Earth and Water J D Klueber Sergeant Major Johnson, USMC, sat on the beach, wondering what
Earth and Water
J D Klueber
Sergeant Major Johnson, USMC, sat on the beach, wondering what had happened to his remarkably pissy life. The ocean waves crashed upon the beach sounding like the battle cries of tritons- the mermen, or the screams of frightened naiads, the nymphs of the ocean,
His thoughts traced back through his life. Reading at age three, playing piano at age five, accelerated classes until sixth grade, a general feeling of not fitting from then until... he chuckled, realizing that there wasn't an "until" for that one. It simply was. ROTC in his senior year at high school. Taunted for being a virgin, never having had a girlfriend, being called a queer. Sigh...
His eyes lit upon the novel that he had brought with him, Piers Anthony's "Juxtaposition". Seagulls cried, but he blotted them out as he thought about the book. A world where both science and magic were possible. Magic, it seemed, was a mental affair, and this appealed to him. Only the strong willed and intelligent could use its power; he would certainly like to see that! He looked at the sunset, and realized that, considering that it was noon when he got there, that he had better go back to his hotel and ready himself for work again. His furlough expired tomorrow.
As he got up, he heard a wild cry of anger, off toward the ocean. A small barge was out there, dumping a load of medical trash into the water. The assholes! I oughta..., he thought. He needn't have bothered, as the owner of the battle cry was running across the water, her body glistening, but strangely colored. Across the water??????
The strange female leaped several feet above the crashing, tainted waves, her right hand orienting on the skiff below her. Fire flew from her fingers, bathing the barge, incinerating both the ship and its contents, including the two men. ...Holy shit!
The female danced across the water, celebrating her victory. She let out a whoop in F major, and leaped onto the beach, laughing. Timothy Johnson, for the first time in his life, was nonplused. He ran toward the woman as she started sinking into the sand.
"What the hell are YOU!", he said, breathlessly.
The female paused.
"A crossbreed of a dryad- tree nymph, to you- and a triton. Why the hell do you want to know, human?", she replied curtly.
"Uh...", the marine responded glibly.
"I suppose that you're mad about those two of your species that just got burned, right? Hey, I had every reason to! Those bastards were killing me- literally! I'm the spirit of this beach: what happens to it happens to me! When they pollute the water and the sand, they pollute me. I get sick, and if it doesn't stop, I DIE!!! So don't give me any of YOUR shit, because I DON'T CARE TO HEAR IT!!!"
Everything that Tim had ever thought about life had just been challenged in this one brutal tirade. Magic seemed to exist. A shiver of reality shook his spine. It was as though a hammer had shattered all his little truth-filters, allowing him to see things as they were. So the man did the only sensible thing that he could have done at that point. He dropped to the ground, unconscious.
He awoke a half an hour later on the beach, buried up to his neck in warm sand, almost like a blanket, with water lapping at his toes. The female, who was only a little shorter than his- quite average- size was sitting next to him. From this proximity, Tim could make out the individual grains of sand that she was made of. She was literally a sandwoman. This was obvious to him, as the sand was pretty much it for clothing or adornment on her, with the exception of what seemed to be a jeweled necklace she was wearing. Amazing...
"Oh, you're awake. I can see you drooling. Listen, I... I'm sorry I yelled at you like that. It wasn't your fault what they were doing. I realized that about a second after you pounded sand," she chuckled at her wit. "I hope you're comfortable?"
"Uh, yeah. Say, my name's Tim Johnson. What may I call you?"
"Helena Troit. My mother, the dryad, read a lot of mythology. She said that she had named me after some beautiful human woman somewhere in Greece, but I never met her."
"Why are you made of sand?"
"Ahh. There's the rub. See, my ancestry is VERY muddled. I have aspects of all four elements in me. My great grandfathers were spirits of air and fire, my mother was an earth spirit, and my father a water spirit. So the two closest relations to me are water and earth, which meet at beaches. Thus, I am a sand nymph, a spirit of the beaches. But, unlike any of the few others of my kind, I have two offensive tools, courtesy of my grandfathers. You saw the fire earlier. Watch this:"
Helena's form turned watery, and yet retained its shape. She pointed one clear finger at the sand, and almost immediately, the sand flew up, forming a dust devil that swirled around for a few minutes, decided that it wasn't really needed, and then sank back down. Helena hardened from water into her sand form again, and sat down.
"Air and fire, eh? Good tools. I don't begrudge you those asshole's lives, by the way. I was just ready to do them myself. I don't like pollution any more than you do. Anyway, I'm a marine. I could've handled them, no problem. It wouldn't have been as neat as how you did it, but the end result would've been the same. Sharkbait."
The two settled down and talked until dawn. They discovered that they rather liked each other. They had common personality traits, if different backgrounds. They shared a common sense of honor and compassion, to be used only where it was warranted. They each had a strong sense of uncompromisable ethics. Tim was in love. Never before had he met a female whose personality meshed so well with his. As he left, Helena kissed him goodbye, and sank into the sand to rest. The kiss of a nymph is not something to be taken lightly. He felt as though he had laid lips upon he purest angel of heaven.
Tim's feet stuttered off toward his car. As he got into bed in his room at a cheap motel, he thought about his recent experience. I am in love with a sand nymph, a creature I wouldn't have believed existed if anyone had told me about her a day ago. She's beautiful, smart, and funny, not to mention magical. I wonder...
