I found her, dripping wet, staring at the sky.
She was breathing heavy, trying to compose herself. Timing her breaths with the numbers.
Eight thousand sixty-four. Eight thousand sixty-five. Eight thousand sixty…oh. Hello.
Her eyes flashed angry. Obviously annoyed at my appearing.
It’s getting light now. Hard to see the stars. Tonight was a waste.
She sits beside me and smiles.
My chest feels tight.
I’ve been swimming all night. Oceans, ponds, streams, rivers, sewers even. I hate the water.
She shudders and drops of water sparkle on her skin.
I’ve seen her before once or twice. Those nights when I wake up in a panic, unable to move or speak.
Her name is Mara. Or Mare. Sometimes Mora. Long ago she was Noćnica.
I remember her face. Beautiful, but with large dark eyes. I remember looking up at her as she sat on my chest, strangling me while I tried to scream.
One time she appeared as a little black mouse.
I could tell by her eyes it was her. Sitting on my chest, stealing my breath.
Now, she looks tired. Older. Her dark eyes have grown cloudy.
I swim the world’s water every night. I count the stars. I never seem to finish.
I apologize for having said the prayer earlier in the week. Und tellet alle Sterne, Die am Firmament erscheinen.
She laughs and watches the water drop from her hair.
Ah, don’t be sorry. I don’t blame you. But one day, on one of those long nights, I will finish counting. Then I will see you again.
She fades away with the dawn.
The air grows cold and the stars fade from the sky.