The Hare and the Otter by Liz Chadwick Pywell | Pride Month

Yesterday I saw a hare. I had removed my clothes for the task I had set myself, ready to let the weeds pull me down like Ophelia, but when she appeared, I paused. I felt the draw of her blood. From a distance, she was a speck only, a dust ball, and then, as she got closer, she became a jumble of limbs and ears, and suddenly was there, all animal, all life.

She looked at me and I looked at her and we stopped, for a moment only, but in that moment there was stardust and blackness, and everything was changed. How can a universe stop still? How can a life? There was darkness in her eyes yet I couldn’t see anything but light, blinding and splitting me apart.

She bolted into the night and I was transformed; I stole into the water, not to die but to live, and swam for the opposite bank. The reeds beneath me clawed up to the surface and gasped for air but I was not afraid. There was nothing in the river that could harm me now. My fur was sleek and oiled for the task of racing, for shaking off the sludge from the mud bed, twisting upwards to the moonlight and swallowing great breaths of oxygen and magic.

Time was different too, and although it was yesterday, there have been many views of the moon since then, and many iterations of night sky. I have watched stars travelling past and seen them dive into the water, only to emerge seconds later as nymphs, kingfishers and dragonflies. From my home in the shade of the trees, I have felt the seasons change and the years pass.

I have spent millennia waiting for her to return. There have been others of course, but none so full of promise and mystery, and none who have looked at me and seen me for what I really am. Others have been friendly but when they see me up close, they stiffen and eventually turn away, for they can tell that I’m not quite what I seem. Who can blame them?

People come and go, and I sometimes like to remember what their world was like, but mostly it makes me sad, and I can’t bring myself to fall too deeply into reminiscing. They catch glimpses of me occasionally, and I wonder what they think they have seen. I am a velvet coated beast, and I know I am beautiful, though my charm is that of sharp teeth and claws, the ability to catch a fish and gut it before I take a breath.
I thought I saw her again last night, but if it was her, she didn’t recognise me, or if she did, she wasn’t ready.

She ran for the trees and I tried to catch her but she was too fast, too graceful, and my movements on land aren’t as swift as they were when I was a girl. I watched her go and I mourned, though the moonlight streamed down on the brown earth and made the moths dance, and I knew she would return tonight.

Honestly, I don’t know how long I’ve been waiting. The boats keep coming, day in and day out, and they’re the same, though the people change. Once I saw a woman on the bridge and I thought she might jump, and, though I longed for a friend, I willed her not to, because I don’t think she would have been saved. I swam beneath her and she climbed down and went away, so I was alone again. My love wasn’t there.

But now, the moon is full and I see her on the horizon. I’m not sure if she’s real but if she is, I know she’ll come for me.

I know she’ll come for me on the bank of this river. In this mud. Under these stars.

Follow Liz on Instagram @chadpie.

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