I was stuck on the primary writing, but still needed to do my daily wordcount. So here it is, all 705 words of flash fiction that I sat down and pulled out of my head.
He dipped his hand into the water, and lifted it slowly back out, letting the droplets fall straight down from his fingertips. They sparkled in the sunlight like living diamonds, then vanished when they reached the surface again.
The big otter watched the man cautiously. Men were not friends, in his experience, and the broad nose bore the scar of the fishhook that had taught him this. But there was something hypnotic in the man’s rhythmic actions that drew him closer, his curiosity overcoming his caution. He was never so close he could be touched, but when the man looked up from his hand and straight into the otter’s eyes, he was too close.
The man they called skinwalker closed his eyes again, savoring the small soul. It was mute, but brave, and a little salty like the sea.
His mouth turned down. That had been a river otter, no dog of the waves, he. So why salt?
This time when he dipped his hand in the water, he brought it to his lips and sucked the liquid from his palm. It tasted of plants, and mud, and perhaps a little of the blood he’d shed. That must explain the salt.
He opened his eyes and looked around. He had been sitting here on a rock partly in the water, his legs folded under him, for too long. His legs would be stiff and difficult when he moved, and he dared not draw attention by splashing. Things larger and harder to control than the otter were nearby. Not all of them wore fur.
The man slowly worked his legs, wriggling off the rock a bit at a time, letting the blood flow come back. They tingled and burned, but that was to be expected. He let the pain be, and did not try to evade it.
He stood up, finally, and took a single step toward the shore. The cold hand on his leg made him start. He nearly jumped out of his skin. With what he was, this was an all-too-real possibility.
The man looked down, and vivid green eyes looked back at him. She was very pale, and her lips were blue. Her long hair streamed around her and rippled with the movement of the water.
She was lying on her back, one arm stretched out over her head, the slender white fingers wrapped around his ankle tinged with green. Her eyes were wide, and they shone with the reflection of the ripples washing over them.
The man lifted his foot from the rocky bottom, only a few inches deep here, and attempted to tug himself free. The hand tightened painfully, but still there was nothing in her eyes. Her lips were parted naturally, as though in breath, but the water stood over her. The dress she wore was gray shot with gold and silver threads through the lacework, and it flowed like the wind blew through veils. She was beautiful, in a fearsome way, and he knew fear for the first time, a flicker in his chest like a trapped bird trying to escape. Or perhaps an otter’s soul.
He hopped on his free foot, trying to make his way to dry ground. Once… twice… a few inches of progress. On the third hop, as he was disconnected from the land, she tugged.
“Daughter,” A voice rasped harshly some time later. “What have you brought your starving mother?”
Lips cracked despite the water, the neverending pour of the river, licked by a fishhooked-tongue. “I smell fear.”
The man paddled, splashing heedlessly. The hands on his ankles gave him just enough room to reach the surface and suck precious air into his lungs. Most of the time. He coughed up river water. He was blind with fear and his eyes burned with all the water in them.
“He smells of otter.”
“Our favorite otter.” Another voice corrected. “The brave one who liked to play with us.”
“He is fair game.” The mother’s voice croaked, triumphant. “Let him go.”
The hope he felt when her hands released him was short-lived.
As was he.
The river ran red for a moment, and then it was clear again. Shimmering like living diamond.