Grown in a Day, on a Mound of Barren Earth, Winter
rating: +15+x

The elder god set in his garden and waited.

Perhaps "garden" was a bit too generous a word for it. It was a sorry piece of earth, more mud than soil, much trodden and little tilled. Really, thought the god as leaned back on his creaky red-striped lawn chair, there was very little to recommend about most of it.

The trees, those few which still stood, were crooked, stunted things, their bark moist only due to the sudden rainfall brought by the afternoon. They leaned on a fence not much sturdier, its white long since faded to sickly shades of mustard, the points of its posts as dull as the elder god's rake. Really, when was the last time he used that rake? The muddy ground was covered in rotting leaves, though the elder god could not really say why. When was the last time the trees even grew any leaves? How could there be so many of the blasted things in the mud anyway?

The suns were setting, and the elder god's mood was getting ever more sour. He leaned forward to rise from his chair but sat swiftly back as the muscles in his back protested his sudden movement. It didn't use to be so difficult to get up, that much he knew. Didn't have that much weight to lift anytime he did either, especially round the gut area. His garden might not be growing, but he sure was. Oh, to be lean once more, to rise in the mornings with a spring in your step and a thumb as green as sweetest absinthe…

A sudden sound shock him from his reverie. At the periphery of his garden, something moved. Rising much more carefully now, the elder god shuffled through the slimy humus of his garden towards the fence and the tall wooden gate installed therein. The noise was certainly coming from outside, but the sorry state of both fence and gate (not to mention the god's eyes) made it difficult for him to see much. Something colorful was moving about outside, something cheerful and loud. Even without seeing it, the elder god hated it immediately.

Grunting and sweating even in the cool evening air, the elder god struggled with his gate. He couldn't remember when he last opened the thing, as he had few reasons to leave his boggy demesne for quite some time, or at least few reasons he saw. With enough shaking and threats of divine retribution however, the gate finally succumbed to his godly might and creaked open, to reveal…

A carnival.

Gone was the evening, gone the garden with its dead trees and its crumbling fences. Here all was song and sound, light and liberty, merriment and marvel. Gods in their dozens, in their hundreds, attired in the brightest hues of the cosmos, surrounded him in a dazzling and terrifying cacophony.

He saw a young looking thing covered head to toe in iridescent seaweed, each strand moving independently to the rhythm of some unseen underwater stream. She flowed through the crowd blissfully, each strand intertwining with the others and itself to create… something. Something the elder god could no longer see.

Another was like a bird, plumed in gold its feathers each a diminutive field of wheat, its beak an ever-flowing azure stream. At first it seemed bashful, hiding itself from the surrounding havoc, but a closer inspection of its movement revealed a different tale. It simply waited, waited for the perfect movement when the light would shine on its feathers brightest, when the attention of the other gods would be drawn to them most fully, and then it opened them, like a fan of fields, and the others would "ooh" and "ahhh" at their magnificence. The elder god could not tell if he was proud or ashamed to find himself so unimpressed by the beautiful things.

A god third was wild and hairy, horned with oak, shoving himself about the crowd, asking for all to inspect his horns, apprise his horns, please, admire his horns! Some did, and he brayed with glee and stomped his argent hooves. Others scoffed and he growled with rage and he shoved much harder with the sounds of "see it, you didn't see, see it well this time!". He was approaching the elder god and brandishing his horns once more when he saw the expression on the elder's face and thought better of it.

This and more, so much more, infinitely more and suddenly the elder god remembered the days when his garden was much that way. Back then he was not the creaky old thing he was now, more gut than god. No, back then he shone brightly, and his garden… his garden shone brightest. He remembered how the trees would shape themselves to his touch, how aromatic their fruits were when they fell ripe into his hands.

The windy pear, filled with the taste of mystery and magic, ever so slightly unsatisfying but always calling for more.

The horned apple, tart and crunchy, an acquired taste but one that left a memory on those who tasted it.

The triple berry, sweet and bright and sour, which always seem to taste better when prepared by another.

The other gods liked his garden, once. They tasted his fruits, and they cheered. Where were all of them now? He thought he recognized some of his old cohorts in the crowd but they wore different colors and different cuts, and though a few nodded to him in faint acknowledgment, none seem to care all that much that he was there. The rest he never knew at all- young gods, faces fresh and pockets filled with wonder. With so much to give to the world.

What did he have left to give?

Gone was the carnival, gone were the gods and their colors. He was back at his garden again. The suns have all set and a chill was sneaking into the air, as insidious as plague. The elder god sat back at his lawn chair and stared into the distance, into the endless expanse which surrounded his garden from every side. All around was quite. Empty. He had nothing left to give, because he was empty. All gut and no god at all. Elder. He buried his head in his hands. When did they become so blunt? When did his hair gone so thin?

Enough. Time to sleep and think of this no longer. The garden's time was past. He would not return here again, he promised to himself for the thousandth time. Never again. Rising for the last time, he strode for home, an indistinct shape in the distance. The mud sucked at his boots as he walked.

In one of his footprints, a sprout began to grow.

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