to address the spiderweb-thin string coming out of her daughter’s ear. But after two days spent in the torture of her classmates, her mother managed to get the appointment pushed up to the following Thursday.
Once they had discovered the string, June’s classmates had been unable to resist pulling on it at every opportunity. They grabbed it during class, yanked on it while standing in line for lunch, and the sophomores even made a game of grabbing the string and running up and down the hallways with it. It took June so long to bundle up the string, she was late for class and received detention from the vice principal.
The girls, however, were the worst. A gang of the more popular ones caught June alone in the bathroom, forced her into a stall, and tied her to a toilet with a series of knots so tangled and intricate the janitor had to be paged to set the poor, sobbing girl free.
June’s doctor was a pipsqueak of a man who wore telescope glasses and a silver mustache so bushy it looked as if a ferret had curled up under his nose and fallen asleep. Indeed, the man was so short, he had to stand atop a stool in order to peer into June’s ear with his otoscope.
Hmm…yes…I see, he mumbled. He set the otoscope down and proceeded to pull out great lengths of the sparkling string from June’s ear. Minutes later, a pile of the spooled string rose up from the floor right up to the doctor’s ankles.
See that you don’t fish out her brain, Doctor, June’s mother said cheekily.
Of course not, replied the doctor. Nothing to worry about. Nothing at all. He let go of the string and pretended to consult June’s chart. We’ll just need to run a few tests. He then backed out of the room in a rather obvious attempt of escape. Moments later, a nurse came into the room with a hospital gown and the announcement that June would be staying the night, so her condition could be, quote-unquote, monitored more closely.
June spent the following month in the hospital and was systematically moved from room to room, wing to wing, so she could be examined by every doctor, specialist, expert, and practically anyone else in the hospital who had a qualified opinion. One by one, she was paraded before audiologists, neurologists, oncologists, and once, even, a surly dentist who knew nothing of the string growing out of June’s ear, and could, quite frankly, give two damns, as he, himself, put it. But he recommended, anyway, that she have her wisdom teeth removed soon, or she ran the risk of them becoming impacted.
And so it went, for weeks on end. With each visit by a new doctor, the string was unraveled more and more. Some doctors only removed a few feet, while others would pull out long reams, stretching yards and yards of it out in an inexhaustible supply, each hell-bent on being the doctor who reached the end of the seemingly infinite fiber.
One night, weeks into her stay, June muted the documentary she was watching about the Great Valley Mountains in the northern country and asked her mother if she was going to die.
Her mother put down the sweater she was crocheting out of the excess string and told her plainly, Of course not, dear. I’d like to think I’m not unlucky enough a mother to lose both of my children. Now get some sleep, we have another dozen appointments tomorrow.
On and on, the doctors came in a parade of starched lab coats, each picking, poking, and prodding her with questions, fingers, and needles until she felt like a human porcupine.
Flanked by a battalion of doctors, she made the cover of Medical Maladies Monthly, and a million dollar prize was even offered by Milton Moses Morrison, the notorious billionaire and space travel magnate who was known widely in the medical community for his interest in outlandish illnesses. The more bizarre the condition, the more he invested in its scrutiny.
In the end, no solution was found, and the string continued to be unspooled all throughout the winter and deep into the following spring. June had lost considerable weight during this period and lay in her hospital bed like a pale and brittle seashell.
Days before the start of summer, a possible solution arrived from the most unlikely of places. June was close to giving up hope of ever leaving the hospital when a peculiar elderly woman emerged from the thick fog of doctors and began prodding her in the stomach with a stick so smooth and black June mistook it for a taxidermic snake. Upon closer examination, June realized the stick was, in fact, a stupefied cottonmouth, long charmed into its rigid position. She was amazed to see its beady copper eyes were still alive and flicking about the hospital room.
The woman, herself, was of an even stranger appearance. She wore a spotted giraffe coat, had a hairy face and a crooked nose, and her glossy opal eyes were so steady and focused, June came to trust the woman after just one look. And she continued trusting the strange woman even after glancing down and seeing the heads of two baby alligators gawping up at her from the woman’s feet.
The elderly woman proceeded to examine June in the most curious manner. She peered up her nostrils, smelled her hair, and even touched a drop of the girl’s spit to her tongue. When she did finally speak the room fell into a quick silence.
