I watched as the vapor of my breath hovered and grew heavy, forming into droplets before my eyes. They slowly spun and changed color—pine green, then goldenrod, then cerulean. They were mesmerizing; I couldn’t resist touching them. I reached my hand into their orbit expecting to feel just a nip of a current. Instead, I felt the suction of a whirlpool—its force much stronger than the lazy blue drops suggested.
I yanked my hand back, and at just that moment, the drops congealed into pellets the size of ball bearings and scattered across the ground. I felt a few stings as some of them pinged off my bare feet.
“It’s amazing. Will you show me again?” I asked my Uncle Jarlath, who was sitting on a bench nearby shaded from the midday sun by a large tree. I think I laughed then. “Please?”
I noticed Uncle Jarlath was clean-shaven and wearing a new suit, which I found odd. He generally favored the casual look of his profession: unemployed engineer. His face soured as if my request had been deemed inappropriate. I looked around me and wondered why City Park was so eerily empty on such a pleasant summer afternoon. Probably he’s using his illusions to keep people away. My smile fell; something was not right. Should I not have shown him that I liked his trick?
The pellets rose up as a group from the grass. They aligned themselves in the air parallel to my body. When the highest of them reached shoulder-height, they flattened, forming hundreds of long, shiny threads. A pang of fear shot through me when they advanced toward my body all at once.
I felt them firmly press against my navy blue doublet and pants. I heard a series of high-pitched plucks like violin strings as they broke on my shins. Some broken strings must have reconnected behind me because I immediately felt pressure at the backs of my knees. I had no choice but to sit as they cradled and wrapped around my arms, my backside, and finally my feet, lifting me off the ground. The blue swing/chair turned me toward my indifferent-looking uncle. I tried to keep calm despite being completely entwined in my moody uncle’s newest achievement. I felt like a marionette.
“Now do you believe me?” he asked as he stood and took a few steps toward where I floated.
“Then kindly tell me of what I have convinced you.” The threads dumped me onto the ground on all fours before him. I should have known it wasn’t just a parlor game. I found myself missing the feeling of wonder I had just minutes ago: back when I thought my uncle was in a kind mood.
“I believe you have invented some way to control water.”
“No!” I felt his shoe cover my left hand. A threat. “What do you believe, young man?”
I kept my eyes down. Sweat rose up on my forehead and then floated away. The unnatural way it was lifted off my skin sent chills through my core. Uncle Jarlath has always been quick to anger, I soothed myself, especially when it came to people discounting his ‘genius’. I had talked my way out of situations like this many times before. This trick with water was the only new factor. “I believe you have mastered your powers over air and water, Uncle. It isn’t an illusion; it’s real. And it’s wonderful,” I cajoled. “But how are you doing it?”
“The answer is simple, young Crannog.” He substituted the anger in his voice with conceit. I saw the tip of his mud-covered boot brighten from black to a watery green as he withdrew it from my hand. “Algae.”
Originally submitted to yeah write’s Bronze Lounge. You can read the original version here. Thanks again to Mel at My Own Champion, Jennifer K. at Graceful Press Poetry, Silverleaf at Silverleaf Journal, and Kathy at the Giggling Trucker’s Wife Writes for your brains and your time!
This short story was influenced by Erin Morganstern’s novel, The Night Circus.