—a little Dee short on an autumn day, you can read A Deathly Compromise here—
The rain hadn’t stopped in sixteen days, not that I minded. Each drop that landed on my lips tasted like autumn. In between curtains of downpour, I sat on the knoll and waited for the next band to come in from the sea. Soon enough, as the calendar pages decreased, the rain would turn to sleet then to snow. The wind was already slicing with bitterness.
What was so swell about winter, anyway? Everything was already dead. My work would be done and I would get bored waiting for life to pop through the cement cracks again. No, autumn was the present, the best of it, the climax of war. Autumn killed, twisted, dried up and metamorphosed everything. If it didn’t die, it hid, waiting patiently for my grip to loosen. Death was very much alive, thank you very much.
A leaf had blown into my lap, its crisp, maple edges landing perfectly between drops. I picked it up by its stem, examining the creases and small holes. The green had been fading, the majority of the leaf a light amber. Its cycle was near its end. A small spark left my fingers, sending a ribbon of light through the stem and upwards to the veins. For a moment, the amber seemed to glow a deep, warm gold before it faded into orange, then crimson, then a dusty brown before curling up its blades into a burnt fossil.
I smiled, hardly enjoying it. It had already been dead.
You ruined it, you know.
“Go away.” I clapped the ash of the leaf against the leg of my pants.
It may have liked how it looked once it parted from its home, did you ever think about that?
“Oh, all the time.” I rolled my eyes and curled my legs up, my chin resting on the tops of my knees. The silence that followed was deafening. The wind picked up from the west and the voice followed.
Do you like it, Death? Ruining it all? Playing with your food?
I didn’t answer. Acid pooled in my mouth. I stared ahead and thought of the last time I was on this knoll – breaths catching and the early autumn sun. I thought I was a mess then. He didn’t.
Ignoring me, then. Ignoring the inevitable. Do you remember, Death? Do you remember how I led you across the world with your hand in mine, our smiles matching as you ate it all away?
My knuckles were bruising black, flakes of ash flying away from them. I kept my fingers tight to my palm, the nails cutting away into the creases of skin.
What woke you, puppet? You’re back in your disguise now. This skin is not what it used to be. It’s used up. It’s ruined. I’d much rather have you in your natural state, a shadow. My shadow.
“Enough,” I growled, extra teeth breaking through. The wind had ceased, the flow of life hanging in midair as if the winter had come early to freeze it. My hand had made its way to my side, the tip of my finger touching an upturned root of a nearby tree. Slowly, as if gravity were taking a holiday, the leaves of the tree had begun to fall. They were floating down like a soft snow, suspended and taking their time to meet the ground, as if they wanted nothing to do with me. As they fell, they changed their colors, the small bit of sunlight shining on them like corners of a prism.
Amber to gold to orange to red to crimson.
As they reached the crown of my head, they all began to wither, the blades folding tightly inward, mimicking my fingers from seconds before. I opened up my palm, letting one fall in between my fortune lines. The moment it touched my skin, all of the leaves turned to ash, blowing away in a western gust.
It was quiet but my ears were still ringing.
A small nudge poked my shoulder and my black beast pushed his nose between my arm and side. “It’s alright, Cerb. Just the wind.” His eyes gave the softest glow of a cerulean blue before fading back to black. He sat on his belly, his paws facing forward, his ears swiveling to catch any disturbance. He let out a loud sigh. It was merely for show. He was more energy than life, more dead than alive.
He was both. I was both (well, perhaps more with one than the other). While the promise of winter was on the horizon, while the whispers hung dangerously over my shoulders, I relished in the autumn. Autumn was the picturesque landscape of limbo, both alive and dead at the same time, waiting for my instructions.
It wouldn’t all be ash.
Most would cover up, hide, attempt to keep warmth in their bones, wait it all out until the nuisance of spring. I wouldn’t ruin it. No, I would set it all free, it was just a matter of waiting.