Bodies of Water

by Victoria Bromley

The theme for our second issue is Bodies… Here’s a piece of creative writing of how you could interpret the theme

I was an infantile lump, a pebble unmoulded and pure. Incubated within the earth for thousands of years, the pressure built up, building my sedimentary skull, my toes, my elbows. Then I was born; the sunshine blinded me.

I bounced upon the lines of latitude, pointy and narrow. Bathed in a shallow stream, it cleaned me of the remnants of the mountain. Nature nursed me, wrapped me within a translucent coat, caressed me in light silks and buoyant dresses.

Then I was guided onward. The infant river young and sprightly.

Photograph by Charlie Mason

Up ahead the nose of an overhang loomed, protruding from the rockface. A vertical descent. Then I was –

tumbling,

rolling,

cooing,

bouncing,

babbling,

landing, crawling… away from the mouth of the plunge pool and into the throat of the dense undergrowth.

I peered into the rippled reflection of my bare face and witnessed the softness of my sides, the water skimming my rounded cheeks, my middle slimmer and elongated.

Onwards I glided. Onwards the valley deepened.

I slid between interlocking spurs, swept over other pebbles and dirt, swam within nature’s bath. My backstroke improved with every mile.

The neck of the river branched off into different channels. I floated through the confluence into the turquoise veins of an arm extending through vast vegetation. I was a tiny blood vessel amongst many others, all on the same journey.

‘Where you headin’?’ An eel asked me.

‘I dunno. Where does this go?’ I asked back.

‘The Severn Sea, of course.’

‘Then I guess that’s where I’m heading.’

 Together we meandered around biceps of peat and moorland swollen from saturation as the clouds above threatened thunder. Splashes pattered the surface of the river’s skin, extending it, adding new limbs as the embankments widened then burst into the floodplains.

I clung to the current; I lost the eel.

Weary and weathered, grazes on my side chipped away at my outer layer. My shell cracked under the pressure of collisions against the side of the basin and against other stones. Blisters bloomed under my heels. A dull ache throbbed inside me; my body wounded as I wandered onwards.

Up ahead the river was fashioned like a belt, looping around itself. A chamber was created in the centre. I travelled through the valve of the oxbow lake, a lonely vessel in the heart of the body of water.

A myriad of flora clothed the basin: grass wavered, weeds sprouted, flowers bloomed with majestic colours and scents. The abundance of greens and pinks and yellows attracted more creatures with feathers, tails, and gills. We all had space to coexist, the channel widening every day, every minute, to accommodate the life which thrived within its waters.

Butterfly stroke soon became my favourite.

Photograph by Charlie Mason

I floated within the circling current which rocked me to sleep, the swish swish of the water a tender lullaby. I dropped to the bottom of the riverbed, heavy and exhausted. With a pillow of silt and mud I drifted into a deep slumber.

Once I awoke, wrinkles patterned my skin through intricate cracks. They spiralled all over my skin. It was impossible to count how much time had passed.

Noise polluted the air. Not the song of kingfishers; something unnatural and loud. Through the distorted lens of the murky water, I could only see swirls of dark blue and grey. It wasn’t until I floated higher towards the surface that I saw the concrete squares which grew from the soil in clusters, stacked higher and higher further down the course. Clouds merged with the smoke billowing out of the tops of these shapes, darkening the cerulean waters of the sky. I once saw fields paved with rich farmland but now all that I could see was tarmacked black.

Onwards the water flowed. A never-ending serpentine path. With every wade through the water it felt like it was peeling off my layers until eventually I wondered if anything would be left. If I would even make it to whatever was at the end of the river. If I would ever explore a world beyond the muddy water that clouded my vision.

 I felt my body giving up, my bones heavy with fatigue from my tremendous journey south. My body longed to retire from this trek to an unknown land I wasn’t sure even existed.

Seagulls squawked overhead. Vast expanses of sand lay drying under the sun on either side of the mouth’s lips. But as the silt muddied the water in the estuary, everything seemed to slow down. The water thickened with sand and dirt, building a paste which clung to my skin and stuck me to the riverbed.

I couldn’t move. Light rose and faded, orange and pink strokes streaked over the horizon like a brush ran out of paint. Darkness cooled the water as I waited. My retirement lasted longer than I expected. Each day blurred with the next.

A lifetime passed.

Photograph by Charlie Mason

Then, one day, when I was dozing with a film of sand coated over my eyes, I was pealed from my bed and lifted up, the air crisp against my frail shell. Something soft brushed over my face and I could see again. The sunlight blinded me once more.

From this great height, the sand dunes dominated the landscape, dynamic in their movement. The tongue of the river rolled in and out of the shore.

The world went dark, and I was clasped tightly. I was pulled back, arched upwards, then spat out of my cage. I flew through the air, skimmed the cool salty surface of new water. Hopping, skipping. Then I sank. I’d finally reached the sea.

It took fifty thousand years.

Cover photograph by Charlie Mason.

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