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by Shirl Sazynski  

He said that autumn always hurt Him, and I wondered, how can a God feel pain?

I was young then.
He called me a thousand storied names: sister, lover, lady, friend, child, woman, wife; and later whore, cunt, betrayer.

The doors all lead in one direction. The obvious ones— the barrows and high-piled stones, broken temple pillars, the deep valley curves between the hills, the mouths of caves and pools— as well as the hidden ones— a foreign primrose blossom spangled with morning dew, the golden light of September setting over a ripe barley field.

I leave them closed now.
* * *

I married a Thracian soldier, young and hale and full of the memory of foreign places, a man born far from here, who took me with him, far from the chaotic city in which we met. His hair was uncut and golden in the rising sun and his eyes always wandered back to find me across a crowded room and I still love him. He would not wholly believe— or disbelieve— that I had heard the singing of the deep old groves and the cry of the winter Hunters, clad in the starlight falling upon pine needles and the triumphant gleam of a hound who has sighted quarry. That I had talked to the Sun and her Daughters, once, who nightly loosed the gates for their Father, the Moon. He never asked me to consult the bones, but he did not discount when I told him my dreams, either.
He took my charms with him into battle, accepting them as part of God's work so long as there was a saint's sign or cross, no matter that the signs are older than the saints and crosses are older than the man who bled on one.

I have never gotten used to the house full of columns and crosses, the deafness of this place in which spirits do not speak, the lonely ordinariness of people who cannot sense more than eye and ear and skin and breath and tongue can give.
My young soldier is dead now, of an old wound he survived at twenty, but weakened him at fifty when the fever season finally ripped through the lakes.

I walk these hills now in the sunset, overlooking the city that does not speak Latin and shall never be Rome, whose native Gods and whose Mary and her Son were never my own. They will bury me somewhere nearby, beneath their crosses, praying to a Lord I never knew to receive me as they set me down beside the Thracian boy whose feet still itch to see wonders, and so does not easily lie down in his grave. Already, I hear the voice that I have never once forgotten, calling out as the Moon rises, weeping. But I will be far from Him, and any other Gods who may seek to find me. When They come for me, I will already be holding my love's scarred hand, for I know the way to come back here, and live again:
You hold your head high, and you walk into the Sun.


Image by Shirl Sazynski, 2012.

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Shirl Sazynski's work has been cited in the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror and appeared in a variety of publications including Jabberwocky, Eternal Haunted Summer, Mythic Delirium, The Santa Fe Reporter and several newspapers. Previously a scriptwriter for the launched computer game VIE: Virtual Island of Entertainment, she's writing a YA novel set in the desert southwest, where she resided. She currently lives in the New York area. More of her work can be found at

What do you think is the most important part of a fantasy story?

Truth. Truth nestles into the mind and haunts you long after details are forgotten-- the lights dimmed, the costumes hung neatly, the makeup washed off, the actors and audience heading back on a late-night train-- to re-emerge into consciousness in subtle and startling ways. It gives voice to the fragile, thorny, voiceless things which can be so difficult in ordinary circumstances to express. Once spoken, it has the power to change our lives, shaping thought and action.