Ashes. Everything is covered in ashes.

The water is grey with ash and leaves a gritty film on my teeth. Our food tastes like nothing. When I wake, I rub the grey from my eyes and rise from our grey bed, sending avalanches of grey ash to the ground.

The world is dead and yet here we remain. Waiting in the dust. Waiting for our end to come as well.

We killed it, you know. With our pride. With our fear. We killed Him. And with Him, we killed the world.

I tend my fields as best as I can in the all-pervasive ash, a rag tied over my face to keep me from choking on the grey. It’s a pointless task but it keeps my hands busy. The crops won’t grow. Not in this.

We are going to starve. There is no light, there is no warmth. There is only grey sky, grey earth, and grey water.

Mother doesn’t get out of bed most days. The children cry for her but she doesn’t hear them. Her eyes won’t open. They come to me, crying,  tears leaving tracks on dirty faces.

“Father,” they cry, “where has the color gone? Why won’t Mother rise and dance with us?”

They don’t understand. She can’t dance anymore. We killed that too. How can there be dancing when we have killed The Dancer?

My heart aches for these children of mine. What have we done to them in our fear? We’ve given them a dead world with nothing but ashes and despair in it and nothing to look forward to but death and oblivion.

How could we have been so blind? What is the point of living in a world without The Dancer? We didn’t know. We didn’t know what real darkness was like, so we took the light for granted. We didn’t know what it was like to be truly cold… until we snuffed out the flame.

But we know now. Oh yes. Now, we know.

We are cold and the darkness presses close. It smells like despair.

And it tastes like ashes…


The Other came today.

We were out in the fields, raking away the ash, plowing it under, trying to make some space where something could grow. My youngest son, Fenar, had just pulled up a seedling and eaten it and I was scolding him for killing a plant before its time. But my scolding didn’t have much heat in it. Fenar is so young. He doesn’t understand that these little sprouts can each be a whole meal… in time… if they survive the ash. He only understands that he is hungry and that there’s not enough food to fill the hole in his belly.

I understand the feeling. Since we killed The Dancer, I also feel like I have a hole inside of me that can’t be filled. A hole that’s somehow growing bigger… filling me with emptiness.

I was half-heartedly scolding my youngest son when my daughter–my beautiful Skadie–grabbed my arm and stared over my shoulder with wide eyes.

“Father,” she asked, “what is that?” Her voice shook with fear.

Oh, my sweet Skadie! She was always the bravest of us all. Never afraid of anything, willing to take on everything. She was so full of life… of hope. My unstoppable, mighty Skadie.

Now, though…

Now that Hope is gone, she is afraid. She wakes in the night, shaking. She tries to put on a brave face for her brothers but what is bravery worth now? I see her eyes–see fear where there was always only strength–and my heart breaks again for what we’ve done… for what we’ve lost.

I crane my neck around to peer behind me in the gloom and see a light–a single, cold point of light surrounded by a pulsing, throbbing darkness–coming towards us over the flat horizon.

It’s the Other. It must be. He said that he’d come. He said that, if we killed The Dancer, he would bring us a new era of prosperity. He said that we didn’t need The Dancer–that we could be happy without Him.

The Other said that he would come and that we would know he was coming by the changes that came before him.

In that, at least, he did not lie.

“Go,” I told my daughter, “gather your brothers and go inside. Bar the door and do not come out. The Other has come.”

Without a word, she turned and quickly did as I asked. My beautiful, wonderful daughter has strength in her yet, I think. I turned to face the Other’s approach and heard the door close and the bar fall into place behind me.

I could see, illuminated by the cold light of the Other, a host of figures approaching on foot, faster than anything natural can move. They would be upon me in minutes.

My hearts beat against each other in fear and I felt my hackles rise as my fight or flight reflexes kicked in. But there was nowhere to run to and no point in fighting the inevitable.

So I waited.

At the head of the host strode the Other. He was beautiful and terrible and his smooth, pale skin shone with a cold light. He slowed as he approached me.


His voice crashed through my skull. My skin and bones and sinew pounded with it. The ash on the ground seemed to tremble in recognition of its master’s voice.


