Golden leaves fluttered in the glorious Thousand Endless Summers. A scarlet sun sank toward the mountainous horizon, queen over all she surveyed. The perfect stone wall kept out every predator.
And then the wind breathed on them. The leaves clapped together not from joy, but from shivering horror. The scarlet sun no longer sank in quiet dignity, but in tactless retreat. The wall itself quivered under that fell breath.
Seriah sat on her cold stone bench, her green, green dress clinging to her in fear. It knew what that breeze meant.
Seriah, though, had not lived before the Thousand Endless Summers. She did not listen to the roots as they told their story to grandchildren leaves. She did not witness what the sun had witnessed. She did not even take heed of the wall, which surely had been built for safety.
The dress, though. The dress knew. It listened to the whispers of the sun, the mirth of the leaves, the old stories of the wall.
The dress wrapped tightly around the girl’s legs, tugging at her.
Seriah gently unwrapped the folds of rich fabric. She stood and sauntered to a tree, placing her hand against its bark. “Come, tree,” she basked. “Bring me an apple, sweet and fresh.”
For the first time in her life, the tree did not heed her command.
Seriah called out again, “Tree. Tree? Please, bring me an apple, sweet and fresh.”
The tree lifted its apples toward the sky. Perhaps the breath might take only its apples and leave the child alone. Perhaps the worst she would feel would be the slightest pangs of the beginning of hunger.
Seriah called to the sun, “Mother Sun! Stay awhile. Dance with me!”
The sun rushed beyond the farthest mountains, their distant white-capped towers hiding her from view. Perhaps, reasoned the sun, if darkness hid the girl, she might be safe.
Seriah turned to the wall. “Wall, I am frightened. Protect me.”
The wall did its duty the best it could. It stood straight and tall. Yet, it knew that it could not hold back what the breath preceded.
The dress, though. The dress understood the fear that now began to trickle into the girl’s heart. It begged her, it tugged at her. To shelter! To safety! Run, girl! The garden is no longer safe! The Thousand Endless Summers have concluded, and what is to come must come! To safety! To safety!
Seriah returned to her stone bench, wrapping her arms around herself. She did not understand why her friends the trees had ceased their service. She longed to dance again with Mother Sun. Even the wall seemed small tonight. And her dress! What was wrong with her dress?
“Daughter. Do you fear?”
The voice slithered from the branches above the tree.
Seriah looked up and felt cool wafts of air caress her face. “Yes,” she answered, her eyes searching.
“Fear not. I bring you good tidings of great joy.” A shadow leaped from branch to branch, darting from quivering limb to shaking twig. “Summer has ended, and my reign has at last begun.”
This is the first chapter of Summers’ End.