Ben Crowder

River’s Tale

Published December 2014.

One hot afternoon, on a thick, muggy day,

A boy trotted off to the river to play.

His newspaper boat floated out, spun around,

And snagged on a stick stuck in front of a mound.

The boy found a stone, hurled it straight at the lump

Made of twigs and old leaves, dirt, and trash, like a dump.

But then the mound roared, and it shook, and it stood—

A monster, a fright cloaked in wet, slimy wood.

It towered above the lad, tall as a bear,

Its mouth dripping sewage. A shriek of despair

The boy cried in his fear, knowing well he would die.

In vain he threw rocks at the beast’s darkened eye.

The demon reared back, seeking out its new foe,

And spotted its shivering prey down below.

It lunged for the lad, who leaped out to the side

And pulled himself up a tall tree, there to hide.

From there he could see in the river below

An eddy suffused with an eery red glow.

But then the beast rammed itself into the tree,

Dislodging the boy, who fell hard, hit his knee,

And tumbled down into the river’s red maw.

He flailed and he kicked and he tried hard to claw

His way up to the surface, through current so fast,

But water was stronger. He sank at long last,

Deep down to the bottom, right into the glow,

Which caught him and pulled him through its fiery flow.

The dark wrapped itself ’round the lad’s light blue eyes

And sounds melted down to a silence of cries.

The boy blinked. He lay on the banks of a stream,

Beneath the blushed rays of a swollen sun’s gleam.

It swallowed the sky with its vastness and girth,

Too large to be safe. The lad wasn’t on Earth.

He wandered through ruins of white stone long dead,

Through jungles and rainstorms; the ground was his bed.

He helped a small town fight the worms of the mist,

A battle which cost him his nose and left wrist.

The boy grew in stature, all thanks to the care

Of farmer and wife, kind old couple, white hair.

A year or two later a man from the core

Came seeking young sailors who wanted to soar

Up out into space, to the sister world green

That hung in the sky with unnatural sheen.

The boy joined the ship and they flew out to space

And landed on King’s Eye, that unexplored place.

For years the lad ran with that spacesailing crew,

Exploring the new world. Then one day they flew

Around a strange object arrayed in bright bloom,

The Circle of Lights. It was half the crew’s doom.

Escaping the frenzy with ship limp and torn,

They fled from the creatures of gas cloud reborn.

Much later, the boy, now a man tall and lean,

Was asked by the council to help save the queen.

He built a vast slingshot that hung up in space

And hurled asteroids toward the incoming chase,

Destroying that army before they came near,

And piercing their massive, unholy black sphere.

One day the man flew over jungle and lake

While tracking a treacherous, air-sliding snake.

He came ’round a bend at the foot of a hill

And saw it—the river—which haunted him still.

He landed his skiff on the banks of the stream,

Not far from the place of the hollow red gleam.

He tracked down the glow, steaming under the skin

Of water. He thought of his parents, his kin,

Back home years ago, wond’ring how their son died.

He took a deep breath and stepped off the side,

Down into the water, down into the glow,

Which caught him and pulled him through its fiery flow.

The dark wrapped itself ’round the man’s light blue eyes

And sounds melted down to a silence of cries.

The man woke to find himself back on the bank,

The beast tow’ring o’er him, its stench sour and rank.

He rolled out from under the monster, then drew

His gun from its holster. He shot. The beast flew

Back into the water, then stumbled and fell

Apart and exploded, wood, sewage, and gel.

The man returned home to the place of his youth,

His parents now younger than him, and the truth

He told of his ventures amazed every child.

The river runs still, water dark, water wild.