Modern telling for a pagan belief.
By--Robert Aaron Goldsborough
A shudder from a chill night breeze nudges her from sleep. She peers through half-closed eyes still forgetting their mementos of death. A slim finger, pale as snow cuts the darkness and fumbles for recognizable plastic. The small clock flashes its somber red numbers of one and two followed by two zeros. She curses, mad, at the power failure that sometime in the night rendered her timepiece useless. It is still dark. Her hands find her face and wipe the last eddies from the Dream Sea out of her eyes and brain. Feet stagger to find a footing. She is young and beautiful, and appears that she always will be. Naked, and as fresh as every living morning, she walks with heavy feet to find the kitchen. She has lived here most of her life, but still she wanders the dark with her hands up feeling for substance. Passing under the arch that leads to the modest kitchen her nose grabs memories lingering in the air. Her brain is still too numb to recognize the scent. Her feet cringe as they move along the icy linoleum floor; she grabs herself with a shiver. A breeze, light yet noticeable, dances around her body's curves. The smell bullies into her senses and she hesitates. Warm smells building out of the natural rot of earth and leaves. Cold smells like that of a pumpkin rimed in a light frost. Her eyes skip through the darkness trying to find any light to form an image. Someone is here, someone she does not want here.
"Abigail. Huh?" A voice pierces the dark like shards of ice. "Not very original."
She stares into blackness darker than what surrounds her to form a silhouette.
"A name is a name. Isn't it? What's yours now?" She tries to sound as piercing as the voice.
"Haha. Touché." The darkness moved with a flutter like dry leaves to stand. The air ripples with tiny sounds and tiny smells. Nutmeg and burning oak, wet ground and cinnamon, the smallest of possible bells the scattering of tiny-footed spiders, dampness and only the wind's faintest whisper stand with him. Abigail takes a step backwards in a shock of the movement.
"You know me even without a name. Don't you? You've known me for far too long. So Abby, you seem to have settled rather well. Or, are you just hiding from me?" He stepped nearer to her bringing in the blackness of his hoard of sweet and sick smells. The garment that was wrapped around him distorted his image making it hard to see just where he ended and the dark began. She pulled the refrigerator door open for some illumination. A little spark ignited the bulb's filament to life and the darkness retreated. He did not. The meager bulb traced crazy, impossible lines up his figure. The visage screamed itself aware to her eyes making her blink rapidly. The body that bore up his frame writhed about him. Leaf bare branches choked at drying mounds of reds and oranges that appeared simultaneously drawn and repelled by the wood. Minuscule webs hung with a myriad of tiny eyes burrowed deeper into the conflagration like swimming diamonds. The colors flapped themselves like hundreds of disembodied bat wings touched by autumn. Still he did not move. Abby gasped.
"What's the matter did you expect less of me?" A face carved from some of the finest mahogany caught her full stare. The eyes there burned within themselves wild with a thousand bonfires. She was drawn to them. She tightened her grip on the refrigerator door and contemplated slamming it shut to let darkness have back its horror. It would not matter now even if there were no light. The image was unleashed and prepared to take up permanent residency. He raised his hands in a submissive gesture, palms out, as if in martyrdom.
"What do you want?" She would not lower her eyes.
"You. Is that not obvious?"
"It's not time." She felt her nakedness.
"It's never time, is it mother?"
A pang struck her deep below the ribs. Her hands traced their own memories across her smooth belly. She had almost let herself forget. By now she was quite used to letting herself forget.
"What do you want of me? My time is done."
"Oh no it isn't." His shoulders of twisting leaves rustled spraying off more of his incense of spices and rot. "You couldn't hide forever."
"I wasn't hiding. You should know that, but you never remember. You never..." Her mind wandered off of her tongue down green meadows flowing with the freshest of florid scents. Then he touched her, a gentle touch, rough with dry bark, but still enough just to rouse her back.
"Don't touch me!" Abigail screamed. "I ceased being any part of you when it was finished."
"Ah. I see. Cast your spawn out to the wide arms of Hell and run your fair legs back to mankind. Is that it? Had enough of me and hide in the arms of men." The leaves became a mad breeze creaking with stretching timber.
"Don't be so damned Greek mythos. I could never love you that way. It is my right to return to the shoal of man. Jealousy is only yours at the end."
