As the sun eventually rose higher in the cloudless blue California sky, the park slowly came to life once again. Morning joggers clogged the many winding pathways, grandfatherly men occupied benches and tossed out crumbs to the squirrels and pigeons. Older couples relaxed, strolling leisurely down tree-lines alleys as the air became filled with the strains of giggling, joyous children’s voices and the occasional punctuated adult reprimand or caution. Boys and girls reveled in youthful zeal as they had for many generations, playing their timeless games of good guys versus bad guys and hide-and-go seek, chasing each other through the fields and woods, safe under the day’s bright sunlight.
The scene at Fuller’s Pond was tranquil and serene. A gentle breeze rustled the tree branches overhanging the southern bank where the mother duck’s newly hatched brood peeped and squawked as they took to the water for their first swim. The feathered family paddled through the sedge grasses, bobbing among the tadpoles and darting silver minnows that kept to the shadowy shallow waters. Like a proper parent the matronly fowl kept a close and careful eye on her boisterous children, immediately fluttering into a panic as a loud shrill-pitched human voice echoed out nearby. Quickly the duck corralled her precious hatchlings, steering them away from the violent splashing that disturbed the waters along the pond’s edge.
“Hey! Look! I found another one!”
Two small pre-school boys scrambled noisily along the shoreline, hopping in and out of the shallows and churning up the muddy pond bottom. They were in search of pirate treasure and today was proving to be a lucky one for the youthful pair. So far they had found five shiny golden colored rocks, genuine treasure worthy of joining the other valuables they had collected that day in the park. The Pyrite rocks were carefully stashed in a backpack along with the other precious items they had discovered, including several acorns, a large bird feather, a nearly whole robin’s egg, a rusted key and the crumbled, dry skin shed by a tiny snake. These were the priceless possessions of that morning’s glorious adventures.
“Nick? Andy? Where are you two?” A mother’s concerned call interrupted the fortune hunters and they paused in their search. “It’s time for lunch. Let’s go!”
The hungry duo reluctantly abandoned their quest. Letting out with an excited whoop, the young brothers ran up the steep sloped embankment to join their parent. Their babbling din gradually receded as they made their way up the rutted path, leaving their escapades at the pond to be continued on another day. In the shallows the mother duck allowed her babies to again wander free and explore as she stretched out her wings, basking in the rejuvenating warmth of the sunlight.
Within the depths of the pond’s center the sun’s rays faintly penetrated the calm water. For a brief time the concentrated beams illuminated a careful arrangement of golden rocks, setting the nuggets to sparkling beneath the murky gloom, their multi-faceted surfaces exploding in a dazzling and glowing display of splendor. Like a miniature palatial fortress the amassed collection rose from the mucky pond bottom, each stone painstakingly selected and placed to form a mortarless wall, home to a creature that had once hibernated within the fiery ring of gold light. Though she was gone her monument remained, a testament to her lust for the glimmering metallic ore.
And yet the circle of brilliant stones was not empty. For in the center of the golden ring huddled a small, quiet form. The immature creature slumbered in peaceful bliss, awaiting the passage of time. Many seasons would come and go. The infant would continue to grow, hidden within its lair undisturbed. And the night would eventually come when the waxing spring equinox moon would climb in the star filled night and the Rusalka would arise from its protective nest to venture out for its first feeding.