The rusalki we are called. Not because we are unclean spirits, but because we are cleansing spirits, and to mankind that is worse. My water is Volga, which is the river nearest my village. Volga runs from east to west, as the sun does, and so too do I during the course of the day.

My sisters tell me that in the summer we leave the Volga and go into the forests to taste warmth. “By night we visit the crops and cleanse them, if the farmers have paid us respect.” They are excited by this, but I have not been rusalki long enough to have experienced summer. That is good. I was born from a blizzard. I will ascend before autumn.

My sisters say this drive makes me unpleasant. When I first became a rusalka they tried to explain what had happened to me. They were quite surprised, perhaps pleased, that I already knew. I had chosen to be rusalka. They were not as pleased when they learned I had no intentions to stay one.

“But darling, we are so beautiful now. Free! Why be bound to mother earth anymore?”

I sought a freedom more distinct. They did not understand. They understood less that I also knew how a rusalka ceased to be rusalka.

“You ought to have been a witch instead, since you know so much.” 

But I could not have been a witch, even if I had wanted to. My disposition is too simple for such sorcery. I have always invested in the acquisition of truths rather than power, and though I have doubted my position at times I now feel justified. It will be the key to my ascension. 

Summer came, after a humble eternity. I swam up and down my river in anticipation every hour, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. I did this until I saw him at last. It was a beautiful summer evening, and I felt some warmth for the first time as I rose from the water to lure him. My master enjoyed his evenings by the river when I served him. He did not recognize me, but he recognized my beauty. I had aged to my potential in the small eternity of spring. 

He stared, amazed, at my naked figure. I motioned him to come towards me, running my hands over my breast, and pleading for his proximity. He came into my embrace. Fool.

I watched the bubbles escape his mouth as I dragged him into the Volga. They popped in time with his heartbeat on the surface. Before he ran out of oxygen, I looked at him and spoke, knowing he’d hear:

“The night I was banished from the village, you accused me of stealing a key. It was not a key I stole.” I brandished his knife. My only mortal possession. “Behold then, your key. This is the key of death.”

Blood poured from him as he drowned, and I was warmed by it. Rusalki no more.