I am a witch doctor from deep in the swamp, she declared in a voice so pointed several of the doctors shivered from an imagined cold. I have a potential cure for your illness, but it comes with great risk, more risk than you can possibly imagine. If we are to continue forward, I must have your word that my instructions will be followed to the letter and most importantly, with complete trust. What say you? Do you still have courage in this husk you call a body? She poked June again in the stomach with her walking stick of a snake.
June looked into the Witch Doctor’s eyes and nodded gently.
Very well, the Witch Doctor said. The first thing we will need then is an elephant.
With her options long exhausted, June had little choice but to consent to the Witch Doctor’s unorthodox treatment. The gang of doctors, however, were acting mostly out of curiosity and, possibly, from the guilt they felt about their own endlessly ineffective remedies. They agreed to assist the Witch Doctor in whatever way possible and promptly set out to fill her meticulous orders.
With the help of June’s mother, half of the doctors tracked down as many of June’s relatives as they could. The other half of the doctors made their way to the local zoo where they begged, cajoled and finally bribed the zoo’s staff to lend them their largest elephant, Kingsford, for the day.
The next morning, the Witch Doctor addressed the crowd of relatives, doctors and any other curious staff members who had gathered in the sunny courtyard nestled on the hospital’s rooftop.
The string is of the sea, the Witch Doctor said aloud, and as such it must be returned to the sea. In order for us to accomplish this, we must stretch the string out to its absolute limit. Now, this will require an enormous feat of strength and dedication. Make no mistake, this is no easy task, and its end result is far from certain. Anyone fearful of risk and danger should leave now. The only person to turn and leave upon hearing the Witch Doctor’s warning was a janitor who had worked at the hospital for years and was mere weeks away from retirement; he felt he had seen enough uncertainty to last him a lifetime.
The Witch Doctor then went on to explain her plan in full, and once she was finished the crowd leapt to follow her instructions. The doctors secured June to her hospital bed and then secured the bed with locks and chains to the cold concrete of the hospital itself. The Witch Doctor then fed the string off of the roof to the crowd of June’s relatives, doctors and various onlookers who had gathered in the street below. Milton Moses Morrison, himself, was there to pick the string’s end out of the air and tie it around the great neck of Kingsford who was happily rubbing his great gray flank against a sedan which had unluckily parked in the street that day.
Led by Milton Moses Morrison riding atop Kingsford, the crowd then marched south through the black streets for miles and miles as they slowly made their way to the white beaches and green waters of the nearby sea. Strung aloft behind them all the while was the slack crystal string streaming out of June’s ear. As the crowd continued on, more and more people left their houses to join their ranks, each attracted, no doubt, by Kingsford’s bellows, and pretty soon dozens upon dozens of chattering faces had been added to the merry parade.
Once they came within sight of the ocean’s roaring green mouth, the string suddenly went taut and tightened with a sharp twang. The doctors and June’s relatives then grabbed onto the string and began to pull it toward the gurgling green waves crashing behind them. Each member of the crowd joined in also and soon hundreds of hands were pulling on the string with the gusto of a great game of Tug-of-War. Inch by inch, they labored behind the elephant against the taut crystal string until they could feel the salty breath of the ocean on the backs of their necks.
Atop the hospital, June’s tilted head grimaced from the extreme pressure. Her mother held onto her hand, and the cousins who had remained behind offered her whatever words of encouragement they could think of. Hang in there, they said. You’re doing great. Stay strong. The Witch Doctor, meanwhile, said nothing and merely peered through a telescope towards the sea.
When she finally saw Kingsford reach the water’s edge, she turned to June’s mother and cousins and told them to begin pulling on the string, too. They did as they were told and minutes later, the string began to tremble and vibrate. The Witch Doctor watched on tensely as the very air itself seemed to hum.
Keep pulling, the old woman urged.
June then suddenly cried out loud and the string broke free from her head. A great pop echoed over the town like a loud cannon shot and June’s mother and cousins were very nearly thrown off the top of the hospital. Down by the beach, the string fell slack, sending Kingsford and the entire crowd hurtling into the breaking waves of the ocean.
