Witch’s Chiaroscuro – SAD Season Short Fiction by Nadia Gerassimenko
Nadia Gerassimenko’s piece ‘Witch’s Chiaroscuro’ explores experiences with seasonal affective disorder.
It is said on Noomon moonchildren roam the night when the moon is at its fullest and lightest. They feed off that light, that light which inspires their creativity and craft, that light which empowers them to be bold and boundless. And it is enough come next bright full moon.
It is said that moonchildren need no sunlight to survive and thrive. Whoever said it, whoever repeats it, is gravely mistaken. They crave the sun’s rays to keep them warm and comfortable and beaming. While the light of the moon is essential to their creation, the light of the sun, to their livelihood.
The way they live and feel, interact and love, create and innovate, is dependent on the natural light that shines on them. The nightwitch Tilnu knew it, who herself could not feed off light, who herself could not experience the solace and elation of dawn, the stimulation and artistry that comes from the radiant full moons. For all she could do was sleep all day, and as she rose all she had was the gift of turning light into dark. The foremothers who passed on the gift to her cautioned nightwitches are forbidden the luxury of moonlight as much as daylight.
She wanted every moonchild to lack their essence, to gain suffering that burdened her. She wanted to take away their light. “Just for a season, or two.” She was not that callous, but it was not fair for her to be perpetually left in darkness, in silence, isolation.
Autumn used to be all amber leaves and golden hours, refreshing scent of opened squash and second summer air, dancing and twirling with the multicolored foliage. Winter was all clear blue sky and fresh crisp snow, collective starshine and moonlight gazing, inviting smell of hot cocoa and firewood in every home. No matter the cold, every hour of the day had fire and timber to limber anyone balmy and supple.
Until the nightwitch took it all away. No longer did the moonchildren feel alight, for no longer did they feel alive. They had no stimulation to write, to make, to perform, for they had no motivation to survive, to live, to thrive. Everything was now pitch dark and black noise inside and out. And all the while Tilnu rejoiced if only for a brief moment, for nothing could truly bring consolation to a heart that needed soothing from within.
Who were the moonchildren if not resourceful and adaptive? The lesser sensitives could find a flash in the night, a light in shadowy places, a spark in their own hearts. They could be fueled and energized to help themselves to help others.
It is how they learned that lack of sun meant lack of certain nutrients that were readily available in nourishment and nectar. For those who could not absorb nutrition as well, they crafted and perfected supplementation in vitamins and minerals. For those who did not respond as well to nutrition and supplementation, they created and innovated medicaments. Support groups and therapies on individual basis were provided to bring relief and reinforcement to those who needed it the most. New technologies like light therapy were invented to bring reinvigoration to others daily.
All this to get through the harsh seasons. And they could get through, and they did get through, for they were not alone in this mystifying yet illuminating journey, they had support and reassurance that what they felt was valid, what they felt also would pass.
The nightwitch wailed in disbelief and fury and gloom. How could they find a source of light in such obscurity like a needle in a haystack? Should she take away all light come spring?
Spring came and adorned Noomon’s soil with the rhythmic drumming of woodpeckers and the dulcet crooning of red-winged blackbirds; the sweet fragrance of redbuds and lilacs; the swiftly growing verdant meadows; and at last the rejuvenating air that filled everyone with light and hope. Everyone but one.
To celebrate the rebirth of Mother Earth moonchildren would throw luscious banquets on a yearly basis come spring upon Noomon’s highest mount Retrauq, from where you could easily see how the clouds changed shapes, how the sun set, how the moon rose, how the two celestial bodies eclipsed once in a while, how the stars glistened and dropped and burst.
Today was the celebration of all living beings budding and blossoming, of all the changing hues of luminosity. Today the moonchildren would finally feed off all kinds of light and continue crafting and creating as they were used to. And Tilnu had every intent of taking it all away, again.
From the village woodlands, out of a tree hollow she slithered, clothes all darkness, visage all brooding. Taunting, menacing shades and shadows followed as she glided with her glare deliberate and sharp, obscuring everything behind, above, beneath. Everywhere and everything she barely even touched became unlit, uncolored, unalive.
Upon Retrauq moonchildren danced and sang and laughed and delighted, for spring has come and hope restored, but not until the nightwitch came into light and only a quarter of the lively, leafy mount remained, the rest, silenced and obscured.
One moonchild, Erifa, most daring, broke silence. “Tilnu, is that you? Is it evening so soon already?”
“It is I. I have come to take away your day. All your days and all the light,” Tilnu retorted harshly.
“But why? What have we done?” Erifa pleaded.
“For centuries nightwitches endured living in silence and shadow. Endured you living in daylight, feeding off nightlight. Now you join us in darkness and gloom, taste the bitterness of our pain and loneliness.”
“But Tilnu, who said you cannot do the same?”
“Hmm?” Tilnu staggered. “I- I was told, ‘nightwitches are forbidden the luxury of moonlight as much as daylight.'”
“They never told you why. And you never questioned. And you never broke free,” another moonchild, Akerue, most enlightened, reasoned.
“No,” Tilnu sniffled, “I never tried.”
“It is all right now.” Akerue softly touched Tilnu’s shoulder, and a tiny part of her lit up. “It is all right to break free where it makes sense. It is all right to break free from what does not make sense, too.”
“It is okay to be bold and boundless. Try it!” Efilfolluf, most vivacious, took Tilnu’s hands and twirled her around.
With every twirl a part of Tilnu flickered alight, you could see it in the shine of her eyes, in the wideness of her beam. Even her clothes turned colorful and radiant. And the shadows behind, above, beneath her soon dispelled. She was becoming a lightwitch.
When summer followed, coloring topographies with leafy trees and unruly dandelions and sky like the deep blue sea, exhaling aromas of succulent watermelons and fresh cut grass and sweet roses, buzzing and whirring and cooing with aliveness, Tilnu chose when to turn day into night, and chose to be a part of the moonkind and still apart to be her own witch, for she no longer was bound by her ancestral admonition for she no longer was bound by her own confines.
Some days were white nights full of quixotic wanderers, others were full of dazzling stars never witnessed before. She gave hues and intensities to light, certain colors that only bluebottle butterflies could see. Even nights sparkled with magic and dreaminess and muses. Noomon became Noomlluf, full of white and yellow and red and blue moons and moonmoons. And Tilnu declared herself Til, for new beginnings, for new lightings, for new transformations.
And to be lit like the eternal flame.