Most landscape features prefer to be viewed only in the bravado of their present. They have an assumed past, an anticipated future. We rivers aren’t like that. There is no room for rumination or conjecture. Like the path of a raindrop down a windowpane, you can trace my journey with a fingertip.
I start in the mountains, amongst the heather and the scree. Fresh from the snows above, I thread my way a thousand ways through a billion pebbles. Often you won’t even see me; I’ll be a trickle, a gurgle hidden beneath your feet. I’m icy-cold here, cold enough to make you ache should you splash me over your face. I’m peppy. I’m feisty. Gravity has yet to exert its pull on my playfulness.
Next we’re into the gorges, where I’m starting to grow into myself. I’m fizzing through fissures here, gushing in between boulders. I’m at my most aggressive, snarling around bends and reaching up granite walls. I care nothing for landscape. Get in my stream or get out of my way. I’ll foam and I’ll mash. I’ll leap
of where I might land. Dip your toe in me here and I’ll drag you under, I swear it.
All that energy can’t last through, all that rage. Like a teen whose hormones have ebbed, I begin to feel vaguely embarrassed about my behavior upon reaching the plains. I start to realise that behaving the way that a river is supposed to behave may not necessarily be such a bad thing, that taking pleasure in a journey isn’t the purview of the dull and the doddery. There’s elegance in what I do now. If I erode my banks, it’s with the lightest of touches. I’m a potter sitting at my wheel, my hands caressing the sides of my sculpture, slick with clay. It’s here that I make my masterpieces – my oxbow lakes, my sweeping bends, my undercut, grassy banks.
Such serenity never lasts though, and as soon as I grow into my adulthood it begins to slip through my fingers. I can no longer keep my movements coherent.
I’m losing the height that powered my earlier endeavour.
Listless, my thoughts start to make their own way towards their destination, spreading out like a veined hand pushing against a table for balance. It’s mud, now, underneath me. Flat, featureless mud. A mile deep and miles wide.
I push, exhausted, towards the horizon where a grey sea awaits me.
Dark clouds loom over the waves, low-slung with rain and roiling towards the mountains behind me.
What I wouldn’t give to join them.
***Thanks for reading, folks. As always, all likes and comments greatly appreciated. Also thought I’d share a couple of short stories that I’ve really enjoyed in recent weeks…
The first is ‘Yard Work‘ by the fantastic Nadine, in an example of a perfectly formed piece of flash fiction.
Also well worth a read is ‘Hooked‘ by Tom Burton. The first paragraph is a brilliant example of how to land your reader slap-bang in the middle of Dickensian London, always a difficult task in short fiction.
If you’re looking for two more short fiction authors to follow, look no further.