There is a hidden meadow.
It stands beside a brackish stream, which overflows and adds a fine layer of salt to the surrounding earth with the coming of great storms. Given the salinity of the soil, no trees may grow here, only delicate flowers and fine grasses and the occasional hardened bush.
The flowers are lovely, right now, as they often are; this is not a meadow, or a forest, or a world, with much regard for the concept of ‘seasons’. If it pleases a meadow to be in eternal spring - well, why shouldn’t it? Violets do not respect the sun; lavender does not respect the earth; goldenrod does not respect the moon. They do not respect the salinity of their soil, the dimness of their light, the position of the stars; they will bloom, and they will live, and they will die, and nothing will delay them.
Hidden meadows have their powers. They attract a certain kind of spirit, shy and dainty and delicate as a flower, and those spirits attract meadows in turn.
There is a spirit, in the meadow, at this very moment. She is a woman, wearing a pale veil of mourning, translucent and fine rolls of fabric, a dress that follows its own rules of lighting and shadow and color, dotted with dried and bleached flowers. There is blood, dried and faint, on her gown. Some things cannot help but linger.
The grass is green, behind her; it looks like emerald. The sun is bright, above her; it looks like the eye of a foreign god.
She had a name, once. She’s lost it.
She speaks; her voice is faint and high, but it rumbles with the earth below her, and it hisses in great bursts, wind rolling down the meadow, distant trees shuddering and holding their breath in anticipation.
”Once upon a time.”