Volume 4 Number 4


Autumn 2006

Illustration by Teresa TunaleyThe Autumn Queen

by LaShawn M. Wanak

Illustrated by Teresa Tunaley

The Autumn Queen
pressed her face against the windowpane,
and tapped on it with her fingernails,
pattering drops of icy water.

Surprised, I opened the door,
and she stepped in,
honey cloak rustling softly,
a rush of leaves, skittering in lazy circles
around her acorn feet.

I asked her to take a seat
by the fireplace.
Would she like a cup of tea?
"I'd be honored," she replied.

I put the kettle on
and leaned back to watch
the firelight playing
on the creases of her brow,
her face
brown as braised meat,
her hair
tangled and snarled,
streaming behind her,
falling over the chair,
a beetle-black waterfall
studded with bits of twig.

Her worn voice
carried into the kitchen
words of restless wanderings,
of snaps and creaks
and hidden moans,
of touching oak, maple, yew,
watching their children float down
their empty husks still imbued with life,
eagerly skirring before their mistress,
a raspy river,
a stampede of color,
velvet purple, corn yellow,
one last flight before weighted down
by sleet and a dusting of snow.
I shivered,
wrapped my arms around my chest,
and stepped closer to the stove.

She only wanted
to put her feet up
for the warmth to penetrate
her aching bones.
She held out her hands,
patterned with wrinkles,
each crease a highway,
fine as spiders' webs.

I put the teacup in her hands.
Her possum eyes followed the stream
of water from the heated pot.
Her wine lips pursed
to blow off steam,
and my nose wrinkled
from the scent of wet earth
and mushrooms.

Then she downed the tea all in one gulp
and rose to her feet,
her eyes cloudless blue.
"One more day," she declared aloud
in tones of scarlet apple.

The chill about her misted off
to the drone of honeybees.
With a careless laugh, she shrugged off her cloak.
It fell to the floor with a thump.
Shook out her hair, carpeted with asters,
breathed deep,
and turned towards the window.

I stood there,
the cooling teapot in my hand,
listening to the whistle of singing birds
and children running outside to play.
I did not think to clean the heap
of waterlogged leaves on the floor,
but thought,
wouldn't it be nice to go for a walk,
or better, go for a bike ride
while the weather is still warm . . .


Bio: LaShawn M. Wanak is a fantasy writer living outside of Chicago, IL. She has previously published a story with MYTHOLOG called Light as Gossamer and is currently working on her first novel. You can read more of LaShawn's works at the Cafe in the Woods. here.