The Watershed

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Commercial Fiction  |  No Houses
Watershed: (noun) 1. the area of land that includes a particular river or lake and all the rivers, streams, etc., that flow into it 2. a time when an important change happens
Definition from Merriam-Webster Online

Submitted: September 18, 2016

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Submitted: September 18, 2016



The lot was heavily sloped; she felt like she and her car were going to start sliding and falling. Friction held true, however, and nothing happened when she removed the key from the ignition. Gravity pulled the door from her hand, and she was glad she hadn’t parked to the right of the one other car in the lot.

Standing in front of the other car, leaning on the fence, was a couple--presumably the vehicle’s owners. She hoped they were leaving, and not getting ready to go down the boardwalk. She wanted to be alone. She didn’t want to be forced to the side of the stairs, where her brain would make her say “pardon”, although she wouldn’t come close to being in their personal space. She didn’t want to walk faster or slower to maintain that personal space. She just wanted a couple of minutes to be free of the constant anxiety, that chain that every human being had inadvertently tightened around her.

She pointedly looked away from the couple as she made her way to the stairs. Before the wooden platform was a plaque with a headline that read: “Protect Our Watershed”. This struck her as odd. She had been here before, and it just looked like a small waterfall to her. Waterfalls were different than watersheds, right? She wanted to stay and read the sign to see if it would help clear it up, but the couple’s murmurs grated against her ears, forcing her to descend.

Graffiti and carvings covered the railing. “Rebecca and Jona Forever”. “May + Ross”. “J+M 2015”. It seemed like such a stupid thing to do. Why mark one’s relationship in wood? They were going to break up, eventually. Even if they didn’t, the wood would weather away, killing the gesture.

The trees were skinny and unimpressive, but there was enough of them to make a roof over the boardwalk. It was surprising how much shade they provided. She was always amazed by the difference in temperature, just by throwing something in the way of the sunlight. Those photons had traveled 92.96 million miles, yet they weren’t powerful enough to heat through the leaves to the air underneath.

It got even cooler as she got closer to the waterfall. She could feel the moisture in the air, and it pleased her that she knew why the water was cold while the air was warmer: water had high specific heat. Why would someone bother carving their fleeting little fantasy into wood when they could appreciate the chemistry of the water; the physics of the light?

She reached the end of the boardwalk. There was the waterfall. It was about as pretty as it could be for such a small little thing. It was a modest waterfall, and she respected that. Larger falls were intimidating; brash. They were dangerous and suffocating. This waterfall was safe.

A metal sign with bent and beaten corners announced: “In Accordance With Area Code 901: No swimming, wading, diving, climbing, or rappelling permitted. Park guests MUST stay on the boardwalk. Area will be monitored. Violators may be prosecuted.”

It was true that they monitored it, or, at least it had been true when she was last there with her mom. They had just climbed back onto the boardwalk and were leaving when a policeman passed them. They didn’t stick around to see if the strangers in the water were punished.

She checked behind her shoulder and jumped the fence. She normally would never break a rule, but she just wasn’t content watching the waterfall from far back. She wasn’t the first to do it, either. As she paced along the gravel, she saw an empty water bottle, three cigarette butts, a copious amount of glass shards, a wet black mass that looked suspiciously like men’s underwear, and--Oh God, was that what she thought it was?

Perhaps a tad more curious than was prudent, she took a stick and flipped over the silver square. “Durex” was a condom brand, right? Yeah. Yeah, that was a condom wrapper.

Disgusted, she turned and climbed the pile of flat, cleaved boulders. One particularly tall one sandwiched a tree root with the cliff face. She climbed into it. Now, anyone who walked on the boardwalk couldn’t see her.

Why would people want to have sex here? Didn’t lying on rocks hurt? And if they did it on the boardwalk, that wasn’t exactly going to help keep her up there. Would she have enjoyed a slightly illegal rendezvous?

She shuddered, revolted at her own thinking. How could she think something so crude, so disgusting, so horrible? Sure, she didn’t buy into the bible and its “original sin” spiel, but intercourse before marriage was still a horrible thing to do. Of course she wouldn’t enjoy sex!

She picked up a stick and scratched the ground. The sound was lost, shadowed by the roaring of the waterfall. How could something so small make so much noise? She realized that she wouldn’t be able to hear if anyone came to the end of the boardwalk.

Anxiety started to take over. She didn’t want to be caught. She had just wanted to be alone for once. Just leave her alone!

She peeked her head above the rock. No one was there. She sighed and glanced to the top of the waterfall. It wasn’t a great height, but it was probably possible to smash one’s skull on the rocks if they jumped headfirst--the water was quite shallow. This would be a nice place to die.

She shuddered again. She couldn’t just go from dirty thoughts to suicidal ones! What on earth was wrong with her? She didn’t want to die. Sure, people scared her, but she wouldn’t resort to suicide. It was just something she dreamed about.

 The nightmares had been going on for years now. She’d jump off buildings, take pills, drown herself, hang herself. Sometimes she’d die and sometimes she wouldn’t.

Just last night she had dreamed that she was in an underground shelter with several other teenagers. They were the only kids left on earth. She and some unnamed dream girl were sitting together. She asked the girl if she would let her die. The girl agreed, so she took a bottle full of pills. She lay down and started to fade away (the feeling probably came from sleep paralysis), when several other kids entered the room. They started crying. They didn’t want her to die! Why hadn’t the girl stopped her? She waited, but she didn’t die; she just got more tingly. Eventually, she got up. The tingling stopped. She was very much alive.

She didn’t tell anyone about her dreams. They would only think she needed a therapist or something. They didn’t bother her much, anyways. It wasn’t like she had them every night. She didn’t lose sleep. She didn’t dwell on them. There was no problem.

She peeked above the rock again. This wasn’t any good. She just couldn’t enjoy herself. She was too tense from worrying if she’d get caught. She crawled out of the crevice and climbed back up the fence. When she got back to her car, the couple was gone. There were no other cars in the lot.

She was alone.

© Copyright 2018 Morgana Minuit. All rights reserved.

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