No matter how I try, I cannot rid myself of the image of Valley. It’s been seventeen years since I’ve seen her, though I still recall every fine detail that creates the form of her face, the length of her wavy hair, the curves of her magnificent body . . . the undeviating tones of her melodic voice. She was the embodiment of perfection, though a life with her would have been quite impossible. Quite impossible, indeed. She was different from the rest, different from our kind, although much the same. She had additional qualities that made her the exception in a way as to leave wonder and excitement as a persistent afterthought. I was seventeen when I first met her. She was bathing in a clear stream that bordered our estate to those of the neighbour, a winding brook that dissected a valley framed by dense woodlands. She was alone, naked, and singing a tune fit for the ears of a king, I’d say. Instantly mesmerized by her beauty, I silently waded into the stream, my gaze fixated on her pale shoulders that glistened with fine drops of water. My presence had already been known to her, for she told me in sweet smile that she expected me for quite some time. She seduced me that day; made me a man. What happened afterwards only day and water would know. And Valley, of course. Now, as I’m driving on unfamiliar roads with my wife chattering next to me – she excited of having picked the perfect spot for our anniversary – the thought of Valley popped in and out of my head, like some memory teasing me into releasing what I know, yet don’t remember. I frowned as my sweet wife indicated to a break in the forest wall that ran parallel to the road, familiarity something of a shock. Reach Manor, Guest house, Welcome! – My parents’ home before they sold it for something smaller near the city. Seventeen years ago. I looked at my wife, and the excited grin that brightened her whole face managed to set off some alarm within me. I followed a narrow dirt road, neatly kept after all these years; the trees had always threatened to overshadow its maintenance. I entered a big clearing that rose to the top of a large hill on which the big house stood, magnificent and grand. It looks exactly as it had since I last saw it. A little excitement replaced some of my anxiousness, after all. However, before I could go any further uphill, I felt a muscle flex within my leg, and my foot went down on the accelerator, propelling the car forward. My hands acquired a will of their own and steered us past the house, into dense foliage. Narrower spaces between trees and shrubs widened as we approached; the trees actually dragged itself away from each other to make a big enough space for us to fit through, leaving big holes in its wake, instantly covered to prevent the tires from falling in. My eyes widened as I recognized the place from the sunlight that filtered through the now moving trees. Nancy screamed and pummelled my shoulders with her fists. She did not have her seatbelt strapped. The car stopped suddenly, sending Nancy screaming through the front window; her slack body slumped across the hood. My heart almost stopped. Before I knew it, however, I waded into the stream, where familiar black hair surrounded a beautiful head halfway submerged in water. She winked at me, though something has changed. She rose out of the water, her outer beauty as the first time I met her, though the surface of her eyes were entirely black with a white pupil darting this way and that; the smile she wore vanished. “I knew you would come,” she said to me, her voice alluring yet with some hysteric undertone, as if she had been withholding a scream for years. “Who’s that?” she asked, looking over my shoulder at my wife. I looked back and saw Nancy stir from her position on the hood. I felt a surge of relief going up and down my body. “Do you know why you have come?” I slowly shook my head, my wife’s wellbeing the midmost point of my thoughts. “You promised, so many years ago. You are mine,” the nymph said, her smile as black as her eyes. She grabbed my arm, her grip as strong as that of any man, stronger, dragging me down. Nancy called out to me, and I suddenly remembered why I’m here. I made a promise to a beautiful girl once to be hers forever, but begged her to give me seventeen more years to explore the world first. She obliged, though she took the memory of my promise for herself, to see if I could keep true to her love. Instead, I met Nancy, fell in love and married. We saw the world together, the girl in the water but a vivid ghost. Now fate has made me return here, as it intended, to fulfil the promise I so foolishly made. The world knew all along what waited in store for me, it knew of the destruction it will create, it knew of the lovely Nancy it would devastate. Destiny is like an upside down tear drop. Life starts out fine, big and mysterious, to be explored and seen as it is. Destiny keeps to the borders, keeping you inside, guiding you down the righteous path, until it all ends within a thin point in future where sudden change or end is to be expected. The end always ends with tears. I looked over my shoulders to my wife, her eyes brimming with tears, and I formed ‘I love you’ on my lips. I saw that she understood, although she will spend the rest of her life pondering about what happened here today. ‘I’m so sorry’ I formed again, and this time Nancy only nodded before water engulfed the last of her image . . .


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