This month’s story is Nox and Equinox, by Ichabod Ebenezer. To download a printable .pdf file of the story, please click here.
Nox and Equinox
It’s a well-known fact that stories change and morph with the telling. Bards change details to suit the rhyme. Cultural and language differences mean that certain details and turns of phrase fail to translate. After many tellings, the story you heard growing up can be very different from the one my ancestors told.
A peddler named Tomas who lives nearby often takes his wares far outside our village. He recently returned, having traveled the world, with goods from faraway, and fresh stories that no one had heard.
One such tale he told was of a small rodent called a ‘groundhog’ that slept through winter. When it emerged on certain years, it might chance to see its shadow. If it did, it became so terrified that it would hide away in its burrow for six more weeks while winter raged on.
While no such rodents ever lived here, anyone who called our village home would recognize the key features of this story as ours. But this version of things made a mockery of what we go through, so I have written this account that all may know the truth of things.
I woke to the sound of knocking on the door of my family’s small home. This in itself was odd, for the wind howled to beat the devil in the depths of a days-long winter storm. Not wanting to wake Father, I answered it quickly, bringing my fur blanket to guard against the whipping snow outside.
In the early glow of dawn, I cracked the door to see the neighbor boy, Philipe, shivering upon the stoop. He was two years my junior, and slight of build, only his face sticking out between snow-caked furs and hat. I opened the door just long enough to permit him entrance. The wind pressed hard against the door as I closed it, and snowflakes swirled in the entryway in its wake.
Tempted as I was to let Philipe warm by what coals remained in the fire, I was more worried about incurring Father’s wrath if I woke him. I pulled Philipe to the corner furthest from our beds.
“What brings you here in the storm? At this hour?”
“Please, Ernst, have you any firewood to spare?”
“What?” It wasn’t possible I heard him right. “The equinox is only days away. How can you not have wood enough?”
“The sickness has taken Father hard and he’s been demanding more heat. Mother stays to care for him, so I’ve had to do her chores.”
This came at the worst possible time. The Harrowing occurred at the Lord’s convenience, not our own.
“If I lend you any of ours, we risk a gap in the fire wall when the shadows come. Please tell me you are keeping enough for then.”
Father coughed in his sleep, and Mother shushed him comfortingly. We lowered our voices further, sinking deeper into the shadowy corner.
“I’m not stupid,” Philipe said. “That’s why I came to you. We should still have enough to keep our fire burning brightly through the equinox. At least, I hope so.”
“You’ve been digging into your supply! Are you mad?”
“Well, I had to do something. The sickness has a hold of him, Ernst. He’s aged ten years in the last week, and he shivers so violently. It’s just a little extra firewood to provide him some comfort, and maybe I’ll still have a father in the spring.”
I looked over at my own father, who had it as well, only not as bad as Philipe described. “Look. We don’t have any to spare. We only have enough for our own fire and the equinox.” The look of utter hopelessness on Philipe’s face was such that I added, “But if you hurry and grab your axe, I’ll help you chop some more.”
I don’t know why I said it. The last thing I wanted to do was go out in the storm. Not to mention that the forest was a dangerous place with the equinox so close. But I’d said it, and his resulting hope and gratitude meant I couldn’t take it back. “Meet me out by our woodshed.”
He hurried out the door, and I got dressed in all my furs. Somehow, Father remained asleep, and Mother was at least faking it well. I stepped out into the storm.
The woodshed was barely visible through the blowing white, but I knew the way even in complete darkness. I crossed the yard, noting that the tarp covering our family’s bonfire wood had two feet of snow atop it. The shed door stood in the leeward side, and snow piled up around it, but thankfully I didn’t have to dig it out.
Once inside, the sound of the storm was muted. The interior was still frigid, but dry, with all the gaps in the walls filled with layers of mud representing years of repairs. My axe lay embedded in an old stump I used for the split purpose of chopping wood and killing chickens.
I set a stone at the edge of the stump and started sharpening my axe while waiting for Philipe.
He soon arrived, and I tested my blade against my thumb. Not the world’s best job, but good enough for a day like this. “Your axe sharp?” I asked.
Philipe nodded and held up his axe. Passed down from his father, the years of use had smoothed the handle and darkened the wood. It held the weight of history, of survival. My own axe was only four years old. We’d had to replace Father’s axe after my first Harrowing. I’d been young, and stupid, and the blade was pitted with ichor deep enough it would no longer function.
