The Girl by the Lake


© xkikox/Instagram

[23 October 2014 UPDATE : The Bubble, an online magazine based at Durham University, has published ‘The Girl by the Lake‘! You can read it here, or you can read it there, or you can read it here and there, whichever you fancy.]

Today, I’ve decided to post a flash fiction piece I first wrote more than a year ago as an exercise in descriptive writing. It lacks forward progression, a story. But that wasn’t my original intention. I wanted to capture a snapshot, a moment lasting only a few seconds yet reflecting the entire journey of the mind, often beginning and ending in a blink of an eye. And I must say, I’m still rather fond of it. Credit must be given to Kiko Wilson, whose Instagram photo inspired the entire piece (I think it was taken at Inokashira Park near Kichijōji in Tokyo). There was something mysterious about it, a quiet foreboding, yet hopeful. (Also, check out her Twitter and Instagram, or if you live in Japan, watch her on NHK「えいごであそぼ」(Eigo de Asobo), Mondays to Fridays, 8:40~8:50 or 16:05~16:15.)

I’d love to hear your feedback, anything you thought or felt, whether positive or negative. Please comment!


The Girl by the Lake
by Justin Lau

There was a girl by the lake.

She had come to look, to stare out into the distance. The rippling surface of the water, reacting to the touch of its ethereal companion; the overgrown trees with their foliage a hazy green, debating whether it was warm enough to be truly amorous or to remain unassuming and complement the still chilly air; the hanging branches, bobbing slightly to match the intermittent rhythm of the rustling leaves; the lonely sign, long defaced yet steadfast, with the noble intention of preventing the rash from disturbing its premises. No one could be certain what she was looking at.

She seemed pensive and deep in thought, but not bound by ire. One might say she took pleasure in her mind’s manifestations, that her neutral demeanour actually hid a wistful smile.

She was at peace, with herself and with the surrounding nature. She felt no discomfort for she was both willing to receive and be received. Submitting would serve no difficulty. Her stature conveyed all, standing upright yet at ease, well aware that she was out of society’s reach. Her right hand clutched her left arm, not in fear or the desire to protect, but in collected assurance that she was still her own, no one else’s.

The day was dying, but the afterglow of early spring’s warmth transcended the sky, providing nurturing light even when shadows began their steady advance. Crows were cawing and mutually mocking, but began to retreat into their abodes. Even the black birds refrained from venturing out under the veil of night; for how would their radiance be revealed if eclipsed by one of similar nature and substance?

Her face was beautiful. She was graciously adorned with a thin necklace around her unblemished neck, a silver ring on her slender fingers, a purple bracelet fitting her smooth wrist. Her black flowing hair fell in immaculate waves.

She suddenly raised her arms, outwards, outstretched, left palm facing the sky, right palm facing the water; they remained still, as if to read, feel and absorb some unaccustomed force for the revitalisation of her being. In the water, distorted reflections. She closed her eyes and kept them closed, kept them close, hidden secrets written on the back of her eyelids, of more importance than the sights she once beheld, revealing things not seen. Her chest rose and fell. The air was fresh. Five minutes, ten minutes, maybe more, maybe less. She had no time to waste, with all the time in the world.

Then she smiled, eyes still closed. The freedom she had long sought… at last. It was quiet, but her triumph was momentous. It required rejoicing, an unabashed celebration. The wind responded appropriately with a strong breeze that rustled her spring dress.

She began to cry, silently, eyes still closed, and from them flowed tears. Entrapped in the curse of silence, repressed by words which must remain unspoken, stumbling upon a gateway of release, departing from a life worth unliving and suffering into a realm of the forgiving. She neither shook nor shuddered, but calmly allowed her tears to fall. Drip, drop, and the earth urgently soaked them up. The dirt was stained with moisture. All were satisfied.

Her arms fell to her side. She walked away, her back to the lake but always embracing it, and disappeared from sight. No one knew her name, no one expected her to come back. But on some days, at the moment of evening’s transformation to shadowed glory, I have seen her, the girl by the lake, in the same place, in the same manner.

© Justin Lau, 2014


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