He fell off into a dream about his love. Only it wasn't him, and it wasn't her. They were... centaurs? They were running around in endless pastures, and then he stopped and smelled something. She... she was in heat! He raced toward her...
And promptly fell awake. It was only a dream, he reminded himself. Damn... Oh well, Helena isn't one to be used like a horny mare anyhow. I don't know why that would enter my mind. Yes, I do. It entered my mind because I'm a male. Aaah. Nothing will come of it anyway.
Helena was a bit confused about this herself. Her? In love with a HUMAN?? Humans were animals to be fought and occasionally used for mates, not objects of love! She was a nymph! She was feminine perfection! She was responsible for her beach! She was powerful! She was... alone. The only one of her kind left in the world today. Her parents... dead. The only thing left of their great culture were some underwater ruins, and the necklace she wore about her neck. A talisman with some sort of great powers, the specific nature of which she wasn't sure of.
She looked at the necklace in the fading moonlight. It was a platinum chain, about 3/4 of an inch wide, with a large gem set in the middle of it, surrounded by ornamental gold and silver, as well as some minor rubies, the entirety resembling a rose. The gem seemed to be some sort of red diamond, albeit a large one. On the back of the setting was a single inscription, which translated roughly into the human tongue as "Love is my shield". Funny, she'd never noticed this before...
The last moonlight was gone as she sank into the sand to rest, and hide from stray humans.
Tim was AWOL. He knew it, and didn't really give one good goddamn one way or the other. He was sitting in the town's library, reading a book on mythology. It was becoming an obsession with him. His eyes scanned through the section on nymphs, until he came to-
"Sand Nymphs... Odd crossbreeds of triton and dryad. Completely mythological, and symbolic of the important mergence of land and sea in Greece. Nothing has been written about this strange race, but urns decorated with pictures of women made of sand or water have been found in beachside ruins..."
Odd that no stories had been written about them. They mustn't have been as important when they were believed in, since pollution wasn't much of an issue then. Now, of course, they are probably the only reason that there ARE any good beaches left on the planet. Funny to find one here in Florida. On this note he set off towards the beach.
When he got there, it was empty of most life. There was some sort of an aura here... something malevolent. There, on the beach, was an aquarium of some sort. It was man height, filled partially with sand. A burst of light glowed briefly inside, like fire that's been trapped. A man's voice chuckled...
"Yes, struggle, my beauty! The last of the nymphs- captive by my spell! Your kind is long past, my sandy haired friend! No longer does nature require it's spiritual guardians. They are getting in the way of progress!", he exclaimed diabolically. His voice raced around in Tim's brain stem. Somehow, there was something he was missing... something long past...
A familiar, feminine voice cried out, "NO!!!!! I'LL DIE!!!"
He poured a jar of some sort of green sludge on the beach. A scream of agony erupted from the cage. Tim, having had quite enough of this scene, drew his automatic pistol, took aim at the fiend, and fired off three rounds. These bullets, under normal circumstances, would have hit the man in the back of his head, killing him instantly. The circumstances, however, were less than normal. There were three flashes of light, and the bullets fell, as though stopped by a stone wall.
"YOU DARE????!!!!", the wizard turned and exclaimed, "YOU WILL DIE FOR YOUR INSOLENCE, FOOL!"
"Oh, boy...", Tim muttered, a bit worried.
"FUKJHG ASD BNNBE!!!!", the vaguely familiar man shouted. Blue light burst forth from his hands, surrounding Timothy with glowing bars. This, he reasoned, is NOT good...
The mage muttered some more arcane syllables, and a ball of light illuminated the beach, between the two prisons. Doffing his hood, the familiarity became more pronounced to his male captive until-
"Cain...", Sergeant Major Johnson breathed. His half brother, long forgotten. "I thought you were imprisoned or dead, long ago..."
"Almost! Do you know exactly how hard it is to imprison a wizard of MY abilities? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!! They had me only for as long as I chose to be had! Then my current employers hired me, and I just teleported myself the hell out of there. Sad that magic isn't as well recognized, isn't it? Well, one of life's little quirks. I AM glad that you're involved here, brother. You'll die, after watching your nymphfriend be agonizingly dead of toxic poisoning. I seriously doubt you'll be ABEL to handle it, though!", he broke off, laughing hysterically. That was his half-brother, all right. Puns all the way.
In the "aquarium", Helena noticed a red glow. The rose-necklace about her neck was glowing wildly, the inscription on the back readable a mile away. Love is my shield... "Love is my shield", she intoned firmly, hoping that something would happen. It did.
The red glow expanded, seeming both to accelerate and stop time. The sun rose, the shadows lifting. With the daylight, the mage's magic seemed to turn against him. Both cage and aquarium entrapped him now. He growled in the sudden sun.
"I have not been beaten, nor shall I ever be. Wherever humankind exists, wherever spirits of nature exists, I will be, in one form or another. You and I are merely opposite sides of a coin. Without me, you would cease to exist, and without you, I. We will meet again, nymph. ASH NAZGH DURBATALUK!", he shouted.
The malevolent spirit of mankind had been banished; the demon of progress halted by something as powerful as itself- love. Unfortunately, the two being equal and opposite, they canceled each other's works out.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank