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  • Kendra Lisum

2/20/24 "I dipped..."

“I dipped my toe into the water, the cold absorbing into my skin, like frost creeping over glass” 


How was I supposed to cross this swamp? Swamps were supposed to be warm, muggy places where cold-blooded animals thrived - but this – this – was like ice. 

Hefting the bag further onto my shoulder, I looked around the dense jungle. I could hear the men behind me, shouting to one another and crashing through the underbrush. 

Two minutes. The words flitted through my mind. Two minutes was all a body could survive in ice water. 

And then as though to make matters worse, the waters rippled and a set of beady eyes broke the surface, followed by two nostrils that flared open with the crack of icicles breaking. An ice swamp crocodile. 

Dogs brayed behind me, drawing nearer.

My heart leapt into my throat. I looked at the crocodile and then behind me, squinting into the trees and hanging lichen that gave the world a thick green hue. To my right and left, the swamp stretched as far as I could see. 

Whatever I was going to do, I needed to do it now

The crocodile was joined by another, ice cracking as it too broke the surface. Then a third. 

I closed my eyes and reached beneath my shirt for the Oracle’s gift. It burned bright and grew warm against my fingers. I drew it out. The twisted piece of metal was dull and rusted around its edges. I focused my thoughts on the gift then I reached my foot out and dipped a toe into the swamp. Ice crawled up my leg, taking my breath away. The crocodiles watched me with the stillness of an apex predator. 

The ice worked its way up my leg and into my torso. As it crawled toward my heart, I pressed against it. Slowly, it stopped its crawl. I pressed harder and it doubled back on itself. I gave it more strength, pushing it down, down, and back into the ice swamp. 

At first I didn’t think it was working. But slowly the edges of the water clouded as intricate patterns of ice crystals spread across its surface. When it reached the crocodiles, I felt resistance so I pressed more firmly against it, forcing myself to breathe. The ice cracked and bulked and I nearly lost control, but at last, it gave, working its way around the creature. One of the crocodiles disappeared back under the surface as ice worked its way around its two companions, holding them in place. 

The crystal blanket reached the far side of the swamp as my energy drained. I placed a testing foot on the surface, leaned my weight against it. The metal in my fist had grown cold–so cold it was burning my skin, but I held tight. 

I took a breath and stepped onto the ice, bracing for the snap and fall into its cold embrace. 

But it held. 

Behind me, brush broke away as the first man appeared. He shouted and charged for me.

I ran, leaping over the first crocodile, sliding across the ice and nearly face planting before I got control and slid the rest of the way to the far shore. As soon as my feet were on solid ground, I let go of the amulet. 

I turned at the sound of the loud snap. Just in time to see my pursuer, halfway across the swamp, disappear with a cry into its icy depths. With a hearty whip of its tail, the nearest crocodile turned, now free of the ice and disappeared beneath the surface. 

A second man burst from the trees, gun in hand. His companion in the water screamed for help and then screamed in pain as the crocodile reached him. He thrashed and managed to fire two shots, their rapport muffled by the water. But it didn’t matter. With another scream, the man was yanked beneath the surface. 

Run! A voice shouted deep inside me. I wrenched my gaze from the now-bloody water and turned back to the trees. I ran.


 

What the hell was that? 👆

That's a prompt I used to get the creative juices flowing. Sometimes the prompts come out as snippets of stories and sometimes they come out more fully-formed and eventually lead to short stories or books.


If you liked it and want to read more of my stuff, you can get a free short story at https://free.klwriting.com/

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