We’d had to sell the western parcel of our land to the Denners to pay for a new axe. Father still brought it up when he was angry. I think he was just as mad at Mr. Denner as he was at me, though.
I led Philipe into the forest on the outskirts of our village. I knew a place where lightning had taken down a tree last fall. The green wood of all the standing trees wouldn’t burn until it was properly aged. It might do in the heart of a raging Harrowing bonfire, but not if Philipe needed wood for the night. He needed aged wood, and if he’d been dipping into his bonfire supply, he might need a lot of it.
The tightly packed trees of the forest held back much of the wind and nearly all the snow. “Come on. It’s this way.” Philipe followed me without a word as I led him to the fallen tree, blackened and split along one side.
A strike like that could have been disastrous for the village had the season not been so wet. The elders talked about a Harrowing without enough wood to burn through the night after a fire raged through the forest. No one wanted a repeat of that terrible year.
We worked for hours, chopping that log into manageable pieces, discarding layers of fur as our muscles warmed us from the inside. We rolled the sections back toward the village and chopped some more. Philipe could come collect his wood on his own. My own thoughts were on the day’s chores. The barn I had to clean, the chickens I had to feed, the grain I needed to mill.
“That should be enough to see you through. You really have enough for your bonfire, right?”
“Yes, we should have enough,” Philipe said, though it wasn’t very convincing.
“Enough isn’t enough, Philipe. The idea is to have more than enough.”
“I know. Thank you for—”
A branch snapped somewhere off to our left. We instinctively drew together, standing back-to-back, axes raised against any threat.
The sun would be high overhead. The shadows rarely pushed this close this soon, and especially not during daylight hours. But the storm had raged for days, and the canopy grew thick overhead in this spot.
“Back. Toward the village,” I said. Philipe moved without a word, his eyes darting toward every shadow in the suddenly too dark forest. Same as mine.
Our axes wouldn’t do any good against the shadow creatures here, and yet we kept them raised. If the worst came to pass, our bodies would be found with blackened eyes, but no other marks, and axes clutched in our hands. Our parents would know we died bravely.
On the other hand, there were bear in these woods, perfectly capable of snapping branches. If one was hungry enough, it could be a threat to two young men, and our axes could mean survival.
At the edge of the forest, we broke into a run, each of us heading to our own home. Our furs, left in a pile near the downed tree, were no longer forgotten, but neither of us were going back for them. If the storm blew itself out before the equinox, we would go back to see what remained of them.
They weren’t worth our lives.
But the firewood was.
The storm raged on through the night and even worsened the next day, but the second day dawned quiet and bright.
Father caught me putting a log on our coals. “Do we have enough firewood for the bonfire?” he asked before sliding into a coughing fit.
“Yes, Father,” I told him, stoking the coals until the bark of the fresh log caught.
“The idea is to have more than enough,” he said once the coughing had subsided. “We can’t afford another new axe.”
Frustrating as it was to be reminded of things I knew to the very core of my soul, I did not let a sound or sigh escape me. “The bonfire pit is piled high. We have plenty more than enough. And we have six full bundles remaining in the shed.”
Except, we did not. When I left the house to feed our chickens and collect our eggs, I saw footprints in the deep snow leading from the woodshed toward the center of the village. The door hung ajar.
I ran to the shed, spilling millet in my haste. Seven stray pieces of split log remained scattered among the shelves. Nearly our entire supply gone. “Father!” I yelled. I set my bucket of millet down and ran back into the yard. “Father!”
Father came out, dressed only in his long underwear. My eyes went to his naked feet in the snow and my concern shifted toward his health, though the reason I called to him could not pass without explanation. “Theft! Our cordwood is gone.”
My father’s face hardened. “The bonfire?”
I hurried through the thigh-deep snow and lifted one edge of the tarp. Stacks of wood were piled high in a large circle, just as I’d left them. I nodded to Father. “It remains intact.”
Father’s stance relaxed, and he drew back onto the bare wood of our doorway. “Then forget the matter for now. I’ll lodge a complaint with the elders. Today is the equinox. The Harrowing begins at sundown. So long as the bonfire burns through the night, we can replenish our supply tomorrow.”
“But, Father, I—”
He held up his hands, signaling the finality of his decision. “That’s the best we can do. If someone stole our wood, it is to feed their own fire for the survival of our village. Be glad they didn’t come for our chickens, and go back to your duties.” And with another fit of coughing, he retreated into the house.
