Today’s Place as Person poster is Jacey Bedford. Here she talks about her fear of water – a fear, and also a fascination which informs her story, ‘Floodlust’, in the ‘River’ anthology. (Jacey… I choose ‘happy’, but my definition of happy has been known to include birthing pangs, so take that with a pinch of salt.)
Place as God
If you stand on Table Rock on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls you can look down into the river at your feet – clear, fast flowing, magnificent, deadly – and see right down to the riverbed. It looks shallow enough to wade in. It almost looks calm, that bit close to the edge by your feet, but put one foot into it and you’d be swept over the edge in an instant.
Yet Niagara – the river and the falls (let’s not talk about the city) – is breathtakingly beautiful. Each time I visit I’m drawn to stand at the rail and stare into the clear depths, mesmerised, enchanted, thrilled.
We don’t have waterfalls like Niagara in England, so maybe I can be forgiven my fascination for that inexorable force of water as twenty-four million gallons of water a minute falls over a 170 foot cliff. I never learned to swim as a child, saving that trial until I was in my thirties and then only in the safety of the municipal pool. Splash me in the face and I’m lost. That harsh scouring of water forcing itself up my nose, into my throat will hurl me into a choking panic in an instant. Well, they say you should write about what you know…
So I imagined a river – no not a river, but the river – a river so vast and all important that those who live on its banks believe that it’s a god. Like a god it has neither mercy nor malice. It is provider and devourer, the giver and taker of life. Surely a god so powerful would have its own spirits?
And so Floodlust began.
I wanted to write something darkly ambiguous, something lyrical and emotive. I wanted the river to be all-pervasive, the elephant in the room even when it was not centre stage. But I couldn’t just have the river, after all, a god needs worshippers. That’s when Zanna popped into my head. How cruel that someone so mortally terrified of drowning should be born into such a river-bound culture.
The story begins with a choice. Isn’t that often the way? It’s time for Zanna to choose a husband, but it won’t be a love-match. Custom dictates she weds an older man, one who has survived his time on the river and gone into the raft-building trade or the fish smokery, so she’s forbidden to choose her best friend, Brin.
Then a third possibility blossoms out of a half-forgotten dream. Nassai, a river-spirit, a man on land and liquid in the river, offers her another choice, a choice she so desperately wishes she could make. But her courage fails her at the worst moment. She wants Nassai, but not badly enough to face her fears. She makes her choice and from then on she’s trapped by a sequence of events over which she has little control. She is always motivated by fear rather than desire until the very end. Only when she’s about to lose everything does she find her courage, but is it too late?
Happy ending or sad? It depends on your viewpoint. You can make up your own mind.
Jacey Bedford is an English writer with short story sales on both sides of the Atlantic to print anthologies, magazines and online media sites. She’s been a librarian, a postmistress and a singer with international harmony trio, Artisan, but now drives a desk for a living (still within the music industry). She has a couple of novels currently doing the rounds via her agent, Beth Fleisher at Clear Sailing Creatives, and it’s her ambition to get all the stories in her head down on paper before her brain explodes. Find out more at www.jaceybedford.co.uk. or if you’re a fan of harmony vocals take a look and listen at www.artisan-harmony.com. Jacey’s own blog is at http://birdsedge.livejournal.com/