For the bright-eyed amongst you, what is coming next is obviously not part of Read After Burnout. But it is part of my Piper series (Book 3), one that I wish to see the light of day.
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The Piper Book 3
Her head rises from the water and her lungs burn with its paradox. The girl is confusion as her arms flail madly to find meaning. Her feet scrape emptiness that ought not to have been there. She coughs mouthfuls of liquid that has entered her lungs. Inside her head, the inner eye is roving madly trying not to settle upon a thought that suggests that she is dying.
Although the river is not flowing quickly, she is weak and will soon fall prey to its irresistible invitations. She starts to sink once again and this time she knows it will be forever.
The boy is hiding in the trees near to where she struggles. He is watching uncertain of what he sees. This is no fish darting to the surface for insects. The boy has seen much and it is that which keeps him hidden, even when he sees her face.
He should hide still for this may be a trick, but the girl is in danger and will, he is sure of this, drown without his help. He is scared of the water for he cannot swim. He knows of the nymphs that rule it who are filled with hatred towards man. If he ventures in, he may be taken by them.
The boy thinks in shallow breaths and then breaks cover.
He hits the water fast and, within a short distance, he is at his limit. His feet tread vigorously and his arms are only just resisting their natural urge to panic. He moves to where her head is being sucked back under. Against an instinct that warns him against doing so, he holds his breath and pushes his head beneath the surface so that he can see.
She hopes it is just a dream, as the sun falls on one side of a liquid divide and she on the other, but it is not. As her world is dragged away from above, she thinks of all that she will miss and waits for the memories of her life to return. She is giving up her fight and her lungs are burning against the desire to breathe in whatever wishes to enter. She thinks about Joel and tries to summon his face behind closed eyelids. He too has gone. She drops deeper towards the river bed with one last glimpse of the fading sun that she will see for only a brief moment more.
Now she sees him and he is swimming towards her. So this is how it will be she thinks before losing the ability to fight it all.
As best they can, his eyes adjust to the blurry world of water. They see nothing but green going on forever and darkening to a solid state of fear. He knows that his hands are reaching out before him, knows that they move like the front paws of a dog in water, yet understands that he is moving downwards. He is being pulled towards the river bed by the invisible hands of the nymphs and can now do nothing to prevent it. Even if he were to change his mind and abandon this fruitless rescue, he couldn’t. He is beyond anything that can change the course of this action. The flow of the waters is irrelevant as his descent nears its purpose. The touch of the smooth pebbles greet his fingers and he is there at the foot of another world. This will be how it ends.
In the darkness, he reaches out to touch the river bed again and feels a cold hand.
She is at the bottom. The indifferent flow of waters move past and her hair is taken as if caught in a breeze. Her eyes are open and yet does not see.
He is sure that she is dead. A surge of anger overcomes him and he grabs at her.
Pulling her against him, he makes for the surface, surprised at the ease with which he can now move. Even with the dead weight he is carrying, he soon breaks into the other world. Now the weight of her, her lifeless shape, drags hard against him. He reaches the bank and falls down. His burden falls at his side.
She has drunk from the waters and is now part of them.