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Blessings for a New Age

Jessica is a Rhysling Award winning SFF writer and poet. Born in South Korea, they currently live in New England where they balance their aversion to cold with the inability to live anywhere without snow. Previous works can be found at Flash Fiction Online, Daily Science Fiction, Fireside, Apparition Lit. and elsewhere. They blog infrequently at pangolin.wordpress.com and have slightly more frequent feelings and opinions on Twitter @transientj.
The night had fallen quiet, the guests having long since danced and feasted and celebrated their way out of the party and into their beds. The rest of the hall was dark and still, the moonlight streaming through the windows the only source of illumination.
A trio of shadowy figures made their way down one of the corridors, their footsteps echoing in the otherwise empty space.
"I thought that party was never going to end," said one, fiddling with the chain of her watch. "I don't see why all the fuss is necessary, anyway. She's an infant. She won't remember any of this."
"It's not about the child," said another. "You know how parents are. All splendor and ceremony and putting on a good show so no one can suggest later that they skimped on anything for their little darling. They're so afraid of slipping up and giving offense somehow. Of slighting one of us, you know... after what happened with Her."
The first one threw up her hands. "It was one time. One time! And even that could have avoided if they'd double checked their guest list. You'd think with all the money some of these families have they could at least afford a decent event planner."
"Honestly, I don't see why we can't dispense with some of the old traditions," the second allowed. "Why not have a celebratory brunch, instead? It's been ages since I've had a nice brunch and we can bestow blessings just as easily at eleven in the morning as we can at--"
"Here." The third, who had up until that point been silent, stopped them in front a closed door. "Now shush. You'll wake them."
The second giggled. "They'll get used to being woken at all hours, soon enough." But they all fell quiet as the third blew gently on the keyhole and the door swung open on silent hinges. A soft glow fell into the hallway, throwing their silhouettes up on the wall behind them, shadows fluttering along their backs like wings.
As one, they crept inside, careful not to disturb the figures asleep on the bed as they made their way to the crib that stood at the opposite end of the room.
"Look, she's awake."
The baby in the crib lay on her back, watching them with wide eyes. She giggled as the second figure dangled her watch chain into the crib, grabbing at the shiny metal with chubby fingers.
"I see the others were here," the first one sniffed. "Beauty and Grace and Song, of course. Such traditionalists. Chastity--"
"I think that's Charity, dear," the second corrected. "Chastity hasn't been a very popular blessing for quite some time."
"Right." The third figure clapped her hands together, quietly. "Well, it's our turn, now. Ready, ladies? Who'll go first?"
"I suppose I will," said the first figure, straightening her waistcoat. She pulled a slender wand from her pocket and tapped on the edge of the crib. The end lit up pale, glowing blue.
"I bless you with Spirit," she said, dipping the lighted tip of her wand into the crib. The baby's eyes widened and she laughed, clapping her small hands together in delight. "May you meet all life's problems head on and may the world never dampen your light."
"I doubt she'll need any help there," the third one said with a smile. "She's going to be quite the handful on her own, I think."
"Yes, well, there's a reason I give this one at night when the parents are asleep."
"I suppose I'm next." The one with the watch stepped up, tucking the chain back into her skirt pocket. She carried no wand, but spread her hands over the crib, palms down.
"I bless you with Opportunity," she said, tracing the baby's eyelids with a careful fingertip. "Your path won't always be easy, but may doors always be open to you, if you know where to look." She paused, with something of a sad smile. "I'm afraid you are going to need all the help you can get, in that regard. No fault of your own, of course, but the world is often unfair."
The third took her place beside the crib. She gazed down at the baby lying within, shining bright with the blessings already bestowed upon her.
"I suppose I could make it a bit of an occasion...."
She swept her hands up, throwing her magic out in a wide arc. The ceiling abruptly disappeared, revealing the dazzling sweep of stars embedded in the night sky above their heads.
"I bless you with Curiosity," she whispered, gazing into the child's eyes, wide and bright and reflecting back a galaxy's worth of light. "May you find as much joy in uncovering new questions as you do in learning their answers, and may the pursuit of both drive you ever onward."
The three stood for a moment in silence, their blessings given, their duty done. Above them, the stars glittered and winked, a child's mobile that spanned the breadth of the universe.
"We should be off," the third said, quietly. "We've others to see to before the night is done."
"Will it be enough, do you think?"
"I don't know, dear. We still have such a long way to go." She paused, looking at the child who had pulled herself up against the bars of the crib, hands stretched up towards the stars, as if she knew that with just a bit of effort, she could reach them.
"But then, look how far we've come."
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, December 1st, 2020
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