f you had believed in the old tales, you wouldn’t have gone out when the full ice moon rose in a satin sky and shone down milky white, like a blind eye, its silver river reflecting daylight-brilliant across the unblemished snow; no footprints to follow––man nor beast––only a feeling that something uncanny skulked beneath the trees and a pressing need to know what lay beyond
if you had believed in the old tales, you never would have wrapped yourself in scarves and your puffy coat, pulled on your hiking boots to wade knee-deep through the drifts, into the silent winter shadows, so unlike the heavy, lush green of summer’s shade, or the tinge of gold and crimson in autumn, but solemn grays like soot and ash, or the smudge of dove wings––living things that did not dance like spring shadows but loomed like specters on a wintery night that the darkness forgot to touch
if you had believed in the old tales, you would have known it was not a gale that howled through the frozen thickets, but translucent wolf-winds, slipping beneath the snow-laden trees, their branches bowed to graze ivory fur, petting like cherished hounds, while wide paws with fluff between the toes skimmed the ground and kicked up miniature cyclones of ice, rainbowed crystals like cut-glass chandeliers, licking your face with sharp-edged tongues before darting up ahead, then pausing just out of reach, luring you deeper into the wood
if you had believed the old tales, you would have paid more attention to a forest that had shifted from something slumbering deeply to a thing awake, watching and waiting, where the mystic three––ash, oak, and thorn––whispered and creaked, hoarfrost-covered boughs grabbing at your hair, the great trees pulling themselves up by their frozen roots to tiptoe closer when your back was turned, then stopped again like some childish game of musical chairs––don’t let the little human catch you––movement you could only see out the corner of your eye, easily dismissed as shadow-drenched fancy
if you had believed the old tales, you would have known that when the ice moon rose and the dryads danced in their winter ball gowns, that She would ride, terrible and beautiful, at the head of a wild procession, Her mount made of blue ice and dazzling starlight, the wolf-wind scouring a smooth path in front of Her, and the entire Winter Court prancing behind in a jumble of fangs and wings and fur, the sounds of their merriment muffled by the snowy silence, or perhaps caught somewhere between here and there, for truly the Hunt is in neither and both at once
if you had believed in the old tales, you would have bowed your head and looked away when She crossed your path, for to meet Her fathomless, inkwell eyes is mortal folly, an infinite darkness to be lost in, snared between heartbeats, filled with a longing to dance and sing, to bleed for Her pleasure, to give all that you are for She consumes all as is Her undisputed right; there is nothing but Her desire; your body, your will, your soul are forfeit, and there can be no regret
and so I grow old here in the house we built for a future that never came, alone with the wistful might-have-beens––a dining room that held no dinner parties, your office with work abandoned, an empty nursery with a silent baby monitor; leaving me in a stuffy parlor studying the skin on my hands which has become parchment thin and covered in age spots, as once again the ice moon rises in a too-bright sky, and I wonder, after all these years, will She finally be done with you, has She used you up and tossed you aside like a sliver of dried soap, hair still dark and thick while mine has gone gray and wispy, for you lived but a few days in Her realm while I waited here, alone for a lifetime
the thought rankles, for while you did not believe in the old tales, they believed in you
An Interview With MM Schreier
Intrepidus Ink: You’ve shared how this piece holds a special place for you. What’s the story behind the words?🌛
MM: I love folklore, but do I believe in faeries and shadow monsters? Perhaps after a glass of wine and when the light is right. But the way the world is and how we perceive it is not the same thing. Reality is not changed by what we believe. I wanted to talk about that in a way that would appeal to people’s humanity (as opposed to polarized political leanings). I think the loss of a partner is something most people can empathize with.
Intrepidus Ink: You’re a classically-trained vocalist. 🎵 Can I just say that’s amazing? 💜💚🧡 Is the creative process the same for writing as singing?
MM: There’s definitely a parallel between the two arts. Music is math — intervals and rhythm. It follows certain rules of structure and composition, just as writing does. However, just like writing, a person can sing a piece flawlessly, with perfect intonation and resonance, but there’s this intangible thing that can elevate it to something more. Emotion? Soul? I honestly don’t know what that thing is, but it turns a musician into a master performer and a writer into a powerful storyteller — two things I aspire to!
Intrepidus Ink: “when the ice moon rises, and the night is strangely bright” eschews punctuation. We all loved that so much! 😍 But discuss how you knew this text was your opportunity to break the rules. 😮📝🥰
MM: Has anyone ever told you a story they were so emotional about that it all came out in a rush, barely taking a breath telling it? That’s what I wanted to do here. But I also wanted the tale to be full of descriptive, sensory imagery. (I love language!) By removing traditional punctuation and capitalization, I thought I could drive a somewhat meandering literary narrative into something that was more a collection of interconnected, snowballing moments that tell a beautiful, desperate story of grief and loneliness.
Intrepidus Ink: Bravo, MM Schreier! 👏👏👏 Thank you for sharing this deeply moving story made powerful through the gorgeous language of #literaryspeculativefiction.