Monday, 9 January 2023

Other Autumns - Flash Fiction - by Gina Maria Manchego & Richard M. Ankers

Other Autumns

Flash Fiction

by Gina Maria Manchego & Richard M. Ankers

She came alive in autumn. When everything else was shapeshifting into dormancy, life roused her from hibernation. Her inhales were like the closing of downy goose wings, before an exhalation of flight against the October clouds.

The wood nymph had always seen the world as a deep, undulating kaleidoscope, one of crimson hues and burnt siennas. She’d walked beneath so many after her long slumbers ended. These autumns, hers, merged and moved in a deciduous dance with the pronged maple leaves in an eloquent ballet of birth, death, and coexistence.

The girl encompassed everything autumnal. Audaciously bold, but never far from the reckoning of transformation, she was as a steadfast tree. Feet made of roots stretched, expanded, and anchored her to the season, whilst her wildfire hair mimicked the branches, lifting and bending in the umber chill. Her eyes, those the colour of golden pools, dissolved into the morning mists.

Like all things living, the girl was but a variable in a beautiful cycle of patience. She, the earth, and all its generations carried months of gentle dreams. Anticipating the stark coating of cold winter metals, waiting for the thaw of spring and the warmth of summer rustling, she slept.

This seasonal transition hadn’t seemed any more divergent than those that came before. The wood nymph had slept long and hard, unknowing that it would be the shortest autumn in memory and the earliest, bitterest winter. The frost left nothing to chance, nor did man. She remained hidden beneath her accumulated comforts, warm in her cast-off blankets, blissfully unaware.

Until. . .

She woke confused to a blurred beginning. Where her eyes refused to work, senses took over: She listened keenly, in tune with the crisp harvest world around her. Halting her breath, she listened for the crepitating little creatures who prepared for December’s chill.

In previous years, the wood nymph delighted in the raindrops that accumulated in the nooks and crannies of the burrows. She loved how each chimed a silent hello before they puddled in joyous exultation. Not now. Not here. Something was askew?

Many minutes passed in her bleary eyes. Yet, her instincts told her to prepare, to wait for the night to light her way. Wait, she did.

The girl looked to heaven while making her ascent; the stars loitering in pinprick clusters around a breaching moon.

When she surfaced, the first thing she saw was the wood. Where once was her home of proud trees of indeterminable age, instead, a world reduced to charcoal. Where meadows had bloomed a fragrant symphony, just a sulphur cinder.

A woeful cry escaped her dry lips. Try as she might, she couldn’t fathom what monsters would destroy the sanctity of her home. Was this desolation the reason autumn didn’t have the luxury of languor? What had forced winter to cleanse the land and start again so soon? She hadn’t the answers, not yet, only knowing the usual splendour and sweetness of her forest home was no more.

She reeled in terror when she saw the beasts. The things stood everywhere, as if they, too, laid in wait for a new dawn to complete their uprising. Steel giants with empty glass faces, these were to blame for the maelstrom of despair in her arboreal kingdom. The wood nymph shuddered at the sight of the titan savages with blades for teeth and axes for arms. She choked off a scream when glimpsing bits of soil and animal in the bucket mouths of these alloy demons. The nymph knew her fate if she’d chosen to stay. Dark premonitions of metal monsters consuming her alive, belching soot and brimstone from their bellies, overwhelmed her. Tears the colour of creation fell in this envisioned hopelessness. The steel beasts would gouge at her skin and tear at her hair. They’d pry out her binding roots to the wooded earth. They would if she let them.

All that was beautiful and melodic in the forest was lost, and the girl’s heart weighed heavy with grief. Those autumn eyes would never again close peacefully. Her slumber would forever be marred by the dark endeavours of man and machine.

Time to move on. Time to find another wood, in another land, and dream of other autumns. As so many of her kind had, and so few more would.

Gina Maria Manchego is a poet, writer, and mixed media artist native to Colorado. 

Richard M. Ankers is the English author of The Eternals Series and Britannia Unleashed. Gina and Richard love to finish whatever the other starts, and then wonder who has written what.


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