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And the Tale Unchanging

This is the tale, as it has been every year.
The flowers, red and dark as blood and stinking of earth, swell up from the ground, trembling against the wind. I caress them, or seize them, or bend down to sniff the earth as the petals reach up for my face. At that touch, he appears: a black wolf with a tongue of fire, a dragon, a snake, a raging inferno, taking me and seizing my lips, my neck, my breasts, and pulling me deep into the ground. Months pass in darkness and cold and warmth and sweetness, until I make my slow crawl to the surface, and spring through the earth in a spray of flowers.
"I am sick past death of this tale," I tell him.
His mouth lingers upon my neck. "I cannot help the telling."
He tries to change things. Minor things. The shape of the flowers--not all of his gifts and magic can change the color, though he claims to have tried. The day of their arrival, the height of their growth. The shape he uses. In the dark months, he teases my ears with his tongue until I admit to seeing an animal or thing or person that has pleased me, or made me laugh. Once he comes to me in the shape of a clown, and even I, tired of this, cannot suppress the sound between laughter and a groan, before he takes me down to the depths, where we play out the tale again, and again, and again.
"It would help," I tell him, "if this place could be filled with something other than shadows and ice. If it could--for once--be filled with lights."
I have seen him look with longing at the sun, before he seizes me each year; have seen his eager eyes scan the places where I walk each year. Have shifted my own location in response, so he may see more of the world, see the places he has spoken of in the darkness. Great trees. The rocky shorelines in the sea.
He bites my neck, but gives no other answer, and his place--our place--remains cold and dark.
"This must end," I tell him.
Another deep kiss. "You know what will happen, if the tale ends."
I do. "I do not care," I tell him. "I want to alter the tale. The ending."
His mouth is upon mine again, preventing speech.
For my part, I do what I can to resist. I step upon ships, only to find myself on dry land again, surrounded by flowers. I watch mortals leave the earth, and promise myself that one day I will try that, although I do not know if I will be able to board those ships.
When the flowers appear, I step back, or try to, even as the longing fills me. (For I do miss him, in those summer months, thinking desperately of his voice, his touch, his skin, though the tales that the thunder and summer rains are my rages and tears are not entirely true.) I have bit through my fingers, tasting their blood, as I try to resist, but always, always, a petal lands on me, or a vine reaches out, to draw me in, choking me, and he is there again.
When it comes time to return, I cling to him, with hands and lips and legs, begging him to let me stay, at least a little longer. I use every trick of love I have learned, and he responds. Oh, how he responds. And yet I am climbing, climbing, pushing out of the earth, collapsing against the ground, surrounded by flowers and weeping.
I journey the earth, to bring tales to him. He journeys the underneath, to bring tales to me.
The end of spring, the end of winter, if I succeed in altering the tale. Perhaps. Or perhaps not. Spring and winter happened before us, and will happen after us. No, it is the words, retold over and over, that drive this tale, nothing more, nothing less.
I whisper to the poets, the dreamers, the storytellers. I poison those who insist on retelling the story, word for word, copying it in dull ink or on the printing press or other methods as they arrive, though oddly, my poisons, so skilled at other times, prove useless enough here. I suspect his interference, though I say nothing in the months of shadow. I tell my own version of the tale where I can, when I can. In this I meet no interference.
I fall against the fields of flowers, and breathe in their scent, and feel their petals fall against my throat. I will change my tale, even if the changing of it is hell.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, November 8th, 2021
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