I mentioned I’m editing an anthology of short fiction just now and the below piece I wrote after listening to someone with a totally debilitating condition. I’m not sure about it. It feels like it needs more but what? More backstory about Brian and what his life has been like, more about Prettie? The lake? What happens next? All of the above?
As ever I’d welcome ideas in the comments…
Brian wrinkled his nose. ‘That’s daft.’
She didn’t try and hide the sigh in her voice. ‘It’s just what the bumph says. Neither hot water – which means trouble, nor cold – which means depressing. This is just, you know, perfect.’
‘I still don’t see how.’
‘Try it. You’ll see.’ Prettie reached out a hand to the reluctant teen, whose arms were folded hard across his scarred chest.
‘Sure it won’t hurt?’
‘Come on.’ She indicated her legs. ‘See, I’m fine.’ She held his terrified gaze, imploring him to believe her. Though why would he? He’d been let down so often by so many others, all well-meaning. Why believe the hype?
No one could explain it, after all. It wasn’t some unique combination of salts that eased everyone’s pains. The Earth’s crust wasn’t especially thin here, no weird magnetic field, no unexplained seepage of a previously undiscovered radiation. But everyone – even those at the most sceptical end of the spectrum – admitted the lake did something. It eased them, soothed all pain, let them breathe.
‘You know what water does to me, Prettie.’
She did. She’d heard the screams, knew what the medics said about his ultra-fine dermis. ‘It won’t. This is special. Everyone says so.’
‘But they don’t have this.’ Once again he waved at his tortured flesh.
‘You’re not unique and this is just right.’
‘Yeah like Goldilocks made it, yeah?’
The terrified boy, with the damaged body and crippled mind stepped uneasily forward, tensing. Prettie held her breath, so proud of him.
As promised the waters lapped his calves, he felt easier, relaxing with each cautious shuffle forward.
‘I told you. These waters are special.’
Brian looked up, a grin splitting his face, something Prettie thought she would never again see.
‘This is so cool.’
And for the visual amongst you…