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Mystery

“I can’t move!” cried Aria.

She was submerged waist deep in a murky swamp of brown, and green water. She’d fallen into a riverbed of squelching mud. With every struggle of movement, she could feel herself sinking and tipping off balance. She had got herself completely lost out in the wilderness of Northern England. All around her was a picturesque woodland filled with pine, oak and silver birch trees. Arms of branches outstretched in a shadowed cluster; little circles of gleaming sunlight shone through in spotlight beams over the fallen autumn leaves that hugged the muddy wood ground. Everywhere she turned there was something moving, something alive. Creatures great and small roamed the grounds; it was all so lush and vibrant, full of life, nature and greenery, but in it all, Aria could only feel great distress.

The cold water clung to her legs; her tight jeans felt like they were contracting around her. Aria panted breathlessly; every breath felt like burning fire down her throat. She tried and failed to pull her legs free. Her heartbeat was like a jackhammer, so fast it set her nerves on edge. A white heat enveloped her. The water seemed to be swallowing her in long, slow gulps. Her feet were immersed deep in the sinking squelching mud which seemed to be thickening at her ankles, tightening like shackles; her shoes were the only thing to keep her on balance. The smell around her was so strong it engulfed her in a vile, revolting stench that hung in the air and all over her; it was beyond repulsive, almost as strong as sewage; she could taste in her mouth, so pungent.

The sky above was a vibrant white, headachy and muzzy; the bright spherical sun glistened, catching her eyes through the rustling trees. An easterly wind blew in strong gusts, whistling through the woods like an echo; birds followed in glorious song.

Aria struggled to stand; her arms flapped like a restless bird, eager to stretch its wings, and the dirty water splashed, soaking her more and more. All she cared about was escaping, being free from this filth. For a moment, she took in her surroundings, under a canopy of coniferous trees, shadowed by their long-winged branches.

She’d walked through a field of cows and sheep on a long cross-country pathway; there were only two other people she’d seen on that path, and that was hours ago. She’d taken a slight detour to take pictures of the woodland area she’d found just to the side of an old reservoir. It all went downhill from there. She’d fallen, and tumbled in a sideward roll down a steep hill, and she’d hurt her legs, back and arms in the process. As she stood to her feet, disoriented and bruised, she regained her balance, but as she did, she was suddenly startled by a big black dog staring at her; its bark was fierce and gruff, its teeth sharp like razors, its eyes were white almost ghostlike with the irises red as blood. A scream escaped her as she picked up her pace, and she fled, limping further into the woodland not knowing where she was going; luck wasn’t on her side as she fell again, only this time she fell face down into a stretch of murky, stinky water, and as she came back up, she panted fearfully. She looked back up to where she’d been; the dog stood there on the embankment, shadowed under a silver birch. Its eyes glared at her, void of any emotion. She stared back, trembling; the black dog blinked, and her heartbeat accelerated, but then it suddenly turned and fled back the way it came from. Aria breathed in deeply, and then she began to wade through the river; after a few moments, she noticed she was gradually sinking deeper and deeper; she stopped and stood still. Aria shouted out for help, but after almost an hour nobody had heard her, nobody had come. She could feel herself sinking deeper.

Aria had dropped her bag on her run; there was no way of contacting anybody. She felt hidden from the world, with nobody around for miles to hear her cries. Her eyes brimmed with tears as she wept.

She wondered what to do, and which way could she turn. All she wanted was to escape and be back home in the peace and safety of her house. This wasn’t how her day was supposed to go. She craved an adventure, just a simple walk would satisfy, but this was beyond what she could possibly imagine, and she’d hurtled into treacherous grounds with no means of help or any civilization in sight.

“Somebody! Anybody, please help me!” Aria screamed out in distress.

Her voice grew hoarse the more she shouted, but she continued until she couldn’t anymore; her throat was dry and scratchy, and she desperately longed for clean water to quench her thirst. Silent tears fell, soaking her dirty cheeks, as she stood there, alone and afraid.

A single thrush swept through the air and landed gently on a small hook-shaped branch. Its pleasant whistle sang for a few moments, and Aria stared at the creature, listening intently, but paralysed to move. She closed her eyes, taking in the beautiful song, and she gradually found herself calming, until her heartbeat had eased to a steady rhythm. She opened her eyes, and caught a glimpse of something under the thrushes’ claw. She squinted curiously at it, and saw it was a crumpled piece of paper; she could only make out one letter, a capital ‘T.’ The thrush stayed with her for over an hour.

Aria was cold and shivering, and constantly looking out for help, but nobody came. She stared at the thrush again. A sudden sense of boldness came upon her, and she tried to take a single step through the swampy waters; as she did, she tumbled into the water. It felt like there were dozens of arms gripping at her leg pulling her under. She couldn’t see a thing as she sank under the dirty water; her eyes stung, and all around her was darkness. Aria kicked frantically and managed to come up for air; she gasped and choked on the disgusting water.

