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Spring Town

I wrote this for a competition where the theme was Spring.  I may have been a little wide in my interpretation of the brief…

 

Spring Town

By Jason Gibbs

 

Mortimer looked at his watch, then, surprised by the time, he held it to his ear to check it was working. He could hear the little cogs whirring happily. For once it appeared he was genuinely early. He shook his head in mock wonder and headed downstairs.

“Would you like a cup of tea dear?” his wife called as he was on the stairs.

“Yes please love, I’m running a little early so I shall have time to enjoy it for a change.”

He walked into the kitchen and took a seat. Lotty turned round and exclaimed.

“Mortimer Theodore Adams, you cannot go to work dressed like that. You are the General Manager!”

“Lotty, I am the General Manager, I can go dressed as I please.” It was to no avail, she was already shepherding him out of the kitchen and back upstairs.

He grudgingly changed his shirt to something white and plain, put on his cravat and his waistcoat and once more entered the kitchen. This time with less confidence and the nagging feeling he was forgetting something.

“Now Mortimer, that looks much better. Do you still have time to have your tea?”

He checked his watch and realised that not only was he now running late, but he’d now remembered he had a meeting with young George first thing. It would be most impolite for him to be late. Declining the tea he pecked his wife on the cheek, grabbed his coat and walked with some alacrity out of the house and down to the garage.

They had two of the modern carriages. His wife’s was an older, larger and slightly clunky model, but his contrivance, well, she was a beauty. When he’d been made General Manager of the Works he’d decided to treat himself. He’d worked so hard all these years he deserved a little present, so he bought one of the new run-arounds. She wasn’t cheap to buy, and no cheaper to run really. She had a dual spring motor, and even though she had reverse springs on the brakes, which would take back some of the energy lost, he often had to go to the main garage to get her topped up.

He climbed in and slowly eased the rather spritely throttle. It controlled how much energy the springs delivered, and when he’d first bought the thing he’d let it out in one go and bounced along the road. He started along his drive accompanied by the gentle whirring of the spring motor and the rumble of the tires.

As General Manager he was paid rather well, and this had enabled him to buy Lotty the home she’d always dreamed of. It was big, he wasn’t sure how many rooms, and the gardens were so large it seemed to take an age to get out of them. The house was on the other side of the ridge from the main town, and the drive to the Works provided the best moment of his morning.

Coming over the brow of the hill the whole of the town was spread out before him. He could see the river, gurgling and frolicking as it ran between the streets all the way to the Hampton Spring Works, of which he was the General Manager. The Works squatted on the river and would be quite ugly if it wasn’t for the three graceful snail shells which rose above it. Each shell contained one of the Main Springs, which powered every mechanical contrivance in the town, and was in turn rewound by the river itself. It truly was a modern wonder. The third Spring was a sign of how well the town was doing, now there was never a time when power wasn’t available, even during the annual maintenance of each Spring. The third was added just before he was promoted, and the last General Manager had told him it would make his life much easier, and he certainly seemed to be right.

Mortimer lost sight of the snails as he dipped into the town, and he glanced about at his fellows, wondering what they’d do if the miracle of spring power wasn’t available to them.

The security man opened the gate before he got to it, which was very kind of him as it reduced wear on the springs in his carriage, and Mortimer gently coasted up to his parking place at the front of the building. Getting out he looked around with pride. The Hampton Spring Works was a fine place to be General Manager and, he believed, a fine place to work.

He walked into his office and his secretary brought in his morning cup of tea. On the rare occasions he managed to have tea at home she seemed to realise and didn’t bring a cup in. It was quite wonderful having such an excellent secretary.

“George Yarde to see you sir.”

“Please send him in, and do get him a cup of tea if he wants one.”

“Yes sir.”

George bustled in. He was a large and florid man, not the typical emaciated engineer they seemed to get, and he had such energy.

“Sir, Mr Adams, you must come and see this.”

“Now George. Let’s first talk about it, and you can have your tea, and then perhaps we can visit your lab.”

On several previous occasions George had dragged him down to show him something, which while interesting hadn’t really been of immediate use, and he’d ended up wasting half the day in the labs. Though wasting was perhaps unfair, besides he did enjoy being back in his old hunting grounds.

