Originally posted on Patreon in October 2018 and part of the Great Patreon Crossposting to WordPress.
Here’s Autumn in autumn.
By the nature of her travels, Autumn tended to see places, if she saw them repeatedly, during the same season every year.
So she might have been forgiven for missing this particular place, since for five years, she saw it only in the stage when spring slides into summer.
She thought it a particularly bright place then, cheerful and full of excitement and a little bit too chaotic for her tastes, even when she was feeling a little excited and a little eager. She would stay a night, dance in their party – there always seemed to be a party – and move on with a smile, leaving behind one more drawing in their bustling bar.
It was autumn now, coming into the time when she would have to go further south or find a warmer place to settle for a few months, and a broken part in her van had pointed her in a direction she would not normally have taken.
She barely recognized the town. There were no buntings, no loud music; the people on the street moved with a purpose, their truck beds full of produce, their cars full of groceries.
It wasn’t until she stepped into the bar and saw her own artwork that Autumn was sure she was in the same place she’d come through just a few short months ago. She looked around, found a familiar face, and smiled, albeit a little cautiously. He looked the same, if she overlooked the fact that he was wearing flannel instead of shirtless and that his scruff had grown into a beard. His smile was still friendly, his eyes still crinkled at the sides, and he gestured her over.
“Never seen you here in autumn before… Autumn.”
“So you do remember me.” She winked at him. “I like that. I’ve never been here in autumn before… Shane.” She looked around pointedly. “Thought I’d taken a wrong turn somewhere.”
His smile grew crooked and amused. “I’m not surprised. Come on, let me show you something.” He offered her a hand. Not knowing quite why, she took the hand. His expression was playful, and she wondered if he was having a joke at her expense, or if he was sharing a joke with her.
He led her out the back door of the bar and down the narrow, broken sidewalk by the creek; for a moment, her thoughts went not to jokes but to danger. He probably wouldn’t have been able to get that close if he meant her ill, but it had happened before. People whose minds were tied up in enough knots were not exactly immune to her protective charms and curses, but they tended to react to them strangely.
The cracked sidewalk ended at a rusty iron fence that came not much higher than her knees; he opened the old gate and held it for her as if he was holding open the door to a grand ball.
Autumn had practice at that, at least. She stepped through the gate with a half-curtsey. They were in an ancient, overgrown cemetery. The stones were so worn as to be unreadable. The grass was scrubby and uncertain in most places; the sidewalk, however, walked right up to a tree, its slate pavers sideways in some places.
She stepped along as carefully as if she was taking part in some ritual dance, still holding firmly to Shane’s hand. When they reached the tree, pressed by an urge she couldn’t quite explain, she dropped into a curtsey.
She straightened up, looking at the tree with both her eyes and with the strand-sight. It was an old, old tree, definitely wider around than she could stretch her arms and possibly wider than she and Shane could stretch around together.
And it ran deep. She could see the way its roots had stretched through the whole graveyard, but what was more, she could see the way it was connected. There were strands from every single year-ring of this tree back to its days as a young sapling, and they were connected out to the whole town, to the graves around it, to Shane himself.
“The tree roots the town,” he told her. “Our people tend to stay closer to home, for one, and more than that, our people tend to do pretty well and our town does pretty well. But that does mean we end up, ah. We feel the seasons.” He tilted her head, watching her face – for what, she didn’t yet know. “And that means that I might be a wild satyr in Spring, but I’m more of an old fogey cocoa-by-the-fire sort as the autumn gets colder.”
Autumn found herself smiling.
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
“I knew there was a reason I needed to come back around here in Autumn,” she told him. “And winter? What does winter do for you?”
“Oh, in winter, I like to snuggle. And sometimes I’ll cook a nice tasty meal, or write some poetry. Winter me is kind of quiet.”
“Then I’ll make sure to come back in winter, too.” Feeling a bit brave, here under the eye of the town’s roots, she kissed his cheek. “And maybe summer, too…”
Autumn is thinking in Shakespearean Sonnet there.Want more?