It may have been good enough for him, but I was no longer perfectly certain our supply would last the night. It was no longer more than enough for me. And with the day as bright and still as it was, my thoughts turned toward the forest, the logs we left behind, and my fur gloves and coat.
As soon as I finished with my chores for the day, I went after those furs. Philipe’s were also still there, which meant chances were good that the logs were there as well. I put on my furs and threw his over my shoulder as I went off in search of the snow-covered logs.
“What are you doing?”
I jumped, wishing I’d brought my axe with me, before seeing it was just Philipe.
“Were you just taking my furs?”
“Did you take my firewood?” I asked in return.
“What? No. I would never.”
“Well, someone did. Right out of our woodshed, with tracks leading down into the village. Now I don’t know if I have enough for the night.”
“So, you’re planning on taking mine? Our woodshed is empty. I had to take from my own bonfire supply, which I knew was fine because these logs were still here. What will I do if you take them?”
“Then we’ll have to share. Someone didn’t do their work this year, and the whole village may pay for it.”
Our village was like any other in many ways. A circle of houses, each with its own yard, around a central collection of buildings, like the meeting hall, the smithy, and the tinker’s shop, and the village square at its very heart.
What made our village different from all others was the massive crystal formation that dominated our square and grew with each passing year.
The crystal was unlike any other, smoky and thick. Staring into it, one could see a glimmer of light at its heart, and shapes moving within. Centuries ago, when the crystal was first unearthed and barely two feet across, the people recognized that it was different, and considered it an omen. There were those who wanted to destroy it, and others who were afraid of what might be unleashed if they did. They tried to dig it out, but the farther they dug, the more of it they found until groundwater bubbled up and they could dig no farther.
A wise woman whose name is lost to time fasted and prayed over it for days on end. In the end, she spoke to the elders of the village.
“On the spring equinox, when shadows feel their power slip toward the light, the shadows will try to tip the scale in their favor. They will come for the crystal, intent on shattering it. If they should succeed, it shall cover the Earth in a layer of clouds so thick that winter shall never pass. Bury the crystal, but protect it. It sings to them, and its voice will be heard.”
Come the equinox, the shadows arrived. Jagged creatures of pure darkness, darting from the tree line and stretching across the snowy landscape toward the crystal. Only a few the first year, but more the next. Something about the crystal’s voice caused the shadow creatures to solidify in its proximity, becoming a Nox. A solid shadow could survive the light. A solid shadow could be killed.
But the ichor that dripped from their veins was liquid shadow, consuming what it touched. Their claws were deadly, leaving deep gouges that rarely healed. Those who did survive took ill with a sickness that returned every winter, sapping their will, chilling their bones, causing them to cough up ice granules.
“Look, we cut out eight rounds. Can you make do with five?”
“Make do? If any shadows break through the gap between our fires, it will be too late to fix it!”
“Then we must cut more.”
“We don’t have time to cut more. I need to clear my bonfire circle of snow and get ready for the long night.”
He was right. I had to attend to my own fire pit, and dusk was only a few hours away. “Fine. Come get your furs, and I’ll help you roll your logs home.”
The rest of the day was consumed with preparations for the long night. I made sure the animals were all indoors, that our small oil lamp was lit and sitting next to the fire pit, that the kindling was arranged to catch quickly, and that the first logs were ready to go on as soon as it did. My axe hung from my belt in case a shadow broke through the fire line.
I was as ready as it was possible for me to be.
The bell in the village square rang, signaling one hour until dusk. Father appeared in the doorway to our house, fully clothed for the first time in weeks. His face was pale and drawn, his eyes sunken, but his expression resolute. “Let’s go, son.”
We trudged down to the square in silence, apart from Father’s occasional coughing fits, eventually joining up with the other villagers. The young folk came to stand in front of the smoky crystal we would be defending, while the elders and our parents sat beneath blankets, facing us.
Once everyone had arrived and found their spot, the selectman spoke from his seat.
“Another Harrowing is upon us. We all know the sacred duty we must carry out. Each of you has spent months preparing, but now we fight with what we have.” A coughing fit interrupted him, going on for a full minute. He held up one scarred hand to signal his wellbeing, but continued to cough.
I looked at the gray scar that ran up from his pinky and disappeared under his sleeve. Each of the elders, each of our parents in attendance bore similar wounds. Monuments to their own time defending the crystal, and to their inevitable downfall.
