Beside the river lay flattened, brown grasses, looking as if they had lost their will to stand against the gusting winds that blew up from the ocean. Clouds that moved fast across the sky turned the landscape below first dark then light then dark again. There were a lot of clouds the day Nerida walked along the river, upward, towards the hills. The tugging then pushing wind caused her heavy, dirt-brown coat to flap. It made the sound of sheets on a clothesline when the wind gets up just before a storm hits.
Nerida did not go into the river nor did she reach the hills where the old, half-broken home of her grandfather stood , fighting the trees for land, its chimney smoking like its pipe-smoking owner in the far warmer living room where a fire sputtered and ticked in the hearth.
No, Nerida was not wetted by the river or by the rain that came in sideways on the tearing wind a little after four in the afternoon, although how can we really say when Nerida was never found? No body fetched up on a bank near the river delta that catches any other stray that falls into the river. The silt-laden bank catches everything bigger than a grasshopper, pretty much.
It seems the woods had not claimed the girl. Deep and thick though they were the path from the river to her Grandfather Bill’s cabin was wide enough for a person to walk and it was heavily used by hikers and the like, in the summertime anyway.
No knock came on Bill’s door until late in the night when the police came by with no news and no ideas.
From that day until nine years later nobody saw Nerida Wilkins, alive or dead. But then they had stopped looking after two months and no sign of the girl.
When she came walking down the same path, calm as you like, nine years almost from the day she vanished and unchanged in look or size, tongues started flapping. Plenty asked but she never said what happened to her, let alone how she had remained seventeen years old when she should have been twenty-six.
Nerida never did get to see old Bill, he died two years after she went missing.
She has lived in the old man’s cabin since her return but she keeps to herself mostly and nobody goes near, nobody dares.
Fourteen more years have passed and Nerida Wilkins is still seventeen. Nobody knows why.
I have no sense of Nerida as a vampire or any such supernatural entity. She is, as far as I sense her, a normal girl, in case the thought had flitted, bat-like, through your mind. It is just a fragment of something that popped into my head and had to be written down. Who knows why this happens?