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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2090417
"The crystal waters beckoned her, calling to her thirst, promising refreshment..."
Word Count 740

She crept up, stealthy like the moon on its evening path. She could see the light as it illuminated the cave’s blues, greens, and greys. The water’s reflection against the ceiling shone brightly, broken only by the white circles of light and small streams of water flowing through to the underground pond. The crystal waters beckoned her, calling to her thirst, promising refreshment, but she dared not go yet, not until she was sure it was safe, she was safe, from them.

Her eyes searched the shadows for movements and round shapes differing from the sharp edges of the surrounding rocks. She’d learned that they often hid there, but that holding still was difficult for them. For her, holding still meant life, so it was as natural for her as the beating of a hummingbird’s wings was for those emerald jewels. Using only her eyes until they’d penetrated every darkened corner in her field of vision, only then did she slowly move her head to open a new sector for her eyes to search.

Finally, after many dry minutes, she came closer to the water’s edge, then again paused to examine newly opened darknesses. It was a lengthy process, but she knew that her practiced stealth and caution were what kept her alive, one of the last of her species, a hybrid born of nightfall and silver. She fancied the moon her sister and the stars her cousins. But for now, she was alone in this part of the cave. Finally, a long, quenching drink and a quick refreshing dip. At last.

The first few swallows seemed to be absorbed insider her cracked, dry mouth and stick in her desiccated throat. Then a cool relief finally slipped into her belly which begged for more. She stopped, knowing she couldn’t drink too much too fast. She took another, less careful look around before slipping quietly into the water. Her body quivered at the cool temperature. She dunked her head, then drank another few swallows as her mouth sat at water level and she listened to the drips from her nose and brow, barely audible above the streams of water coming from the openings in the ceiling. Then she stretched herself out, long across the top of the water and began graceful strokes across the stretch of open water, taking swallows from time to time.

She felt the intensity of energy and fear that always came with these times when she chose to do more than just drink. There was a feeling of power over her circumstances blended with fear that at any moment, she could be discovered, and if she were, here, in the water, would be a terrible place for it to happen. She slipped beneath the surface and swam underwater, eyes open, through the beam of light that penetrated the clear water and she listened to the splashes of the streams from above as they got louder then softer again as she passed beneath them, then beyond.

Her heart began to flutter, like moths’ wings inside her chest. Sometimes it was a warning, other times it was nothing, but she always heeded it. She surfaced silently, taking in big gulps of water to sustain her until her next journey to a water source. When she could stand on the silty bottom, she surveyed her surroundings, carefully, but less slowly because in the water, she was easily seen. This was not a game where her stillness mattered as much as her silence simply to prevent from drawing the attention of any who might be lurking beyond. As many times as she’d played this game, she’d always won, so she wasn’t about to change the rules.

She carefully came out of the water, doing her best to keep her sound below that of the falling water. When she reached the edge, she shook and flung water from her to remove excess so as to not leave a trail. She then walked carefully along the edge of the water, on the rounded rocks to dry her feet before beginning the climb to safety. She searched the stillness with every sense, willing herself to recognize anything that should pique her instincts. Finally dry enough and assured that no prying eyes would follow her back, she began a careful climb over rocks, checking for drips to betray her presence. Satisfied, she continued back to her lair to rest and prepare for her next venture.
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