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Ripples

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By GDeyke   |   Watch
18 30 242 (1 Today)
Published: August 1, 2018
The boat… (→1)
The sea… (→2)



1.



…passes smoothly through the waves, parting the ripples of moonlight on either side. The sea shimmers like silver: an endless trove of coins, intangible, out of reach.

The boatman watches the glints of silver, thinking of the coins he did not steal, and of the boat he did. He does not know where he is running to. He only knows that he is running.

A winding shadow follows alongside the boat under the waves.

He reaches for it… (→14)
He attacks it… (→7)
He flees it… (→3)



2.



…ripples with moonlight, and rising bubbles shimmer from the deep.

The man who swims through it is a shadow in the deep, long and undulant, his tail shimmering like silver. He watches the waves from below: a long wooden shape cuts through the fractured moonlight, rowing out from the shore.

He reaches for it… (→15)
He attacks… (→6)
He flees… (→4)



3.



…remembering the tales of sea snakes and giant squid. He did not flee the gallows only to be slaughtered by the monsters of the deep.

The shadow follows, no matter how quickly he rows. He cannot outrun it.

In fear for his life, he turns to attack it… (→7)
He stops rowing, and watches… (→5)



4.



…remembering the tales of legged men with nets and spears, who would murder and feast upon him and his kind. He has no wish to court death this night.

Soon there is another stretch of sea, emptier, lonelier. Here he can swim and hunt and catch moonbeams without fear. The night passes just as any other, and he never again hears a story of the boat.

Sometimes he thinks of it, and wonders.

END


5.



…as the shadow slows to keep pace with him.

He reaches for it… (→14)
He attacks it… (→7)



6.



…singing the hunting song of his people, a melodious keening through his gills.

He bursts into the air, spraying pearls of silver. There is a legged man in the boat, slack-jawed with awe: he leaps, lunges, drags him down into the deep.

The legged man smells sweet and warm and fearful. Bright bubbles stream from his nose and mouth, silver with moonlight.

He is hungry. He feasts… (→9)
The look in the legged man’s eyes strikes pity into his heart… (→13)



7.



…with his oar, stabbing down into the waves at the thing he cannot see.

The shadow shifts away beneath the oar, then closes around it. The man pulls and thrusts for all he can, but the shadow's grip is strong as steel.

He fights to free it… (→8)
He releases the oar… (→10)



8.



…but the shadow's strength is greater than his.

He tumbles into the water. Under the waves he finds teeth and claws and shimmering scales, and fear, and pain, as his lungs scream for breath and his flesh is torn from his bones.

END


9.



…long sharp teeth tearing through the legged man's flesh, blood twining through the bubbles, clouding the water with his taste. When he has licked the bones clean he leaves them to fall into the deep.

It has been a good night, a good hunt.

END


10.



…and falls back into the boat.

The oar sinks soundlessly beneath the waves. The shadow coils and dives, vanishing into the deep.

The man has a single oar left to row with.

He gives up, and returns to the shore… (→12)
He strikes on through the waves… (→11)



11.



…knowing that the sea is an endless grave, a desert of water, an emptiness he has no more hope of crossing.

The coins he did not steal join those glinting from the moonlit waves, far beyond the reach of those who seek them.

He chooses a death of sunlight and salt.

END


12.



…where the gallows awaits him like an impatient bride.

END


13.



…and instead of devouring him he gives him the kiss of breath.

The fear in the legged man's eyes does not lessen, but he touches his throat with wonder. He looks on the scaled man with unbridled awe.

He takes the legged man's unwebbed hand, and leads him down into the deep.

END


14.



…and finds another hand there reaching for his own.

The flesh is pale, the fingers webbed and tipped with long sharp claws. The face of a man looks up at him from underneath the waves, sharp-cheeked and beautiful, shimmering with silvery scales. His eyes are playful, curious, hungry.

He pulls the scaled man up… (→16)
He lets the scaled man pull him down… (→18)



15.



…and finds another hand there reaching for his own.

It is the hand of a legged man, with unwebbed fingers and short blunt claws. His face, above the water, is bearded and worn; his eyes are awestruck, fearful, hungry.

He pulls the legged man down… (→17)
He lets the legged man pull him up… (→16)



16.



…into the air, where his shimmering tail falls away and divides into legs.

He learns to love as men do when they breathe air instead of water.

He returns to the water when they are spent, and leads the boat to a distant land. The boatman has coin enough to begin a new life there. But every day he rows out onto the sea: and every day, the man with the fish-tail is waiting.

END


17.



…into the water, and gives him the kiss of breath.

They pass an hour there, just below the rippling moonlight. The legged man lets his life float away under the air. That life was already over, he says, and lets his hands speak the rest.

When they have spent themselves he takes the legged man's hand, and leads him to a life where he may start anew.

END


18.



…into the water.

For a moment everything is crushing water, breathlessness, fear. Then the strange man's lips are on his own, and the seawater turns to air within his lungs.

They pass an hour there beneath the waves. The boat drifts away, forgotten, and the coins he did not steal with it. Deep in a world of skin and scales, he does not mourn its loss.

He learns to love the waves from beneath.

END
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© 2018 - 2019 GDeyke
Written for Flash Fiction Month 2018, day 31, challenge 14: write an interactive story which does not take place on dry land, featuring a criminal character. This year I'm also fulfilling a challenge by an anonymous contributor: Every character must be queer.

Interactive version here!

:evillaugh: Finished! I need to go hide under a mountain of sleep now.