“Oh.” George looked a bit crestfallen, but quickly gathered himself. “Well it’s about the energy transfer problem.”

“Yes?”

“Well you know how hard it is to transfer energy from the Main Springs to smaller energy distribution centres?”

“Easier now that we have the mobile water-wound spring. Much better than those old hand-wound devices which never produced any real power.” It was the last thing which Mortimer had worked on when he was head engineer, and he was rather proud of it, especially as it had been cited as the key reason for his promotion.

“Oh, well yes, but it is just so inefficient, it’s almost embarrassing, because the rewinding…” George then remembered who’d run the project. “Still, a marvel sir, and in its time amazing.”

“Its time has only just begun.”

“Ah, well sir. I think I’ve developed something which will solve some of the inefficiency.”

“Indeed.” Mortimer was still bristling from the criticism, but calmed himself by remembering that he was now General Manager, which was surely a sign that his contribution was valued. He’d also always told George to share his ideas and speak freely, he wanted to get the best out of him after all.

“Ah.”

“Go ahead George, tell me what it is.”

“You know that we’ve been working on very small springs? Down to the millimetre level? Well I was reading in one of the science journals, and it got me to thinking, what if there really were springs which were much, much smaller. I mean there must be, to power everything else, like muscles and things.”

“I too read that journal, and I have to say I wonder at some of the newer aspects of General Spring Theory. It’s become too abstruse for me.”

“Ah yes, well you see the thing is. I found a way of proving that the nano-springs exist.”

“Really?” Mortimer was sceptical, but George was more or less incapable of lying. Being overly excited about things others considered trivial, yes, lying, no.

“Yes. You remember that thing I showed you with the magnets?”

“Another thing Spring Theory can’t explain.”

“Well, I was playing with some acid and various other things…”

Realising that George would probably take the next hour to tell him in absolute detail every step he’d taken Mortimer decided that perhaps a trip to the lab was required.

Doris had come in with George’s tea, and when Mortimer suggested that he show him his device instead of continuing George fairly threw the drink down his throat and almost dragged him to the lab.

“Here it is!”

George’s worktable was covered in bits and pieces. Springs, some whole, some in parts, jars of acid, some of those new-fangled lucifers and all sorts of tools. Right in the middle was a cradle. On the outside of the cradle were some magnets, and suspended in the cradle was a piece of metal with some wire wrapped around it. The wire went through some large holes at each end and then round to a metal box. At one end of the cradle was a winder. Mortimer saw that one of the wires wasn’t actually connected to the metal box.

“What is it?”

“Let me show you.”

George picked up the loose wire, and attached it to a little hook on the box. Mortimer thought he might have seen a spark, and then slowly the piece of metal wrapped in wire started to rotate. It whirled round and round magically.

“Is this all? Where’s the spring?”

“Look inside the box sir.”

He did, and all he saw was some liquid and some solid lumps of something which might have been lead.

“Hmm, well?”

“The lumps of lead contain the nano-springs!”

“Well that is interesting, how do you wind them?”

George grabbed the winder and started to wind it in the opposite direction to the way it had been spinning.

“Like this sir. It took me a while to figure it, and then I was just toying with it, you know, winding it up. I let it go, and it started unwinding, just like a spring, and yet this wire, as you can see, is just plain copper with little ability to hold torsion.”

Mortimer looked thoughtfully at the device. The bucket was the size of a small cat.

“How much power?”

“As much as a normal water-wound torsion spring at least ten times the size.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes sir. It is really much more efficient than our current portable springs.”

One of the problems with the mobile water-wound spring was that at smaller sizes it ran out of power too quickly, and had less peak power. It was one of the reasons his carriage needed to be rewound so regularly. With these nano-springs, well, it might even be possible to go forty miles or more without a rewind.

“How do we wind it… oh of course. We can use the river.”

“Yes sir, we could run banks of them. Even better we could pull one out for maintenance and it wouldn’t affect more than a tiny fraction of the overall power. Once we had enough, I think we could even keep some as backup in case…”

“George my boy, this is amazing…” He was about to ask for a more detailed explanation when one of the messenger boys appeared.

“Mr Adams, there’s a message for you. It’s from your secretary; she says you’re needed urgently in your office.”

