My apologies for not posting this yesterday, All Saints Day, as promised. "Old Dusty," my trusty CRT monitor, abruptly died and by the time I had acquired a new flat screen monitor (the smallest and cheapest one they had, which is to say, huge) and installed it and undone all the new buts attendant thereunto, it was late and I forgot my promise. Mea culpa.
But to make up for that, here it is now, the full text of . . .
Jack Frost's Wake
Jack Frost dances merrily through the trees, turning green leaves brown, red, yellow, orange. All the world is his canvas.
Not only is Jack an artist, but he’s an avatar of Death as well. In his wake, plants die, insects die, birds die, mammals die. Occasionally, people too. This is why we close the shutters tight when the nights grow cold and the windows are rimed with frost.
But Jack has his playful side. Sometimes he writes words on leaves: AUTUMN, perhaps, or DEATH. He’ll take twin leaves and label one ORIGINAL and the other COPY. People find his handiwork scattered behind him by playful winds. No harm done.
Other times, he’ll write an entire story, leaf upon leaf. Passing through a graveyard, you snatch up the first word and then the second. It might be a ghost story or it might, like this one, tell of a gathering of werewolves, witches, ghouls, and other ghastlies to toast the memory of some departed soul. Oh, it gets rowdy then! Cemetery wine is poured and drunk, and whiskey from Hell’s own cellars. They dance and leap and howl. They perform dreadful deeds. A good time is had by all.
Scurrying after Jack Frost’s coattails, you grab each leaf as it falls, reading avidly. It is only as you reach the final paragraph and, indeed, the ultimate sentence that you realize that the dead soul whose wake they’re celebrating is you.
Michael Swanwick, September 25, 2020