Short Story - The Lady of the Fountain - Amy Priddy
By: Amy Priddy
George woke up that morning with a splitting headache and found himself in a whirlwind of confusion. He rubbed his eyes and seemed to glare back at the sunlight pouring through the shutters. George hated the sunlight and almost everything else that morning entailed. He flopped out of bed, put on a worn out blue robe and tied it around his sagging midsection. After his wife died he had promised himself that he would work on his appearance, but the thought of actual work made him queasy. He went to the mirror and frowned at the wrinkles around his eyes and meticulously tried to rub them away with his finger. It didn’t work, of course, and his face continued to hang there lifelessly.
The chirping of the morning birds woke him from his trance and his bottled up anger started to boil within his body. Those damn birds, he thought. I hate them. Not everyone in the world likes to hear the sweet chirping of birds in the morning. His face reddened in anger at the sound of their perfect melodies and he turned to throw a shoe at the open window. George’s hand quickly fell toward the ground, his eyes opening wide in fear as he caught the glimpse of a shadow out of the corner of his eye. The shadows quickly gathered in the room, pushing the older man to a corner where he shook in fear. He remembered his walk by the park the night before and the fun he had throwing pennies into a fountain with a little boy. The boy told him to make a wish, but the man didn’t listen and upset the woman spirit that lived within the statue of the fountain. The boy grew very upset with him and viciously pointed his finger at the old man, threatening him.
“You didn’t make a wish? Why would you do that?” the boy questioned.
“Son, it’s just pretend. This isn’t real and she isn’t real,” George said as he pointed to the lifeless statue.
“Just wait! You’ll see!” the boy shouted as he ran down the street. “She’ll make you pay for not believin’ in her!”
George’s mind fluttered back to his bedroom that had been taken over by spirits and he quickly panicked. He started throwing all his dirty laundry at the shadows, but this made them only grow in numbers. The spirits screeched at the man and clawed at the light that was within the room. This was their Hell and they wanted back into their darkness. A sound echoed within the room, like the call of their leader, and the ghosts retreated back to their world. George sighed with relief. They were gone.
He thought about the words from the little boy and decided to venture back to the fountain in the park. The sun disappeared and darkness filled the sky; not from the clouds, but from the demons that now appeared. He couldn’t escape them and grew frightened from this new world that the spirit had cursed him with. He ran in terror passed ghosts and monsters and demons hiding in the alleys. The werewolves howled at the moonlight and licked their sharp fangs that desired the rip of flesh and taste of blood. They ran after him and he could feel their hot breath upon his neck. Closer and closer they pursued him, but soon vanished as he came upon the fountain in the middle of the park. George leaned against the statue as he tried to catch his breath. The water in the bottom of the fountain was turning green and smelled stale with age. Her paint was chipping and she no longer held the luster that she had so many years ago. He tried to forget about the demons that surrounded his life and held the statue that night as if she was real. He was alone and the statue was the only thing that seemed real to him. She protected him from the terrors of the night.
The statue was made in his wife’s honor and all the sick children she had helped when she was a nurse. She was their savior, so the city had a statue of his wife placed in the park where she could watch the children play. George stopped visiting her over the years and his sadness grew into hatred and self-pity. He hated her for leaving him and never accepted being alone. Tears welled up in his eyes as he knelt done and polished the brass nameplate with his thumb. Oh, Margaret, he sighed. I’m so sorry that I’ve disappointed you. I just didn’t think life would be this hard without you. He moved in closer to the statue of the woman, placed his moistened face upon her breast, and then he was gone.
The boy came by again that night to pay his respects to the woman that saved his life, but he was shocked to find the display that was in front of him. The statue had grown in size and now took on the shape of a man and a woman in each other’s arms. The boy smiled at the couple and said his thanks to his special nurse. He turned to walk away, but decided to make one final wish. His penny soared through the air and actually landed in the hand of the lady and he smiled with delight.
“I wish…” the boy began. “I wish that you’re both finally happy.”