Shuǐmǔ

bike

© Dorothy

“Bai. don’t give up now. She must be nearby. I can feel it.”

“We’ve pedaled long enough my brother Heng. It’s a hoax.”

“No. If we find her, we’ll be rich.”

“There is no ‘her’, Heng. We are being manipulated by a wealthy eccentric.”

“Send 68 pairs of contestants on tandem bicycles to search for the Shuǐmǔ? Why would anyone do such a thing if she wasn’t real?”

“Who knows? Boredom? Proving that people are basically stupid? Maybe he’s right.”

“The Shuǐmǔ is supposed to be a priceless treasure. The indicator, Bai. We’re close.”

Heng suddenly jumped off the bike and ran toward a building surrounded by dozens of identical bicycles. He ran inside.

“Heng, wait.” Bai’s shorter legs were pumping as fast as they could.

“Statues. Nothing but statues.”

“Heng, I recognize these statues. Our competition.”

“Hello, boys. I guess you found me,” she smirked.

Shuǐmǔ

Shuǐmǔ

Heng turned to stone before Bai’s eyes. Then Bai too became unmoving.

“When will that old fool stop sending his pawns after me? Money cannot buy the services of Medusa.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW writing Challenge for the week of August 8th. The idea is to use the image above to craft a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long, with 150 being the ideal. My word count is 175 exactly.

I started writing with no clear end in mind, not even a real story. I just thought of two brothers being part of a competition, not a race so much as a scavenger hunt to find something valuable. I needed a tragic end which is when I wondered if the name “Medusa” has a Chinese counterpart. As it turns out, it does.

To read more stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

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28 thoughts on “Shuǐmǔ

  1. Well, now, isn’t this thought-provoking? One really must wonder why “the old eccentric” would send people on such an undefined errand, particularly given the nature of its designated target. Did none of the contestants know the dangerous characteristics of the object of their search? If not, how could they ever hope to complete their quest? Is the eccentric’s goal merely to reduce the number of fools in the world? He certainly isn’t collecting the statues; though I suppose he could be trying to inundate the Shuimu with a surfeit of them. If she is somehow confined to the building where these 68 fools expected to find her, ultimately it must become overcrowded in there. [:)]

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    • Oh, my mistake. It was 68 *pairs* of fools, making 136 statues and collecting 68 tandem bicycles outside the building. I wonder if it was a condition of the contest that the contestants must approach their goal solely via tandem bicycle?

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  2. You piqued my curiosity with your reference to a Chinese Medusa, so I began to research both. The Chinese legends of Shuimu are quite unrelated to the Greek myths of Perseus and the Gorgon sisters. The only correlation I could find was in the use of the name Shuimu for a jellyfish, which is also called a Medusa; but in neither case is the sea creature related to the mythology.

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    • As far as 68 pairs, I didn’t say they all found Shuimu. Relative to the legend, I only did a superficial search to see if “Medusa” had a Chinese translation. It did. I also found some images related to the word, but no real information on how or if the myth itself existed in Chinese culture. So I made something up.

      As far as the old eccentric, maybe he’s crazy enough to believe if he throws enough people at her, eventually she’ll give in and find out what he wants of her. On the other hand, maybe he just likes creating chaos. Third possibility is if she’s trying to hide her true nature, he may be forcing her to reveal herself.

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      • *This* you call *lucky*? Any of the contestants who have not already encountered this Shuimu are still riding to their doom, because they have not been provided critical information about their target. Even if some of them were to stop to pursue a bit of research about “Shuimu”, they would find only references to the Chinese word for jellyfish or to the Chinese demonesse who may cause flooding as the “mother of waters”. It is unlikely that they would pay any attention to the fact that their Chinese jellyfish also may be called in other contexts a “medusa”, nor would they have any reason to connect it with Greek mythology.

        Thus they have no clue to warn them to prepare to meet one of the Gorgon sisters of Greek mythology instead of something from Chinese folklore, by bringing, for example, a mirrored shield as did Perseus. What’s more, since the original Medusa (meaning “the queen”) was the only one of the three sisters to be mortal, and Perseus killed her by severing her head, then these cyclists must be riding to meet one of the other two sisters who are immortal and thus cannot be killed, but who shared the same serpentine hairstyle and its power to turn mortals to stone. Their names are Stheno (meaning “strength”; or “the mighty”) and Euryale (meaning “the far-springer” [a broad-jumper athlete, I presume], or “of the wide sea”, which makes a bit more sense in an Aegean context). Regrettably, even a mirrored shield would be ineffective against them, because as immortals they cannot turn themselves to stone by looking in a mirror or by looking directly at each other; though it might be of some use to look at the Gorgon indirectly and thus to avoid becoming a statue oneself.

        If only these contestants had any inkling that they needed to prepare in this manner for this sort of risk! Of course, they would also require additional equipment such as an opaque bag for her head, and some form of restraints that would be strong enough to restrain the strong sister and likewise suitable to prevent the jumper from leaping away (since they could not know which of the sisters they would be encountering). Only thus might they succeed to capture their prize and convey her to the eccentric; though they would also need to acquire another vehicle besides a tandem bicycle in order to accomplish *that* goal.

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      • Well, no matter how many or how few find her, none of them are prepared to protect themselves against sharing in a stone-cold doom.

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  3. The sinister old fool is playing on the greed and ambition of these youngsters to achieve his goal. Unfortunately his tactic of throw enough crap on the wall and hope something sticks hasn’t been working so far. Fantastic interpretation here, James. Loved the story.

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