Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Blood Ran through the River Softly
By W. T. Paterson

Follow the gentle river and you shall find the tales of those who have lived to see the changing of times. Walk along the banks and hear the woods speak of their unforgiving past. Smell the beautiful flowers that weep under the full moon. Follow the blood upstream, against the current, and the world will tell you its story.

All were affected, including a village of fisherman and shell collectors by the ocean. With wings on their backs, they became like the birds in the sky. Fishing from above the water allowed them to catch rare and exotic fish or hunt for seashells. The wind would always be their companion, letting them lift and fall without fear. Even seafaring birds admired the men and women by the sea who lived with wings.
Here, the blood had all but absorbed into the soft water. Pink wafts would swirl by as delicately as leaves in the breeze. Yet, soon it stained the seashells in swirling patterns. The fish began to breathe it through their gills eventually driving them to madness. When children dug in the sand, the beach would appear to bleed. The people of the land soon began to whisper of unnatural change, one that would force them to abandon their flourishing life.
The fisherman with wings lost their business and no one would buy shells from the cursed land. The fish swam to the depths where even light refused to go and hid from death. Without food, the villager’s wings fell off and they could no longer soar. Some fell from the sky and were swallowed by the sea. On their way down, they’d pass by the hiding fish whose eyes were mad with fear and ask “Why have you done this to us?” But the creatures would answer “be gone! Do not let them see you!”
The villagers nearly starved and had to move from their homes to new lands hoping that the stigma of being cursed would not follow. They settled in a place far from the ocean that had once brought vibrancy. Now to survive, they built tall towers and stages where people would come to watch daring and impossible acts. It was here that they became magicians and high wire trapeze artists to prove that they could still find the courage to fly.

Travel further upstream through the Forest of Fire, past the Aging Cliffs and you see the echoes of a lost culture. Houses built into trees that resemble a human hand. Human hands are delicate by nature, but strict in symbolism.
Before the blood ran through the river, they used to rise and watch the sun sparkle across the surface in shapes like diamonds. They believed it to be the face of God. Inside of their houses were the sacred diamond shapes hanging from windows, across their walls and placed with ink inside of their skin. This was the way of the culture and if you did not believe in the way of the sparkling diamond, you were shunned. Such beauty cannot be denied. This is another reason why hands were important to them, because the five points of the diamond were like the five fingers of the hand.
Soon the blood began to venture down the river changing the shapes of the sparkling water. The face of God changed and the people feared an unspeakable evil approached. A child was born and a cleansing ritual was performed, but as they placed the baby underwater it came up with blood dripping from its forehead and face.
The culture cried and begged for forgiveness from the river, but in the days that followed only more blood appeared. It was a sign, they thought, a punishment from their God. Others said it was natural, an affair that was out of their control and thus the village was split in two. A war erupted and both sides battled claiming their idea of an impossible situation was the only true answer. After many deaths, the surviving members found only more blood not just in the river, but also on the soil. To punish themselves for being so blinded by hatred and inability to reason, they cut off their hands and burned down their houses leaving everything they had once built.
They traveled the land and watched magicians and high wire trapeze artists perform impossible acts, but they could not clap though they desperately wanted to.

Upstream, the blood becomes thicker. It is denser than the water that pushes it towards the ocean. The blood in these parts often stops and looks upon the castle where a King was betrayed by his brother. A Queen dishonored sits by a window forever staring into the swirling currents floating by. The ripples remind her of a courtship in springtime under cherry blossoms where a kingdom was waiting to be led into the new age. Her visions were strong and powerful and her voice found the King’s ears time and time again. But a brother stricken with jealousy and charm had found the Queen’s lips over and over.
The King could not deal with secret affairs. He dove into the river never to resurface. His brother blamed the Queen and fled the land. Now she sits alone hoping that one day, she will find the courage to jump as well.

There are rumors that at the origin of the river, you can find a hole in the world. It is a gash so deep that the Earth itself bleeds from it and this is why blood floats down the river softly. They say that it is natural, that sometimes the world needs to open up and bleed. In time, perhaps we shall see the scars that we could not prevent and it will be then that we will see the return of life to the river, softly.

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W. T. Paterson is a Chicago writer who's work can be seen in places like Maudlin House, Procyon Press' Anthology, and Whispers from the Past. Send him a tweet @WTPaterson


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