Ama (Fanfiction)

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It had been seven days since John had worn a shirt.

Partly that was because it was the middle of summer and hotter than balls. But mostly it was that mom had left on her trip seven days ago. The week had gone by fast, and she’d be back tomorrow. Everyone was pretty tired of James’s cooking, so Dad made breakfast this morning: last week’s fish, smoked; last night’s bread, toasted; and fresh-brewed damiana tea. Everything was delicious, of course. He hoped the pastries he planned to bake for James that evening were half as good as Dad’s.

He was finally taking them out onto Blackwood Lake. The river hadn’t widened enough for it to exist in years, but James had said that Spike was going through a bad breakup, as if that explained anything.

They brought the rope to the riverbank, and James asked a tree to help him by becoming a boat with three comfortable seats. Dad suggested a narrower shape, as if he’d never heard of a boat capsizing. John just watched for a minute, fascinated by their control, as the main prow became an elegant serpent. Of course James went the extra mile, but even Dad’s ama was sleek, effortless. He looked at the mismatched, wavering boughs he had shaped into the connectors, and sighed.

Dad put James in the lead position, being the birthday boy and having excellent timing. He was also the shortest, though not by much if John was being honest, and not for long. Dad had to be behind, to control their direction and call out position changes. That left John in the middle, powering the trip upstream. They probably wouldn’t even get out of the woods before having to turn around, let alone reach Teown’s Sound, but it was exciting to get in the water for something other than bathing.

Though with the way dad was undressed, it felt pretty similar.

At first, it seemed like everything that could go wrong, did. John nearly soaked them all getting in, he scraped his paddle against the canopies currently under the surface, and the swaying branches all seemed to be aiming for his face. He was just about to speak up and volunteer to walk home when Dad’s voice called out.


John fumbled as he switched the paddle from his left hand to his right. James and Dad did the opposite.

“Your feet, son.”

John nodded and shifted position.

“Easy does it.”

John had gotten ahead of James’s stroke. Stupid. His brother was the leader.

He shook his head and concentrated.

“That’s it, watch your brother.”

He could do that. James had perfect form, so all John had to do was match it.

“Good job, boys.”

John smiled.


John’s hands moved smoothly.

“You can go deeper.”

John reached farther and dug in.

“I said deeper.”

John sunk his paddle deeper.


John sunk deeper.


John closed his eyes.

“Good, boys.”

The spray was cool against his skin.


John opened his eyes reluctantly. James had increased their pace.


John swapped, just a whisper behind James.

“You can do it.”

James could do it.


They could do it.

“Good boys.”

He could do it.

“Good boy.”

John felt incredible.

“All right.”

Everything was right.

“Just watch your brother.”

Why would John do anything else?


John didn’t let the handle block his view.

“So smooth.”

He was.

“So powerful.”

He really was.

“Just watch his back.”

His tall frame was a curling wave, never breaking.

“Watch his shoulder.”

His muscles flexed and roiled, terrifying and beautiful.

“His arms.”

They dove through the air, guiding the rest.


Gently gliding, barely skimming.


John was a reflection of James.

“So in sync.”

Two copies.


One family.

“This is the way of our clan.”

Of course it was.

“You can only do this if you’re together.”

Which they were.

“Only if you trust each other.”

And they did.

“If you love each other.”

They did.

“You love each other.”

They always would.


Theirs was one perfect movement.

“This is where our power comes from.”

John could feel it, rushing through them.

“If you push each other to be better,”

John could feel the push.

“If you help each other,”

John hoped he was helping.

“There’s nothing you can’t do.”

John wanted to believe it.

“There’s nowhere you can’t go.”

They would get there.

“Nobody’s stronger than you.”

James was right in front of him.


John dug deeper.


John pushed them forward.


John was focused.


John pushed.


John focused.






The water was everything.


John heard nothing.

“You’re perfect, John.”

John was nothing.


John was nothing.

“Change, John.”

John was nothing.

“Stop, John.”

John was nothing.

“John, stop!”

John was nothing.

“We’re too close!”

John was nothing.

“Please stop.”

It was James’s voice. So John stopped. He looked down, and below him was a city.

“Take a breath, Johnny.”

John breathed in. When had Teown’s Sound gotten so small?

“Let it out, Johnny.”

He breathed out. And why was it under water?


Why was James calling him that?

“We’re okay.”

They were okay.

“We’re up high.”

They were definitely up high.

“So is the water.”

The wave was… between them and the city. But that still meant it was doomed, no matter how dry it was this second.

“We all need to come down.”

There wasn’t enough time. He trusted James, but…


If he did it now, the city really would flood.

“Drop us now, Johnny.”

He dropped them.

“This river doesn’t belong to you, Johnny. Be gentle with it.”

He was trying, but what was he going to do with so much river?

“All you have to do is hold onto it. You can do it.”

He could do that. His hands tightened around the paddle, unsure if he’d ever be able to let go.

“Do you feel it?”

Of course he felt it. He’d never felt anything like it, but it was already fading. He’d never been that high, or that strong, or moving that fast.

“You feel which way it wants to flow?”

It was a river. Of course it wanted to flow downstream. Oh. He felt his face go hot, but then water splashed over the side. He shook himself.

“Then help it.”

John knew how to do this. He planted his paddle deep, and pulled it towards himself. The boat turned slowly. But there was no such thing as fast, when you were an ancient river.

“That’s it, start small.”

There was also no such thing as small when you were an ancient river, so he looked down. So far down, but then he found it. A harmless, nameless tributary. Dry as a bone until last week, it too had nearly lost itself in the depths of the Blackwood Lake, just days after being born.

“You see it.”

John did, but only because it saw itself. Though it was barely more than a fragile dream of a brave brook, it still remembered. It wanted to be part of something bigger than itself, but… it didn’t want this. It wasn’t a cloud, always floating. It wasn’t even a lake, wide and lazy. It was a stream, and streams wanted to flow.

“Let it flow.”

John coaxed it forward, and it eagerly obeyed. The baby let out a burbling, musical laugh, and John couldn’t help but join in. Its brothers and sisters did the same, clamoring to be next, please, next, now. One by one he teased them apart, and sent them on their way. One by one, every brook in the valley had its voice heard, and rejoined the great flow.

“You’re doing great, John.”

John was hardly doing anything. It was all the Blackwood. He had reminded it of the air, yes, but then its children, the ones who gave it such paradoxical, beautiful life, reminded it of the ground. The steadiness, the sureness, the direction it was meant to go. And now it was going, and only a fool would fight it. John had been foolish enough for a day. For a year, probably. But he also wouldn’t forget this—not in a year, not in a hundred years. It had been perfect. Just perfect.

“Yes, you are.”

John heard everything, and he grinned.

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