I knew a magician once. Not the kind that performs sleight of hand on stage, or hypnotises the gullible. The real thing, a magician who practised ritual and who believed, to his essential core, in the ultimate strangeness of the world.
I found him entertaining. I had a penchant for the dark in a kind of foppish intellectual way. My life was calm and ordered and nothing odd or frightening breached its boundaries. So I could find what he spoke of interesting but distant. It was comfortable, and like any other fool I thought I was immune somehow from the very things I found so diverting.
My mother believed in ghosts and claimed to have seen some. I would tease her when she said I might one day see them myself because such things ‘run in families’. My magician friend said something similar, so one afternoon he told me about their various manifestations.
“Never live near dark water,” he said, “or where people have drowned. Many ghosts haunt because they want to, or because they are temporarily confused. They avoid or only later embrace the proper process for death.”
“What is that?” I asked, intrigued.
“When you die your spirit divests itself over time of its individual essence, and then is cleared to merge with the infinite. But water holds that process back and in some cases stops it entirely. People who drown are often trapped, and they know it, making them the worst ghosts of all.”
I didn’t heed his warning, of course, and some years later moved to a woodland area, close to a river that coursed its way through sprawling nature through to the little town nearby. I went there to write because my imagination has always been my best asset and by then was my livelihood. Like I said, I was comfortable living my little dramas in my head rather than in life.
Even when I heard about a young woman who suicided so near to my little homestead, by drowning no less, I was un-concerned. The words of my mother and those of my magician friend did not linger enough to make me take care.
But then, one night, I ventured late along the river route, musing on nature to help me work through a particularly vexing part of my writing. And as the various night sounds of a forest awakened around me, something else awakened too. Something that sounded like clawing, shuddering, wrenching life, coming from the water. the dark water.
That’s when I first saw her, rising like a blight upon a low hanging moon. Climbing from the water, the dark water, shadowed and dread.
And I head her, heard her inhuman, growling, desperate sound, reaching out to me. Just me, a purchase on a life she had lost, or a conduit to a freedom she had eschewed.
Dark water trapped, gliding now, so close, ever closer to me. Too late I recalled the warning, and what else my friend had said. That such ghosts could draw you down, draw you down with them.
“For if they are trapped they crave company,” he said.
And she was coming, coming for me, and I was frozen to the spot, drawn by something ineffable and inevitable.
And I screamed. The last sound I would make on solid ground. Thereafter all my words are just cries from the water, dark water.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2016