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Winter’s Lament

This was an entry for a competition where the theme was ‘Winter’:

Winter’s Lament

“Why do they hate me?”  she cried.

My dearest Winter.  Such beauty, so misunderstood.

“They fear you dearest.”

“It is more than that.  They think I’m hideous!”

How could they think she was ugly?  When clothed in white she made the whole country look Christmas card pretty.  Perhaps it was because she stripped the dishonest leaves from the trees?

“Only a few fools my love.  Many love you.  Look how they celebrate you at your peak?”

“By hiding indoors!  Consuming food and alcohol in great quantities.  How many venture forth?  I give them bracing air, clear vistas and even a sprinkling of sparkling frost.  Yet they stay inside, staring at those flashing boxes and worshiping that fat man in red.”

This was a conundrum.

“Darling Winter, they honour you by spending time with their families, what more could you ask?  And as for the fat man… they do not shower him with worship, but with avarice and greed.”

She sniffed.  It was hard.  She had ruled once, a glorious time.

“Remember when this world was all mine?  My glaciers stretched across the continents, weighing them down.  It was quiet then.  So peaceful.”

“There are still echoes of that peace now.”

“Shattered by the coughing of machines, and wailing of human children.”

“And yet, on a cold crisp morning, there are many who still walk the hills and fields with wonder.  They marvel at how you reveal to them their environments anew.”

“This is true.”

“Some still worship you, delighting in your snow.  They swish across the mountains, and when you have left they mope.  Or fly to those places where you still have some sway.”

“They do delight me.”

This was better, perhaps she would calm.  I loved my Winter, but she could be a handful when enraged.

She was melancholy now.

“It is as if they would prefer only three seasons.  They would consign me to memory, and then forget.”

I could not argue, and perhaps it was better not to.

“I thought if I let them fly they would love me.  And they do, swooping across my icy ponds, scratching me.  Yet it is as if they can only focus on the bad.  Like the cold.”

“Which makes their cheeks red and healthy.”

Her withering look stopped any more such attempts at levity.

“What can I do?”

“Nothing my love.  Some will never be content.  Have you not heard how they complain about Summer too?”

“No, do they?”

“They claim she’s too hot.  That the sun it burns them, there are too many insects.”

“How interesting.  Yet they do not rejoice in my time.  I keep it nice and cold, and the sun knows its place when I’m here.  Insects, I remember them.  A few I will allow, but all the rest rightly sleep, and they do deserve it.  They have a hard task, they work hard in Summer’s glory.”

“They do.”

“So do they prefer Autumn?”

“Oh no.  It rains too much, the leaves fall and make a mess, and it’s too windy.”

“How strange.  I do not like rain too much, but it has its place.  And if the leaves did not fall they wouldn’t be able to enjoy the clean sculptures, showing the bones of the natural world.  Wind must happen for the leaves to fall properly.”

“Of course, and yet, they do complain.”

She was looking contemplative.  Then she looked at me.  “And you dear Spring, what do they say about you?”

“Ah well, they complain I’m late, or early.  That there are mad showers and that I’m still not warm enough.”

“None of us can satisfy them it seems.”

“It is why they build their boxes and hide away.”

“Yes.”  She was still looking at me, thinking.

I was worried she might ask the hard question.

“Dear Spring, why is it that I must leave during your glory?”

This was it.  How could I tell her?  How could I not?

“Winter my love.  You are my delight, my wonder, but I am weak compared to you.  You smother me and I cannot blossom while you are here.”

She shook her head sadly.

“Such a pity, I do so want to see your glory.  I tried last year.”

“I know, and how they howled at the sudden late snows and icy blast.”

“They did.”

She was tender then, and we just held each other.  Later she went out to spread some snow upon the world.  I slept, and hoped she hadn’t taken her thoughts any further.

She returned later that night.  There was an extra chill in her gaze.  She was wearing her icy armour, and carrying her hunting weapons, a spear and bow.  She stared at me, and I realised she knew.

“Now darling, you must understand…”

“Understand?  Understand!  Dear Spring, I do understand.  Now, finally after all these years.  In order for you to glory I must die.  Each year I die for you, and yet you do not have the courage to tell me.”

“I thought you knew, you must have…”

“Liar.  I can see the fear in your eyes.  You hoped to keep this from me.  Let me guess, there is poison in the wine you give me.  It works slowly, and even at my peak I’m already dying.”

I shook.  I wanted to deny it, but I couldn’t.

“This year there will be change.”

“No, you cannot.”

“I will kill you, and reign until Summer appears.  And then I shall kill her.  Autumn I might keep, for amusement.”

“But Winter, dearest.  You do not understand, only you can return from death.”

“Oh, I know.  And now the time has come dear Spring, for you to take a rest.”

She raised her icy spear and threw it straight at my heart.  I saw endless Winter rushing towards me.  There was nothing I could do to stop it.

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Flock

Another piece of flash fiction, entered for a competition for darker stories at Darker Times.

It didn’t win, and if I’m honest I wasn’t totally happy with it.  Sometimes the word limit helps, and sometimes it doesn’t, I think this is one where it didn’t.

 

Flock

The rain lashed down, soaking me in the darkness.  I didn’t want to be out here, but the flock hadn’t come in for their feed.  That meant they’d gotten out again.

Fortunately I found the hole in the fence quickly.  Unfortunately it was into the forest.  I’d rushed out without a jacket, and now I was paying the price.  Even better, my torch was running low.  No wait, now it was out.  So now I was in a dark forest, at night, in driving rain, looking for creatures whose colouring ranged from brown to black.  Could it get any worse?

“Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.”

The sound chilled my blood.  It was off to my right.  I called out, “Hazel… Catkin…”  The two leaders of the flock would normally come to me, though I’d always felt their names somewhat mis-sold them.  Hazel could be a real monster when she wanted to be, and Catkin was worse if anything.

“Maaaaaaaa.”

Off to my right again, then answered from the left.  If I hadn’t known better I’d have thought they were stalking me.  Then what sounded like a cry, followed by several more angry bleats.  I ran towards the sound.  I heard screaming.  The flock had found someone, and were stalking them.  I had to do something before it got out of hand.  I tried to go faster, but I was no longer on the path and the branches kept whipping my face.

The scream sounded again, and I leapt forward in a panic.  I found myself on my back, seeing stars and with blinding pain across my forehead.  I must’ve hit a branch.  The screaming had stopped and I could hear snuffling.  The rain seemed to be easing off.

Had whoever screamed been able to get away?  There were a few fences around the wood which the flock wouldn’t be able to get over.  Perhaps they’d made it?  I got up and headed towards the sounds.  I kept telling myself that whoever it was must have got away.

The moon had broken through the clouds, and I could see a clearing ahead.  Dark figures seemed to be clustered near the centre of the clearing, and they were making a lot of snuffling sounds.  I walked towards them, knowing that as they were pheromone bonded to me they’d just assume I was part of the flock.  I gingerly looked over at what they were gathered around.  It was the fresh corpse of a small Scottie dog.  I gagged a little but was relieved, it could have been much worse..

Then I heard more snuffling at the edge of the clearing.  The rest of the flock were there, gathered round a much bigger form.  Peering closely I made out a woman’s shape in the moonlight.  I gagged.  She was obviously beyond help.  I slumped to the floor, dazed and not knowing what I would do.  I couldn’t help railing at the madness of genetically engineering a cross between Soay sheep and wolves.

 

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Filed under Flash Fiction