“You have come,” I replied. I wanted to sound angry, to show him how betrayed I felt… but I only sounded tired. “But this is not as you promised. You said that we did not need The Dancer. You said that He lied and that The Singer would never come. You said that we should trust you. You said that you would usher in a new era full of wondrous things beyond our wildest dreams. This is not a new era.” I gestured at the grey, ash-covered fields. “This is a nightmare. This is death.”


His beautiful face split in an ugly grin.


He laughed and his host howled with him, the sound a terrible, crushing din. I writhed in agony as the sound pressed against my skin.


He spread his arms wide, lifted his head to the flat, grey sky and crowed.


He lowered his face and looked me in the eyes. He smiled his shining smile and, for a moment, I remembered what it felt like to listen to his beautiful lies when we first met.



And I knew that he was right and I cried into the dust as he and his host turned and left us alone… for now.


Skadie has left us.

I rose today to find her already awake. She was sitting outside the door and staring towards the mountains when I stepped out into the dirty lack of light that passes for dawn now.

“Skadie? Are you well?” I asked her.

She didn’t turn to look at me but kept staring at the mountains.

“Skadie?” I rested my hand on her shoulder.

“Father, when will we dance again?” She asked in a small, tired voice.

I haven’t had the heart to answer this question from her siblings but my Skadie is eldest and strong and I am so very tired. So, without thinking, I answered her truthfully.

“Never, Skadie. Our people will never dance again. We—I—killed the Dancer.”

I had thought myself empty of tears but, with that admission, I found them rolling through the dust on my face.

Skadie cried too, never taking her eyes off of the mountains.

And that’s​ when the children began to wail. We rushed inside to find the children gathered around the still form of Fenar. My youngest son has died.

I found more tears to cry.

I cried as I wrapped my son in a shroud. I cried as I dug a too small grave in the ashen earth. I cried as I laid my youngest in the ground.

But I wailed as I realized that I could not give him the dance that he deserved. I could not even dance my own child’s funeral. I killed The Dancer and now I cannot even mourn my own child properly. I screamed my despair to the leaden sky and my children wailed with me.

All but Skadie, who looked to the mountains. She turned to me and said, “Father, I don’t believe. I don’t believe that you can have killed Him.”

“Child,” I wailed as I held out my hands to her, “I did! I held the spear in these hands! His blood bathed my feet and I felt his breath stop.” I raised my head to the sky and screamed.

“I laid him in stone! HE IS GONE!

I collapsed to my knees in the dust and Skadie–my wonderful Skadie, eldest of children– took my head in her hands and looked me in the eyes and said quietly, “No, Father.”

I sobbed into my child’s hands as though I were the child and she the parent.

“I did… I did, Skadie. I did…”

“I believe that you did, Father. But I don’t believe that He is gone.” She once again turned to look at the mountains. “I am going to find Him.”

And then she left.

I didn’t even try to stop her.

Today, I lost two children. My youngest and my oldest. And it’s my fault.


All of my tears are gone.

I try to cry and I can’t. Whoever you are who reads this record after we’re gone, do you know what it feels like to want to cry–to need to cry–and to be unable to do so? Let me tell you.

It hurts. It physically hurts. My eyes ache with the need for tears and yet nothing comes. My chest yearns for the release that uncontrollable sobbing brings but remains still–breathing in and out with ragged regularity. I can no longer cry. My tears are dead.

It’s fitting, I suppose. The whole world seems to have died. Everything is silent. The ash has ceased falling from the sky and what animal life had survived seems to have disappeared. Dead or hiding. I don’t know. I don’t care.

The children huddle together in their beds. They hold each other and stare blankly at the walls. I know that I should try to comfort them but I have no words to say. I have no hope to give them. Skadie took it all with her when she left us.

It seems that the only thing stirring in the whole world is a small, persistent wind. It flutters around the house and stirs up small whirls of ash. The world has forgotten the dance–has forgotten how to live–but this small wind seems to remember for now.

The world is dead. I think that I will lie down in the dust tonight and join the world in death. I do not think that I will rise again tomorrow.


I did not expect to open my eyes again.

