As the title states, I'm trying to find the title and author of a short story of a small group of people who are rivers trying to get to the ocean. It's not a long story, perhaps a few pages long. The characters are described as people but having powers related to that of rivers, like being able to flow through soil and such and summon waves/tsunamis that presumably are made up of themselves (since they're made of water). It's narrated by a female river person. The way the author describes the members also relate to rivers, such as describing a child among them as a small river born off of the fork of a bigger river, and whose mother dried up because of man's use of it. Most strikingly, one of the members is referred to using neopronouns, I believe Spivak pronouns (ey, em, eir). I believe their main goal was to get to the ocean, since the world is dried like a desert. Along their journey, they're being pursued by a hostile group of men who seek to enslave these river people to use as sources of energy (I think running a waterwheel or the like). They meet a group of human people who, I can't remember how, get into a conflict with the protagonists.

The main character/narrator is shot and leaks of water and "dies", being absorbed by her companions. She ends the story seeing through their perspectives.

1 Answer 1


Rivers Run Free by Charles Payseur. I read it in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018.

A truth about rivers: we have always been able to draw our water together into solid bodies, to walk on two legs. But it is not without risk, and not without cost. We lose much of ourselves in the transformation, and if there’s not enough of us to start with, well ...

The bad guys are the Dowsers:

I’m tired of fighting. Tired of losing battle after battle. Friend after friend. I’m tired of running because if I don’t a Dowser will track me down, put me in irons, force me to push a wheel that will only make them stronger and me weaker, weaker, gone. I want to win for once.

The protagonist is the one who is shot:

I keep my mind on Sainet’s voice and the feeling of putting one foot in front of the other. I’m leaking. Fucking sea I’m leaking, ripe wet droplets of me sinking into the sand. Gut shot. That’s what I am. That’s what— I stumble and cry out and Sainet’s arms catch me, keep me from falling.

But as you say she is absorbed by the othjer rivers:

They crowd around me. Mor and Verdan each take one of my hands in theirs and Druun touches my shoulder. I will make it to the sea, even if I never see it. “Thank you,” I say, and close my eyes. I let go. I let it all go, and I think of Viora and freedom. I am a waterfall bound for the thirsty sand, nearly gone, nearly gone.

Until they catch me.

Through them all, I am. I give, like we gave to Druun after we pulled them from the well, and all that I am they catch, my hopes and my dreams—my waters, until I am just a wave passing through them, soon to crash and fade but for this moment alive in them all, connecting them.

They—now we—all look down at the dry earth, vacant now but for my empty clothes. We stretch, bodies suddenly refreshed, wounds gone as if washed clean. We stand and look back at Abbotsville burning.

  • Thank you so much!!! Yes, this was the story I was looking for Mar 1, 2021 at 19:55

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