Those wicked hours before morning found me wrapped in human-skin leathers stitched from the puckered faces of dead kings and wanting a fire. I took my time. I gathered river stones still stained with the blood of my orphaned dreams and circled a feeble bundle of storm-wet pine wood, juniper branches, last year’s sticky grief, and the oil-slick skull of a holy raven who died the good death.
This moment wants a new anthem.
I hummed a timely lament for the deep winters that will never be. I spit, and I howled. I called the flames to life with a slow click of my tongue while the raindrops popped and hissed themselves into mist-spirits rising from the slow-to-burn wood. I was not looking for madness, but madness found me nonetheless. I pressed my face into the mud and spoke a berserker poet’s eulogy into the rot. I wept for truth. I blew a hot breath into the pyre as an open invitation to those who ache like me and waited without patience for the dawn.
The ghosts of burned healers joined me in my anthem as a pale sun rose, clawing their way up from their shallow graves to meet me in my derangement, and we together drummed the day away in a once-and-future harmony we channeled straight from the antler-crowned shape-shifting seers who have witnessed such things before.
A ghost wants company.
These were the lost evenings of haunted hearts, charred earth, and broken-to-bits absolutes. These were days of death rattles, ghost forests, and inland seas. I was marked by this moment. I was guided into timelessness by a lost-lost, alien rhythm, and I forgot the names given to me in my youth.
Hope wants a little mystery.
The council of bone-women stood with us then, stepping from the shadows and holding us in this wild moment when everything was possible and impossible at once. A sudden coven of pyromancers, we were. A spontaneous convention of reluctant soothsayers and tragic mages, we the flame-tending witches of an endless, moonless night.
Vision wants quiet.
The flames licked the lyrics of our lullaby like baby snakes hatched too hungry. We hushed ourselves. We leaned in to see the jewel-orange dreamscapes of the apocalyptic yet-to-come in our dying fire. Certainties shattered in that moment. The fabric of space and time folded over on itself, and the not-yet-born children who know how this all ends joined us in our strange circle.
Fate wants a thread.
We shared our stories without speaking just as the witching hour came for us. We painted our faces in ash and leapt through the smoke. One at a time, witch to child, we promised the babes we’d do all we could. One at a time, child to tree, they promised they’d be better stewards than their forebears. A ritual of reckoning, it was. A midnight ceremony of time-weaving and reaping, we’d become.
Death wants a dance.
The banshees carrying their bowls of blood, the shape-shifting keepers of the battleground, and the dark-winged death-bringers joined us then to sing the dying world to sleep. We laid the old order to rest in a fury of arrhythmic dance, ancient memory, heathen drums, divination, and nightmarish poetry. To see us was to know rage and awe, and the flesh fell from our bones just as the fire went cold. We were the wild hunt, the living omen, and the medicinal memory. We were a writhing altar of infinite shadow, and we sacrificed our secrecy in the name of better days.
Life wants rest.
Our dance was done, and we slept in the bone-pile. Our dreams were a thick tapestry of ancestral recollection and the cries of unborn creatures rippling back through time in anguished, beseeching waves. I sung our song in my sleep, and I woke alone with nothing but my memory to keep me warm.
Birth wants this void.
I wept for the wilds.