And now for something a little different…
In December, I volunteered to participate in a Secret Santa short fiction exchange with other writers. Starting from a prompt from an anonymous requester, participants wrote a short piece of 1000 words or more for their recipient.
My prompt became the first line of my story, and then the story became something else: 1350 words of fantasy, an allegory with a mythic narrator, a bit dark but also hopeful. I’m proud of this piece, though it is somewhat abstract. I hope its message and its hope comes through and that my recipient enjoys it. I still feel a bit like I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to short fiction, but I enjoy the process.
Check out the Santa’s Secret Pen Masterlist at Amalie Frederiksen’s blog!
Deep gratitude to my beta reader, Ben, who turned this read around on a dime and gave some fantastic feedback for how to ground it a little better.
The Wyrd and the Weaver
The golden twilight gives way to the night, reflecting my thoughts perfectly.
There is a reason that witches work at midnight under the new moon. In the darkness, it is possible to think of things that one could not conceive in the day.
Seeing is believing, as they say. Perceptions shape reality. The light of day reduces the world to lines and angles, to mathematical theorems, to the known. But the night offers the freedom to know less and imagine more, to see little but dream elaborately, to believe nothing and start over. When the world goes dark, we can build it anew.
Wise men say knowledge is power. But I am not a wise man.
I am a weaver, a wyrdwitch, a Norn. I am the last of my kind to twist the threads, and I say that what we know has power over us. When we don’t know that change is impossible, what we imagine becomes possible. That’s real power, the kind that will transform you in the dark.
I hum to myself, an old tune, and turn down my lamp until the flame gutters and dies in the cold wind blowing in through the open door. Turn, turn, turn, turn…
To everything there is a season, and winter is the season of the witch. Tonight is the solstice night, the longest night of all. Tonight is my night.
Tonight, I will make the impossible possible.
Tonight, I will change my fate and with it the fate of this broken world.
To change a fate that’s been written and read, you cannot just unwrite it. You must unread it. You must unspeak it. You must unknow it and unbelieve it.
Easier than it sounds, for a weaver weary with words of warning. In these late years, stark-shining signs and portents have poured down with the sunlight of a relentless, seemingly endless summer. Time runs short now, nature’s cycles unspooling swift and uneven from a lax spindle in a sleeping spinner’s hands.
This world’s fate is written on its walls, in its reasons and seasons, in its ways and its means, in a thousand choices made and remade day to day. Its song slides slow as a dirge, slurring like a record skip, slipping out of key.
But the earth still tilts, and summer still must end. I stuff my ears with cotton, a safeguard against sirens for a sailor on an unknown sea. I wrap my eyes with cloth and wait until the light fades to gold around its edges.
Then I blacken my hands and my heart, take up my loom, and step into the dark.
“The trick of it,” my mother told me long ago, “is not to fear the darkness.” Easy for her to say, who shared a name with the night.
“I’m not afraid.” I was just a girl then, impatient with the lesson, eager to hold the loom.
“Not yet.” Her onyx eyes gleamed in the light from the single candle between us. “Whatever you conjure, whatever visions come upon you in the night, you must face them and master them. After all, you made them, and you can unmake them. This is the first and only lesson.”
“I made them, and I can unmake them,” I repeated, though I didn’t fully understand. Not then.
Nyx, my mother, smiled. It was the last thing I saw before the candle went out.
But that was an age ago, when there were more of me, more of us, when the world was whole. In this long dark, the task falls to me alone to unmake a year, and remake it again. To unbreak this world and return it reborn to the light, thence to be broken again in what I hope might be a new and different way.
Maybe this year, I will find a way to make it right.
I am not alone in the dark. There is someone else here with me. He breathes, and the darkness breathes with him.
“Arrogant witch-woman.” His voice is deep and gravelly as the roots of mountains, stony and lost as the hidden places under the earth. “To think that you could change such an old story in a single night, when you have failed so many times before.”
“Listen,” I say. “If not me, who else is gonna do it?”
His laugh echoes, cavernous. “Like I said. Arrogance. You can’t choose for them what they will not choose for themselves.”
“Can’t I? It’s as if you don’t know who and what I am.” There used to be three of us, once upon a time. But now it’s only me and the voice in the darkness.
“Moira, my dear sister. You’re not meant to change their fates. You’re just meant to carry them out.”
“Enough. You’re not real.”
“Honey, I’m the realest thing there is.”
I made him and I can unmake him. “And you call me arrogant. You’re nothing but a voice in my head. You’re just a shadow in the dark.”
“You’re a lie in the storyteller’s mouth,” I say. “You don’t make the rules here. I do.”
“If I’m a lie, I’m the kind that tells the truth,” he says, but he falls silent nonetheless.
I dive deeper, searching for the thread I need, one that when pulled will unravel the pattern in the weaving. There aren’t so many to choose from as one might think. A year is really not so long at all. It’s mostly built on all the choices that came before, the way layers of bedrock rise from a canyon floor. For a moment, my shadow breathes down my neck again, cold as winter and certain as death.
Every year I choose one thread and pull. Every year I pick out another pattern. Every year the signs still read the same. And every year, I try again.
Who else is gonna do it?
I choose my thread and coax it loose from the fabric of fate.
This year, maybe it will be enough.
One thread. One story out of billions. One life to change the world.
In past years, I’ve chosen rulers and regents. I’ve chosen leaders and speakers, preachers and generals. I’ve chosen scientists, philosophers, and revolutionaries.
The problem with great people is that their power over others binds them, too. They are nothing without their place in the pattern. Give them a different choice, and their power slips away from them. Cut their thread, and someone else will take their place in the weaving.
The problem with changing fates is that hearts and minds and wills have to change too, and not just mine. Otherwise, when the light returns, it will go right back to how it was before. Not everyone in this world is ready to walk through the dark to reach the other side. Not everyone is ready to take the burden of not knowing what will happen next.
This year, I choose differently. This year, I choose a storyteller. One who works alone like I do, making something out of nothing, making truth out of lies, letting go of what is known in favor of what they can imagine.
I choose one thread, one story, one heart that can touch a thousand souls and teach them a new pattern.
I choose you. I choose your story. It’s in your power now, to show them that another world, another way, another fate is possible. Your words can do what my weaving cannot, resonating through every thread they meet, empowering each one to imagine as you do, to envision something more.
Wyrdwitch, worldweaver, wordsmith: we are not so far apart.
This story is a spell. This spell is a story.
The light sneaks in around the edges of my vision now. It starts in monochrome blues and grays. Then color filters in behind it, the bright cloth of the sun’s imminent, inevitable return.
The night is over, and I set my spell aside so that the story may begin again.
Maybe this time, you’ll write it in a different light.