My hand went to my axe. I owed it to the village to defend the crystal with my life, but I owed it to my parents not to get injured myself. They had no other children, so if I came down with the sickness, we couldn’t defend our parcel of land, and the elders would settle another family in our home. My parents would become elders, and I would have to leave to find my fortune elsewhere.
“You all know how important this is. We must not fail. Tend your fire, whatever you see. Keep them bright, and keep your neighbor’s fires in sight. Do not let anything slip through.”
He broke into another coughing fit, but swallowed it quickly this time. “Enough from me. Father Winslow, lead us in a prayer, and let’s get these children back to their fires.”
Our pastor stood and cleared his throat before reciting a familiar prayer. Others joined in, and I followed along, but my thoughts were elsewhere. I kept looking up and down the line of children, wondering which one broke into my family’s woodshed.
Was it Dolph? His father was the selectman, and he could certainly behave like he was better than the rest of us. Maybe it was Birgit. Like me, she had no siblings, no brother to weather the Harrowing in her stead. The only girl amongst us.
Then there was Mr. Wagner. This was his twenty-sixth Harrowing, and he never got one scratch on him. The only man amongst children.
No one met my gaze. All had their head bowed in prayer. I thought the guilt would surface, but perhaps the thief felt they did nothing wrong.
When everyone said, “amen,” I realized the prayer had ended.
The selectman spoke again. “Go home. Defend your fires, defend your village. Listen for the bell.”
The sun sat at the crest of the western hills as I trudged back to my fire pit. Far to my left, Philipe was holding straw to his lantern, and far to my right, Marc was adding a dead bush to his kindling pile.
I tipped my own lantern to spill a bit of oil on my stacked kindling, then raised the glass, turning a dried pine cone across the flame until several scales caught. I held it upside down, watching the fire climb before setting it under the oil-soaked branches.
Somewhere off to my left, a branch snapped in the forest. Not a twig, stepped on by some passing animal, but a green branch, wrenched from a living tree with unspeakable force.
This snap was followed by another, closer, then another until the forest filled with the sound of this raging tantrum. The shadows were gathered, and we’d offended them with our resistance.
I felt for my axe once more, suddenly worried that I’d left it somewhere, and comforted to find it on my belt. The setting sun granted further comfort. We had a few more minutes of God-given light before the shadows summoned sufficient bravery for an attack.
A point of light pierced my periphery as Philipe got his fire started. My own fire was ready for some logs, so I laid them, carefully and strategically, in place. Marc’s own fire came on, and Dolph’s beyond. A ring of brilliant gems formed around our village, and over the next few minutes, grew in intensity until a solid barrier of light stood guard, reflected in the smoky facets of the crystal at its center.
Trees shook beyond my bonfire. Snow fell from their swaying branches. I added more logs to my fire.
The last rays of the sun lifted from our valley, limning the western ridge before vanishing for the long night.
The time of shadows had begun. The Harrowing was upon us.
A crisp edge became visible surrounding my fire. I looked to where it overlapped with Philipe’s, with Marc’s. I added another log, just to be sure.
Something darted between the trees at the forest’s edge. I gasped. It was always a shock how large they were, how fast.
Another movement, closer to Marc this time. As I tried to pinpoint it, a stand of trees before me, perhaps fifty feet into the forest, swayed violently. With a sound like the heavens themselves splitting open, the tallest tree crashed through its brethren and slammed to the snowy ground. I felt the wind from its passing, and my fire danced away from it as if frightened by the unnatural creatures that caused it.
My eyes darted of their own accord toward every movement. My heart raced. Then I saw one. My breath caught, my heart stilled.
A face formed out of the darkness, wisps of shadow arranged around a pair of eyes somehow darker than the black, a gaping maw of void below them. Claws reached past the forest’s edge, testing the strength of my firelight before trailing away, burned by the brightness.
I felt its anger. I felt its hunger. Then it was gone again. I hadn’t even blinked.
I added two more logs to the fire.
There was no way of measuring how much time passed. It flew past in cracking trees, darting shadows, and racing heart beats.
The only thing I could say was how much time remained, and that was measured in split logs. As the night wore on, I saw my pile halved, and then halved again. The circle stayed strong. The town bell remained silent. But how long was it until dawn’s rays relieved me of my task? In truth, it didn’t matter. Like grains of sand in the top half of an hourglass, the split logs still stacked in my pile were the only clock that mattered. When they ran out, my time was up.
