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Water rushed against Mary’s legs. Shivering, she felt the chill of the river slowly trickling up the rest of her body, discarding the sticky feeling that came along with summer’s moist heat.
She pushed her hair behind her ear, and looked up at the sky. It was one of those rare summer days, where everything just seemed alive and perfect. Slowly she began to inch back towards the bank, careful to avoid the pebbles that were jutting out; ready to pounce and cut an unaware passerby’s feet.
Suddenly she was thrown off balance, and she swore under her breath as she grasped a nearby branch and steadied herself. However refreshing the creek might be, it was unpredictable and with one wrong step you’d trip and the cold water would swallow you. In fact, although Mary hadn’t realized, the river had once taken a girl’s life. She was young, and her mother had sent her to play in the river. The girl was excited to finally be trusted enough to go by herself, but little had she known her mother had tried to protect her from a battle that was planned nearby. It was 1864 and the girl had heard shots in the distance, and fear had crawled all over her skin. Forgetting her mother’s warnings about being careful whilst in the treacherous water, she forced herself around and tried to wade through the thick, rushing water as quickly as possible. She slipped, and hit her head against a rock.
That day, the river’s water had gone from a glistening green to a piercing red.
But that was many years ago, and the story was forgotten. However, rumors continued to haunt the villagers nearby that the river was guarded by a ghost, and every couple of years she took the life of a girl who was too careless when bathing.
Mary didn’t believe any of the stories. She thought they were solely there to frighten children at campfires at night.
But, she still froze when she heard the whispers. At first she thought it was just the river’s familiar sighs, but then she heard her name.
She whipped around, hair flying in her eyes. She dug her fingernails so deep in her skin it left a mark, but she didn’t notice.
When you’re afraid, you become oblivious of reality. All you remember is the fear itself, and it’s almost as if you’re in a dream. You begin to imagine things that are not there, get jumpy at the smallest noises, and try to stay as still as possible. Mary tried to stay rational, but she felt as if the natural steam rising up from the water suddenly turned into mist, and it began to cloud her vision. Heart pounding, she tried to slowly toil through the last bit of water and grasped at the rocks protruding from the sloping land for support. She dragged one foot on the damp earth, and sighed as she felt the earth’s steadiness. She pulled out her second foot, but slipped on the wet mud of the bank. Before she knew it, her other foot slipped too and she tried to hold on to the damp rock as much as possible. Oblivious to the water protruding the thin cotton of her shirt, she steadied one hand on the pebbles under the rushing water and let go of the rock, trying to balance herself and get out of the water which now covered her from chest to toes. She scrambled up and felt a smile creep up on her face as the fear began to dissolve. She stepped out of the water, but before she could touch the muddy earth once again, she felt something grab at her feet and pull her back.
Mary fell, and cracked her head open on a sharp boulder lying in the river. The last thing she remembered was the piercing pain coming from the temple of her head, and the icy water devouring her. Then, she closed her eyes and everything went dark.
That day, the river’s water ran a fierce, dark red.