This was a little tiresome. He had worked out a signal with her when he went down to the lab after last time. She was supposed to give him an hour and then say there was an important message. It was unlike her to get it wrong, and it certainly hadn’t been an hour. Perhaps it was real? Doris didn’t usually make mistakes, so it really must be urgent. Mortimer sighed.

“Sorry George, I have to go. I’m impressed. Can you work out how long it will take to get a full size pilot going?”

“Yes sir… of course, I mean, there’s a couple of wrinkles left, but yes.”

Mortimer nodded and headed back to his office.

His secretary was aflutter when he got there.

“I’m so sorry Mr Adams, he let himself straight in. I asked him to wait but he wouldn’t…”

“Don’t worry Doris. Calm down. Now who is it?”

“Mr Phillips sir.”

Oh dear. Phillips was his boss. A dour man, prone to anger, and a real stickler for time. Mortimer looked at the clock and saw that he was three minutes late to the other meeting of his morning, one he’d quite forgotten. Well, he had to take his lumps like a man.

“Good morning Mr Phillips.”

“Hmph, nearly afternoon.”

“It is wonderful of you to come and visit us at the Works, how is head office these days?”

“Filled with the same lazy fools who seem to be everywhere these days.”

“Can I offer you a coffee?”

“Your secretary, Lucy is getting me one, thank you.”

Mortimer decided that correcting the misnaming of his secretary was unlikely to improve his boss’ mood, and so offered him a chair, and asked how he could help.

Phillips was still grumpy, but he also looked worried. This couldn’t be good news.

“The thing is Adams, we have a very big problem at these Works.”

“I’m sorry sir, I don’t know what you mean?”

“I mean that everything you produce is too damned expensive!”

Mortimer was taken aback.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean sir. We hit the targets set by head office on everything we produce.”

“You do, yes.”

“Then how can it be too expensive?”

“The core of the problem is that the targets we gave you were wrong. Our sales are slumping because we’re more expensive than our competitors.”

“But we’re the only major Spring Works in Hampton.”

“And as you well know our rewind charges are regulated, and at the moment, well. If we only ran the Main Springs we’d be breaking even. Everything else you’re doing here is losing money, even your portable springs.”

“Oh.”

Mortimer had nothing to say. When he’d taken over he’d asked to have the financials brought back to the Works, he’d wanted to learn everything, but head office had decided it was more efficient to have it all centralised. Efficiency didn’t necessarily map to competency it would appear.

“So I’m afraid Adams you’re going to have to cut. Starting with your old department.”

“But Research Engineering is what powers this company.”

“Don’t you quote the corporate spiel to me young man.”

“Sorry sir, but seriously, if we get rid of the engineers we won’t be developing the next product…”

“Head office had a consultancy do a study, and they determined we can buy new product development from smaller companies much more cheaply than developing it internally. We have too many barriers to innovation apparently.”

“But…”

“No buts. You need to get rid of them. Here is a list of all the departments who have to be cut. Overall you need to need to cut your headcount by a third in the next six months.”

Mortimer noticed he didn’t say people. They were headcount, or resources, or minions probably. He was feeling utterly powerless when he remembered George’s nano-springs.

“Sir… can I ask a favour.”

“What?”

“Can I have three months before we cut? I believe we might have something which will blow the socks off the competition.”

“Mmm, what is it?”

Knowing that talk of nano-springs would likely be dismissed as desperation, which it was in part, Mortimer said, “A much more efficient version of the mobile spring.”

“Hmm, well according to another study if we can make it twenty percent smaller then we should be able to defend our market position and move back into profitability…. no, no, sorry Adams, it’s too late. We just can’t afford another three months.”

“Two? And I’ll resign if it doesn’t work.”

Phillips peered at him. Mortimer stared calmly back.

“Dammit man! Six weeks, and then I’ll want your letter.” He frowned, shook his head and left without another word.

Mortimer sat down heavily at his desk. What had he done? He held his head in his hands, his mind whirring. He only looked up again when Doris bustled in a few minutes later with a fresh cup of tea. She nearly said something, but seeing his face bustled back out again mutely.

