Saturday 4 June 2022

Well of Souls - Flash Fiction Story by Robert Walton


Well of Souls by Robert Walton


            Her naked shoulder turned toward me as she slid between two boulders and disappeared like smoke in darkness.


            Earlier, hot dust tingled in my nose like freshly cut spice.


            Earlier yet, Abbas spoke beside me as dawn grew among declining stars. “Jonathan, today you will see the great treasure of our people.”

            I rubbed my eyes. “It’s worth rising so early?”

            Maryam affirmed from my other side, “It is.”

            Abbas continued, “You enjoyed the feast last night - my mother’s rice with saffron, the lamb?”

            “Very much - the yellow melons, too!"

            “Does it not surprise you that rice grows, that sheep graze, that melons fatten here?” His left hand swept wide. 

            My eyes followed the gesture to rocks blood-red in the sun’s first rays and silky dunes, pale as moonlight.

            “Water flows beneath the earth through ancient ways to our fields, water from the Well of Souls. We could not live here in the sand sea without it.” Abbas lowered his hand. 

            Maryam murmured, “It flows even in dry years like this one.”

            I nodded. “That is a great treasure.”

            “More precious than jewels or gold.”

            I looked at her. “Is it guarded?”

            Her eyes glowed in the dawn’s light.

            “Of course.” Abbas rubbed his dusty beard.  “Our soldiers patrol far into the desert.”

            Maryam added. “And the women of the well watch over the deep springs.”

            “Women of the well?” 

            “Bah!” snorted Abbas, “My little sister spouts an old wives’ tale!”

            Maryam shook her head. “No, Abbas, they are there and it is their tears - tears of both joy and sorrow - which bring the rains to distant mountains and so to the well."

            Abbas muttered, “Bah!”

            We turned our horses onto a blank slate of desert sands. 


            Our ride ended at midday before three hills, round as mares’ bellies. “Abbas?” I asked.


            “The entrance is near?”

            “It is hidden." His dark eyes searched ahead. "Those rocks to the left are our guidepost. Come.” He jiggled his reins. Dust the yellow of cardamom billowed from beneath the horses’ hooves.

              We dismounted an hour later and hobbled our mounts in the shade of two sandstone slabs leaning together. Maryam scampered ahead of us into a slit in the hillside. I followed Abbas into the opening.

            Coolness enfolded me. Pools stair-stepped away into a cavern’s depths. Waters trickled from one to another like words meandering from grandmothers' lips. Sunlight swords struck through crevices far above. One stabbed the farthest, greatest pool, made it bleed molten silver.

            Maryam’s voice chimed like distant bells, “This way!”

            Abbas shouted, “Wait for us!”

            She looked back, her eyes teasing like starlight on a midnight sea.

            "Wait, Maryam!"

            She cast off her robe and ran.

            Abbas called again, “Wait!”

            Her naked shoulder turned toward me as she slid between two boulders and disappeared like smoke in darkness.


            Gathering clouds deepened dusk as only Abbas and I rode between fields green with new plants and on to the city.

            I never saw Maryam again.

Robert Walton - Is an experienced writer from King City, CA. hIS novella "Vienna Station" won the Galaxy prize and was published as an e-book.  It is available for Kindle on Amazon.  He co-wrote “The Man Who Killed Mozart” with Barry Malzberg, later published in F&SF.  His novel Dawn Drums won both the Tony Hillerman best fiction award and first place in the Arizona Authors 2014 competition. Most recently, Cricket Media published his “Mansa Musa’s Wisdom” in the February, 2022 issue of Spider Magazine. 


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