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by the pond's edge

“Another fair-haired face which pales, stands out and falls icy on the horizon of these woods bathed in gray vapors…” *

I wait impatiently for the arrival of night, then free myself from the grip of the earth and go towards the scents of promising humidity. At times, the path seems too long, too rugged or too painful, but, carried by an improbable hope, I persevere. 

At the edge of the forest, I suddenly see him. On a stretch of soft and caressing grass, lit by the soft light of the moon, she advances, majestic. But the cracking of a dead leaf puts me on alert: a greyish individual, with baleful legs and a narrow head, has noticed it too. So I accelerate, narrowly manage to reach the marvelous creature first, climb on its back, grab my armpits and rest my chin on its skull. The other tries to pull himself up to me, but I kick him so badly that he loses his balance and falls to the ground.

I stick my stomach against the pustular skin and shudder in contact with his flesh, which trembles with each of his formidable steps. I sing for my beauty, very soft sounds that express all my admiration. But the other stubbornly follows us and as soon as we reach the water, it's three, four, five males who climb on my goddess. Courageous, she continues her progress, but ends up losing her footing and, dragged down by the weight of her suitors, unable to swim, sinks to the bottom. They will drown her! They are going to kill her!

I won't give in, I won't abandon my bride to these despicable individuals. Still clinging to his armpits, I hold my breath and deliver kicks. Abused by these opposite thrusts, she spins and lands on her back. Blinded by the slime that covers my face, crushed by its terrible mass, I hold on. I want to show myself worthy of her, of her majestic bearing and the fertility of her enormous belly. Finally, she rolls on her side and I take courage. I continue to distribute blows and I receive them all over my body. One of them hits me in the ribs and nearly makes me let go… I barely pull myself together.

Then the miracle happens: I feel the first contractions between my legs. The other males give up the fight and let us consummate our union in peace. While we are still floating between two waters, the eggs appear, clumped together in long coupled filaments. I spray them with my seed and, intoxicated by the power of our passion, let out weak cries. Still clinging to the broad back, I stimulate my goddess's orifice with my toes and pat her sides. Soon, a multitude of garlands swirl in the troubled wave like strange seaweed. 

After an indefinite time, the trepidations calm down. I release my embrace and, with some regret and intense satisfaction, let her walk away, nonchalant and serene. 

Back on the bank, I suddenly feel a terrible feeling of hunger. A roar of wings… Back on the bank, I feel a terrible feeling of hunger. Suddenly, a roar of wings, an erratic flight… there, a reflection — my sticky tongue erases it. I crush the tiny being against my palate, chew it and swallow it. It's only a poor mosquito, but thousands of others circle around me and the long night protects my hunt until the timid appearance of the pale glimmers of dawn.

* Gerard de Nerval

Translated by Luke Owain Bolt

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