When June’s mother got back unto her feet, she held up the loose string and attached to its end, she found a common red rubber stopper, like one would use to plug up the drain of a sink. We did it, she said triumphantly We did it! She rushed to embrace June, who was staring forward in an empty daze. June’s mother hugged her close and when she let go to thank the Witch Doctor, she felt a wetness spreading across the front of her blouse. She looked up at June and saw a gush of tears pouring forth from the girl’s green eyes.
June, her mother said, why are you crying?
I don’t know, June said, frightened.
She didn’t know because, in reality, she wasn’t crying at all, but was instead leaking. Little by little, water soon began to trickle out of her ears, dribble from the corners of her mouth, and even spray forth from her nose in two great torrents. It leaked off of the bed and began to gather into deep crystal pools on the concrete floor. One of June’s cousins dipped her finger in one of the puddles and touched the sparkling liquid to her tongue.
Saltwater, the girl said with a confused scowl.
Saltwater? the Witch Doctor repeated. You mean like seawater?
Instead of waiting for an answer, though, the Witch Doctor rushed for a nearby fire escape.
Save yourselves while you can! she called over her shoulder. The last anyone heard of her was the sound of her crocodile shoes clopping as she vanished down the metal stairs.
Unfortunately for June’s mother and her cousins, they did not heed the old woman’s advice and remained watching as more and more seawater gushed from June’s body in greater and greater streams. They all watched, enthralled, as June’s arms began to quake and jitter as if she were being electrocuted and then, suddenly, a huge surge of glittering water burst forth from the girl’s mouth and swept her relatives from the courtyard in a great winding river.
By the time the parade of relatives, doctors, and onlookers made their way back to the hospital, each expecting to be greeted as heroes, they found great waterfalls of shimmering seawater pouring out of every window of the hospital into the street below.
My god! said Milton Moses Morrison, still perched atop Kingsford. The girl had a goddamn tsunami inside of her!
The cascade continued for eleven straight days, flooding the town and transforming the streets into salty channels of sparkling water. Fish, crab and curious porpoises swam casually in and out of homes. Sharks picked off house pets. And the screeching chorus of gulls could be heard at all hours of the day.
The townspeople were so overwhelmed by the damage done to their town, fending off jellyfish and electric eels, they had forgotten entirely where the offending waters had originated from in the first place.
Thankfully, on the eleventh day, fate relented and the tide swept the waters out to sea, leaving the town miraculously dry again. Despite the ruin all around them, the townspeople marveled at how lovely the sparkle of salt made their streets and buildings. They now lived in what felt like a town cast of diamonds.
This did little, however, to sate their anger, and with the hospital now accessible, Milton Moses Morrison, himself, assembled a mob of doctors and angry homeowners, each armed with fishing gaffes and spear guns they had used to fend off sharks, lobsters and flocks of cunning gulls, and the group made their way back to the rooftop of the hospital.
Expecting to find June in the courtyard, they were surprised to find the poor girl’s mother instead, and in her arms wasn’t her daughter, but an unconscious young boy, naked to the bottoms of his feet. June’s mother looked up at the mob of people and in her eyes they saw she was crying. Regular tears, though, thankfully.
It’s my son, said June’s mother. I thought I had lost him forever, but he’s come back to me. My precious, beautiful son.
The mob stood and watched in silence as the mother cradled her previously lost child as if he were still a baby, until one by one, the crowd broke off, and they each returned to their homes to sweep away the piles of clams, jellyfish and dried mounds of dead fish left over from the flood.
No one ever did see June again. Rumors passed about the town that her ghost wandered the pier late at night whenever there was a full moon. Some sleepy-eyed fishermen even claimed to have spotted the girl swimming in the bay during the early morning hours. Most of these rumors, though, were little more than idle talk and eventually they, too, were swallowed up by more interesting gossip washing through the town.
Occasionally, though, whenever a violent storm swept over the town and flooded the streets, anyone who listened closely could indeed hear young June’s voice singing softly behind the howls of wind, or ringing up from the rippling puddles dancing along with the endless rush of rain.
© 2016 Anthony Johnson
About the Author:
Anthony has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington and is currently writing a cycle of science fiction stories. He can be reached on Twitter at @adjohnexpers