Lake Venus

They say that Lake Venus is the most beautiful in all the land. In summer, it provides the beaming sun with a surface to waltz upon. As the sun changes its axis and each sunbeam gently flows to the music of the breeze through the trees, the dormant fairies wake and begin to dance to the tune.

“Legato crescendos in D Major! Oh, what a sound—what a sight!” my father would tell me in my childhood. “Not even the winter’s chill could freeze it. Although the skies be grey and trees bare, the Lake itself would still glow a melancholy blue. A rich navy blue indeed!”

 Impressionable I was as a boy, and I began to long for it. To see this Lake with my own eyes, quench my thirst and… dare I go on?… submerge myself in its waters. Would it be as father told me? Or did his command of the language lack the finesse to express what he saw? At the time, perhaps my own vocabulary was still too limited to appreciate the richness of his description.

 Time went on. As I grew older, I recall one occasion when I confided in my father about my dream to leap into those waters. Alas, I was met with a stern rebuke. Like any father would his son, he warned me dearly to be cautious. With his deep, calm voice – the kind that silences the room, for the authority it carries prompts such adjustments – he said,

“Boy, until your heart is known and you’ve worked your field, wander not to the Lake of Venus. For blind ambition and a foreign heart corrupt one’s nature before a journey’s start.”

Confused by his words, I asked for an interpretation, but he would not give me one. But I kept the matter in mind.

As I grew in competency and conversed with friends, we reminisced about the story of the Lake we’d heard so much about. It was an old legend that ran deep in each man’s heart. In fact, superstition wrapped itself around the legend, and faithful followers became wild fanatics, spiritualising the Lake. However, some trees lose their leaves in winter while other’s leaves remain. So it was with our discussions: some of us still believed in the Lake and hoped to someday find it, while others rejected the idea outright, calling it a childish folktale.

One day, a friend came in and boasted that he’d found the Lake.“Folks!” he announced. “I have been to Lake Venus. Oh Lord, words cannot describe the things I saw!”Arm in arm, we erupted in an emotional cheer to hear of its discovery. Thomas shared his tale:

“During my travels, I walked through a desert deep in the south. The sun scorched me ever so severely that my vibrant mud-like skin turned to brittle clay. I became faint and desperate. The sand dunes I traversed were never-ending. I told myself, ‘If this next dune   is like all the others, I’ll return to the dust, and men shall forget my name’. But lo… down below… a Lake, I say, a Lake! I hobbled towards it with the last of my strength. Even faced with the possibility it might only be a mirage, I did not care. And neither did she—“

“She?” we echoed.

“What? Who lives in a desert?” I cried.

Our uproar was that of stampeding elephants. We had to hold José and Paul back. With their mighty tusks of outrage, they were seconds away from stampeding Thomas.

“Sacrilege!” Paul roared.

“You think you’s funny, huh? Boy, I’ll slap your head off!” said José.

The rest of us formed a protective wall around Thomas.

“Hear him out! He’s not finished.”

“My, oh my – please do me no harm. Truly, truly, I speak! At first, I thought it a mirage, a wild imagining. Such is typical given those circumstances, but wrong was I. The moment I saw her smile, peace paralyzed my body, and I lost consciousness. Moments later, a cool sensation filled the gaps in the cracked clay of my skin. Glory! Like barren earth opening its dry heart to rainfall, so too my skin invited the Lake’s water. Rejuvenating! Soon, I had the strength to reopen my eyes and behold whose lap I rested on… The spirit of the Lake itself, Venus, gently gazed into my feeble soul with deep love. My limp mouth formed words of gratitude, but she softly hushed me. When I’d regained my strength, she held me by the arm and pointed at the water. More confused than ever, I tried to speak with her, but she acted mute, insisting with her gestures that I swim. From that point onward, everything else was a blur. A part of me felt like I’d lost something.”

After Thomas told his tale, in all the excitement, I wanted to run out and find the Lake. My mother said I’d see it in time, and sure enough, I did. I found a lake, but was it the Lake? For I traversed through no desert as Thomas had, but a city. My fear of water let me go no further in than knee-deep. It felt good, but the chill in the water frightened my heart. As I stared into my reflection on its surface, I saw another’s face. She was sad. Her sadness was not uncommon. I knew her pain. It was no stranger to me, for it had once been my own. So I began to draw in the water with my finger. I gave her a smile and cleared away the tears that hung like morning dew. I was her sunshine, making the waters she was drowning into evaporate by my presence.

Blop! Blop! Blop! The water bubbled up, and a damsel latched onto me. Immense pleasure filled my heart, but I was confused too. What do I do? She knew, I guessed, since she dragged me waist deep into the water and pointed down below. “Did you know that there’s a shrine at the bottom of this lake?” I asked her. She ignored my question and gestured, in a way I made out to mean, “Let’s go down there”. But that water’s chill, my inability to swim and another, unknown fear made me decline. She persisted only to let up and let go, and behold… I was suddenly back at home. “All a dream,” I lied to myself. “A dream.”

 But her touch and the sight of her haunted me, and even more I still longed to submerge myself again in her waters. She was an apparition of divine beauty, a vixen plaguing my heart’s desire. But I was never alone with her, for my father’s words began to resound like a gong of chastity:

“Boy, until your heart is known and you’ve worked your field, wander not to the Lake of Venus. For blind ambition and a foreign heart corrupt one’s nature before a journey’s start.”