I tried to ration them. To not let fear push me to throw another upon the fire. I watched the space where my fire light met with Philipe’s, and wondered how much wood he had left.
Then I looked over toward Marc’s side. Our firelight barely touched. I threw on a couple more split logs, counting what remained in my dwindling pile.
The hills to the east of our village were lower than the western hills, and the sun came quickly when it rose, but there was no sign of any brightening to the eastern sky. I wasn’t going to make it.
A shadow broke from the forest, leaping and skittering across the snowy clearing, aiming for the space between our two fires. My blood ran cold. My muscles froze in place. It moved so fast.
But the light of the two fires was still too strong. The shadow burned away, scattering like ashes in the cold wind, leaving nothing but a series of deep gouges in the pristine snow.
My body was once again my own, and I cursed my fear. If that shadow had broken through, it would have gotten halfway to the village square before I reacted. Worse, a hundred more shadows would have flooded through the gap behind it.
I could still hear my father’s voice. You must stamp down your fear. Don’t stop, don’t think, act! I threw two more logs on.
But this is also what the shadows did. They tested weak spot, scared us into burning through our wood supply that much faster, even if it meant their death. Time was not on their side. When the sun came up, they would disappear for another year. If they destroyed the crystal, day would never again dawn and the world would be theirs.
I looked to the east again. My night vision had been virtually destroyed by staring across a fire all night. I’m not sure I would have recognized a pending dawn if I’d seen it. Yet, still I looked.
Trees shook and broke. Shadows moved unnaturally. Without warning, one would break free of the mass and throw itself at any perceived gaps.
I watched the borders of my fire and added wood only when I had to.
My last three chunks of wood were all that remained, and still, I could see no sign of dawn’s approach. I held out as long as I dared, braving two shadow attacks with my axe drawn, and then I threw them into the fire.
There were seven pieces still in the woodshed. If I used them, we would have nothing to warm the house. On the other hand, if the village fell tonight, no one would remain to worry about tomorrow.
The only problem was, the shed was on the other side of the fire pit.
I stamped my feet, mentally grinding my fear into the snow. I ran around the fire and headed for the shed. Seven pieces of wood. Maybe half an hour of more light. Maybe that’s all we needed. I scooped them up in a double-arm load and ran back to the fire.
I could feel something behind me, dark and hungry, with sharp claws. Never had I run so fast. When I reached the safety of the firelight, I turned to face my imagined pursuer, but there was no shadow, no claws. For a moment, perhaps, there was a bit of ash floating on the wind. But I may have imagined that.
From that point, the assaults on our fire line grew more frequent. Yellow grass and frozen earth showed in places where the shadows had dug clean through the snow pack.
I met Marc’s eyes at one point. It seemed he was doing well, that he was confident in his wood supply. Philipe was harder to make out, but his fire was going strong. I threw in another piece. Six remaining, and no reserve.
The forest was growing darker, the shadows becoming desperate. It was almost palpably pressing against the firelight, shrinking it, making the gaps bigger. The wind picked up, howled, mixing with the sounds of splitting trees and pressing against my soul with a cold darkness of its own. I added three more logs to my fire.
The shed! How stupid was I? The shed itself was made of wood. The door on its own would burn for at least ten minutes.
I threw the other three logs on and ran back to the shed. I hacked at the hinges, and pried at the gap until the door came free. I dragged it back to the fire, watching for shadows that did not come. I tossed it onto the fire and ran back to the shed.
The walls were just timbers nailed into a wooden frame. I kicked at them, breaking two free and running back to the fire.
The sound of bells interrupted my run. The shadows had broken through! My own fire no longer mattered. I had to get to the square, defend the crystal. Dropping the boards and pulling the axe from my belt, I ran with all the speed I possessed.
The elders, with the exception of Father Winslow who continued to ring the bell, were assembled around the crystal, reciting prayers and shielding it with their bodies as a last line of defense. Beyond the circle of elders was the Nox. Jagged shadow, turned solid by its proximity to the crystal, all sharp edges and wicked lines. It hurt to look at. An offense to the eyes as it was an offense to nature. Its voice as well lay at the peripheral of one’s hearing, summoned from some deep unknowable realm, more in your mind than in your ear. It screamed, wordless, and yet profane.
Torches were arrayed around it, though it no longer feared the light. They were for us to see.
