The River Washes, Lotte van der Krol
I remember the river. The water, when it was not me, when I was not it. I remember the pain, the shock of cold. The stars in the sky. The underside of the bridge floating past, your eyes watching me go, then the deepening darkness. The river coursing around me, through me, from me. Pulling me apart till I was more water than person. I remember. I watch you, as you walk down the river path. A steady stride, the sun on your face.
Conscience unburdened, soul scrubbed clean. You seem to think there is salvation to be found in the river. Absolution, even, as the current washes away your sins, your crimes, the evidence. Watering down blood, sending its salt back to sea, tearing apart and diluting the rotting flesh till there’s not enough left of it to haunt you. Till it’s all just water under the bridge. If only the water was that pure. The dark water is saturated with your sins, all your crimes dumped here, polluting the river with their toxins. Let the current take us, you think, no longer your problem. Let the water wash it all away, let yourself forget we ever existed. And yet. At the bridge, you hesitate.
You falter, your legs turn stiff. Does it look that different in daylight? I suppose so. No darkness to hide the stains, but morning sun glistening on the water, exposing everything floating just beneath the surface. You’re shivering. Your conscience not so clean after all, is it? Do you smell the fumes? Of us rotting, decaying, festering? Do you feel me lurking here, waiting for you to step on the damp, slippery wood? Ready to grab you with wasted hands, plunge you into the cold, pull your flesh apart till there’s not enough left of you to haunt me. Maybe you can find salvation in the river. Absolution, even. But you’re afraid. You shudder in the sunlight, and turn away from the bridge. With long strides you hurry down the river path, away from the glistening water, away from what you’ve done. No matter. You’ll have to cross that bridge someday. And if not this bridge, then another. The river is long, your sins are many. And the water is patient. We haven’t forgotten. The river will take you. And wash you clean.
Lotte van der Krol is a multi-genre writer from the Netherlands. She likes to walk in the woods, following the strange sounds that are almost like music but not quite. Her work has appeared in Popshot Quarterly, Capsule Stories, Weird Christmas, and others. She’s on twitter @lottevdkrol and on lottevanderkrol.wordpress.com