The Water Spirit

A Greek myth

Silence.

The waters of the lake were placid and dull like milk, reflecting the fingers of mist clinging to its surface. The water never rippled. No birds sang. All was soundless except for the occasional wind whispering through the ferns of the forest. The woods were dark and impenetrable, void of light and life. None ventured there. It was a forsaken place, fallen from the map after a thousand years of neglect and rejection. It used to be beautiful; an unspoiled pocket of landscape, known to by only a few. Now, they were gone, and the forest had grown wild and unruly, and any who entered it would not be forgiven for their trespass…

***

Alexa lived in the Greek town of Xemphia. She loved it there, with its bustling atmosphere and excitement always in the air; Xemphia was a big centre for trade, enticing people from all corners of Greece with rare foods, spices and trinkets from across the Western sea.

Xemphia was amazing- but a place Alexa loved even more was the forest. It surrounded three sides of the village like an intimidating blanket, tall trees towering and carrying on for as far as the eye could see. Anyone who had as much of a sense of adventure as Alexa couldn't possibly resist.

Alexa's mother ran a busy store on one of Xemphia's market streets, and never really had time for her, and often left Alexa to look after her younger sister, Dot.

From your first impressions of Dot, you would have to think she was a little odd. Her jet black hair was wispy and never seemed to lie flat and she always seemed to be looking in the wrong direction. On top of that, she said the oddest of things.

"I wonder what it would be like to fly." She said, on the way back from a walk, sitting on Alexa's shoulders and gazing up at the sky.

"If we were meant to fly in the sky why didn't the Gods gift us with wings?" Was Alexa's reply, rational as always.

She frowned. "What's over there?" Dot asked, suddenly changing the subject. She pointed down the hill, into a much darker area of the forest. Simply looking at it made a chill go up her spine.

"I don't know. But it doesn't look safe to me."

"You're such a fraidy cat." Her sister mocked. "Please can we go down there? Please?" She rocked back and forth on her sister's shoulders.

"No." Alexa was firm. She set her sister down on the path. "We have to go back. It's getting dark, and you know what Mother said about this part of the forest after dark. It's not safe."

Dot stuck her bottom lip out in a strange fashion. Her frown turned into a grin. "Catch me if you can!" She pulled a face and ran into the forest. Even after a second, Alexa couldn't see Dot anymore. She was enveloped in silence. She took into the forest after her sister.

The trees got thicker. Bushes got overgrown, and ivy was draped across the floor. Brambles stretched across the path, threatening to scratch anyone who touched them. Alexa was about to turn back when she realised he was totally lost. Everything was dark and forbidding, and every tree was like the next. Alexa didn't like the quiet. A gust of wind blew past her, rustling the leaves, then all was silent.

Soon, she came across a lake, and looking out she realised that she'd ended up at the bottom of a big valley, stretching out across the land. She couldn't believe she'd never come across it before. The soft lapping of the water onto the bank made her cringe. She backed away from the water's edge.

A scream splintered the silence. The cry of her sister from the other side of the lake. Running blind through the fog, she desperately tried to get to the source of the sound.

The wind tore at her face, and she was running so quickly that she almost ran into her sister. Dot stood there, showing no signs that she had just been attacked, with a deadpan look on her face.

"Are you okay?" Alexa asked. There was no reply. "Dot?" No response. She waved a hand in front of her face, but she didn't even react. Alexa bent down and held her hand. It was stone cold.

There was a great rumble from underneath the surface of the lake, and the mist parted as something erupted from the waters. Standing there was a woman, pale as the waters and just as beautiful. She spoke with an ominous tone that shook Alexa's ribcage.

"Who are you to trespass on my forest?"

Shaking, Alexa stood. "What have you done to my sister?"

"I have taken her soul from her body. That is your punishment for trespassing on this land."

"Hey, it's not our fault? Who says this is your forest anyway? I'd like to say that it's my forest."

The spirit's eyes flashed with anger and it bent to loom over Alexa. "Leave this forest and never return. Or I will take your soul too." Alexa cringed back in fear, reduced to a quivering mess under the water spirit.

"I want my sister back." She put simply, holding the rock hard figure of Dot close to her. She missed the reassuring warmth she normally felt from her hugs.

"The only way you can get your sister back now is to dive and swim to the bottom of this lake, and retrieve the treasured sword of Zeus. That will serve as payment. But beware- none who have ever dived into the waters of the Great Lake have ever returned."

Alexa's stomach dropped to the floor, and churned like the sea. Her worst nightmare had come to life.

***

Alexa walked towards the water's edge with tentative steps. Slowly, she shuffled until the sole of her shoe met the water. It rippled for a moment, then the water swallowed her foot, gulping it down like a hungry monster. The water was cold, and numbness ate away the edges of her toes.

Alexa forced herself to wade through the waters that were gripping her clothes and legs like thick treacle. As the water got deep, she took a deep breath and dived into the murky depths. Water rushed up her nose and into her mouth, choking her. Hands of water gripped her from every side, trying to drag her down into the depths. She felt the breath leaving her. Desperately, she tried to kick and swim before she drowned.

She sank deeper and deeper, until she found the bottom. She gripped the sandy ground with her hands, and then pushed herself along the bottom.

She couldn't breathe. Her throat was dry and her lungs were thick. Her brain screamed for oxygen. Yet she still carried on, and out of sheer will, she soon came across a glint of metal in the distance. Pushing harder and harder, she reached out into the darkness, until her hands met the reassuring breadth of the sword.

With the last of her strength she kicked and kicked, desperately reaching for the rays of light that shone from the surface above her. After what seemed like an eternity, she reached it, and then she rose up from the water, holding the sword high above her head like a trophy.

She shook her head and spat water out of her mouth. Her sister would have been proud. The water spirit looked genuinely surprised at her success, and dissipated into the air.

Exhausted, she smiled, then turned her head towards her sister.

Her face fell.

Dot was still rigid, cold and soulless.

Alexa gazed blankly upon the sword. What was it for? The water spirit was gone, so who was she supposed to give it to? Had she been cheated? In the surprise of her success, had the spirit broken her promise and abandoned them both?

Staggering from the waters, she slumped down in front of Dot's body, and brushed a fine wisp of hair from her face.

"Come back…" She whispered, "Come back…"

Confusion turned into rage that coursed through her veins, making her clench her fists in anger. Gaining in confidence, she stood up, and yelled into the mist.

"COME BACK!" She screamed, "By the name of Zeus I order you to come back!"

A low growl seeped from in between the clouds, as the spirit rose from the depths once again. Pale skin where its eyebrows would have been was stretched into a frown, a snarl on her blue lips. Alexa took the sword in her hands, instantly understanding what she had to do.

She began to run, then sprint through the shallows.

She jumped, as high as she could, and plunged the sword into the spirit's chest.

As she fell back, a piercing scream exploded in her ears, as the spirit slowly transformed back into the very water from which she came. Skin on her legs and stomach began to peel away, and her face began to slither from her skull.

A white light fled from the dying spirit, and into Dot's body, down her throat and into her heart. Dot smiled and her eyes sparkled, as she rushed into her sister's arms. A shower of water came over the both of them as the last of the spirit was destroyed.

Now the ordeal was over, Dot made a solemn promise never to ignore her sister's advice again, and they turned back home. On the way, Alexa looked back at the darkened part of the forest. Despite its obvious dangers, she could see it had once been a place of beauty and mystery. She could see herself going back one day.