Fiction Sunday 4 – “A River Once Ran Here”

Another story for the Where the Stars Used to Sing collection.

A River Once Ran Here

I sailed away from the moon the day the river dried up. The moon river had always waxed and waned like the moon itself; drawing near to the village before retreating once more. We drank the river's silver water, and kept our youth, and danced in the moonlight with bells around our ankles, splashing in the shallows every time the river waxed and brought us our lifeblood.

We never aged and, though we knew that on other less-friendly orbs there was a thing as death, we never feared it. Not until the day that the river didn't come to us as it was supposed to.

We were wearing our dresses woven of silver light and silver dance bells around our ankles and did the twirling, swirling Ariashja Dance, but the water didn't come.

When the sun finally lit the woods and mountain from which the silver water flowed, we followed the meandering road that the river filled each month. The mud beneath our feet steadily grew wetter and deeper and we found the silver water. Gulping it down gleefully, we danced in the new shallows beneath the trees' shadows.

The river's water waned as the moon's shadow waxed and we waited for the shadow to wane and bring us the silver water once more. We acted like we weren't worried, but stole glances at the opal-white, glimmering mountain from whence the moon river's water flowed.

When the moon's light waned we dressed in our silver garments once more and tied the bells around our ankles. And waited in silence for the river that would no longer come to the village. Again we went in search of the river and found it further away still.

Thirsty and light-headed we drank our fill and danced in the shallows until the light started to fade to night. We made our way back to the village without speaking. Yet we knew in our hearts what we needed to do.

The next month we donned our silver dresses and tied what we needed in bundles to bear on our backs. And went in search of the receding silver waters.

Our nomadic lifestyle soon became second nature as we trekked further and further away from the village; closer and closer to the shining mountain in the distance.

We danced less and less until the monthly festivities became little more than a dreamlike memory.

Finally, we reached the opal-white mountain and found a fountain of silver water. I looked back at the long road we had walked and down at my dust-stained silver dress and felt the sorrow of loss that I had not felt the like of before. And I wondered if the death of the river felt the same to me as the death of a loved one on other orbs.

I filled a bottle with the silver water before drinking deep. I had made my choice.

Soon others were dancing around the fountain and bathing in its youth-giving waters, but I slipped away to the woods not far from the fountain. There, on the bank of what had been the moon river was a silver-grey boat large enough for two. It had been used by our scouts, but they would no longer need it, I realised and felt my eyes blur and burn.

I placed the bottle of water in the boat and proceeded to plait reins from the vines that grew wild around the trees. Once done, I whistled and called in the tongue of the owls and seven answered my call.

"Adventure!" they hooted among themselves and hopped-flew between the trees. We weren't the only creatures who dreamed of what it would be like on other orbs.

I tied the reins around the owls, fastening them to the light boat into which I climbed, still wearing my silver dress and dance bells. I said a silent goodbye to my fellow villagers and then we were off, trailing silver-grey dust into the sky as we headed out from the moon. The journey would be long.

I looked down at my wrinkled and age-spotted hands that were holding the reins of the white owls that sped me towards the blue planet. I laid down in the boat and, as I drifted off, heard the bells of the Ariashja dance and wondered how it would be when I met my friends once more on the other side.

My eye caught the bottle of silver moon river water that I dared not sip yet just before sleep took me. Perhaps someday someone would return to the moon and see the remainder of our village, our footprints in the dried mud, hear the echoes of the dance bells, remember us, and say: "A river once ran here".


Welcome to this week’s Fiction Sunday newsletter!

I hope you enjoyed this week’s story – it’s also part of Where the Stars Used to Sing (although this is quite obvious for this one, haha!).

The story started from the title that popped into my head while writing something completely different and I quickly jotted it down. It’s actually amazing how many times this happens while writing..

I knew that this was the next story in the series that I’m planning, but only had a very vague idea about the actual story until I saw this artwork by Manuela Adreani:

Actually created for The Little Prince, it served to let the rest of the story basically fall into place. It turned out a lot sadder than I’d thought it was going to, but – then again – that also happens quite often while I’m writing or even watching something. (Another reason to always carry a notebook; you never know when that ‘eureka’ moment will strike.)

I’ve added some more pins for Where the Stars Used to Sing to the Pinterest board and you can see those by clicking on this link for the “In Need of Stories” Pinterest board.

Ps. Be sure to follow Manuela’s Instagram for more beautiful artwork.

Until Wednesday then, stay well and stay safe!