The rest of today's stories can be found here.

Wordcount: 1000 exactly according to Twine. It's a bit more here, but that's just formatting and clearly doesn't count.

If you've enjoyed this story, you may be interested in the collection of all my FFM stories this year: Beyond Dreams. You may also enjoy my FFM collections from the previous four years: Borrowed Strength, Ephemeron, Palalgia, and Changeling.
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Comments (30)
IntelligentZombie's avatar
IntelligentZombie|Hobbyist General Artist
so pretty 
Reply  ·  
GDeyke's avatar
Thank you! :w00t:
Reply  ·  
xlntwtch's avatar
A very complex story is made easy and interesting by you on this one. Well-done. The descriptions are downright poetic. Thanks!
Reply  ·  
GDeyke's avatar
Thank you. :D
Reply  ·  
WindySilver's avatar
WindySilver|Hobbyist Writer
Wow, this is fantastic! I love both of the POVs in this! :D
Reply  ·  
GDeyke's avatar
Thank you! :w00t:
Reply  ·  
WindySilver's avatar
WindySilver|Hobbyist Writer
You're welcome! :D
Reply  ·  
BlackManaBurning's avatar
BlackManaBurning|Professional General Artist
Beautiful imagery and incorporation of the challenges :thumbsup:
Reply  ·  
GDeyke's avatar
Thank you! :D
Reply  ·  
WizardandGalaxy's avatar
WizardandGalaxy|Hobbyist General Artist
All of the imagery is fantastic.  I also love how the characters are both defined, yet fluid enough to be able to make any of the choices.  The parallels are nice, too.
Reply  ·  
GDeyke's avatar
Thank you! :happybounce: I'm very proud of this one.
Reply  ·  
DamonWakes's avatar
DamonWakes|Professional Writer
Splendidly written! It's neat that you managed to get two points of view in here and make the thing fairly heavily interactive: it can't be easy to manage the tiny word limit while doing both. I wondered while playing the hyperlinked version whether any of the passages were used for both characters but having glanced through this version it looks as though they're not.
Reply  ·  
GDeyke's avatar
Just one of them is - 16 - because I didn't have the words to go around. I was thinking of doing more that way, but it ended up being too tricky with the different perspectives (not to mention keeping the pronouns straight). It was definitely a bit fiddly getting it all to come together inside the word limit, but I'm very pleased with the result! If only for the two points of view, it felt like new ground. :D I'm glad you also enjoyed it; thank you!
Reply  ·  
DamonWakes's avatar
DamonWakes|Professional Writer
I've definitely not seen this structure before (at least not for such a short piece). I spotted that somebody else let you play as Ripley from Alien or "any other character," but the joke is that everyone but Ripley gets nommed (obviously).

Actually, come to think of it, every interactive piece I've seen for this year's event has included multiple protagonists, but yours is the only one I'm aware of that tackles it seriously.
Reply  ·  
inksoaked's avatar
inksoaked|Professional Artist
This is so so beautiful. Everyone else said it better but the imagery, the parallels. You know I am a sucker for florid prose and this gave me chills, immersed me and had such emotional impact, whether they give in to their hearts, their bloodlust or what-have-you. Beautiful, beautiful.  Worth it. 
Reply  ·  
GDeyke's avatar
Ahh, thank you so much! :heart: I wanted to end the month on something special, and I think I managed it.
Reply  ·  
inksoaked's avatar
inksoaked|Professional Artist
That you did!
Reply  ·  
TheSmileyDinosaur's avatar
This was so much fun to read - I especially loved the descriptive bits. Great work!
Reply  ·  
GDeyke's avatar
Thank you! :D
Reply  ·  
ilyilaice's avatar
This is so freaking complex. Dead (RIP)  I am overcome with awe that you weaved together such poignant parallel stories in so few words. I enjoyed reading from the two POVs. I love how we can empathize with both characters. Both their problems and their reactions to them are realistic.

Favorite line here: Deep in a world of skin and scales, he does not mourn its loss.

My first ending was 16, and perhaps also my favorite one, since they get the best of both worlds, and they can love each other with neither having to change for the other. :heart: 

Congrats on conquering FFM with consistently excellent stories to show for it! :w00t:
Reply  ·  
GDeyke's avatar
Thank you (and same to you)! :highfive:

I'm extremely pleased with how this one came out myself. Doing it was a bit of an experiment, but I wanted to do something unique with the format, and just working in the parallels and different points of view gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed it!
Reply  ·  
SCFrankles's avatar
SCFrankles|Hobbyist Writer
This is so beautifully and elegantly and poetically done. I'll just pick out a few lines: 

The sea shimmers like silver: an endless trove of coins, intangible, out of reach.The boatman watches the glints of silver, thinking of the coins he did not steal, and of the boat he did.

The legged man smells sweet and warm and fearful. Bright bubbles stream from his nose and mouth, silver with moonlight.

He learns to love as men do when they breathe air instead of water.
Reply  ·  
GDeyke's avatar
Thank you! This was the first time I tried out this sort of style for something interactive, so writing it felt new and experimental. I'm delighted to hear it worked. :D
Reply  ·  
TheWarOfTheRing's avatar
Blew my mind a little bit when I realized there were portions from the merman's perspective too paralleling the boater's story :D

Many, many congrats on finishing FFM! I enjoyed all your stories, and am amazed you managed to pull off the challenges we all threw at you. I can't wait to see what you come up with next year.
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