seventeen seasons had already passed and the the fires still rose and fell, the hollow trees bursting into flame like tall wooden scarecrows, limbs as arms, flickering fingers in the wind. the hallowed harvest skies pink with solemn sunset shadows, shuffled about in the wispy arms of puffy cloud chaperones, melting silently into mountain faces.
half of the timekeepers had reversed direction, and the other half had stopped entirely. it had become such a chore just to synchronize their timepieces that they now relied solely on the passage of the moons across the horizon to gauge time. the constellations plodded unimpeded around and around the universe, and it wasn't too challenging to count each star and make a pencil note in a ledger. even if it took all day. what a day had become.
that's how bad things were.
drab and canvas gypsy caravans crunched along the dusty county road into town, pulling away from the smoke and fires of the plains. as night fell, small indigo shadows in the shape of gypsy children danced across the dried mud ruts, laughing and pelting each other with whatever they could grab off the ground as they skipped along. they would scatter like blueflies when a lawman occasionally happened by, his pole lantern lighting the path, as he watched the ground for "ale spiders" in the early hours leading up to tavern closing time.
the sound of bottles shattering echoed as they hit the rocks in the ravine next to the county road. tinkle, tinkle, tinkle went the glassy shards as they fell. the lawman turned to look over the edge but it was dark and he was too tired to swing the pole and lantern over, too tired to care about anything other than his footsores and gout.
he trudged towards home, his eyes half closed, his mind half asleep. the lantern and pole grew heavier with each trudge, but the glow of amber light from the kitchen window was a welcome sight. it put a little more lift in each step he took.
The small glass panel slid open and with a raspy breath and copper snuffer the flame was put to sleep for the evening. It went out with an oily hiss and he propped the wooden pole against the fencepost. pulling out the ring of keys with a jangle he pushed the door open.