There were only three witnesses that day: a girl, her pig, and the ocean. An old woman stood ankle-deep in the turquoise water, crazy wisps of her gray hair lit from behind by the sun. She turned, smiled with a mischievous grin in her eyes. The little girl waved goodbye, and she and her pig watched as the waves coming in to shore slowly receded and collected around the woman’s feet. She raised one foot and tested the surface of the water. Anyone watching would have been interested to notice that she didn’t look remotely surprised when it held her weight. While the girl on the beach looked on, she took one step, then another, until she was walking across the water as calmly as if she’d done it every day. Before long, her figure shrank, and she was swallowed by the blinding light of the setting sun.
The old woman trusted that the ocean would carry her to where she wanted to go. A storm blew up now and then, but she continued, determined, until she could make out a thin green ribbon of land on the horizon. By nightfall, she’d left the shore behind her. She got a few strange looks for her clothing. They were no worse than how people treated her at home. If life had taught her anything, it was that you couldn’t care what people thought of you.
The houses and bustling streets gave way to the town’s sleepy outskirts, then swamps with trees that looked like they went on forever. She stopped at the border and took a deep breath. Strong smells of earth and things long forgotten assaulted her first, but underneath there ran an electrifying current of mystery.
With a smile on her face, she stepped into the shadows of the trees. Spanish moss brushed against her shoulders as she ducked under the branches in her path. Overhead, the canopy’s aperture closed, almost unnoticed, until the bayou and those who passed through it existed in a strange kind of dusk. The shadows only deepened from there. Noises drifted out of the darkness, sounds that sent chills down spines and contributed to the swamps’ infamous reputation. Mothers told their children stories of beasts always waiting around the next corner to get them, boats that went out and never came back. Spirits lurked in these places, or so everyone said. And then there were those who practiced magic. They kept to the shadows as expected, but rumors only spread without people willing to set the record straight.
Looking around, she could see what had inspired these rumors. As she moved into the darkest parts of the bayou, she knew that the stories had a grain of truth, but it was hard to have a grim outlook on a place that held so much beauty. Fireflies appeared shortly after sunset, leaving a path for her to follow. She had reached the worst part of the swamp now, but she kept going, eyes forward, shoulders back, her spirit never wavering.
Up ahead, a large shape emerged from the tree branches. The fireflies left her side, flying ahead to circle the trunk of a gigantic oak. Among the Spanish moss and leaves perched a boat of all things. A breeze picked up, ruffling the water and setting the bottles hanging from the tree to clinking. Warm orange light glowed in the boat’s empty windows, but there were no other signs of life. The fireflies completed their circles around the tree trunk and vanished back the way they came.
After a long silence, a sound drifted to the old woman’s ears. Laughter. The voice was old, cracked, quite similar to the boat in the tree. A figure emerged from the twilight. A bright yellow snake curled around her shoulders like a scarf, and the remaining light reflected dimly off the dark lenses of her glasses. She smiled a toothless smile and spoke out across the water.
“Tala? That you?”
Tala smiled, shaking her head as she closed the distance between herself and her friend. “How’d you know?”
The old woman’s grin widened, and she chuckled.
“Not bad for a 197-year-old blind lady.”
Author Notes: I wanted to write a short work of fanfiction where Nana Tala and Mama Odie were friends, but include them without using names. These characters are Disney's, not mine. Hope you enjoyed it :)