Australian fiction, poetry, essays, book reviews
  • Time to read 3 minutes

On the 13th of July, 1987, the main street of Alice Springs flooded. The water flowed high, up to the steps of the local pub. 

Connie watches from her window, high above the road. One would think it must have been raining all through the night, and only stopping at dawn. Connie polishes her glasses on the hem of her dress, then squints through them. She didn’t hear rain of course. Her Ma always told her not to deal with water witches. 

Henry from next door swims across the road, kicking through the water until he reaches the IGA. Connie spots him, waving. 

Through the water ancient creatures swim; lion fish like monsters, with whiskers as thin as fishing line, and sea snakes speckled in glowing stars. Connie watches them all pore out from the dirt into the water, then disappear again into the depths. She wishes to scoop one up and seal it in jar, to keep forever. 

The water witch appeared to her on the third day of the flood, asking whether Connie liked what she wished for. 

“I only wanted a little bit. My flowers weren't growin’.” 

The witch replies, “No one ever gets exactly what they wished for.” 

The water witch had skin like smoothed glass, and hair of sea foam. She left wet footprints wherever she stepped. They both look out the window. The witch smiles at her work, while Connie fidgets with her dress. 

“And the fish?” 

“A bonus.” 

Connie frowns. Small children sit on the steps of the pub, feet in the water and never seeing so much in their life. They fold newspaper and make boats, placing them lightly in the water, rippling out. The boats sailed along the street, until they sink below the surface. Swallowed by the monsters. 

The water witch found Connie as beautiful as Connie did her. Connie’s own hair was thick and long, not bubbly like the witch’s, and with long strands like silk. Skin brown as earth, and her eyes didn't sparkle like sun on water. They were opals. Connie catches the water witch gazing at her.  

“Why don't you enjoy my water like the others?” 

“Can’t swim,” Connie avoids her eyes. “Water looks deep.” 

“No one drowns in my waters.” 

Connie looks to the witch. If anything, she looked like these sea sirens, the ones that drowned men and sung on rocks. But those creatures don’t grant wishes, do they? 

"Why should I believe you?" 

The witch smiles wide, and the shade of her watery hair flicks between green and blue. "Why would I lie to such a lovely girl?" 

Connie's eyes widen, and can't find anything to say. 

Something has pleased the water witch, and she reaches out to splash flecks of water Connie’s glasses. Connie stiffens, hands shaking as she polishes them again. 

“Come down”, the witch purrs, “Have a swim.” She steps through Connie before falling out the window into the water below.  

Connie shivers as the water passes through her, turning her bouncy hair soaking wet. She leans out the window, and saw nothing of the witch. Connie glances at the children still playing – they can’t see her. 

Connie stands on the steps of her home, the water just creeping to her toes. The children in the pub next door see and yell happily, coaxing her to jump. Connie doesn’t like the look of the water – it seems too deep, and was not what she thought water should look. It holds too many shades of blue, and the fish that swim through were bigger up close. Her Ma told her to never trust a witch water’s water. But, Connie thinks, it looks so appealing. The sun bares down on the town, making her skin prickle.  

The water witch stand in the middle of the road. Connie squints at her, and light bounces off the water immensely. 

“Come Connie,” the witch calls softly, “come and swim.” 

Connie grimaces, her gut in hysterics. It looks so cooling, she thinks, so maybe just a bit. Her toe inches towards the water, and dips in. The chill runs up her spine and to the very corners of her skull. She gasps, and the witch draws close, eyes firmly locking on Connie. The fish come closer, nibbling at her feet. She steps further in, possessed by the exhilarating water. The fine hairs on her skin stand up. The witch glides closer. Connie is to her knees. 

The children watch silently, the boats staying by the shore. Henry walks out of the IGA, milk tucked under his arm. He tries to call out to her.

Connie slips, staggering deeper into the water. The witch is there instantly, grabbing her hands, stopping her fall. Connie stares into the witch's eyes, looking like sunlight under the ocean. The witch draws her near, and Connie's glasses slide down her nose.  

The water witch grins, then drags her new love into the depths of the water. 

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About the author:

Georgia MacShane

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Georgia MacShane a writer living in St Kilda and trying to make sense of what is happening around her.