We will never forget these times. In the years long after we have gone to the far lands those that come after us, our children’s children and their children, will remember the long times. Already we are making the dances that will show these times, and the words for the songs of this time are already forming on our lips.
It is hard to remember the seasons now. It has been a long time since the summer, almost longer even than memory can hold.
Even the old ones, where the many long ago winters have snowed white hair on their heads, cannot remember a winter this long.
It has been so long since the summer time.
The nights are so long too.
The wind blows all the time, cold from the lands of never-ending snow that are said to lie beyond the Endless Sea.
It is so long since I have felt the warm sun on my face, and a long time since my woman died back when this winter had already lasted such a long time.
It is so long since the herds moved through our lands looking for the new spring grass. Some have said the herds will never come again.
Those that still believe in the gods say we have wronged those gods and need to make amends, to make sacrifices. But it has been a long time since we had something worth sacrificing.
A handful of withered and spindly roots may be just enough to keep us alive for one more day of this never-ending winter. But it is no sacrifice to make to a god, especially if those gods are already angry with us.
I stopped caring about the gods a long time ago. It was the day back so far in this long winter when Shaja died in my arms from the cold and the hunger. If I’d had the strength at the time, I would have rather cut off my own arm to feed her than to watch her fade away and die like that. Her cold eyes staring off into a distance too far away for me to reach no matter how close I held her body to me.
The wise woman said Shaja is with the gods now. Somehow, I doubt it. I doubt the gods too, and I do not think the wise woman, or the shaman, are as wise as they want us to think.
There was a day not too long ago when I thought the winter could be fading, that the summer was coming at last. It was a bright day, an almost warm day… a day without the rain, or the mists. But still that ever-present cold wind blew its icy breath into the face.
I stood up on the high hill looking out over our lands and the village below. A muddy trampled mess where it is hard to believe anything will ever grow again. The bare fields, the empty animal pens. In the distance lay the burial mound, where I saw a scraggly funeral procession making its way back to our village. Gaunt figures that seemed to haunt the landscape like the ghosts of our ancestors.
It was then I thought that perhaps we were the dead, haunting this land. But if we are, what happened to Shaja and why isn’t she still here with me?
I had to think about that for a long time before I could go back to my empty home.