Welcome to the July 2020 Storytime Blog Hop!
The black water of the pool was surrounded by bones; a smooth mirror reflecting his beaked face. Touching it with a claw, small ripples spread out, deforming the image, then slowly coming again to stillness. How much water did he need to drink? Would a sip do? Or should he drink deep? Perhaps instead he should simply apply his blade sharp claws to his own feathered throat. But he was not entirely sure he could strike true. No, the water was best, and a deep drink, to be sure the deed was done. He took a deep breath and lowered his face to the water, only to be bowled over by something striking his shoulder.
Shirdal heard a flutter of wings. The trees above him were still and quiet. He sat up and again leaned over the water. Again something slammed into him, knocking him away. This time he heard a hiss and a shuffle of dry leaves. Shirdal growled and turned once more. This time something exploded out of the water into his face throwing him backwards so he landed belly up an in pure defensive mode. But there was nothing to fight. And no water on his face at all.
“Allright!” He shouted to no one he could see as he righted himself. “I’ll wait! But this is happening. You can’t stop me forever!” He didn’t even know who he was shouting at.
“Nor will I, if you make a bargain with me.” A voice spoke. Shirdal turned and faced the winged woman that stood behind him. She was heart-rending in her beauty and she carried a coiled whip. He bowed to his goddess manifest, lowering his head to touch the ground.
“You find life to be not worth living. But there are too few of you for me to allow you to simply leave.” She looked up at a large tree that hung over the pool. “Here is my bargain: spend the longest night suspended from this tree. If you still wish to die when the sun rises, you may do so. I’ll not stop you again.”
Shirdal looked up. What was one night of suffering in a lifetime of grief? “My lady Nemesis, I agree.” She snapped the whip at him and Shirdal was jerked up over the pool, dangling by his back legs over the black water. Panicking, he flapped his wings, but bound and upside down he remained. And so he would remain by his own agreement.
The first thing he noticed was the pounding and pressure in his head as his blood flowed in that direction. The second thing was that he was having difficulty breathing. This set off another panic reaction. He found himself regretting his agreement, although he was not sure what the alternative would have been.
The thing about choosing to do something terribly difficult is that it tends focus the mind. All the busy little thoughts disappear in the blazing intensity of pain and struggle. It strips internal commentary, and burns away litter, until the mind is still. At first he fought the pain, sometimes thrashing, sometimes just trying to push it away with his mind. Finally he gave up, simply being with the agony in his legs and head.
Then he became bored. He fought that for a while too, telling himself stories and counting things. Eventually that too became uninteresting, and he started to ask questions. Why am I here? Why did Bel leave? Griffins mate for life. What’s wrong with me? He ran through his own flaws. I’m not very flexible, my sense of humor is non-existent, were griffins even supposed to be funny? Ever?, Maybe with a mate? Bel had not thought his way of showing affection was pleasant and certainly not funny. He had wanted to touch her and snuggle and groom, and she didn’t like it. Why not?
He dangled over a poisoned pool. Was there something wrong with how he showed affection? Or was it that”¦ What if they had just been a bad match?
Shirdal went rigid. Yes, griffins mated for life, but were they all happy about it? What if he had just dodged a miserable life? What if Bel had done him a favor? What if there was a mate out there that really enjoyed snuggles and grooming?
The sky had transitioned to a deep blue as he contemplated. His ordeal would soon be over and he must choose what he would do. He didn’t want to go through this again.
He looked down at the water below him for the first time since being strung up. The was enough light now that he could see his reflection. Who did he want to be? Who did he want to be with? He could decide that right now. He looked in the eyes of the being in the water. He. Could. Choose.
When the sun stepped away from the horizon, a voice surrounded him.
“What is your will, Shirdal of the Griffins?”
“I will live!” He felt a rush of energy. Driving his wings down hard, he felt himself lifted. The whip uncoiled and an unseen shove sent him away from the pool. Crouching on the ground for a moment, he leapt into the new morning.
Be sure you visit some of the other writers in this month’s installment of the Storytime Blog Hop.