As it began to rain, one of the stones on the tarpaper roof shifted slightly. The stone rolled down the gentle slope, increasing in momentum, knocking the stone below it as it passed and exposing a small rip.
It continued to rain for several hours as the fisherman lay in a fevered sleep. The rainwater dripped through the rip into the enamel jug near his bed – not one drop fell onto the floor or the thin blanket that covered him. The sound it made was regular and musical; at first a hollow ping – ping – ping. Then a splash.
He had drunk the last of his water hours before. His mouth was dry and his breath loud and laboured. Perhaps he dreamt of faraway waterfalls, of a dense rainforest where droplets of condensation gathered like sweat in tiny pools on glossy leaves before spilling over onto the moss covered earth. His dreams might have found him far out at sea on a small boat rocked gently by the rolling ocean, while he lay hypnotized by the lapping sounds of the waves.
Or he may have dreamt that he lay in his narrow bed journeying between life and death, fully aware that this fretful sleep of his might be either a final slipping away or its opposite – the beginning of recovery. He might, like many of those suffering from a dangerously high temperature, have imagined that he drifted up and away from his tormented body and looked down upon it with fascination and dread. And while he watched he might see the door open to reveal a young woman entering his one room shack. He would sense her purposefulness as she moved towards the bed, see how she gazed tenderly at the sick man who lay hardly moving, his skin as pale and glossy as candle wax. He would see her touch his head and feel her fingers, light as cobwebs on his own spectral skin. Then he’d notice how her gaze went to the empty jug on the floor near his bed.
She frowned and the vision shimmered momentarily. When it clears he sees she is holding a glass pitcher of water he had not noticed before. She lifts it and slowly, carefully fills the tin jug with cool sparkling water.
What else should a thirsty man dream of but water? How else should his sleeping mind feed itself except by water in its many forms?
The body asks for water and the mind provides it. Between them they conjure up miracles. On waking he drank deeply and long, never asking where the water came from.
Image © Jo Mazelis, 2015
Wales Arts Review will be publishing exclusive new Flash Fiction pieces this week in celebration of National Flash Fiction Day on Saturday 27th June.