The Legend of Nymph
L. A. Story Houry
The young woman heard her mother's cry as she ran... ran... ran into the clearing. "Run while you can, Nymph! This time is but a season in your life!"
Nymph laughed as her bare feet gracefully patted the soft earth in the organized rhythm of flight. Her glossy, brown curls bounced with each step. Her mother cried out again. Some other sage advice, Nymph figured, but the mischievous wind blurred and scattered Mother's voice until it was nothing more than a tattered, incoherent sheaf of sound by the time it reached her ears.
The clearing was actually a miles-long strip that wound between the base of the mountains to her right and a (seemingly) endless forest to her left. She ran for miles, keeping pace with the wind, until she finally tired. When she stopped to catch her breath, she looked all around her at the reality of the sunny, spring day. Her green eyes, ("dark green as moss" her mother always said), roamed the edge of the forest and glimpsed the sun-dappled floor. The shade there was tempting, but she could not bear the thought of leaving the wide open space.
She dropped down into the long grass, stretched out her limbs and let the sun warm her through her gossamer gray tunic. She stared straight up and squinted at a painfully bright, blue sky. That's the color of power, she thought.
The heat from the sun, and the normal lethargy from well-exercised muscles, caused Nymph to succumb to the heavy drift of her eyelids and she fell asleep.
When she opened her eyes next she had to reach up and wipe away the silvery, sticky strands of a spider's web from her face and torso--an indication that the sun had risen and set more than once since she fell asleep. Morning dew plastered the thin material of her tunic to her skin. She rose up to her elbows, looked around and gasped when a nearby shadow suddenly moved and fell across her. A man-shaped silhouette blocked her view of the sun.
She was no longer alone in the clearing.
She wondered how long he had watched her sleep. The sun behind him hid his face, but she could feel his eyes, roaming over her prone figure.
In a hoarse rasp, he asked, "Who are you... How... How did you get here? Are you even real?"
He thinks he's dreaming. She laughed merrily at the thought. She bent her knees and slid her feet up toward her body. She smiled up at him and he made a choking sound. That's a curious response. She tilted her head to the side.
His eyes continued their feverish journey over her. She stretched her legs back out and looked down her own body. Through the tunic, she could see the outline of her breasts, and the dark shadows at the centers. Her every curve was defined, including the thinly veiled, dark delta at the apex of her thighs, where his gaze had become fixed. He stood very, very still.
Nymph scratched at a maddening itch at her left, outer thigh and inadvertently moved the tunic up an inch. There was a sharp intake of breath from the man that caused a strange quiver inside her. Experimentally, she reached down and clutched the damp material at her waist and very slowly gathered the tunic into her fists. Encouraged by the increased rhythm of the man's breathing, she continued her work, revealing her body little by little until she was naked from the waist down.
Nymph tilted her head to the side as she smiled up at him again and wondered what he would do next. This is a fun game. She let out a surprised little gasp when he dropped to his knees beside her. He pushed her knees apart and soon began doing things with his hands that caused the center of her femininity to grow as moist as the dew that covered her body.
She vaguely understood what he was doing--some other old knowledge that Mother provided, about the ways between humans--but she was bewildered when he moved between her spread thighs and fumbled with his clothes. Soon, he freed himself to join his body to hers. Instinctively, Nymph raised her arms to welcome him as he fell upon her. First, there was pain but it was not long after that before their passionate cries scattered startled birds and echoed from the trees to the mountains.
Afterward, as he lay in her arms, she got a good look at him and was pleased with what she saw. Dark eyes and reddish-brown hair -- he was a handsome man. Later, she examined the clothes he discarded and realized it was a familiar uniform. She had seen these garments before--they were only worn by the Guardians. There was a patch on the breast of one shirt pocket. Written language meant nothing to Nymph, the letters looked like: "National Park Service." He told her his name was Shane.
The sun set as they succumbed to passion again. When Nymph awoke later, Shane had grown a beard and the air around them had grown hotter and more humid as early summer breathed down on them. Almost immediately upon waking, Nymph discovered a grayish, irritated patch of skin on her outer left, upper thigh. It was callused and itchy, and it worried her, but she put it out of her mind... which was easier than she would have suspected as every moment she spent with Shane, she forgot more of who she was... and it appeared to be the same for him. His pupils took on a dilated, fixed quality when he gazed at her.
She always awoke hungry for him. Later, they walked for miles in the clearing, bathed in streams, made love and slept in the sun... and awoke to the glory of mid-summer, a season as beautiful as it was active with plant and animal life. Nymph tugged teasingly at Shane's beard and decided she wanted to stay with him forever. The patch of irritated, callused skin on her thigh grew and she developed a similar one on the back of her right calf. Shane did not seem to mind the flaw... so they laughed and made love... and slept... and awoke to a late summer thunder storm.
Shane begged her to leave the open clearing in the hopes of finding shelter in a grove of trees. Nymph refused, distressed at a sudden, powerful vision of being immured within the grove. She sat on the ground and let the wind and rain have their way as she absently scratched the calluses that had also formed on her upper arms. The callused patches grew, and Nymph tried not to be alarmed, but the patches had spread and she found them hard to the touch and ugly to look at. Shane told her he loved her -- that she was "beautiful no matter what"-- but he was a Guardian (at least he had worn the uniform of one)... so he was supposed to feel that way.
At the close of the day, Nymph made love to Shane and they held each other for a long time afterward... and she realized she did not want to fall asleep, but sleep would not be avoided and she next awoke to a dry wind, with just the slightest edge of crispness to it and she knew it was early fall. She let out a cry when, upon waking, she realized she felt stiff and sore and her body did not want to move the way it was supposed to. She screamed as she looked down to see her entire body covered with grayish, black-speckled skin. Shane was no longer next to her. She brushed her hand up push back a stray ringlet of her glossy hair and a clump came off in her hand.
She managed to gain her feet... tears streaming down her face. She looked around the clearing and spotted Shane in a grove of trees a few yards away. He stood in the shade of an oak and watched her with frightened eyes.
"Run while you can, Nymph! This time is but just a season in your life!" Her mother's voice haunted her for the first time since Nymph ran from her home.
Nymph tried to move toward Shane but he backed up further into the forest in terror. "No!" Nymph screamed. "Please don't be afraid of me!" Her voice no longer sounded like a woman's voice -- it was changing and she felt a terrible fear, and a strange resignation, as she recognized the sound issuing from her throat. She recognized the sound and she knew what she must do.
With difficulty, she turned and ran... ran... ran back toward her home -- an aspen grove many miles away. Shane called after her, but she knew he would have to find his own way home, and she kept moving. Her feet felt strange and heavy and she dared not look down as she gained graceless speed. She did not think she would make it home as her tears -- now clogging her eyes with a thick, sticky amber-colored substance -- blinded her.
However, somehow she made it back and when she cried out for Mother, the sound of shivering leaves issued from her hardened throat. An answering shiver came to her from a familiar grove. Nymph drug her feet -- they wanted to cling to the ground -- one step at a time until she reached the aspen grove, and her family, at last.
Welcoming shivers swirled and swished greetings all around her as multicolored leaves blew in the wind... many fluttering to the ground, along with Nymph's hair. She managed to get close to her mother before her feet elongated and pushed into the ground, locking her into place as she took root. She tried to call Shane's name but her throat had hardened too much to do so. With a sigh, she gave up her passion and her season to settle in with her own. She opened her arms and hoped someday her lover would walk into them and know it was her. Nymph emitted one last, long, human-sounding sigh that soon transformed into the distinctive, trembling shiver of aspen leaves stirring in the wind.
L.A. Story Houry is a freelance, award-winning writer; poet and weekly humor columnist for the Daily Corinthian (Corinth, MS). Her work has appeared or is soon scheduled to appear in EOTU; Aoife's Kiss; Twilight Times, Naked Snake Online; The Martian Wave; The Fifth Di …; Tapestry; Expressions; Between Kisses; Aphelion; the Muse Apprentice Guild; Writer's Monthly (Featured Poet -- Sept., 2003); and Outposts of Beyond (anthology).
She is the co-editor of the scifaiku/horrorku poetry magazine, Scifaikuest. (Recently rated #1 poetry magazine for 2003 by the Preditors and Editors Reader's Poll.) Her best-selling poetry (Fantasy) chapbook, "Passion Fruit and Other Loops," is available in the purchase center under "illustrated poetry chapbooks" at www.samsdotpublishing.com.
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Re-printed by permission of the author.