May Prompt

A group of friends and I are now doing a monthly prompt. This month, we were given the name of someone else in the group, and a list of prompts to choose from. Part of the fun of it is to guess which of my pals assigned my prompt to me. (I’m still trying to figure it out. It could be anyone.) Anyway, the prompt was

As Gunther scooped scarlet water from the Danube into a glass vial, he reflected on the futility of dancing.

I know who added the prompt to the list, but that doesn’t mean he’s the one who drew my name.

Here are the results.

Red Danube

Squatting over the river, I scooped scarlet water from the Danube into a glass vial. Absently swirling the contents, I reflected on the futility of dancing.
The ritual was supposed to have brought rain, not the acid that had fallen from the sky that day, weeks ago. It had eaten nearly everything it touched, leaving only a few survivors, like me, who had hunkered down in nearby caves. The waters there still ran clean, but it would only be a matter of time before the poison leeched into the only remaining fresh supply. And we would be next.
“You let your mind wander again, didn’t you?” Crysa asked, stepping up to me.
Her smoky voice pulled me out of my reverie and I shook my head, looking up at her.
Hands fisted on leather-clad hips, her normally brown eyes glowed red in the dark.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen. There wasn’t supposed to be death.”
“We wanted the rivers to rage.” Her words were to the point, matter of fact, as though it were an everyday occurrence that pure acid fell from the sky and washed away anything caught out in it.
“With water – not this poison.” I spat the word out, sending a glob of drivel into the river. The roiling flow whisked it away, carrying the last of my hope along with it.
“What’s the verdict, Gunther?” she asked after a long silence.
I shrugged. “We need food. More than just everberries.”
“Our water supply is still clean.”
With a sigh, I stood. “For now.”
“Hey.” She squashed my face between her hands, our faces close. “We have clean water running through our shelter, and we have a food supply on our roof. We have each other. There are other survivors out there too. There’s no way we can be al-“
“You’re a genius.”
I brought my hands up to frame her face and kissed her. “It’s the berries. The berries didn’t die, why I don’t know,” I said, stepping off the rock and onto the bank. “But they survived. And they’re all over the top of our cave. Our water runs clean because of the berries. It’s got to be the berries.”
“What are you-“ I heard her scramble off the rock and trot after me. “Gunther! What’s gotten into you?”
“It’s the berries! I don’t know if it’s the roots, or the berries themselves yet. But something about those plants is resistant to the acid. It’s why they survived when nothing else did. We get rain, and it all falls on the bushes, right?” I explained over my shoulder. I hopped up on the rock ledge at the entrance to our little home and turned to help her up.
“Yeah,” she grunted when she braced her foot on the side of the cliff to push herself up.
“It’s gotta be the bushes. They filter the water and make it safe again.”
“So what do we do?” Crysa asked.
I grinned. It had been too long since my cheeks hurt from grinning. And it felt amazing – almost as amazing as kissing Crysa had felt.
“We take some berries and plant them along the river. It’s not much – but it’s a start. They’ll take root. There must be something in the acid that they like – they perked right up when it… rained.” I had to shake the memory from my head.
I stared at her, giddy from my epiphany.
“In the morning,” she smiled. “Tonight, we celebrate.”
“I guess that means we’ll have to come up with a new celebration dance,” I said.
“I know one that’s old as time.” She took my hand in hers and led me deeper into the cave to an area we’d agreed was her space.

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