Gwyndon had no idea how she’d ended up at the pond again. It didn’t seem to matter when she decided to go for a walk or where she was when she decided to go. She found herself on the shore of this same body of water every single time. It was as if her conscious brain shut down and her subconscious kicked in. And for whatever reason, her subconscious thought this pond was a great idea.
She stared over the glasslike surface, the reflection of earth and sky–an impressionistic painting come to life. As it had since she’d been coming here, the water perfectly mirrored the world around it. But no matter how close to the surface she got, she never saw her own image. It was as if the water swallowed all traces of her.
She wished that were possible. That she could just disappear into the nearly perfect likenesses of bare branches and gunmetal gray clouds that marched slowly across the sky. It wasn’t that she wanted wanted to die or anything that dramatic. She just wanted a fucking break from all the stress. From wondering if her parents could continue to afford her brother’s medical care now that her dad had lost his job and their health insurance. From wondering if she should just drop out of college and get a second job. From wondering if there would still be a world when she woke up in the morning or if the so called leader of her country would have plunged them straight into a nuclear war. What she wouldn’t give for just twenty-four hours of not fucking worrying about every little thing. But that would take some kind of miracle at this point to clear out the governmental corruption.
As she stared at the pond, an anomaly near the center caught her attention. It looked like a metallic point had pierced the surface of the water from beneath. And it was moving slowly toward her, barely creating a ripple. Worry twisted her gut, but her feet were rooted to the spot. She couldn’t run if she wanted to.
As the piece of metal drew closer, it rose farther from the surface, and she realized it was a sword blade. Eventually, the water and weeds sluiced away from the figure carrying the weapon, until a woman dressed in a long flowing white gown, tinged green by algae, emerged completely from beneath the surface. Rivulets of water streamed from her hair like liquid ribbons, and her eyes slowly opened, pinning Gwyndon with her unwavering blue-green gaze.
She wanted to believe she was dreaming, but she knew she wasn’t. The cold damp of the ground chilled her feet through her canvas shoes, and the bite of the late autumn air sliced through the weave of her sweater. Her nose was cold enough that it had started to run. Yeah, she was definitely awake and in the middle of some fucked up mythical scenario.
“And the time would come…” The woman’s voice reverberated throughout the forest as she continued to hold Gwyndon’s gaze. “When the kingdom’s need was greatest, the sword would rise again and find its way into the hands of the king,”
She stared at Gwyndon expectantly, and Gwyndon blinked a few times. “I…I’m not sure you’ve got the right person. Or…even the right country.”
The woman frowned. “Do you deny that the land is in chaos? That the people are embattled? Tormented?”
Gwyndon shook her head. “No…that’s pretty accurate.”
“Then do you wish for the tyrants to continue to rule?”
If she could have moved, she would stepped back. “God, no!”
The barest hint of a smile curved the woman’s lips. “At times, the health of the body requires the diseased limb to be removed. Are you prepared to excise the illness.”
Gwyndon thought of her brother struggling to breathe, taking only half the dose of medicine he’d been prescribed in an attempt to make it last longer, and she nodded. And she thought about hearing her mom cry when she thought everyone else was asleep. Yeah, she was willing to do some excising if it would make things better for her family–save her brother’s life.
“Then take Excalibur, and remember: you and the land are one.”
Gwyndon stepped forward and wrapped her hands around the hilt, as a jolt of energy surged through her. Her back straightened. She’d do whatever it took. Hoping that Greyhound didn’t have a policy against taking medieval weapons on cross-country road trips, she watched as the women walked backward, vanishing beneath the water as silently as she’d appeared.
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