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It started in November.
I’ve always thought November was a strange month. All of summer had faded away and autumn was on the edge, holding on, but not quite strong enough. But winter had yet to arrive. Frost refused to sprinkle the ground with its silvery dust, yet the air grew heavy with children’s foggy breath. November is no man’s land. No season to boast its prideful owner. It’s crippled. It limps from day to day changing but not realizing it. It continues weakly, holding its breath in anticipation of the moment when things are so suddenly different. It’s hurting. Dying. Trapped within the foreignness of its own body. Yes, November is a strange month. Stranger still to be the site of something to begin.
But it still, started in November.
In the woods.
It started in November, but really it started with a blossom.
I was walking in the shivering golden sunrise, tasting the damp woods and smelling the freshly stale air. I was walking like I always do, when something happened.
There was a blossom.
It was pale purple and sickly looking with black dots in it. And it was the only color in the woods that very black and white morning. I stopped dead in my tracks. Because I must have known it would mean something. Only I didn’t know what. Or how much.
The next day it was there again, only it seemed a bit closer to path. I looked on at it. My heart pulled me towards the last bit of life. I walked on, though. Dismissed the feeling. But I wouldn’t be able to pull the flower from the back of my mind.
Each day the vine grew closer to the path and each day the flower was consumed with more and more black. I tried to ignore it. But it beckoned me. I went on another path. But it was like a weed. I could pull at it, but the roots were still there. The single flower and its vine would push itself into my mind, violating my thoughts, until it was all I could think about. I’d lay awake at night thinking of it. Of its sickly petals dying so elegantly, so painfully. I’d think of its vine, of how it called to me softly.
Eventually, I began to walk at night as well. In the moonlight the dark woods were illuminated. I felt the flower, but it was so far. It needed me. Really, I needed it. So I ran. I ran barefoot in my nightgown through the woods, my blonde hair tangling in my breath. I stumbled but I continued. It called.
I stopped when I saw it. The vine had grown thick and full. It was full of green and life and it completely covered the path. It climbed so high and deep it formed a wall. And in the middle, there it was. November’s blossom. November’s child. It was completely black. Darkness leaked from it like it had absorbed all the light. It was folded and tight and just barely holding on. I stepped forward without wanting to. And for the first time, I knew fear. But I couldn’t turn back.
It was then that the woman stepped from behind the wall the vine had formed. She was old and hunched over; her face sagged and her nose and chin were pointed. Grey hair flew from beneath her cloak. She smiled at me revealing her rotten teeth. She was a witch. But her presence called to me more than the blossom ever had.
“Child,” she called to me. Her voice was smooth like honey. “Child, come closer.”
I stepped forward.
She circled me in the moonlight. She looked me up and down and I felt naked. “Such a beautiful girl,” she murmured to herself. “Look at yourself child! So beautiful! Blonde hair and blue eyes clearer than water. Skin pale and perfect. Not a single blemish! And thin! So thin!”
I swallowed hard but still choked on the words. “Thank you.”
She leaned in close and her breath was hot on my face. “So tell me child, tell me what do you want most?”
“I…I don’t know what you mean.”
“Oh come now. Tell me. What do you want the most?”
“Nothing. I… I’m happy. Yes, very happy”
“I know that can’t be true. I know you ache for something. I know you stay awake at night hurting for something. You go on these walks to take your mind off of it, but lately, it hasn’t been working, has it, child?”
I swallow. “No, no it hasn’t been.”
“So tell me. What is it that you want?”
I look at the ground.
She lifts my chin with her bony finger to look me in the eye. “Such a beautiful girl ought to have a boy.”
I looked her in the eye and felt the tear falling my eye.
“Tell me, child. What is it that you want? Just say it out loud.”
“A boy,” I whispered throwing my gaze to ground again.
“What’s that? You have to speak louder, child. I’m an old woman”
I looked up and faced her. “A boy,” I said clearly. “I stay up at night thinking about a boy. I want someone so badly, it hurts. I go on walks to forget about it. But it just reminds me of how alone I am.”
The witch smiles with her rotten teeth and leans in close to whisper in my ear. “I know how to get you what you want child.”
Another tear slid down my cheek. I didn’t believe her but my lips moved. “How?” I said tasting the foreignness of my own voice.
Saying nothing, she moved from me back to the vine. She plucked the blossom and it unfolded in her hand, unveiling the deadly flower. “You must eat the blossom, one petal at a time. It is poisonous but if you choose to eat the blossom, you must finish it. If you eat it, you will have the boy you desire.”
The witch held the blossom out to me. And I took it from her. I held it in my hand. It felt cold. I plucked a single petal from the bloom and twirled it in my fingers. Then, I placed it on my tongue.
It burned my mouth and throat and soon I felt it in my whole body. I screamed and the witch watched. “You must eat all of it,” she said.
There were five petals left. It took me all night. I was only able to eat one an hour because the pain was too much and I was violently sick so often. After I swallowed the last petal, I blacked out. The last thing I saw was the witch’s yellow eyes above me and the vine slowly covering me.
When I awoke, the small morning rays leaked in through the trees and my eyelids. A moan welled up from my chest and seeped from my lips. I ached all over. Gingerly, I rolled over. The witch was gone, as was the vine. When I rolled over to my other side, I was startled at what I saw.
Vines grew from all directions, slithering in, growing and tangling and dancing. They met in the middle on the ground beside me. They moved and they breathed. And then they were gone.
And on the ground beside me.
Was a boy.
A beautiful boy about my age. Strong shoulders and back and hands that were delicate and not calloused. He breathed with me. His hair was paler than mine. I sat up and stared at him and was amazed. Because I knew he was mine.
Then. He opened his eyes.
They were a pale purple with black specks in them. He sat up and put my hand in his. And for the first time, he held me close.
For a week, we stayed in the woods. We fed on each other and drank in each other’s eyes. I knew complete happiness for the first time. I was drowning in love with him. I didn’t notice that as each day went by, his eyes and his hair slowly turned to black. I didn’t notice until the witch came to me in a dream.
“The blossom is poisonous, child,” she said and smiled. “And so is he.”
I woke up with a scream stuck in my throat.
He was awake next to me. Watching me with eyes so black, they seemed to leak darkness and absorb the moonlight around them. He took my hand and stood up with me.
“Do you love me?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
And that’s when it began to end.
I pressed my body against his and he placed his hands on my back. He breathed with me.
I gave him my lips.
He gave me a knife.
He carved and carved on my back and on my arms and legs and face. Blood poured from me, turning my white nightgown black. I was burning. I was tearing. He was shredding me to bone, peeling away layers and layers of me. My hair was cut from me and fell to my feet in the pool of blood. I didn’t care though. Because his lips were on mine.
“Do you love me?” he asked.
“Yes,” I breathed.
“What would you give me?”
“I only want one thing.”
“Your heart,” he said and pressed the knife into my hand and his lips to mine.
We stood in the moonlight and kissed and kissed and breathed. And I bled and I carved out my own heart. When I placed it in his hand, the vine came and consumed him. Twisting up his body, they took him back to where he had come from.
I fell to the ground and bled. The witch came then, and leaned in close. “Poison, child. I told you. You wanted him too much.” Then she was gone.
I cried and I bled and I looked up at the shivering trees and the moon.
It ended in November.
In the woods.
It ended in November, but really it ended with a blossom.
I bled and I died, right as it began to snow.