Crescent Lane’s always had a bit of a reputation: there’ve always been rumours flying around. I just ignored them. I thought people were just trying to put me off. I mean, when people say a place is a bit weird they usually just mean it hasn’t got a Tesco’s within three metres.I didn’t realise what they meant when they said it was ‘odd’.I didn’t realise they were warning me.I didn’t realise there’d be demons.
There was no particular sing that that day would be particularly special. Some bills in the post, a message on the answering machine from some half-forgotten friend about a half-forgotten meeting.
Then I walked into the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea.
There was more than enough water for the kettle. There was more than enough water for twenty thousand kettles; it was everywhere!
There was literally a river flowing through my shop. The water was up to my waist and rushing past me all the time and I didn’t feel a thing! There were huge chunks of ice, big enough to crash ships, and they were passing right through my body as if I wasn’t there!
“Quite a sight, isn’t it?” The voice was deep and slow, but powerful. Whoever said it was obviously putting weight into their words. It was a voice that made you listen.
I glanced around. Nothing but salmon and kingfishers. “Why can’t I see you?”
The voice seemed like it was coming from in front of me. “Do you want to?”
“…yes?” I ventured.
There was a sigh and a polar bear appeared at the river’s side. He was huge, twice the size of the river and with a whiter-than-white coat. But he didn’t look dangerous, he looked sad. A kingfisher fluttered down and rested on his shoulder, he didn’t seem to notice.
“I’ve been following this stream all my life.” Stream wasn’t a big enough word to describe the volume of water, but I thought better of contradicting a bear that was four time my size. “Do you know how long the average polar bear lives?”
“No.” I’d probably read it somewhere, but it’s not the sort of thing you remember at a time like that.
“Eighteen years. Can you guess how old I am?”
“I’m eighty two years of age. This stream has kept me alive for that long. But now, the stream is drying up, because I’ve realised the truth.” His voice was so serious, like he was judging me. “The truth is that this stream is a trap. It extends your life by giving you whatever you need,” He stuck out his paw a fish jumped into it, he gave it to the kingfisher and it flew off. “But it consumes your entire life; you spend all your time tracing the stream. You forget to live: you remember only to survive.” He suddenly leant forward so his face was right up against mine, and I could feel his warm, putrid breath. He sounded angry. “I am old, and therefore wise, so listen to what I have to say.” All of a sudden, I could hear thunder, “Let the stream dry up. Don’t allow it to claim another victim.” There was a purple swirl of smoke behind him, which started to pull him backwards. “Don’t waste time fearing death, enjoy what life you’re given, and, when your time comes, you’ll be able to accept it. Otherwise you might as well be dead.” There was a bright flash of light, and he was gone with only an echo of “Let the stream fade” to remember him by.
But the river didn’t disappear. It started to bubble, I looked around, and the entire stream was boiling, with me in it. I tired to wade to the side, but reeds started to grab at my feet. Clawing at my legs.
I was trapped.
And then she rose out of the water, like some beautiful dolphin. She was made of the water of the river, but she looked solid, like she could take your hand, or your life. She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, and there was a light shining behind her, making her look ethereal. She offered out her hand to me.
“Don’t be afraid,” her voice was bubble being blown, “This stream will sustain you forever. Just take my hand and I’ll give you whatever you desire.” Her eyes were glowing, making her all the more tempting. “What is it you want most?”
I glanced around: the kitchen was small. I could get a bigger one, I could have a palace. I could be a king. I could have all the books in the world, and everything on a platter.
But…what would be the point? I’d just have to follow the stream all the time, I’d have no freedom at all. I’d be a prisoner.
“What I really want,” I leant over and switched on the kettle, “is a cup of tea.”
The river burst into a cloud of steam, the fish jumped up and exploded into dust. The kingfisher shrieked as it dissolved before my eyes. The kitchen shook and the woman fixed me with the proudest stare imaginable.
by Rory Kelly