With each voyage I took, Venus appeared at different lakes, and yet I kept her in the distance to respect my father’s wishes. Rain gushed from my eyes in doing so, and those tears turned to fabrications. Those nymphs became my goddesses, and I turned into a reverent worshiper, both loving and fearing them. I wanted to live for them. Thus, I mastered the arts of lyric and music, so that I might summon a deity for a moment. I’d never swim out to them, but I’d appeased them like ducks in a pond waiting to be fed. Soon, I was fed up. But my father’s words like an acorn, encased me, for I was within the seed.

 I decided to live by his words by lessening my fixation on that Lake. His words seemed to straighten my path, for outside of them, I knew nothing but wild youthful longings. My heart, I reckoned, was deceitful. Thus, I turned to Nature’s instruction, for Time had whispered that the trees bear all wisdom and truth. And I, yearning both to comprehend and command my heart, sought scholarship under their branches of instruction. The land showed me much: that the tree was once a seed, and that the grain inside its shell has to die that it might sprout. The resulting fragile shoot is green. With time it grows, its roots dig deeper, and its leaves attempt to reach the sun. But what the teaching emphasised was how danger lurks all around in creeks and crevices, so the shoot must grow in order to guard itself. The green shoot, vibrant in health and manner, browns and wrinkles into wearing a rough exterior. It matures. Its bark, though coarse and displeasing to the eye, is a means to protect its tender core.

Marvellous was the instruction that came from the Earth, but as it continued, I felt a painful growth in my reasoning. Not much different from the seed. As a naive scholar, I tried my reason to interpret these lessons: The sun is Glory, and our minds the transformative seed. The dangers are winds and weeds, and they represent wonder and worry. They tempt and sway our whimsical ways of living our lives. I also theorised the following in conjecture to Nature’s cycle: the depth of our roots, the breadth of our stem and our access to sunlight determines the quality of life. However, the question that remained is what fruit will we bear? What kind of tree are we, or should we become? Then again, that unknowable ache might be something else. Something less abstruse, buried deep in the earth. A single lie.

Time passed. I imagined myself being a little sprout having just surfaced the earth. The folks I met along the way seemed to speak of my transition. I was moving ahead, out of the ground. Breathing fresh air. That’s how I’d liked to picture myself. But the Lake is no fool. It sees all. My subconscious desire led me towards it again. My father’s words echoed once more, only to be silenced by me this time. Maybe it was my overwhelming curiosity that whistled like wind through trees. Perhaps it was the exquisite beauty of fairies skipping across the Lake to the glare of the sun. Maybe it was the lure of the scent, which filled my nostrils with desire. Or perhaps father was simply wrong. This time, as the maiden appeared out of the water, she saw right through me, and a sense of unknowable shame filled my heart. Honesty dwelled in the water; a reflection I’d suppressed. No amounts of algae or reeds could screen the rocks of rage I had been hiding. As she took a twig and made motions with it in the water, a reflection of a seed falling from a tree came into view. Soon buried in the dirt, it began to bulge inside, and a tiny green shoot revealed itself. I realised what I saw: it was the source of my shame and anger. All was made clear. I had never really grasped Nature’s lesson; my theory was proved erroneous.

I am the seed of my parents’ tree! The precepts I lived according to – the words that constantly echoed – were only the protective casing. They enclosed me that I might, when the hour was right, break forth into my own reality. All this time, the resounding gong of my father’s words that echoed,

“Boy, until your heart is known and you’ve worked your field, wander not to the Lake of Venus. For blind ambition and a foreign heart corrupt one’s nature before a journey’s start”

implied that I was still inside that shell, inside their seed. No voice of my own, but the voice of another. No thoughts of my own, but the thoughts of another. The death of the seed was no metaphor: it was real, a death unthinkable to me. Letting go. Those words were his truth, one I’d inherited to nurture me. Yet I had to leave it behind and become my own person, not just the fruit of another, likening their image. The pain of this realization was that of an erupting volcano, making the Earth aware of my seething rage and hurt suppressed deep within me. My world inside the seed was fading because I was outgrowing it. The Unknown was soon to be a life-long acquaintance. The shoot aimed at the sun, in my new interpretation, was not the rise for Glory, but rather for self-enlightenment.

I took the liberty of doing the unthinkable: I went against my father’s will, the will that rang on and on in my head:

“Boy, until your heart is known and you’ve worked your field, wander not to the Lake of Venus. For blind ambition and a foreign heart corrupt one’s nature before a journey’s start.”

And of my own volition, I dived into Lake Venus with a mighty pounce.

Splash!

I assure you; this was no knee-deep tiptoe, distant damsel-praising phenomena as in years afore. I sunk in. There was no more lying or conniving to myself. The dive was violent, and yet its splash was gentle. She was waiting for me. Ready to ease the burn marks left by the sun’s rays and my volcanic rage. Although shaken, Venus was all the same benevolent. Eventually, I surfaced with her help.

Gasp!

It was pleasant, but not as the legend held it, for the fabrication faded. The gong of my father’s words drowned in the open floodgate of my awakening, and with it came my first proverb:

“Young man, inexperience is inescapable, and fear foreshadows all novel undertakings; therefore boldly break forth into the Unknown, mindful of all consequences.”

#fiction #shortstory #writer #indie #fantasy #philosophy

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