There are a few sights that will stay with me always.
The first time I saw, really saw, the Milky Way, and my naked horror beneath it.
The first time that I saw a landscape lit only by the full moon – but I’m lucky with that one. It was long ago, when one had to travel to find somewhere dark enough to be flooded by that silver light. The sight was a joy and a delight to me, and the ghost of that delight has been a comfort to me under crueller moons.
The first time I saw dawn across a snowfield, all golden light and lilac shadows, and that, too, was an innocent delight to me. That snow was only an oddity, an extreme of variation, a thing to find harmless joy in. And oh how the memory of that joy has tainted every such moment that I have snatched from the darkness, these last years, wondering what evil might lurk within each new ‘harmless’ circumstance.
And now, this. There is no moment of joy in this, for I am older now, and if I have not learnt wisdom – well, I have had some crammed into my resistant skull, anyhow. And so I take no artist’s delight in this, but see it plainly, and in terror. Beneath the cold moon, between banks piled deep in blue-shadowed snow, the mist is rising.
The mist is rising. I did not think it could happen so soon. They were supposed to be weak but … the mist is rising. I cram myself deeper into the inadequate cover of some dying ferns, though I know that the instinctive reaction will not save me. Their eyes don’t work that way. What will save me now is the charms, the right charms, the charms that were given to the children to remember, ages upon ages ago. But oh, it is so dangerous, because I’m thinking of the past, and of the errors that we made in our ignorance, and the ways in which we were fooled, and even to think one of the false charms now – the charms that were given to men who thought themselves wise, men who wanted to pin down magic the way their brothers pinned out butterflies, useful fools – these charms will draw on that which I must ward against, will invite the attention of That which dwells amidst the mist. Concentrate on the old charms, the true charms, let their words run through my mind as the wind runs through a prayer wheel, swear it, by the red rowan and the white, by the blood upon the thorn, by the iron when it is hot, by the iron, by the iron, by the iron …
The litany sooths me, but my fear remains. They can’t take me tonight, not me, not tonight. It is, perhaps, not so bad to be taken, for myself (by the iron, by the iron, by the IRON in the BLOOD – that’s Their thinking there, no thought of mine) but I have news tonight, news and understanding, and I must take it home. It’s the iron, the iron that is our birth right and our blood, that we must take and spread again across the lands that once were ours. It was given us once before – given us for a toy – by One who knew what men can do in idleness and jest. And we took it and we played with it, and we girdled the world with our toys, and They could do no more than sprinkle false charms in our dreams. But there, even the thought of the false charm draws Them – by the rowan and the thorn, by the blood, by the iron –
And It is gone.
There is only the deep snow and the cold moon, which is dangerous enough, and I shall go on, carefully now, I and my secret, which must be secret no more.
We grew earnest, you see, that was our error – though we had reason enough for our earnestness, I’ll grant, for we had done harm enough in our play. But we grew earnest without knowledge, without wisdom, and we no longer played with iron. We took our position seriously, and took our girdle off the earth, setting iron only where we must, stepping lightly – but if we do not girdle the earth with iron, then Others will girdle it, and in crueller bonds.
They have made their start, but we have yet time.
Another one for #MidWeekFlash. Still behind. Still catching up.