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Strange Stories and the Strangers Who Inhabit Them

March 26, 2021

Those of you who follow Cold, as well as folks who subscribe to my newsletter (Click here to join Cold Readers Club: https://app.convertkit.com/landing_pages/326254?v=7), seemed to think that last week’s foray into fairytale writing was worth continuing.

I love fairytales, and will not only finish up this one via Cold, but will also take some time to examine what various elements of fairytales mean to us. How they’ve influenced our literature, and how they’ve affected the ways we see ourselves.

In this second installment of “Romakaji,” I’m focusing on the element of “the stranger.” The mysterious stranger is an integral part of many of the enchantment stories we grew up reading as children. The stranger can arrive as an evil in tales like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood, but the stranger can also be a figure of romance and adventure. Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and The Frog Prince all tell the story of a girl who meets a stranger, and he awakens her heart.

I don’t yet know which type of stranger my story will offer a reader, but I hope you’ll stick with me to find out.

Romakaji

by Yours Truly

Part 2

Small English Tudor Interior | ... cottage hearth. What a ...

More than anything, the water girl missed interiors.

She remembered the dark wood, the candlelight, the portrait of her mother on the back stairs. She thought of the scratches on the wood floor and the precious books her father had collected over his lifetime. Essays by Francis Bacon, The Institutes of the Lawes of England, a Missal of the Academy of Sciences, Don Quixote. The Lesser Key of Solomon, an anonymous grimoire on demonology had been a particular guilty pleasure for her.

She’d read them all, and in her three hundred years in the pond – nay, two hundred ninety-six years, fourteen days, three hours, seventeen minutes, and with the seconds ticking away – the water girl had learned to use her memory as a library. It occurred to her this was part of the curse as well, although Cressida, the unfortunate witch who had cast her into the pond, had never told her as much. The water girl had figured out most of the elements of the curse on her own.

Not only would she grow in her ethereal beauty with each moment she spent beneath the surface of the pond, but her memories would become sharper, as distinctive as mathematics. The water girl found she could precisely reference any page in any of the books her father had kept, and any day in her life. Whether it was hundreds of years past or yesterday, she could view it as if it were happening all over again, picking out the most arcane details of even the simplest incidents. Like the smell of her mother’s breath early one morning when the water girl was only eight – the way it had portended a cancerous stomach. Something the water girl only understood in hindsight.

The water girl. That was a name she hadn’t heard in a long time either. Not as long as Romakaji, the name her parents had given her, but a long time nonetheless. It was the moniker local children had given her back when she would, on occassion, allow them a glimpse of her as they played near the pond. The brave ones would dive into the water, seeking her out. Sometimes, she even let one catch her.

But since she’d drowned the one boy with her kiss of loneliness ninety-nine years, ninety-four days, 22 hours and four minutes ago – with the seconds ticking away – she hadn’t allowed anyone to see her and the legend of the water girl had faded, leaving only the oldest people in the village to give her story any mind. The younger generations thought it a foolish old tale, much like the Lochness monster, only less exciting and with no real proof of existence at all. Not a blurry, distant photo, or a single, grisly fisherman with tales of her head rising above the water.

And no one – no one except for the witch, Cressida, and the suitor who she had rejected, had any idea that the water girl and a presumably long dead village maiden named Romakaji were one in the same.

Water girl. Romakaji. Her two selves had revisted her one day in the form of a man who’d moved into the cottage. A man named Lionel, who had fifty-eight days prior stood at the edge of the pond, staring deepling into it. He’d muttered her name in his rich voice. One of thick gravy and soft velvet. Her memory had sharpened around the quality of his voice, too. The way it had caressed each syllable – “Ro-ma-kaj-i.” 

Since that day, she’d heard him walking about, but hadn’t seen him. He hadn’t come to the pond in all these weeks and spent most of his time indoors. It had gotten cold, of course, and there was snow on the ground, but he was young and looked to be a hearty sort who would hardly mind a bit of cold air and snowflakes. It seemed awfully unlikely, too, that a stranger would move to the cottage to do “research,” as he’d said, spend many a day coming to look at her pond, even speak her name, and then lose interest in her.

The water girl, Romakaji, was longing for him to come back. If only he would, she would speak his name, too.

“Lionel,” she said into the water.

She imagined him sitting at a desk inside the cottage, with a fire roaring in the hearth. He might be tip-tapping his fingers on a laptop. She’d seen him carrying one around when he first arrived.

The interior of the cottage would look quite different than it had in her time, but the hearth would likely be the same, and she liked to think about Lionel being warmed by it, staring into its dancing flames, maybe thinking of her.

“Lionel.”

Romakaji looked up at the cottage through the murky grey of the winter water. It was dark, nearly blending with the night.

“Lionel, come to me.”

And just as she said it, a light turned on in one of the bedrooms. She saw a shadow move behind the glass – Lionel’s shadow. Romakaji didn’t dare move or make a sound. Fifty-three seconds later she heard the back door to the cottage open, and footsteps on the stone path leading to the bridge that arched over her pond.

“Lionel,” she said again, but he didn’t appear. She could see nothing but her usual view of night around the cottage grounds.

A shuffle, a deep breath – she heard those loud and clear. A plop near her and something of gold drifting to the muddy bottom of her pond.

Romakaji swam down, sinking her fingers into the soft silt, easily plucking a gold chain from the deep, brown muck. On it hung a charm, a gold disc with a pearl at its center. On its back was engraved a single image. She recognized it right away, as it was emblazoned on that memory of hers. It was the seal of Count Furfur, an image she’d seen a thousand times in her father’s grimoire, The Key of Solomon. Count Furfur, a Great Earl of Hell. A liar unless compelled into a magic triangle, where he would have to tell the truth or burn to ash. A powerful demon, according to the book, and capable of all sorts of magic. A teacher of divine things, he could also be a great destroyer, creating storms and tempests. And he had one quite unusual gift for a demon from hell. One that is unlike any other. He causes love between a man and woman.

The Paranormal Dimension: Magical Seals: How to Use Them ...

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2 Comments
  1. Wanda permalink

    Aaaarah! I was so immersed in Romakaji’s story and trying to figure out what this Lionel was going to do………..then the story ended. I not only want more, I need more of this story. I need to find out more about Romakaji. Please continue with this story, Victoria. It isn’t often that I come across an author that can hook me so deeply into a story with a few paragraphs. But you did! I take that as a sign of an excellent author. So please accept this compliment.

  2. Thank you, Wanda! I’m going to keep going, so stay tuned!

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