The ground was autumn-crisp with leaves despite the heat. The oaks along the rivers’ edge black fingers, bare as winter.
‘Not right,’ muttered Clem, knocking the underbrush with his boot.
A fir cone tumbled through the dead leaves and came to rest against a fleshy crescent of Maid’s Bane fungus. Bluebell spikes shivered.
‘World’s turned on its head,’ said Clem.
The sheepdog, Tab, looked up at his master, uncertain.
Gramma Cora – all gums, mottled scalp and whiskers – had told tales when Clem was small. When winter takes summer’s hand, when spring lifts her skirts and dances autumn’s jig … He frowned how did that old rhyme end?
Tab came suddenly to heel, his flank quivering against Clem’s leg.
‘What is it, lad?’
A feather of snow fell on the back of his neck. Soon the ground was white, the air a haze.
‘The Final Winter shall fall,’ he whispered.