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After the Asters

“Coyotes Running,” photo by ForestWander; [CC BY-SA 3.0 us], via Wikimedia Commons

The last aster had bloomed. Light came slanting in, low and uncertain and at angles that illuminated patches that had lain in shadow since the vernal equinox. Other spaces would be sun-starved until Gaia herself, impatient with astronomy, cast her radiant heat from within, disrobing of her maiden’s gowns, disavowing a cycle of chastity.

Only a trace. The thinnest slice moved through the troposphere, drawn from the breath of a crow, or maybe the beating of its wings. But I felt it. I looked up and saw that the syrup level in the hummingbird feeder hadn’t dropped in days. I gave bad news to egg customers. My eyes kept searching the high altitudes, anxiously, expecting to find living deltas following ancient travel patterns.

But, of course, I would hear them first before I saw them

And even before I heard them, I would detect others. Mornings revealed the work of thieves in my garden. Towering sunflowers, half-eaten, still tried to greet the sun even through their humiliation. Hoof prints in soil. Droppings by the mailbox. Their proximity isn’t daring so much as it is need. The rest of life is quickly turning to starch, growing woody and tough, drying up and withering. I can’t fault these raiders for seeking out anything with a store of precious calories left out, unguarded. The tender, late blooms will convert to fat, extending life past the Solstice and until Nature wakes again, lusty and generous and forgiving.

But the others are drawn, too, by the bounty in my yard. An instinct within me knew, when that first thin slice of death made me reach for a flannel shirt and drop the storms, that they would return, and that I would hear them, and that the chill would be complete.

From a great distance the laughter came. My dreams surely became disturbed, deranged, as voices of maniacal hunger tracked the ravagers of my vegetables. They paced through fields and suburban neighborhoods, keeping to the souvenirs of wilderness separating the houses. I imagined them dancing in primal patterns of slaughter and devastation as they ran. Slashing out even at each other with jaws engineered in hell, foaming with relish of the thought of the life-meal to come.

Intensifying, surrounding, penetrating the witch-song whirled through the night. As the voices of bottomless want approached, their pitch and insistency rose until I found myself sitting fully upright in bed, holding my breath as the frenzied, predatory maelstrom blanched me of my own mobility and will. As the barbarians besieged my garden and home with their screeling and howling, I imagined their noses tracing the route of their quarry in the grass. Their interrogation of my lawn seemed endless.

I heard a child, I know not which one, stir from a deep sleep, calling out incoherently. The cackling outside ceased abruptly, and I was possessed of a Paleolithic certainty, that the demons, through a skin of aluminum siding over six inches of fiberglass insulation and a half-inch of drywall, heard my child’s cry also.

We were suspended, all of us, in a space between seasons for the briefest of moments. Me, my children, the hybrid monsters prowling under my window, and, somewhere probably beyond the nearest hill or two, the plunderer of my sunflowers, peas, Swiss chard, kale, and tomatoes, were motionless as a fly in amber.

And then arose a solitary, frustrated yowl. At some agreement I couldn’t hear, the pack took its clamor and moved on in pursuit of its victim. The yipping and baying retreated into the depths of a world that exists outside of our own, yet intersects occasionally at loci of flesh or fruit. The spell broken, I peered around the edge of the shade to observe traces of indigo bleeding into the firmament. I could still hear the howling, though drained of much of its malice, off in the distance until an early morning trucker rumbled by, and I slid, relieved, back into the luxury of warm covers.

Sleep came again, but just ahead of it, gratitude surfaced for the knowledge that even at this late stage of civilization, there remains an order, forged long before the feeble schemes of men that is oblivious to fickle justice and commands only the obedience of blossom and blood to the laws of hunger.

Stay safe, be good to each other, and go easy on yourselves,

Yours —

Jason Velázquez
Editor, The Greylock Glass

Jason Velázquez, editor
Jason Velázquez, editor

Jason Velázquez has worked in journalism and publishing for the better part of 20 years now, even though he knows it’s a filthy habit. He writes the shows, sets up and records the interviews, edits the audio, and publishes the episodes. He also handles the web page maintenance, marketing, sales, finance, and administration. He would welcome an e-mail from you. If, however, you have confidential or sensitive information to pass along, please visit our Contact Page to learn about more secure options.

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