315. A Picnic For The Seasons

A long time ago, the seasons came together to talk. Deciding that no discussion was complete without food, they each agreed to bring a food item with them to the talk.

Spring was the worst cook among the four, because she was always overeager and impatient, and also because she insisted on dressing up the things that she made in every color imaginable. To Spring, the seasons assigned the task of bringing the appetizers. She decided that she would bring sandwiches, and it was good.

Summer was the biggest, and he knew not the meaning of subtlety. To him, they decided to assign the task of preparing a roasted bird. It made sense, because then Summer would know if he had overcooked and burned the bird, and also because Summer didn’t know the meaning of undercooked either. They reasoned that if Summer could roast a bird and didn’t overcook it, it should be just right.

Then there was Autumn, the temperamental one among the four, but who was also the vainest. She spent a great deal of time combing her copper-and-rust red hair, and also spent a great deal of time picking out her clothes. Her favorite one was a yellow-and-orange loose dress with thin straps for her shoulders. This was the dress that she wore for the talk. Autumn would not be told what to bring, and she came with a platter of stewed pork in the end. No one complained.

The last of them was Winter, and it went without saying that he would bring the dessert. No one said anything, and he did not agree to anything, but they simply understood. He showed up as he always did, with his skin as pale as death, dressed in a finely tailored dark suit. No one asked him where the desserts were, and neither did he tell them. But when the food was laid out, the trifle was there.

They laid out their mat on a grassy patch by the side of the mountain. A large tree grew at the end of the grassy patch, and the clouds floated past them. The bulk of the mountain beside them sheltered them from the sun as they ate.

There were no words when they were eating, because words had a tendency of changing the flavor of food. Sometimes it was for the better, and sometimes it made food taste so bad that no one has the appetite to eat any more. They all knew why they had come out here, and they all knew what the talk was about, and so they agreed to be silent for the eating.

When the last scoop of trifle had disappeared into Autumn’s mouth (she was the slowest eater), the rest of them watched and made sure that she had swallowed properly. Autumn raised her glass to his lips and took a sip of apple juice, and with that, the eating was done.

“Life is dead,” Summer said.

This they all already knew. Sometimes, ideas got ideas of their own; and though they cannot be killed the way mortals or gods are killed, they can be killed in the end. And the only way to kill an idea was with another idea.

“How?” Spring asked.

“He tried to become Fate,” Autumn explained, and was quick to add in her opinion of the matter: “Which, it goes without mentioning, was a terrible idea. He figured that if he became Fate, he could also guide all living things along their path after he had brought them to life.”

Summer shook his head. His hair was long and bright and golden, and every strand shone like the sun through the clouds. “He became Fate, even if it was for a little while,” he said. “He became she, and she married Time.”

Autumn clicked her tongue at this. Time was an enigma, and he was more of the dangerous sort rather than the mysterious sort. He was obsessively neat in the worst possible way, and to add to that, he suffered from a host of multiple personalities within himself, all of them as compulsive as the next.

“Time,” Spring shuddered at the sound of the name. “I heard that he murdered Baal because a strand of his own hair was sticking out at an odd angle.”

This was true. And Time had relished every cathartic moment of beating the divine life out of Baal.

“So Life, or Fate, as she now became,” Autumn continued, “Thought that she might give Time a little bit of advice on how the humans should be governed. He endured it for a little while, I imagine. He was never fond of being told what to do, but I’m amazed that he did not snap her neck the first time she tried. Eventually, though, Time decided that he has had enough of his wife.”

“I was there to see her, after it was done,” Summer said, a haunted expression on his face. “She was a tough thing to kill, which I think made it worse. He broke her in more ways than you can imagine. Lucifer would have cringed at the scene.”

“Yikes,” Spring said. She didn’t dare imagine what it might have looked like.

“So Life is dead,” Autumn said, “And we must find a replacement.”

They murmured their agreement, and then one by one, they told the stories of the people who could be Life. Spring told her story first, and Summer spoke next. The third story was Autumn’s, and though Winter did not speak, the story was clear enough.

And so their stories were told.

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