Three children and Mr. Wagner stood between the Nox and the elders. One limb lifted, tipped with a multitude of horrific claws, came down toward Dolph almost quicker than I could see. Yet, somehow, Mr. Wagner got his axe up first and the shadowy arm shattered against it. The broken chunks of shadow danced across the ground, then melted into it, leaving sticky black pools of emptiness behind.
The shadow beast was tethered, snagged in a metal net suspended between buildings. Eventually, it would tear itself free at the cost of a leg, left to melt through the net.
The beast’s arm was reforming, bubbling out from the wound, solidifying as it went.
I joined the fight, swinging my axe at the main body before the creature was back at full strength. More shadow streamed in from the gap between fires, flowing into the Nox, adding to its body, becoming its limb. They seemed endless, our task impossible.
Yet we pushed it back, breaking off pieces where we could, trying to avoid its claws, its teeth.
Ten feet from its goal, we made our stand. Philipe was suddenly at my side. I saw Marc, Birgit, Uwe, Walter. Soon, all twenty-eight of us were battling it back. The creature swiped and snapped, but by the grace of God, we remained unscathed.
That didn’t last.
As more shadow flowed into the creature, a third arm erupted from its chest. It slammed into Lukas, pinning him to the ground. I hacked at its arm, which shattered, melting through poor Lukas and the ground beneath him. His dying screams echoed in my ears, momentarily drowning out the hideous noises the Nox made.
There was no time to mourn him. Two more limbs shot out of the creature’s chest wound, and two more after, nearly splitting the beast asunder. It let go of any semblance of a living creature, becoming a ball of shifting limbs and pure malice.
Soon there were nearly as many flailing arms as there were children to face them. Screams came from left and right as its claws found their mark.
I swung my axe within the chaos, barely able to see, praying not to be hit by claw or flying ichor. I had no strategy, I only chopped at any shadows within reach.
Then, a ray of light found our little village, the miracle of sunlight on this most horrible of nights. A cheer went up, and the children backed away from the Nox. The light of a thousand bonfires would burn away this creature, even in its solid form.
Even now, the shadows that fed it were burning up, carried away by the wind like so many autumn leaves.
The creature’s hindquarters caught fire and crumbled like wet sand. The front half of it lunged forward, no longer held in place by the village’s metal snare. Even as it burned, it reached over the heads of the elders and swiped at the crystal with one of its many claws. A chunk of crystal broke off, and the heavens rang with the sound of thunder.
The last remaining pieces of the creature burned to a crisp and blew away. The Harrowing was over for another year.
Now was the time for mourning. Birgit knelt beside Lukas, crying over his limp body. Other children cried, cradling their own wounds. Mr. Wagner held a cloth over his left arm. He’d finally gotten injured. This would be his last Harrowing, assuming he didn’t succumb to his wound. Otto had deep gouges across his cheek. The doctor would do what he could, but no one survived a wound like that.
I checked myself for any cuts I may not have noticed in the rush of battle. There were none. I would survive. My thoughts turned next to the broken crystal. The elders had gathered around the piece that had fallen to the ground, speaking quietly.
“Did we fail?” I asked. Others turned at the sound of my voice. I could see the same question in the eyes of several children. “Will the world fall to eternal winter?”
The selectman stepped away from the group, holding out his hands, urging calm. “This has happened before, many times in the past. The world will go on, and the crystal will grow still larger next year. The only effect from a strike like this is a delayed spring. A chunk this size, perhaps four—”
“Six weeks,” said another of the elders. The rest nodded in agreement.
“Six weeks,” the selectman amended. “Another six weeks of winter.”
© 2023 Ichabod Ebenezer. All rights reserved.
The way I came up with the story is very similar to what is described in the opening paragraphs. I purposely picked months that coincided with major pagan dates, in this case, the spring Equinox, because I write primarily Fantasy, and I felt that could be a good tie-in to each month. Then, I started asking, what is important about this date, about winter becoming spring, about ancient cultural ties to the date, as well as what stories haven’t been told. That’s when I thought about Groundhog Day (even though it is firmly in February, and how stories change over time. What could be the actual origin of this story, who would it happen to, and why would it be so important?
With the story we all know, I had some important pieces that had to make it into mine. From there, I just increased the stakes and told a new story of how shadows determine the length of winter.
Ichabod Ebenezer is the genre-promiscuous author of ‘A Shadow Stained in Blood’ and the horror short story collection, ‘Beyond the Rail and Other Nightmares.’ He lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest with his family, a chameleon, and the ghosts of three cats. There is always a skeleton or two in his closet.
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