Undine – and where our stories come from

Undine
Undine, from the Pagan Tarot by Gina Pace

Saturday I attended a meeting of the Heartland Authors Guild, which goes by the wonderful acronym HAG. We did a flash fiction workshop including an exercise based on sensory prompts. Prompts were given to us by chance – drawn from a deck of cards. Mine read as follows: the sound of a garden hose

What a great summertime prompt! The first thought that came to mind was how refreshing the spray of a garden hose can be on a hot summer day.

Then by free association, I remembered a potting disaster I had earlier in the week, when I took all my house plants out back because they needed to be transferred to bigger pots. It took a couple hours to finish, and afterwards I decided to leave the plants out to get some fresh air and sunshine.

At the end of the day, I went to check on them. Everyone looked bright, happy and green – except for one succulent that had been scorched and wilted by the Missouri sun. Horrified, I took her inside immediately and have been nursing her back to health ever since. She’ll survive, but the burn scars are permanent, so she’ll have to grow a new set of leaves and shed the old before she looks the same as before.

I thought there might be a story seed (pun intended) in the fate of my poor, scorched plant. But potted plants rarely make for exciting protagonists, so I decided to reach a little further.

That’s when I remembered the Undine, a fantastical creature that for unrelated reasons has been on my mind recently. And with these three elements – the sound of a garden hose, the image of my scorched and wilted plant, and the fairy-like Undine – I found my story. Here it is:

Undine

Parched she lays amidst the tall, crisp grass, sun hot overhead, sucking the last drops of water from her diaphanous form. 

And the Sea – so far away! A memory, mirage, lost even in her dreams.

How did she land here? Through wind and storm to perish on now-brittle ground. Too far from home. Un-nurtured, un-drenched, un-protected from the death-kiss of a too-bright star.

Shadow interrupts the glare and through fading awareness she hears a high pitched gasp followed by the short burst of a child’s run; a dry squeak like the dolphins she once sang with; a choked whoosh-gurgle and the hiss of a distant whale surfacing from the deep.

And then…

A miracle. 

It rains in the desert, the shower of cool water falling over her tiny form, filling pores and replenishing spirit, soaking deep into her heart. 

She breathes, a sudden intake of wet air. Not the thick salty sea that once suffused her with life, but a bland, sweet mist that promises no more than temporary awareness. Still, it is enough to live another day. 

Enough to get her one step closer to home. 

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