Short story For Ideastap: Lady of the Lake

by Amar Patel in

A response to an Editor's brief at Ideastap. The theme is "Frozen":


Click, swooooosh, clack swooooosh,
The lady of the lake pushes and pirouettes,
gleaming and gliding gracefully over
a foggy, floral-patterned mirror to the heavens.

All is still but for this exquisite silhouette of a figure, 
impeccably slipped into a barely-there singlet of 
maidenly white silk and crystal-trimmed lace,
and adorned with a fluffy cloud of cobalt blue.

Each day she would arrive at the same time, alone 
but never lonely, rehearsed yet lost in the moment.
Impervious to the biting chill of the winter front,
unflinching in her precise navigation of the cracks beneath. 

Each day I would cross the valley at sunrise,
body weary from the exertions of the night before,
but with a spirit renewed by a rush of anticipation
at the performance to come. A celestial vision incarnate. 

No glance or greeting, no longing for someone or some
place else. Total immersion in the now. The hush of nature
contentedly at work to the tune of a gentle whirl. My mind
at play with a memory that would flicker but not fade. 

This willful detachment from one another heightened
my longing, my wonder. The shared silence restorative,
a chance to be; realignment with the world. The universe.
Asking nothing more than that, which was revealed to me.

The rhythm of that winter was quickly set; the ebb and flow
of our lives in parallel, yet out of orbit. One hour to co-exist,  
one breath from raising the curtain of intimacy. All the while,
fearful of an interruption, shattering the immaculate ideal.

Taking my place one day in the top-tier of nature's great amphitheatre, 
a row of felled trees frozen over to the southern side of the lake,
a treasure amid the tundra, I watched expectantly as the first rays 
of daylight danced, ever so fleetingly, on the stage.

Divine. To the main attraction. Tick followed tock, followed tick,
followed tock. The same etched expanse of white … only this time without
a familiar dot of blue making elegant patterns in the sky.
Heavy breath. A sense of dread building with every passing minute.

An hour passed like never before without her. But was this a break,
a pause or a simple twist of fate? To assuage my own fears I advanced toward
the lake but then, propelled by panic and jolted by the capricious
ground before me, I suddenly began to careen into the distance.

A blur of white light flashed before my eyes as I spun round and round,
my skin lacquered with the gloss of freshly frosted ice. Lips sealed,
eyes almost shut. I emitted a slow-choked whimper, breaking the ineffable
silence that had been so absolute and entrancing those past few months. 
Just then a bolt of blue shot past my view. I spread myself larger than life,
using every inch of gravity to bring myself to a halt. 

Scurrying on my hands and knees, I retraced a skimmed path
I had made until I came to a fissure in the ice. There beside it
was a dot of bright colour, of blue. A familiar blue. But from where?
I scraped. Still hard to make out. I scraped again. A cobalt blue hue
emerged through the ice.


Please no. 

I quickly cast off my gloves and ferociously picked at the ice
to the point of seizure, till my nails began to come away
from their beds. I began to wail, beating at the thick sheet
until my bloodied hands stained the pure white. Then,
as if a switch had been flicked, I awoke to the reality
of the situation. There beneath me lay the lady, hands
pressed against the ice, preserved in now eternal  beauty.
Her final resting place.

I sat, inches apart from the one whose soul I felt I knew,
yet whose life I would never touch. I gazed into her eyes,
expecting either a look of wide-eyed panic or one of
wistfulness at the deep solitude of her tragic demise.
But to my surprise, there was a faint smile. And not the kind
that is fleeting or well-worn. But a look a contentment.
The mien of one who is at peace with themselves. Serenity. 

At that moment, I looked up to the sky, drew the longest
breath of my life and began to weep. Here, at the outer limits
of human emotion, in the great expanse of nowhere,
my tears ran slowly down my cheeks and quickly became
part of this glacial tomb. They were an affirmation of life
but also of death.

There I lay for hours until help reached us from the nearby village.
For weeks I barely uttered more than a polite sentence or two from
day to day. I never tried to analyse or reason my way to a conclusion
about the events of that winter but they have stayed with me,
close at heart, awakening my senses to the promise of fuller life.
The majesty and the mystery.

To the lady, I thank you. And I miss you.

Amar Patel