Ariel’s Story #9 – Fisticuffs

by MW Cook

     I was dumbfounded. Have you ever considered the depth of that word? Dumb and confounded. That was me. Fully. I stood there in the increasingly cold, nasty water and stared. Something fell apart in my mind, but I could not think of what it was. It was like my entire understanding of how everything good worked turned out to be broken. For here was the Husband and here was the Bride. Combined they were the foundation of everything right and good and happy. And something was horribly wrong.
     I could not hold her mouth above water for long, and the Man’s strength overcame me and she sunk back into the water. Her eyelids began to sink again, like the look of a girl fighting sleep. Sleep won and she closed them. The Man looked at me without turning his head. Just barely a glance. As if only to let me know he saw me there, but was still choosing to ignore me.
     “Ho, there, Man,” I said. “What is the meaning of all this?”
     He did not look at me.
     “I say, what means all this? Why are you treating your bride so? I had heard you freed her, but now it seems she is your captive!”
     He spared me not a glance. I realized speaking with him was useless. It almost seemed that there was no life in him at all. And an ill realization took hold on me.
     This is not the husband of Sume el Raj. An impostor. A kidnapper.
     My heart sank into a hasty sort of anger. The anger felt pure. And maybe it was. I balled my hands into fists and set myself to fight against the man.
     I lunged forward and struck him in the jaw. My fist crumpled against him and I heard a crack as one of the bones in my hand broke. I yelled and fell to my knees in the pain, getting dirty up to my neck.
     I was so angry. Burning, red and black anger. So angry at this false husband of a man and the pain he had inflicted on me and Sume that I hardly noticed him place another hand on my head and push me lower into the water. I struggled and sputtered against him as the water entered my mouth and nose. I was able to get out, but not before swallowing more than a few mouthfuls of the grime.
     I stood a few paces off, wary of the insidious man who had so fully captured Sume and nearly me with her. I looked into his eyes and saw nothing. I looked into Sume’s eyes and saw that sleepy pleading. But I was not the one to save her.
     I came back to the shore, covered in grime. And there was, of course, no water to wash it off. My brethren were waking and doing their morning ablutions. It suddenly sickened me to watch them bath and drink that filth, though I myself was covered in it. I took my place among them, and starting following them in the morning wash, for it was the tradition of our group to do it. But something was wrong in the back of my head. Something that wondered why I was doing these things, while Sume was stuck out there in the dirt.
     Something must be done.
     But the man was so strong. So very, very strong. I looked down at my hand. It was purple and swelling. Throbbing in that way the cartoon cat’s hand throbs when the mouse whacks it with a mallet. But it wasn’t funny. It wasn’t funny at all.
     Can’t do it alone. I’d need help. I’d need …
     I looked at the people around me. Blessed lovers of the bride and husband. Blessed brothers and sisters who had devoted themselves to truth, yet washing themselves in lies.
     … an army.