Deep in the abyss of the forsaken paths lay a pond fortified with green embrace. The folks of the hamlet had either never or seldom crossed the expanse for it was an invisible dome, only entered by those with reasons to cede and bonds to fray.
The pond held echelons of allure that fervently attracted the unassuming passer-by like an eager firefly to a tuft of sharp grass. Its glistening blue water and poised curvature begot an eye of an opal, beautiful yet impenetrable like a painting that one could only gaze at.
Yet through its silk web of charms and glamours, there fell dust from the skies of infant time, which crusted the web with its frailty of age. By virtue of this, all of the weary wanderers drifting between the forks of life ceased at the oasis as wonted, resorting to take veiled missteps. But after setting sail from the expanse, as though touched by a binding ritual, they never once returned to the pond’s realm.
The August sun flung its fire and shine onto the trees, which ventured down its holes, glazing the still clear water of the pond. Although profusely lit with the glow, the enclosed dome had a desolate aura of gloom.
Stray leaves, a jumble of green and brown wreathed the ground and a musty melancholic scent hung heavy on the air. Not a single breath or gesture broke the silence until sudden footsteps, as clear as day rang through the expanse.
The oasis shimmered with sunbeams, a jewel amidst the coals. After a heartbeat of rustling, there emerged a young man from his drape of trees. He was clad in black breeches and a thick pastel coat, an attire that unmasked him as a possible squire from the hamlet.
The flaws of deep fatigue were etched on his face and drenching his body was a rivulet of sweat. A wayward wanderer who had finally lost his way.
Yet upon sighting the opal pond, the man’s eyes shone like a shadowed candle. Its bright blue water entranced him and evoked the delicious melodies of an interlude. Absentmindedly, he ran a hand over his neck, feeling his parched throat yearning for a taste.
He stumbled into the clearing with his unwavering gaze on the oasis, edging forward and cupping his hands to hold the water. The pond unfolded a spellbinding trance on him like the enticement of sweet things. The man began gulping down the water in a gushing urge. After a moment or so, when his thirst had subsided, he ceased and wiped the dripping water from his chin.
Later when the man had managed to find the path back to the hamlet, he would feel an indelible sense of loss, forever unfurling and forever running deep like the roots of a willow tree. He would grapple with the missing piece of his life that he’d lost to the pond’s realm. Giving and receiving is a practice as old as the hills. With every aimed gulp of the man, went every fragment of his maimed life treasure.
And thus intricately woven inside the face of the opal pond was a tapestry of the squire’s land, entrapped for eternity with no means to reclaim it. This was what transpired with the folks who drank from the oasis, this cruel deprivation. The reflections they left on the pond would haunt them like a phantom, forewarning them of the power outcomes held. However, by the ritual from times immemorial, they eventually sought to lead their life towards solace, to just exist and run the ride in a hopeful daze.
With its spells caged and realm dimmed, the pond was now clothed in forlorn shadows under the dying sun. They never returned, they never strayed again, and now so would he.
Pale morning light filtered in through the canopy, flowing around the expanse like golden mist. It is said that at a point in ageing time, all customs and traditions would come to falter like flames. And thus as fate would have it, the dust was cleaned.
When the sky cradled the sun, there stood the squire in front of the pond, his gaze once again fastened to it. This was unheard of, greatly so and the oasis lured him in delight like a bright holly berry.
This time, the squire had black crescents under his eyes and his skin was crisply wrinkled like a jagged wound. He seemed lifeless, with his attire in tatters.
He swiftly made his way to the pond and he visibly blanched in regret when he eyed his submerged land. Tears streamed down his cheeks and he let out a cry of fury, kneeling down and roiling the water with his hands. The reflection churned around them like a whirlpool and when the man realised this gesture was to no avail, he stooped down and began drinking the water again.
At last, when the squire ceased and turned away from the pond, he was fringed with hapless faith and sorrowful rage.
And by nightfall, as the birds flew to their abodes, the oasis glimmered with its newfound jewel showcased behind its glassy water.
It was a wedding band, drifting alongside the land.
Day after day, the squire arrived and the dome was no longer shrouded in gloom. The pond kept drawing in more and more of the man’s life until pictures flooded its surface like a patchwork painting.
Finally, when the man had nothing to give, he stumbled into the expanse, withered and lean like a broken branch. He strode and for a while, gazed at the impenetrable opal and its reflections that he’d tried to get back, just to give more of them all the same.
Slight winds were dancing with the sun and they ruffled his matted hair, sending warm chills down his back. Caught up in the drifting pieces of his life, the man heaved a hazy sigh, and slowly bending his knees, he jumped into the pond.
Water splashed everywhere like a sprinkle of rain. The oasis clutched the man inside, its blue arms twisting around him. On the other hand, the swindled squire could glimpse the edges of his life and was seeking to save them but the water was enfolding him like a snare.
Outside, everything was still and calm, the muffled cries of the squire like a petty echo. The pond swirled and gurgled in motion with the man who’d fallen prey to oblivion and suddenly went quiet, when he’d finally fallen into the onyx stupor, the sleep of death.
Deep into the abyss of the forsaken paths, the pond lay fortified with green embrace. The squire had been the first one. There would be many more now.