Only Drowning Men

The butterflies in my stomach turned in to moths when I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out, and all I could hear was the summer storm beating against the widow pane in front of me.

I refused to look away and watched as the drops of rain race down the glass, as tears ran down my cheeks and mingled with the downpour. In the reflection of the glass I saw the shadows of overhanging tree branches sway in the wind, as I began to breathe with the same beat as the swaying branches.

I moved away from the window, as quickly as my feet would let me, feeling the blur in my eyes. I felt as if I was in the same trance that allowed sirens to lead sailors to their doom.

I brushed my hand along the stone walls towards the way of my home, covering my fingers in grime from the lack of upkeep and the continued beating of the salty sea breezes, as the beat of my heart began to slow down.

The lap of the waves started the rhythm in my head, only drowning men find comfort in the arms of mermaids.

I heard a door slam from behind me, but I kept my pace, and tried to keep my sanity.

I dragged myself along, my feet refusing to move quick enough for my comfort. The hot, wet summer air had caused my clothes to cling to my skin, cotton and leather drenched in sweat and ocean air.

I headed towards the fields, towards my forest. The thick flora covering the ground and the sky, blocking out the sun and moon, nothing truly shining though the thick, heavy leaves. Following the path, a web I had made, as I weaved left and right, following toadstools and small creatures that knew me by name and aura.

At last my swamp appeared in my sight. The moss grew on every side of the trunks, and hanged down from the tree branches, and nightshade and other cultivated poisons grew on the edge of the grass. Thick and green, mud and mold and tall marshy grass.

I approached and felt watched, feeling as if there were eyes in the bog watching my every move .I should have been accustomed to this, the feeling wasn't always there, but as long lost lovers found their last breathes submerged in the heavy liquid of my pools, the feeling grew, taunting and repentant. I did not forgive so easily, however.

The popping of air bubbles, the rupturing of eyeballs, being replaced with other sets, as I moved towards my door.

"If I can't make him love me who can?" I wondered. I had even gone to seek solace of the Wizard, looking through his crystal ball, a polished moonstone orb, and with a silver tongue to coax information from him; but in his dreary monotone and hesitance, that he, my beloved mortal, had thoughts for me, but how much and what for, he never told. So I found myself beside the windows of the barmaid's room, watching wide-eyed in shock, "When would he have told me?"

Did I misunderstand the Wizards meaning?

I did not respond to the knocks, at first. I did not respond to him calling out. Though when he tried, and turned the knob, it opened effortlessly.

By the time he arrived, the fire was burning bright, and so I was I. Dressed in layers of silk and wool, cotton, and lace, the way I used to be hundreds of years ago, intimidating, and regal, more fabrics than most possessed. I could feel all the layers of pretension as I added piece after piece of cloth, the layers of loneliness and sorrow, and how I covered it up in riches, as if time had not passed. I caught my reflection from the mirror in the corner as he entered, my harvest moon eyes, clouded by spider web lashes, as black and thick as night, widened in surprise.

"What do you want?" I asked him my voice cracking the mirror behind me as I fully turned towards it, exposing my back, corset laces hanging loose, silver hair curling chaotically in every direction towards another man who hurt me.

"How did you know?" he asked, dejected, body seemingly limp from exhaustion, but still standing.

"You never asked me, how I felt," I said, a matter-of-fact, as the flames licked the stones at the edge of the hearth.

"But how did you know?" A change in his phrasing; a change in his tone.

"What?" I yelled, my voice as sharp as the blade I let rest near my altar, "That I knew you didn't love me, or that you loved another instead?"

"Would you have believed me if I had said that I loved you," I asked him, turning so he could only see half my face straight on, without looking past to my mirror, pumpkin eyes glimmering in the fire light. In the corner of my eye I saw my scrying mirror shimmer, like his pale light skin, creamy and ashen, that reflected the flames of my hearth.

"I don't know," he admitted, as tears began to form in the corner of my eyes, guilt and gullibility beginning to release themselves.

However, I began to laugh in to my sobs, at myself, at the world outside my swamp, my home, covered in hanging moss and wisteria, just like I had done for so long. "What a mistake you just made."

It must have been the look in my face that made him change his tone again, if only momentarily.

"We all make mistakes, I've made quite a few. Sometimes it's the lovers I took, sometimes it's the ones I didn't. I loved you, though!" I paused turning fully towards him, the edge of my cloak inching dangerously close to the fireplace as I did so. "I'm sure you must feel the same way, otherwise you wouldn't be here now," I paused and watched his pupils dilate inside the deep brown irises, the color of the mud they would soon be buried in. "Only wicked men seek the company of witches," I told him, as my fingers curled around his neck.

A cinder from the fireplace jumped and found a loose thread on my clothing, but before he could yell out I snapped my fingers on my free hand and every flame was ash and dust.

The room went dark, and only the illumination from various objects gave any sort of light.

My mouth made it's way towards his ear and my tongue flicked out, "Did you do what your heart told you, or did you just follow your libido?" I heard his voice crack, but no words came out. I realized I might have been squeezing to hard and loosened up, a corpse wouldn't do.

I heard his sigh of relief when I let go of his neck, then I heard his scream as the hands from the dark pushed him out the door quicker than I could move forward.

My demons had brought him in to the swamp waters before I reached the murky water's edge.

"You know what I have to do now, right?" my voice echoed from the fir branches and the warm heat rising from the thick sludge.

His eyes were wide, pools of murky water, leaking down creamy skin.

I know he wanted out, out of my lands, out of my forest, out of the fields. He wanted to run past his farm in to the arms of that whore.

The more I thought of them together, the stronger my envy and rage grew. The longer I stood in front of him, the more he sank down, slowly.

In an instant it happened.

My hand with razor sharp claws attacked near his adam's apple. In my rage I pushed him down below the surface of the fetid waters and held him there.

I watched and screamed curses as the bubbles above his head grew smaller and smaller as his body grew limp.

I waited hours, as mud dried and encrusted on my hands, and the bubbled disappeared from near his body, as I could easily push the rest of his body in.

I felt bubbles pop up from the opposite end of the swamp, in a corner I had never known to react.

"I'll never forgive you," I mumbled towards the marshy grass I knelt upon.

Completely consumed in my anger, I didn't notice the entrance of another being.

"If you keep doing this, no one will ever save the land," he sighed. I knew his mismatched eyes were glaring in to me, I knew the feeling all too well. "Ideally the Goddess will call in some girl this time, since we know what happens to the men."

I turned to him and scowled, "Yeah, because they fare better once you get your hands on them."

He just smirked at me, then turned away.

We had poisoned the land by choice.

A/N: I did it, I think I'm finally 100% back!

A new story, fresh for the new year! This is for the Boundary Busters promp in the Village Square forum. Thank you, Accidentally The Whole Fanfic for making this possible.

I hope the vibe of "old-school 1800s-ish" gothic fiction came through well enough, but if not, I tried. Let me know what you think!