Title: Pricks & Thumbs-16
Fandom: Fear Mythos
Characters: Rich Providence ♂, The River ♅
Rating: G (L0 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Creepy shit? Some puke.
Notes: Fish gets it into his head to visit The River, for some answers. And then things just take a turn for the extra-weird.
Arowana. I know the name of the fish, and I know the name of the city, but it took The River to make me see it.
No, Fish. Back up.
Ok, so, I came back from the library, and I couldn’t think of a name for the city that I liked. Arowanabury, Arowanachester, Arowanaford… None of them were right, but I knew that fish. I knew I liked it. It sounds kind of stupid, but I knew it liked me.
So, I did what any desperate man with a mission does. I went to The River. Not just to talk to them, in town, but to The River. And now I understand why the only people who go anywhere near it are the traders. I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
The parts of The River that don’t leave the water are like fish. I mean, yes, all of The River has gills, but in the water, they have tails and scales and fins. I saw a picture in an old book, once, of a mermaid. They’re like that, but a little more fish-like, hairless and the colour of the water, strangely beautiful and completely androgynous.
I came down the path to the river, past the end of the clay houses, through where the Dryads grew their houses from the trees, to the traders huts, made of clay and river-reeds. Everyone stared. No one comes down this road who doesn’t live here, not in the middle of the day. Some people give up hope, and they give themselves to The River, so the pain will stop. Others think they can trick The River or steal from it, but they’re wrong. I didn’t come to do any of that. I came to ask about fish and names. And cities.
Sixteen or twenty of them turned around, as I got near the shore. "Come to me," they commanded, in one voice.
"I’ve missed you, Richard. Have you come back to me?" they burbled, the words arising a few milliseconds out of time, from each of them. It’s a strange sound, and I think The River does it, just to be unnerving.
I was confused. Why did it remember me? I was only in the water for a minute, twenty something years ago. But, it explained that it remembers everyone it touches, especially the ones that get away. I just sort of blinked awkwardly into the distance for a bit, and then explained I’d come to talk about fish. Fish and cities.
The River told me it knew all the fish. It wasn’t just a river, it was a lake, it was a sea. It was everywhere in the world, it said, but I wasn’t sure if I believed it. I asked it about the arowana, and it told me that for each answer, I would have to take a drink from the water.
That was when I almost walked away. But, I’d been in the water. It didn’t take me, last time. The River reassured me if it didn’t like me, it would throw me back. On the other hand, I didn’t know anyone else who had come back from The River, except the traders, and they didn’t drink it.
It was stupid. I was clearly insane. But, I did it. I took a handful of The River and I drank it. It was heavy, somehow, and it tasted like silver. Not the metal, the colour. It tasted like drinking the colour silver.
"Ask me your question," The River burbled, and I did. I asked if the arowana still lived. If they were still anywhere in the world. The river began to burble incomprehensibly, as if it spoke to itself in a hundred languages, and more of them gathered, all speaking in tongues. The water bubbled and rippled from those who didn’t bother to surface, and I swear the water itself began to hum.
Finally, one of them spoke to me. "In the water beside the place that calls itself Tally Sop." I have no idea how to spell that, but it’s what it sounded like.
"There are other towns?" I asked, already knowing the answer. "Where?"
"Drink!" The River commanded, not burbling for a change.
"No, no. That wasn’t a question. I knew that." I took a handful of water, but didn’t drink it. "Did any cities survive? That’s the question." I drank another handful of the water, and I could feel it starting to … something, inside me. It was like going underwater, again and again. Everything became blurry and then clear, over and over. My stomach burned and bubbled, and parts of The River looked uncomfortable. They began to duck back under the water, a few at a time.
"No cities. I know no cities." Only one of them responded, then another. "No more questions, Richard. Go home."
And then, they were gone. All down beneath the water, again.
I tried to walk back to town, but somewhere near where the traders’ huts started to give way to Dryad trees, I leaned against a tree, thinking I might throw up, but I passed out.
And then the city came to me. Except that’s not right. I became the city, is more like it. It touched me, and I knew it, even some parts from beyond the fog, this time. The fog moved back, and the streets opened up. Shops and offices in every direction. I think I saw some houses. And I saw parts of it, like they were before the fall. The change. Before the change. I saw the people in the streets, so different in some ways and so much the same in others. And then I saw the streets start to move, and the people started to fade. They didn’t seem to notice, they just kept going and little by little, they weren’t there, any more, and the city had come apart. I could feel all the parts of it, and then some of them went away, and then some other parts were added, and then… It was the city I knew, and I was it, and there was more of it, somehow, but I still couldn’t push past the fog, even being the city, it seemed impenetrable, which probably meant the streets stopped at the fog.
Arowana, I named it/myself. It would be the city of the provident fish.
And then I woke up, lying in wet dirt, beside the road. Jimmy’s going to stare at me until I tell him. I know it. And then he’s going to hit me for being dumb enough to go to the river.