Seasons Meetings

The world was new, the weather indeterminate, and in a room somewhere the four seasons were arguing.

“You’re late, as always,” Summer drawled at the newcomer’s naked back from an armchair near the center of the room. “How can you expect favor when you can’t even arrive when you’re supposed to each year?”

“N-Newness takes t-time,” Spring replied defensively as she hung her cloak with the others by the door. Wandering towards a loveseat that was already half-occupied by reticent Autumn, Spring continued in her usual halting stutter, “D-Do you th-think the birth of b-birdsong, the yawning t-tenderness of fresh green or d-delicate prickling of dewdrops happens in a d-day?” Winking at Summer as she passed, the tardy soul of Springtime was oblivious to the moss in her cropped curls or the loam staining her dark cheeks.

“Don’t you go f-forgetting the one who does the r-real work and sets the s-s-stage for you to show off each year,” she added carelessly, much to Summer’s chagrin. All arms and legs, Spring climbed over Autumn’s lap and sat perched on the back of the loveseat while Summertime fumed.

“Show off?” Summer’s reddened cheeks betrayed her anger, despite the honey in her voice and smile. “Your nerve is impressive, dear, but predictably juvenile. Do not forget that my unrelenting heat and energy form the world anew.” Indeed, light seeped through Summer’s every golden pore; she was energy incarnate.

“I am beloved by all,” hummed Summer, stretching to fill her chair with plump, sun-baked bareness. The room’s temperature began to rise.

“Me, responsible for long days of leisure and fancy. You might be credited for life beginning to take a st-st-stuttering hold, but those tender shoots would easily wilt and die if I didn’t carry them to the fragrant fullness of their bloom. What you do, I do better. What you make, I improve upon. You may be birth, child, but I am life.” As Summer spoke, the room’s heat spiked, left jungle-humid and choked from the energy she’d previously held in check.

Spring’s expression was dark as a thundercloud. Before the temperamental youth could launch herself off the couch, a calloused palm came to rest on her thigh, steadying her. Eyes still crackling, Spring nonetheless reached down to give Autumn’s comforting, freckled hand a grateful squeeze.

Summer, seeing that she wouldn’t get a rise out of Spring after all, slumped into her seat with a churlish pout. The room’s heat ebbed.

“If we judge within the realm of sensation,” Autumn murmured (hers was a voice made for murmuring), “I fear that grievous is your mistake in failing to name me the victor.” With the chapped lips of a poet and a breath like wind-filled branches, Autumn seemed to deepen the shadows of the room as she spoke.

“There is no equal to a dying world. The odorous wilt of a flower holds a richness, a completion unmatched by its beginnings.” Seeing that Spring’s stormy anger had calmed, Autumn slid her hand away and nestled it alongside its speckled twin in her unclothed lap once more.

Even prideful Summer had been sedated by Autumn’s words. She now fought to keep her eyes from closing, her head from drooping. Tongues of crisp, cool air stirred within the little room, swallowing the cloying remnants of Summer’s humidity.

Autumn’s gaze softened. Her eyes drifted shut as she spoke again, voice wafting and expanding in the space. “The smells I bring of burning wood and rotting leaves are unparalleled. There is an utter most-ness in decay. In it lies a decadence, a release from the confines of life into languid decomposition.” Slow, heavy breathing was the only response, and Autumn knew without opening her eyes that Spring and Summer had surrendered themselves to slumber. With a deep, rattling sigh, she too sank into oblivion.

In the corner, standing unnoticed and unremarked against the wall, was Winter. She’d been there, silent, to see the others arrive one by one. Her colorless wool cloak had already been hung on its peg when the others came to join it: the first a mottled ember, its train caked with autumnal vegetation; its successor in violent lapis and shocking veins of gold; the latecomer, gauzy chartreuse as sunlight through leaves.

Each time they met, Winter stood in silence as her sisters held the room. A passive observer, the large-boned woman never once argued what made her superior to the other three seasons, and was never once asked to do so. This time was no different. She watched Spring, Summer, and Autumn exhaust themselves to gain dominion over the others, each one blind to the futility of resisting the inevitable. Bracing her sallow nakedness against the sudden chill of the room, Winter allowed herself a tiny smile as the others lay motionless, wisps of steam seeping from their slackened lips.

Winter said nothing. She never needed to— in the end, she would always triumph. It was only a matter of waiting patiently for the others to fall silent.

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