BLOOD WINTER, page 2 (cont.)

The meekly spiteful voice on Mavra's left side was the sweetly obliging Fey. A woman yet a girl with girl's clinging sentimentality. She loved to please those that she adored, and thus she LIVED to please her chosen adored. If not allowed to please or adore the way she wished, she became a poisonous, floundering thing.

The woman on Mavra's right side was Carnival. Like her name, Carnival's nature was animated, noisy and exhausting. She was intensely attracted to shiny things and shiny people, and if she did not always grasp for them, she guarded them.

Many moons ago, before her arrival in his life, Mavra's lover had gently spurned each of them. With accommodating demeanors, each had adjusted philosophically.

Seasons waxed and waned and the tides turned. Many things occurred. Carnival, Fey and Lindy became displeased and infiltrated their displeasure in a myriad of insidiously friendly ways.

Vexed, Mavra had sent them each a warning, coaxing their attention to the upper planes. One sentence. One request. One forewarning: "Move away from me or I will carve your lives in two."

They moved away from her. Cleverly, they soon turned their tongues and talons toward him.

Of course he had not been strong enough. But then gradually it seemed he was. And now this dream.

Numbly, Mavra ceased her contemplation and again took up her pen.

The voice of Lindy spoke again, cajoling, determined and confident, "Please Mavra. Where is he hiding?"

"She's changed him, I tell you!" Fey declared acidly.

After a silent moment, Carnival asked in a loud, bright voice, "DID you change him, Mavra? Let us see! Let us see how he works now!"

"Let us see," hissed Fey

"Yes. Let us see," joined Lindy with greedy curiosity.

Mavra did not speak. She could not speak, for under her tongue, slowly and almost imperceptibly, she felt the capsule begin to dissolve. Dread enveloped her. The three women became more amorphous as Mavra struggled to decide. There were only two choices open to her: Choosing the first, she could swallow the dissolving capsule and absorb him. This idea provoked within her an icy fear for he could then expand to his original form and destroy her. Or he could become merged with her and they would become one person. They would lose each other by becoming one. They would discontinue.

In a horrified instant she realized that the remaining alternative was the only true option. The capsule began to crumble completely. In hopeless anguish, Mavra spat him out at their feet. She became dizzy and blacked out. And then she awoke.

Mavra closed her Book of Shadows. Her dream presented an archaic tale. An illustration of her life to ponder. No escape was indicated and no resolution implied. The dream merely advised Mavra that a choice had to be made, and gave her a reminder of what that choice would be...or should be. The future beyond the choice was veiled.

Mavra walked slowly to the hearth. Set upon the stones was a small clay bowl containing a warming liquid. Carefully, with a cloth of thick red velvet, Mavra lifted the bowl to her lips. She took a long sip and spat into the fire.

Still holding the clay bowl, she went out into her frozen garden. The ashen winter moon spiked its cold, luminous rays through the dark. The fresh snow on the ground glistened with ice crystals as if with strewn with shards of broken glass. Cloakless yet not discomforted by the frigid air, Mavra walked a few paces until she reached a hedge of bramble bushes.

In front of the tangled, thorny branches, Mavra poured the steaming blood over her left hand, letting it course downward in dark red streams. She watched it trickle from her fingertips to dot the white winter snow. The snow darkened and melted slowly as rich red folded into white. When the winter months were over, there would be a melting of pale snow into thawing brown earth. Come Summer, scarlet poppies would blanket the ground and twist upward into the brambles and thorns. Mavra would give some of them names.


This story originally appeared in SINS of COFFEE, Issue #13, 1996.