After a few more minutes of staring at his desk he sipped his tea, and stood to look out of his window. From here he could see the river as it ran out of the Works, and catch, just, sight of the Right Main Spring. Overhead one of the new fast zeppelins was passing, powered in part by the mobile water-wound spring he helped to design. Probably using springs from their competitors he thought grumpily. He wondered how fast they might go with smaller more powerful springs? That made him think again of the nano-springs. He could feel some excitement building. They needed to get moving on it fast.

“Doris, can you get me George urgently?”

“Yes sir.”

He was going to have to drive George hard to work through the inevitable wrinkles. In fact it would be almost like reverting to being head engineer. Strangely instead of feeling like a step back it felt more like he’d be going home.

He looked out on the still bare Works gardens, the unexpected warmth of the sun helping to calm the fizzing of the worry and excitement mixing within him. He was energised. Winter was over, and its passing heralded the advent of the nano-spring. It was going to change the world, he was sure of it.

 

THE END

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Housework

I wrote this for a competition which gave a choice of opening lines (the same competition as for this, and the same opening line – I obviously didn’t like the other options).   It was for Halloween, but doesn’t really have any connection to pumpkins etc., which is possibly why it didn’t win.

 

Housework

“Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”

Yeah, thanks Dad for yet another piece of disturbing and ultimately useless advice.  If only he’d taken less acid when he was younger.  If only he was still here.

“Sorry, what?”

“I said, goodbye dear, and have a good day.”  His wife had a bemused frown on her face.

“Sorry, love, you too.  Knock ‘em dead!”

“Of course, and don’t forget, we’re having the Renquists to dinner tonight.”

Damn, he had forgotten.

“All planned, don’t you worry, I know exactly what I’m cooking.”

She smiled, perhaps a little uncertainly, and then after glancing at her watch rushed out with a passing air kiss.

This was his first day of being an official house husband.  His gardening leave was over, not that the garden had seen any of it, and his wife was back at work.  He’d looked for another job, but there just wasn’t anything for someone of his age, and qualifications, or lack thereof.  The world had changed, tablets, virtual spaces and social presence rooms were all the rage, and he didn’t have a clue what they meant any more.

He shook himself, and decided to take the day by the horns.  First step, shopping.  Laura had shown him what to do.  She’d learnt all the new ways, and when it came to finding a job she’d been beating them off with a stick.  Not that he minded really.  He was all for feminism really.  Anyway, shopping.  It was easy, he just needed to get the tablet thingy, click on the Isquibo icon and click go.  Then apparently it would all arrive.

There was no Isquibo icon.  Or anything else that made any sense.  He tapped a few things randomly before giving up.  This was just like work, why was nothing named properly anymore?  He’d go out to the local supermarket later, they were still around he thought.

The cleanerbot wandered into the room.  Made a sort of hello beep and then started vacuuming, or mopping or whatever.  He wondered where its brain was.  He wondered where his had gone.  Trusting the machines was easy for everyone else, they’d not woken up to the new world with a hangover and a fear of rounded icons.  Or any icons.

Right, he should load the dishwasher.  Except, the dishes were gone.  The cleanerbot had already taken them.  He couldn’t help himself, the anger began to build.  How he hated it.  This horrid square box which was making him feel ever more useless.  He walked into the living room.

It was spotless.  There was really nothing for him to do.  He wondered what his dad would say.  He decided to go for a walk.  As he left the house he could vaguely recall Laura mentioning something about an alarm, but he figured he wouldn’t be gone long.

The trees were lovely in the autumn, and he spent a restful half hour sitting on a bench watching the world go by in the park.

When he got home all was much as he had left it.  He checked in to see that the kitchen was now clean.  Suddenly there was a loud beep behind him, it was the cleanerbot.

“Go away, stupid thing!”

It followed him into the lounge, and beeped at him again.  He had no idea what it wanted.  Laura had told him how to check, but it had all seemed so easy, and yet now the concepts had slipped from his mind, like all these technical things did.

There was another, more angry sounding, beep, and the cleanerbot advanced on him again.  This was getting a bit worrying.  Hadn’t she said there was some kind of pass phrase?

“Shut down!”

It continued to advance, and he backed away, tripping over the table and falling over.  In the process he managed to knock over a vase which smashed.  Maybe the cleanerbot would sort that out and stop bothering him.

