Short Story: Washed Away


Illustration by Zoe Watts

     The people had finally forgotten about her. The stories they used to tell about the river spirit were lost as the storytellers faded away. Even the spirit of that very river had forgotten her own name. 

     Long ago, she was revered for the life saving water she provided. There were festivals in her honor, where the children danced and threw flowers into her waters as thanks. 

     Her mind reached to remember the songs they sang for her, but it had been lost long ago. If she tried, she could almost recall the melody for a moment. 

     The people stopped praying to her, stopped thanking her, and stopped telling her stories to their children. They started building bridges over her, built dams to tame her, and polluted her with plastic and chemicals. 

     The spirit was stranded in her human form, and had been for decades. For the water she controlled was no longer suitable to hold a life. For day after day, month after month, and year after year, she sat at the edge of the river, trying to remember who she was. 

     Up stream, a small child wadded in the shallow water as their parents watched and smiled. The child giggled and splashed, playing without a care in the world. 

     The spirit glanced at the child. So full of life and wonder- so unaware of the painful truths that dwelled in the world around them. They had not yet seen the worst parts of the world, so they danced and spun and laughed. 

     Looking at her hands, stained from pollution, the spirit wondered when she had lost the hope that graced the toddler. Was it when people stopped seeing her as a god? Or perhaps it was lost when they first started seeing her as such. 

     The river wept and wept, letting her tears fall back into the water. As the sun fell, her wailing continued. She tried to pray for her life, but did not know who to send her prayers to. As her tears ran down her cheeks, her hair began to trickle into water as well. Slowly, every piece of her became fluid and fell into her river. 

     And as she screamed into the night sky which no longer held any stars, the deity reclaimed the last fragment of her once great power. With that last piece of herself, she tore down every dam and spit the trash and chemicals back into the city. She brought back the fish and plants. She used every last piece of her power to clean and reclaim the river. 

     When her work was done, the spirit looked over the stream and smiled. She let out a breath, which she’d been holding for centuries, finally at peace, finally able to rest. Her power gone, she dissolved into the water, her name on the tip of her tongue.