She managed to regain her balance, and she stood with her legs a good width apart to maintain her upright stance. Only her head was visible as she poked out of the river. She squinted her eyes; the raw sting made her bite back a hiss. When she was able to open her eyes completely, everything ahead was a blur; she angled her body to her right, and as she did, a waft of wind blew at her face. She turned again, and was met by the thrush; it perched itself on a small twig that bobbed up on the water beside her. Aria breathed shakily. Sunlight suddenly peered out from behind the whiteness of the sky; its radiance shone through the cluster of trees, and adorned a shimmer of a bright rainbow in front of Aria hovering above the water.

“What have you got there for me?” Aria whispered down to the thrush, as she stared at its closed claw holding the paper.

The thrush tilted its head to one side, listening to her voice. Slowly, Aria raised her right arm out of the muddy river; the brown water rolled off her arm, streaming like a waterfall, and it fell in small droplets onto the colourful sight that now had spread wider onto the waters. Her hand lightly caressed the birds wing; the thrush didn’t appear to be frightened or welcoming of her advances, it was simply just content with sitting there. With a steady hand, she reached for the paper, curiously peeking at the ‘T’; she saw a curve which followed on the next letter, and for some reason her interest in the paper had caused her for that moment to forget where she was, and that she was currently submerged in water, trapped and sinking. Finally, the thrush acknowledged her presence; hopping from the twig, it landed on her finger, with the paper still woven through its claw. She grasped hold of the paper with her cold fingers, and just as she was about to pull it free, the thrush took off into the air leaving Aria alone again; the feeling of hopelessness washed over her once more.

“Don’t go,” Aria cried.

The sky darkened. Chills ran through her body. In all her life, she’d never felt more isolated than she did in this moment; fear and dread took hold of her. Occasionally the horrible feeling of isolation had vanished, replaced by an overwhelming peace, but for this moment she felt afraid. Aria wiggled her legs and feet until the numbness turned to a dull tingle, and she could feel the mud caked around her whole body.

A tiny ripple bubbled under her chin. Aria raised her head, and her eyes widened; two golden silhouettes of harps shone out from the radiant sun encircled with small bright white spheres. She thought for a second she might be dreaming, or even hallucinating, but it was real, she could feel it. A calming warmth came upon her once again, only this time it felt like it was being poured over her and she couldn’t escape it, not that she wanted to. Every sensation, every heightened emotion dwindled down to nothing, as she felt this calmness envelope her. With her head raised to the sky, her eyes fell closed in a still surrender.

Aria moved one leg through the clumps of slimy mud that had become stuck around her; she was almost cemented in the river like a statue. As she went to move her other leg, she nearly lost her balance again. She kept her eyes closed, completely calm in the situation, the opposite of when she started; now she wasn’t a slave to her fear. A sudden feeling of boldness and courage had taken over her fears. She dragged her legs across one by one, almost like ploughing through four feet of snow. She continued this action with all the strength inside pushing through her; it didn’t even feel like she was the one doing it.

A sweet whistle hummed from above, and Aria’s eyes flitted open to see the same thrush return; it circled around her in a large halo. Her attention immediately went to its claw where she could no longer see the piece of paper. It soared in a wide spiral before finally landing on a floating log beside her. She took her eyes away for one moment as the black snarling dog reappeared on the hillside. She became distracted, and as she was, she began to sink again. The water sucked her under like a vacuum. She held tightly to her breath. This time when she opened her eyes, she didn’t feel the sharp sting from the waters’ impurities; instead, the water was clear, and the surface above was entirely visible. Aria saw the dancing trees, and the bright white sky, and then she saw a flock of birds which flew in a synchronised ‘V’ formation; they came straight overhead like a huge arrow pointing towards something.

With every second it got harder and harder to hold on. Aria kicked her legs, frantically trying to reach the surface, but the mud just wouldn’t let her go. She desperately needed to breathe. The wind swept two trees right and left, creating a divide where the suns’ radiance shone through. Aria’s eyes fell closed, and as they did, the water began to disperse, until all around her it gurgled, vibrating across her body. She gasped for air as the water drained; she looked on in awestruck wonder as all of the swampy riverbed dried up into the soil. Then it came to her, that one word she was searching for, ‘Trust.’

Trust; I can! 

October 22, 2019 17:47

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1 comment

Milly Ward
18:37 Oct 30, 2019

Wow! I found this story so inspiring. I loved all of the symbolism throughout, and the descriptions were on point. Many people can often feel like they can't do something, often I find myself question can I? Nothing is impossible, I believe that with God we can do anything. This story spoke to me on many levels, it began so mysteriously and left many open questions the further I read on.

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