I thought that I would certainly die in the night. I had hoped that I would.

When I opened my crusty eyes, I saw ash dancing in the morning light. It took me a moment to realize why that was odd. Soft beams of light sifted through the cracks in the walls and peeked in from under the door. I did not have the energy to do more than wonder at the unexpected illumination. It’s been so dark lately. We haven’t seen the   sun in ages.

I don’t know how long I lay there, just staring at the ash and the light.

Eventually, I noticed something else. The ash was dancing in the light. It was being moved by a breeze–a breeze strong enough to move the air and lift the ash even inside the walls of our home. As I thought this, ash began to move more quickly and a warm breeze brushed across my face.

It was as though I had been underwater, starving for breath and suddenly my head had broken the surface. I inhaled sharply in surprise. Behind me, I heard the children stir as well.

I stared at the light leaking in under the door with wide eyes, unable to process the feeling in my chest, the touch of the breeze on my skin. I was staring at the door when Skadie flung it open.

For the first time in ages, I felt my heart twitch with joy. My beautiful Skadie had returned to me, now, at the end of things. But even as I thought this, my heart sank again and I lowered my eyes. She had been to the mountains. She had seen what I had done. She would know the truth of my crime. Reluctantly, I looked into her eyes, expecting to find judgement and despair there.

But there was no despair. What was there was almost more unbearable.

Skadie was radiant with joy. She flung the door open and, as I looked back into her eyes, she smiled.

“Father of Children,” she said, breathlessly, “I found The Dancer!”

My chest filled with shame and I began to mumble apologies but Skadie interrupted me.

“He was not lying in stone where you left him, Father.” She took a step forward and knelt beside me in the dust, the breeze from the open door creating whirlwinds of ash around her.

“He wasn’t there and I thought that the Other had taken him and I cried. But Father,” she laid a hand on my cheek, “I was right.” She smiled again, breaking my heart. “The Dancer. He’s not dead. You killed him but He’s not dead.”

“No,” I croaked with my dry, cracked voice, “No, Skadie… He is gone forever. I killed him.”

“Father, look!” She gestured to the wind and the dancing ash. “He has sent The Singer ahead of himself to teach the world how to dance again. Father, He is alive and He is coming here.”

“No, Skadie,” I said again, “That is not possible. There will be no more dancing. I killed The Dancer and I killed the dance and now we wait to die with Him.”

Skadie shook her head, leaned down and kissed my ash-covered forehead and then stood up.

“No, Father. The Dance is not dead.”

And Skadie danced.

It was breathtaking. I heard the other children gasp as I shot up in my bed, astonished. My Skadie was dancing the Dance of Life, the dance her mother had danced every spring since she was a little girl. And now my Skadie danced the Dance… and the wind danced with her. It gusted in through the door, whirled around the small, one-room house and caught the accumulated ash up in dancing grey ribbons. It whirled around Skadie and danced with her and it whistled and sang through the cracks in the walls and around the corners of the building.

It was beautiful.

Beside me in the bed, Mother stirred. Slowly, stiffly, she rose up on her elbows and her long neck swiveled towards the door as her eyes blinked dryly in the light.

“Skadie?” she muttered. “Is that… my Skadie?” Then her eyes flew wide and she inhaled sharply before uttering a sharp, disbelieving, “THE SINGER!” She looked to me with a look of awe on her face. “Father of Children, The Singer has come!”

Skadie’s dance drifted to a stop and the wind dwindled to a gentle breeze with her. Breathing heavily, Skadie smiled at me and her Mother.

“Mother of Life, Father of Children, The Singer has come ahead of The Dancer to bring hope to His people.” She put out her hand towards us in invitation. “Come outside. Hear The Song. The Dancer is coming.”

Slowly, Mother and I rose from our bed, shedding ashes as we walked to the door and out into the light. Green shoots were beginning to show through the ash, small animals were beginning to stir, and there, in the east–from the mountains–was a bright point of warm light. Beneath the light I could just make out a lone figure walking towards us through the wasteland, the wind sweeping ash from his path as he came.

The Dancer had returned. Mother and I looked at each other in wonder.

And we Danced.