"Jealousy?!" The breezes that had been lilting now gathered their strength. Her nostrils were filling with the darkest forests burning in the frozen equinox. The pyres in his eyes were matching the strength of his odors and breezes. The calls of a legion of nocturnal birds ignited the winds' whispers with a building desperation. Thin pale legs drew her backwards in an unconscious retreat.
"Jealousy mother? What do you think that I have come here to take you? No, you misunderstand. I am here to live." Abigail's once deceptive youth creased with a darkness of its own. A small sun began to burn in her belly.
"To live? How long? I know that you can feel it as well as me. You are already facing your death throes. Ice is creeping into your blood and freezing your heart. You do not have long." She stepped towards him. His scents intoxicated her to a stupor of unrealized memories that were never to be hers.
"That is why I am here. To kill you. With you dead I cannot die. I will live forever." His shadows built over him swirling with all the detritus of an autumn's forest floor.
"Kill? Me? You are mad in your age. Look how aged you are already becoming. You are more rot than the little life that you started with. Go back to the Earth before She will have you no more!"
"I am the Earth in all Her former glory. Come and I will bury you." A wave of darkness descended on her. Cool breezes invaded her mind wrapping her in all that autumn could be. She fell with leaves cascading with crystals of the purest frozen water to rest with a thousand-millions of herself laying in their own stillness. She burned dry and hot tasting the haughty and malign woods relishing their flavors as a starving man revels at a banquet. The wood empties itself to her and she can taste no more, but the cold comes. She is wind brushing through the fibers of the great horned owl on its tired hunt. She is the solid ice the owl's prey slips across. She is a new harvest bleeding and burning to feed and warm. She is beginning to fall again. Cold has never known itself the way she now feels it. The first snow. She loses herself to division being separated into millions again watching the rest of her fall in frozen flakes. Just before alighting complete on vast expanses of herself that have already smoothed the ground white she feels her terror. She feels death; the inevitable outcome of a world baptized in white. She screams shattering every crystalline form that has begun its attack on her mind. Her hands are moving. Tearing and digging fingers ply through dirt and leaves. Fingers are bleeding against sharp wood and tiny bites. Insects are crawling through the rot already inside every orifice. She ascends from the living grave like a seed seeking daylight to renew. There is another scream. It sounds as if all the earth that buries her is protesting its violation. Her head hits the linoleum dislodging mouthfuls of dirt and leaves.
"It is alright. I have as much time as I need." His voice wavers as he bends back over her to retrieve what he lost.
"No! You do not understand. You must die. You always die and I will always birth you again." Dirt still clings to her throat and spits out with the words.
"When the heat comes and settles in me until I cannot take it anymore I must birth you and hide. The world is yours and everything in it, but you must die."
"Why mother? Why must I die?"
"So that I can give back life to the world. If I never resurrect the life of this planet than you will never have anything to rule. You will forever be a king in a dying kingdom."
"I refuse this!" Autumn descends again. This time it will not be unaware or off guard. This time she throws herself into the folds of forests deep. Her belly now burns with the eternity that life has created itself. With arms folding into an embrace she forces the opposite equinox upon him. He is now burrowing up out of the ground forcing a million of his own heads to feel warmth that he has never felt. He spreads himself across fields and yards, mountains and valleys. The warmth that could only be life drags him out further being caressed by a wind that he has never felt. He is stroking bellies of an entire planet of beasts that do not retreat from his touch. Birds sing to him, praise him. He is life. Water flows through him like blood warming him further. A sense of warmth and expansion drags him even further into itself. He cannot control where he is moving and how many different ways that he is going. He is spreading and multiplying. He is lost. A thousand rivers run over him and he feels them all at once. A thousand vistas stretch out before him and he sees himself covering them. He feels no cold. He feels no death. He disappears into this new growth losing all touch with what he once was.
Abigail lets go and lets the ice finish falling. The frozen figure of Autumn crashes into the hard linoleum shattering into the diamonds it will become. Tears fall hot as Spring cries over her son birthed from summer. She carefully fits some of the larger shards of broken ice together to try and see his face one last time. She wants to remember it, but she knows that it will be the same next year even though she will not remember it. She has always cried at the beginning of winter. She cannot help it. As her tears brim even fuller the snow outside piles higher.