Thursday, November 2, 2023

Under A Harvest Moon (Text Version)



For those who couldn't keep up with a month's worth of leaf-reading, here's the text of this year's Halloween story:





Under a Harvest Moon


Michael Swanwick

(with Marianne Porter)



Guilt-ridden, sorrowful, the mourner came to their cemetery. Because both the living lover and the dead were goths, this was at midnight on Samhain.


Strewing dead roses on an all-too-new grave, the mourner said, “We argued, it’s true. I have a temper. So did you. But no one could deny our passion, our mutual need, our love.”




At last, the mourner turned away.


A bony hand burst out of the dirt and seized the mourner’s ankle in a grip like iron. With a scream, the mourner fell backward, pulling the hand after, and an arm up to the elbow as well.


Kicking away from the unholy assailant with all available strength, the mourner slowly and unwillingly dredged all of an arm and a shoulder out of the soil. The arm was brown and its muscles like leather.


“Oh, please!” the mourner sobbed. “No! Don’t!”


A head emerged from the grave dirt and after it, another arm. Now the lich was using its own strength in tandem with the mourner’s to free itself from the grave.


One thrawn hand released the ankle even as another seized a knee. Hand over hand, the corpse pulled itself into the realm of the living. And then raised up the mourner so they were standing chest to chest.


The lich wrapped its arms around the mourner. Its flesh was rotting. Its nose was gone. One eye had succumbed to putrescence. Bits of skull were exposed. But there was no mistaking that face.


Weeping, for remorse drowned out fear, the mourner said, “I didn’t mean for it to haen. O Yes, it was my fault. But—”


“Hush.” The lich’s face came within an inch of the mourner’s. Its breath stank of rotting tongue. “That doesn’t matter.”


It wrapped tough, unbreakable fingers around the mourner’s throat. “Here’s what matters I cannot die without you. Can you live without me? Say yes, and I will release you. Say no and you will die.”


“No!” the mourner cried. “Oh, please, no! However dire and fearful death may be, I choose to share it with you. Take me there.


Take me now.”




JJM said...

Me, I followed the leaves, day by day -- as much an October tradition for me now as the annual reading of A Night in the Lonesome October. This year, your story is both poignant and horrifying in equal measure. One of your best.

Thank you, Michael.

Eddie said...

Michael, I love following the leaves each October. I am also grateful for the text re-reads. This year's tale hits hard.

Jeff Baker said...