The swamp is much more beautiful at night.
I’m on a canoe in the middle of a swamp. For so long I had wanted to take a small solo tour of the local swamp and I finally was able to do so. From friends I had heard that the swamp is gorgeous at night, but I should not go out there after dark because “it’s dangerous”. One: I’m much braver than my friends think I am, and two: I’m a sucker for a good sight.
The stars glow over such a dark and unindustrial sight. Such a pure patch of nature; such still silence, such smooth flowing water guiding my small boat across the slick and running path, it is bliss. It makes my heart rest on top of my stomach, floating like a deflating helium balloon.
With my oar in hand, I set it down on the floor of the canoe and lay back, taking in the small sounds which I now begin to digest. The sound of frogs silently croaking and crickets playing their nice little song for each other nearly lulls me to sleep. Before I could fully enter into a black, unconscious state, I hear an odd sound. It is not odd in general, but odd for the swamp. It is a noise that such a place cannot create on its own.
The sound is of a violin playing so softly, sounding distant from me. Instantly intrigued, I grab my paddle and smoothly inch my way along the water’s edge, avoiding trees and mud as I did so. I follow the noise, not knowing what to expect.
Across the way I see a figure. It is seemingly pallid, thin, and fragile looking. Upon getting closer I see that it is a young man. He looks sickly, weak, but very tall. In his hands is a bow and violin. He is the source of the music. Though, the violin sounds slightly distorted, like a violin, but also a voice singing within it, under the vibrations caused by the friction between the bow and strings.
His clothes are seemingly those of an eighteenth century pirate, but torn and ragged. He is covered in netting that is from a fishing boat. It blends into its environment with a green color contaminated by a tint of brown mixed in; much like the bog water. Where he is standing the water is up to half of his shins, his feet and ankles completely submerged in it. Like a water lily, he has flowers woven into a crown on his head, placed over him so gently.
The violin he is holding is decorated nicely with small pearls and white paint. It is made from nice auburn wood and skillfully crafted.
Something about him enticed me to go near him. Carefully and hopefully silently I push myself and my boat towards him. For a moment or so I am silent, but suddenly a branch cracked and he is startled by the noise.
He turns around and I can see his face. It is indeed pale like his body. His face is angular with a pointed chin and distinct cheekbones, though his nose is curved at the end. On his nearly white face he has seven piercings: one on the middle of his lower lip, two piercings on each ear, which are pointed like an elf’s; one on his lobe and the other in the cartilage, one on the left side of his nose from my point of view, and one on his left eyebrow, all made of silver. His face is surrounded by straight and black hair, pressed flattened against his head from the water he seems to have come out from. Along his hair and face dangle weeds and pond vines. His body is covered from head to toe with loose leaves and lily petals.
On closer inspection, I notice that his belt buckle is also a lily, which matches the ones on his head in the crown. His shirt is thin but covered by the jacket. Below his belt are pants that match his coat in not only color but also in texture and fabric. The jacket has tears and holes in it from age, decay, and even burns from fires that were put out just in time.
For such a thin man, he is quite gorgeous. His face is smooth and flawless like a beautifully painted stone.
In my presence, his eyes are wide and startled, and his body is stiff, defensive against me. After silent and eye to eye glances he seems to calm and loosen his body from the stress. He smiles and looks down at his violin and bow. Again, he begins to play the soft music, making his violin sing. His eyes close as the bow slowly rocks and rubs back and forth against the violin’s strings. I see his smile fade slightly as he is taken into the music.
I am about three meters away from him, possibly a little bit more. Taking my oar once again I plunge it into the water and slowly make my way towards him. I feel hypnotized by his music as I get closer and closer to him. The voices become much clearer in the violin the closer my boat gets to him.
He slowly backs away from me in the water until we are close to shore. When he stops I turn the boat’s nose away from him. Within a minute I am right beside him, watching him play his violin. He looks down and smiles at me, showing only the top of his upper teeth. Slowly, I begin to drown in the tunes of the vibrating strings. I lay back into the boat as the sounds sooth my body and soul. Suddenly the boat tips, but it’s not because of me, it’s because of him. The last thing I see before going into the water is his eyes, which are glowing white like stars. I see that the gray around his eyes seem to turn darker even behind the bright light.
He pulls me out of the water and seems that he is trying to kill me. Before I can brace for my death, a shadow flies from behind me to him. It is of a female, her build is thin but still slightly curvy, much like mine. Her hair is long and flowing as she glides swiftly towards the man.
I hear a splash as his body falls into the water. Stumbling with my feet sinking into the mud under the water on the swamp’s floor, I run out of the pond and on land. Turning around, I see the struggle underwater, and then a purple syrup flows from them. My hero is dead, I’m sure of it. Before I turn away from the water to leave, a scent hits my nose. It is of a mixture of berries, distinctly raspberries and blackberries. Curious, I turn back and approach the water. Luckily both bodies seem to be gone, so I am safe. The scent is from the purple liquid. I know it’s a bad idea, but I’m too tempted. My fingers inch towards the purple coated water, dip in, and rise up to my mouth and tongue. The taste is that of the smell. It’s like juice, pure concentrated juice. The tang and, yet, taste bud soothing liquid coated my tongue and lips. I look up and see a figure in the distance.
It is the man. His pale face is showing through the small slits where his wet hair separated like obsidian curtains. He has even more weeds and vines around his body now, and he seems much more like a monster than he ever has before. His irises are dark and are soulless, like small abysses made in his eyes. With the water flowing over him, it seems that he is melting, though he is not. As I did before him, he drinks the juice, though he cups his hands and drinks it from his makeshift bowl. Afterwards, he smiles at me.
Inside of myself I feel something rush through my body, much too quickly for me to think of where it had begun or why I could be feeling this way. It is a feeling of no wanting, no strive, and no hunger to hold me back. I wonder what it means, and then I feel an odd pain in the upper lobe of my ear. My hand travels to the stinging area and strokes it, finding that the top of my ear is pointed much like his.
A smile claws across his face as he lifts his violin and bow out of the water. He shakes the vines and water from the instrument and backs away, still facing me. Just like before he plays his violin, though the voices are stronger and more present in the song he plays. Something about it seems more enticing this time. It was beckoning me, calling me by name. I do not stumble going into the water like I did coming out. My feet move gracefully along the everglade lake floor. My body straightens as I rest myself against his body as he still played his violin. Under the water I see a harp, which I pick up and begin to play. It is the sound of bells, and not a harp. Soon the bells turn into the voices of angels and singing, young children. It is the most beautiful sound I have ever heard, and I’ve never played the harp before. I cannot feel any irritation or pain from pulling every string softly as I play, unlike what is normally expected. It is the same color and wood as the violin, and is also covered in plant life. He and I go off together, deeper into the woodlands, starting a new life together, like we’d known each other for years.
Though, I wonder—
Who was the shadow that saved me? Did I waste an innocent life?