Bad Water

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Originally appeared in the August/September Anniversary edition of AlienSkin Magazine

The warm breeze pushed gentle little waves across the pond, waves that caught the rays of the sun and reflected them like sparkling jewels.

Kirah cursed the breeze, the waves, the pond, and the sun.  Her slippers were full of weeds and brambles, and her arms ached from lugging the heavy water bucket so far.  She stopped by the pond's edge, and tried to rake her hair back out of her face.  It had been a long, tiring slog.

Mistress Eleny had spied the glints of the sun on the water from her chamber window.  The well water, she had told Kirah, no longer pleased her.  It tasted stale.  The well had gone bad.  She sent Kirah to draw water from the pond, if it appeared suitable for drinking.

Kirah had never seen water that looked more suitable for drinking.  The pond was perfectly clear, scattering sunlight in glittering shards from its surface.  She put her bucket on the ground at the water's edge and knelt there beside it, staring into the most perfect water she had ever seen.  She could see everything around her reflected flawlessly in the water.  The trees, the sun shining bright in the cloudless blue sky, and her own reflection--she sucked in a gasp of shock.

Her reflection was that of a middle-aged man.

She could see him as clearly as if he stood there with her; his graying hair and his eyes with lines around them, from laughter or tears.  He looked back at her, and she thought he looked sad.

How was this possible?  She raised her hand to her face, and the reflection raised his hand, mirroring the action as accurately as if it really had been her own.  Kirah leaned forward, and reached her hand out to touch the surface of the water.

Quicker than thought, a hand shot up from the pond and grasped her wrist.  Before she could scream, before she even realized what was happening, a strong man's hand hauled her under the surface of the water.


Jeran stood at the edge of the pond, regarding the bucket thoughtfully.  He glanced back at the pond, shining in the sun, and shook his head.  Smoothing his graying hair, he walked away.


Mistress Eleny scowled, stumbling through the scrubby brush toward the pond.  What had happened to that ignorant maid of hers?  How could she possibly have gotten lost on the short walk to the pond?  When she found that girl . . .

She stopped at the edge of the pond.  The water shone clear and beautiful in the sun.  The bucket lay on its side by the shore.  So Kirah had made it this far.  But where had she gone then?

She glanced down at the water, and saw a young blonde girl looking back at her.  How was such a thing possible?  How did her reflection come to look so much like Kirah?  Some devilry was afoot here.

She leaned over, reaching for the glistening surface of the water.

Copyright 2008 Sandra Miller

All Rights Reserved

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