#writephoto: The sun’s gift

A short story promoted by Sue Vincent”s lovely photo.

fog

She had been proud when they chose her to become the spring. For a week she was treated like a queen, carried on a litter so her feet would not have to touch the ground, dressed in clothes so fine a goddess would not have been ashamed of them. It was a week of feasting and dancing and the fires burned long into the night. They gave her mead to drink, heady and potent. Unused to such strong liquor she was in a permanent daze of happiness. Even the December cold was banished as her blood raced like a fiery torrent.

On the longest night of the year, the night that marked the turning point, when the sun would grow ever stronger, when the sun should grow ever stronger, they tied her to the tree. She was the spring. She was the one who would call back the sun after the long night. If there was no one to call, the sun may decide never to rise again. The idea terrified her, even more than the thought of being left alone in the darkness.

Truth be told, they had given her a beverage both bitter and sweet that made her head swim even more than the mead had done, and she barely felt the cords that bound her tight. They passed lengths of ivy over the cords so she looked wrapped in bright greenery. They had taken away the goddess garments and dressed her in her old clothes with a cloak to keep away the cold. She had been helpless as a baby, laughing at her erratic movements as the women struggled to get the shift over her head.

She was not laughing now. The effects of the beverage had faded and she no longer felt her hands. She no longer felt her feet, but her face prickled with cold until it hurt. The ivy cords bit into her flesh, but she no longer felt the rough bark that scraped and pitted her back. Her hair was tangled with the ivy, and her head was trapped in the green leaves and the oak bark.

She moved her eyes, to look eastwards to where a pale light was growing. Her heart pounded and it seemed to echo from deep within the tree. The sun was rising. Pride had dissipated in the dawn mists, replaced by terror. She had called the sun! There could be no doubt; the god had heard. She had called the sun back from the darkness and into darkness she must go in his stead.

She squeezed her eyes tight closed, but tears crept from the corners and ran down her cheeks. They ran down her cheeks and pooled in the corners of her mouth. She licked them away. Not salt. Sweet and sticky. Honey dew. The sun rose, pale and magnificent and the breeze sighed in the bare branches. Birds peered at her without fear. The breeze sighed, like breath, soft and warm, and the ivy wrapped her gently, as she sank into the warm, comforting embrace of the oak tree.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

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