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River Mumma

Shayzan Brown

Decorative Green Leaf with pink stem

I saw her by the river first.

     She sat there, combing long, inky black hair over dark skin. The moon stood behind her, resolute as a soldier. She sat picturesque on the grass, her tail moving lazily in the deep green water. She was beautiful. We called her kind River Mumma. I sat and watched her for hours. I only became myself again when she splashed back into the river, leaving behind a wet spot and a pretty pearl and seashell comb. I knew better than to pick it up. I did anyway.

     I went home that night and slept with dreams of a gorgeous woman running through my mind. I never saw her face clearly in my dreams — only glimpses — the flash of a cheeky smile or the peek of brown and green irises looking at me from half-lidded eyes. I woke up with the sun and found the bed wet and pieces of foliage lodged in my hair. The taste of algae swam in the back of my throat. The comb sat beside me, haunting me, taunting me just like its owner was now. I resolved to never return to that river bed.

     I returned that same night. I had tried to resist, I had tried to take the path that led home, but my legs were bewitched. They took sure steps and led me to my destruction. I sat on the grassy river bank. I stared at the water for hours. My body resisted the thoughts of fleeing that raced through my mind. I knew I should have been tired, yet my body refused to break. I forgot hunger and thirst; I could not feel the muscle pains that should have plagued me. I only stared at the serene river surface as the moonlight and tall trees that surrounded were reflected in the water.

     I stayed there so long that days melded together. The steady rise and fall of the sun and the flora around me kept me company. There was no wind. No rustling of the leaves, no insects buzzing or sounds of mongooses and lizards. I began to think I would turn into one of the trees that guarded me. I imagined it. I would put down roots, my arms would lengthen and turn into branches, and my hair would metamorphose into leaves. I stopped trying to fight the pull of River Mumma. I simply waited.

     Then she came. I saw her come out of the water with my own glazed-over eyes. Her face and shoulders broke the surface. Her eyes seemed to watch me and my shallow breaths. The night was still, as always. Her dark hair hung low, obscuring her face. The moonlight gave her dark skin a deadly glow. She looked at me and beckoned me forward. I no longer resisted. I plunged down, down, down into her murky abyss. The moon dappled water soon gave way to darkness. I couldn’t see anything. I couldn't hear anything. All I felt was the pressure of thousands of gallons of water pressing on my chest and her hand in mine as she unwaveringly guided me deeper and deeper. Sensations of a horrible something swam around me and kissed my feet. I don’t know if I fought. If I tried to wrestle the current and her as they pulled me to my death. If I wrestled my destiny. Or maybe I simply let her take me. Maybe I let the river and its mother trap me as I was doomed to. Maybe I knew it was for the better if I let her take me as she pleased. Maybe I was too stubborn, even in death.

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