The bot stopped still.  Its front bot opened up and an arm extended, and he relaxed.  This was obviously the vacuum.  He started to get up when something jabbed into his side and all his muscles spasmed.  He fell to the ground, and darkness took him.

His wife arrived back that evening, tired, but excited by her day.

“Darling!  Darling?”

She looked around.  The house was absolutely spotless, not a mark or stain to show that anyone was there.

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Winter’s Reign

This was another entry for the competition themed ‘Winter’, and I think I prefer this one:

 

Winter’s Reign

“Winter cleanses.  It takes the wild mud and confusion of Summer and Autumn, and transmutes them to soft, silent whiteness.  In the Winter it is possible to think, to consider the past year, and perhaps prepare for the next.”

Elder Phips recited the traditional greeting as the congregation settled.  His warm voice filling our hearts, while the warm church thawed our chilled bones.  It was cold outside.

“Let us all say thanks for the bounties which Winter provides.”

We bowed our head, and mumbled the ritual.

“Thank you Winter for cleansing us.  Thank you Winter for protecting us.  Thank you Winter for saving us.  Thank you Winter for providing for us.”

When I was younger I always questioned how Winter had done all these things.  Now I was a man, I knew what we were thankful for, though I didn’t entirely agree.  Still, the community around the church was strong, and our Elder kept us together.  I was not going to rock the boat.

After the ceremony Elder Phips invited me into his study.  His house joined to the back of the church, and there was no need for us to put on our full furs to get there.  There was some discussion of linking the whole village up in this way.

“Ah come in Jorgy.”

“Thank you Elder.”

“Oh hush, I’ve know you since you were a pup, please call me Phips.  Now I expect you are wondering why I asked you in here?”

I nodded.

“It is two things.  Firstly, I know the other hunters follow you.  Are you supporting the covered links for the village?”

I paused.  This had become an emotive issue.

“I will Elder.  While the resources required are substantial, I’m convinced that it will return more.  It will allow more visits, strengthening the community as well as reducing the time all of us spend getting ready for outside.”

“Good man, I thought you’d see sense.  Now if only I can get the salters to agree.  Any ideas?”

I thought a little.

“Perhaps remind them that they will get more visits, and more chances to sell their wares.  They aren’t fools, though they may act that way sometimes.”

“Excellent.  I shall.”

He stopped and looked at his desk.  The second thing, whatever it was, clearly bothered him.  It was also clearly the real reason he’d called me in.

“Ah Jorgy, there’s a more delicate matter.”

I waited silently.  I had a suspicion I knew what it was.

“It’s about, ah, the Spring.”

I had wondered if he had the courage to say it.  I stayed mute.

“Well, there have been rumours that you, ah, that you think the Spring might be coming.”

One casual remark, and now this quiet inquisition.

“No Phips.  I had but remarked that the South wind was less cutting than I would have expected for this time of year.”

He looked at me, trying to judge.

“That’s not all Jorgy.  I have seen your log-pile.  It is not up to the eves.  The Guidance clearly states that the log-pile should be built up to the eves during every long break in the weather.”

Digging himself out of this was going to be more difficult.

“Apologies Elder.  My son has been ill, and I spent the time looking for extra food for him to help him recover.”

“Hmm, I would have more sympathy if you hadn’t told Tomas that you didn’t think there was any point in having such a stockpile.  You claim that you didn’t use all of yours during the last big freeze.”

Ah, the crux of the hypocrisy.  He’d watched his neighbours when the snow had finally cleared enough.  They’d been manically burning their wood, to make sure that it was all gone.  The Interpretation of the Guidance was that all fuel supplies should be exhausted after a big freeze, otherwise Winter would send worse.

The problem was, the big freezes were less common, less vicious, and shorter than they’d been even a few years before.  The weather was changing.  But these fools could not see it.  I was rocking the boat, even while trying to keep my own keel even.

There was nothing I could say to the Elder.  So I said nothing.

He shook his head sadly.

“Jorgy, the Spring isn’t coming.  The devil is playing tricks, and you are falling for his ways.  I’m afraid you must pay penance.”

I wanted to scream at him, but there was little point.  I thought voting for the covered links, a measure I thought would become irrelevant in a few years, would protect me, but clearly not.

