by Peter Haynes
It was her idea to buy a house with a well in the living room. Quite common around these parts, she said. Once would have been an outside space near the main house, now built-over to join up the converted shed (our kitchen).
Anyway, guests in the B&B loved our little period detail — the flagstones, the circular grate a foot across just in front of the old chest we had the telly on. Have a look in there, we’d say. You can see the water sometimes but it’s usually out of sight. At the start, when we were new faces in the village, the river came up and we had to escape to the top floor. This is why we kept those broad imperfect flags and bare stone up to the window ledges.
“None may command the river,” she said as we smiled down from the landing at our reflections in the water, held hands until the level dropped, brough Carli into our world.
The river became less of a problem as the town grew — a novelty for our visitors. “Why don’t you paint your walls now the overflows are done?” they might ask. I would smile and hand-wave some reason, but the truth was I would miss the stones’ specific warmth. Her idea to leave them. All the good things in this old house were her idea.
But the river was not finished with us. The storm, the fallen tree, the landslide. Her car in the torrent.
The vicar came to visit — a cursory trip on his part. He presented as nothing more than an administrator of the ceremony, not as a spiritual animal at all, such was his contempt for our lack of duty to his god. True though it was that we were never there for the sermon or the collection plate, still we served the parish.
His church, he called it. I remember that. His. Like a possession.
So when Carli asked the vicar where her mother had gone he said, “Nowhere good, child. To the darkest place you can think of in fact.”
Of course, for her, there was only one place — the darkest place she knew. She talked down into the well until she was old enough to hear nothing back. By then she’d given up waiting for a flood. She forgot her mother’s voice completely, then she forgot to come home.
This is why you build the stones as high as you can. Because of the sorrow. Because of the flood. I believe the hate I have for that vicar will outlive me. May the province of his spiritual command never reach the waters.
Peter Haynes lives and writes in Birmingham, UK. His work has appeared at Unsung Stories, Litro USA, Hypertext Magazine, Change Seven and EveryDayFiction.com. In 2016 he was nominated for a British Science Fiction Association award in short fiction. Find him on Twitter @ManOfZinc.