Swan Lake

By Rachel H Grant

A feather fluttered in the soft breeze, flying between the trees and falling effortlessly on the lake, like a ballerina sautéing through the summer air. The feather spun on the water, a pirouette that might never end.

Pitfour Lake reflected a perfect sky, a daydream in slow motion, clouds drifting like feathers on the wind.

Arthur reclined by the lake, reflecting on the lost love of his life. Isabella, now betrothed to another. Like a feather in his heart, emotions sighed deep within. He longed to be free of their chains, a feather in the wind.

The lake was deserted. Arthur looked in all directions, however he was alone. A smile curled on his face, a feather moving in the wind. Like a feather, he would be light and free. Discarding his clothes, he jumped in to the lake, a feather trying to find its way home to the swan left behind.

And just like that, he was a feather, he was free, the waters caressing his soul.

Then the waters grabbed his ankles, as if there was a giant below pulling him down. Like a feather he fluttered, trying to drift away. The waters overcame him, filling his lungs with icy fingers, blowing all feathers away with freezing breath.

Like a feather, he fought the waters with utter futility. His lungs burned with a lead weight, dragging him down, strangling a feather that only wished to be free.

Then he really was free, staring in stupefaction at his body in the lake.

Feathers thundered down on him. It was a swan, flying around his feather soul. “Let me help you.” The words sounded in his head like music from heaven. Then he felt real feathers, forming around him, framing his soul, forming a body …

He was back in the lake, but this time afloat. He looked down at his body, the brown feathers of a cygnet staring back at him like a mirror of feathers.

“I have saved you.” The mother swan circled him. “You are one of us now, and you are safe.”

Arthur lived as a cygnet for many years, never growing older, a feather that can never age, a soul stuck in a bubble of time, a miracle in feathers.

Feathers floated on the lake, little hellos from heaven with a soul of their own. Arthur forgot his old life, his new life in feathers the only reality now. Winter turned to spring, spring to glorious summer and then the chill of autumn once more. Still he did not age, a frozen feather in the cycle of time.

Days turned to a destiny of feathers, time measured by the number of feathers in the lake. It was all time, it was no time, it was swan time.

Until the day he saw her.

A late teenage girl, walking alone at the side of the lake, tears like frigid feathers falling from her eyes.

A feather hit his heart, growing in to a secret swan, heart beating inside his own heart. It was love.

She came again, and once more, then twice more. She walked alone with her tears, long auburn locks flying behind her like autumnal feathers. A wet heavy feather longing fluttered in his heart. It was cygnet love, it was true love.

“Let me become human again,” he implored head swan Guy. “Free me from this unearthly spell.”

Guy’s old wise eyes glowed with soft feather kindness. “Let it be,” he said softly. “Go to the bank, now.”

Arthur raised his wings high as he reached land. Ripples of energy ran through him, feathers dancing across a windswept lake. Then he felt it, his body changing beneath him.

However, there were still feathers. They fluttered in a gentle breeze, a tunic of comforting brown around him, the costume of the cygnet time forgot. He was human again.

And she was there, the wondrous waif. From across the lake she stared at him, a stray smile fluttering on her face like a feather. Love had landed in her heart, a feather on its way home.

Arthur ran across the old bridge, a feather in freefall. Then they both flung themselves in to each other’s arms, love like a lullaby in their eyes.

A moment murmured in their hearts, the soft call of a mother swan. For now, Arthur would forget about how he would fit back in to human life, forget how he would explain his years of absence, unaged. Forget everything but this, the moment as fragile as a feather that might float away. He closed his eyes and breathed in a love of all time, of no time, a love that would save them both, as a forest of feathers protected their hearts. And like a feather, their love could last forever.

They walked hand in hand, as a sunset kissed the land. Then they were gone, as two swans flew in to the sky, heading towards a sun they would never reach. Feathers fell beneath them, a memory of who they once were. The dying sun surveyed the world beneath, as the light grew darker. A feather drifted across the lake, and then all was still.