“Yes Elder.”

“You must do ten hours a week on community work.”  Which would mean the covered ways.  Ten hours would be tough, but it could be worse.

“And half your next hunt.”  I nearly stood at that point.  It took iron will to stay still.  Half my hunt was already taken as tax.  The other half was to feed my family.  With both halves taken, we would starve, or be forced to live off the charity of the village.  Which of course was the whole point.  The Elder liked to make sure we understood that the community was paramount.

“Yes Elder.”

He nodded.  Then smiled, as if the unpleasantness was now in the past, and we would all be friends.

“Good lad Jorgy, I knew you’d understand.  Now, don’t forget to make sure the other Hunters vote the right way.  You know the way out?”

I did.

When I arrived home Mary looked at my face.  She could see the Thunder, but then she’d known it was likely to be bad if the Elder had called me in.

“Oh Jorgy.  What?”

“Half the hunt.”

“Nooo”  she covered her mouth.  She knew hunger and feared it.  But she also feared the shame of relying on the bits of stew and weak broth from the other villagers.  The women would be kind and helpful, but they would be judging.

“I’m sorry Mary.  Perhaps I can do a double hunt?”

“Stay out there for that long?  Winter will get you.”

I smiled wryly.  She was trying to get a rise from me.

“Perhaps he will, but I might snare Spring.”

She laughed.

“Jorgy, it’s that kind of talk that got us into this trouble.  Do you want them to do worse?”

“I know.  But, I don’t understand.  It is so obvious.  Spring is coming.”

She shook her head.

“Jorgy, it’s been a thousand years of Winter.  How many times have a group of hotheads decided Spring was coming, that the old ways are bad and that they should be in charge?”

“I know.  But I am not a hothead.”

“Not anymore.”

“I’m not saying the old ways are bad, just, that change is coming.”

“And you should be in charge?”

“Winter’s bones woman!  No.  I would not want that.”

“Then why challenge?”

“I wasn’t, not really.  I am just trying to get them to see what is in front of them.  Yet…”

“There are some that won’t believe until their faces are rubbed in the mud.”

Such language from Mary.  She was clearly upset too.

“Do you think we should…”

We’d talked about leaving.  I believed that the changing weather meant that it was safer to be out, and that travel was now possible.

“Oh Jorgy.  I don’t know.  What about Karl?”

“We could leave him here?”  I winked at her.

“Our son!  Never.  Who would look after him?”

“It’s hard out there Mary.  I may think Winter is weakening, but He still has some strength.”

“I’m strong enough Father.”

“Karl, how long have you been listening!”  The whole time probably, though I’d only noticed his slipper sticking out a little while before.

He walked forward, holding his head high.

“Since you came back.  I want to leave.  The other boys all taunt me, they call me Spring’s spawn.”

I reached out to him, and he ran for a hug.  How had we arrived at the point where Spring itself was evil?

The decision was made.  We spent the rest of the day packing.  There wasn’t much.  I made sure they both had extra furs, minimal food and some basic tools.  We’d start off fast and light, in case the Elders sent someone after us.  Once we were several days away and I was confident we were clear I would build a sledge, and then I’d be able to hunt properly.  We’d have a few days of hunger, but less than if we stayed.

I left a note for the Elder saying that he could distribute all that we’d left.  He would have anyway, but giving him my permission would enrage him.  I told him we were leaving to look for Spring.

Gathering all our belongings we stepped into Winter’s cold embrace.  After centuries of cleansing I hoped that humans were pure enough to be given back the other seasons.  We were ready for whatever came after Winter.  We were ready for Spring.

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Winter’s Lament

This was an entry for a competition where the theme was ‘Winter’:

Winter’s Lament

“Why do they hate me?”  she cried.

My dearest Winter.  Such beauty, so misunderstood.

“They fear you dearest.”

“It is more than that.  They think I’m hideous!”

How could they think she was ugly?  When clothed in white she made the whole country look Christmas card pretty.  Perhaps it was because she stripped the dishonest leaves from the trees?

“Only a few fools my love.  Many love you.  Look how they celebrate you at your peak?”

“By hiding indoors!  Consuming food and alcohol in great quantities.  How many venture forth?  I give them bracing air, clear vistas and even a sprinkling of sparkling frost.  Yet they stay inside, staring at those flashing boxes and worshiping that fat man in red.”

