The canoe moves in gentle fits and soft starts. The chill mountain water pulls against the hull between each stroke of the wooden paddle. Moving against the current, the paddler steers his small craft onto the lake, leaving the insistent rush of the river behind him. The air still, and the lake widening around him, the work grows easier with every stroke.
He begins his crossing towards the northern shore. Hunched beneath a looming mountain, enclosed within the mist, his target waits with an impatience. It waits, undernourished, enduring. He feels its presence. He can sense its hunger. Its need pervades the air.
The paddler, with an already irresistible compulsion rising with each stroke, manages to pause in his work to let a hand fall to the lake’s surface. As the tips of his fingers caress the frigid waters, the paddler feels the depths drawing his hand deeper. A surge of anticipation lances through the depths of his stomach as he renews his determination, pulling back from temptation and removing his hand from the dark, tea stained depths. As his grip returns to the paddle’s shaft, a breeze seems to sigh with frustration, blowing briefly against the canoe, resisting the paddler’s efforts to propel himself forward once more.
Its brief outburst exhausted, the wind quickly recedes, its absence an open invitation for the previously dormant mist. Curling out over the shimmering water, it drapes its coils around the paddler. His senses impeded, sight and sound dampened, the paddler paddles on. The quiet, blind stillness doing little to hinder his progress.
Within the senseless bubble, the paddler renews his efforts. A tension, long building, long abiding, and long waiting, senses its imminent release and rises to the fore, fueling his tiring body. Water droplets, thrown awry by the now fervent action of the paddler, send tremors throughout his tiring body. Switching his paddling from one side to the other, rivulets of lake water run down the paddle’s shaft, dripping onto his thighs. A small moan escapes his lips
His pace quickens.
With the fog wrapped around the canoe and its occupant, the paddler has no way of gauging the speed and efficacy of his movement. He can, however, feel the tension rising. A pressure builds, radiating from the presence in front of him. He knows that he is drawing closer. He is sure that he will not stray from his course.
The paddler’s body is strong. Muscles taut, ligaments straining, he propels his craft forwards with furor. But he is, after all, only human.
As his pace becomes frenzied, lactic acid surges through his blood stream, searing through his arms and abdominals. His fatigue, for days pushed aside by force of will, crashes to the fore. For the paddler, the water becomes like treacle, every stroke is a struggle. Yet, he maintains his focus. He need only persevere for a short time more, the barest fraction of the distance already traveled.
The lake surges. A tiny lift as the smallest of waves rolls beneath the canoe. It is enough. Descending, the canoe’s prow slaps the surface, throwing water into the air. A delicate wind gusts, blowing it across the canoe. The paddler grits his teeth as the lake’s essence spatters across his chest, his legs, and his lap. His eyes roll back as pleasure wracks his body, wrenching away the last vestiges of determination. His grip loosens on the paddle as waves of climactic euphoria roll through his being.
It’s power spent, the lake calms. As the paddler convulses, the mist draws back, returning to its place in the mountain’s shadow. From within its depths, his betrothed watches with dread as the paddler’s hand falls into the water. It moans with enraged dismay as his arm follows. As the paddler slides into the lake, his god turns away. Settling back into its prison of eons, it pushes away its anger. It sets aside this most recent loss. Extending its will outward, it begins its machinations once more.
With a bump, the canoe finds its rest against the north shore of the lake.