This was a conundrum.

“Darling Winter, they honour you by spending time with their families, what more could you ask?  And as for the fat man… they do not shower him with worship, but with avarice and greed.”

She sniffed.  It was hard.  She had ruled once, a glorious time.

“Remember when this world was all mine?  My glaciers stretched across the continents, weighing them down.  It was quiet then.  So peaceful.”

“There are still echoes of that peace now.”

“Shattered by the coughing of machines, and wailing of human children.”

“And yet, on a cold crisp morning, there are many who still walk the hills and fields with wonder.  They marvel at how you reveal to them their environments anew.”

“This is true.”

“Some still worship you, delighting in your snow.  They swish across the mountains, and when you have left they mope.  Or fly to those places where you still have some sway.”

“They do delight me.”

This was better, perhaps she would calm.  I loved my Winter, but she could be a handful when enraged.

She was melancholy now.

“It is as if they would prefer only three seasons.  They would consign me to memory, and then forget.”

I could not argue, and perhaps it was better not to.

“I thought if I let them fly they would love me.  And they do, swooping across my icy ponds, scratching me.  Yet it is as if they can only focus on the bad.  Like the cold.”

“Which makes their cheeks red and healthy.”

Her withering look stopped any more such attempts at levity.

“What can I do?”

“Nothing my love.  Some will never be content.  Have you not heard how they complain about Summer too?”

“No, do they?”

“They claim she’s too hot.  That the sun it burns them, there are too many insects.”

“How interesting.  Yet they do not rejoice in my time.  I keep it nice and cold, and the sun knows its place when I’m here.  Insects, I remember them.  A few I will allow, but all the rest rightly sleep, and they do deserve it.  They have a hard task, they work hard in Summer’s glory.”

“They do.”

“So do they prefer Autumn?”

“Oh no.  It rains too much, the leaves fall and make a mess, and it’s too windy.”

“How strange.  I do not like rain too much, but it has its place.  And if the leaves did not fall they wouldn’t be able to enjoy the clean sculptures, showing the bones of the natural world.  Wind must happen for the leaves to fall properly.”

“Of course, and yet, they do complain.”

She was looking contemplative.  Then she looked at me.  “And you dear Spring, what do they say about you?”

“Ah well, they complain I’m late, or early.  That there are mad showers and that I’m still not warm enough.”

“None of us can satisfy them it seems.”

“It is why they build their boxes and hide away.”

“Yes.”  She was still looking at me, thinking.

I was worried she might ask the hard question.

“Dear Spring, why is it that I must leave during your glory?”

This was it.  How could I tell her?  How could I not?

“Winter my love.  You are my delight, my wonder, but I am weak compared to you.  You smother me and I cannot blossom while you are here.”

She shook her head sadly.

“Such a pity, I do so want to see your glory.  I tried last year.”

“I know, and how they howled at the sudden late snows and icy blast.”

“They did.”

She was tender then, and we just held each other.  Later she went out to spread some snow upon the world.  I slept, and hoped she hadn’t taken her thoughts any further.

She returned later that night.  There was an extra chill in her gaze.  She was wearing her icy armour, and carrying her hunting weapons, a spear and bow.  She stared at me, and I realised she knew.

“Now darling, you must understand…”

“Understand?  Understand!  Dear Spring, I do understand.  Now, finally after all these years.  In order for you to glory I must die.  Each year I die for you, and yet you do not have the courage to tell me.”

“I thought you knew, you must have…”

“Liar.  I can see the fear in your eyes.  You hoped to keep this from me.  Let me guess, there is poison in the wine you give me.  It works slowly, and even at my peak I’m already dying.”

I shook.  I wanted to deny it, but I couldn’t.

“This year there will be change.”

“No, you cannot.”

“I will kill you, and reign until Summer appears.  And then I shall kill her.  Autumn I might keep, for amusement.”

“But Winter, dearest.  You do not understand, only you can return from death.”

“Oh, I know.  And now the time has come dear Spring, for you to take a rest.”

She raised her icy spear and threw it straight at my heart.  I saw endless Winter rushing towards me.  There was nothing I could do to stop it.

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