Aphelion Issue 291, Volume 28
February 2024
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Flash Writing Challenge
Dan's Promo Page

The Bear

by Mari Ness

She knew him first as beast,
as roughened fur and sharpened claw;
she stood unmoving as he slashed her dress;
she said nothing in his battered hall.

Shine the candle, shine, my dear,
and will your true love to appear.

They later told, her sisters two
of plates of gold and silver lace
of silk and satin, of fairy food
of softened life, of leisured pace

But roughened fur was all she knew
until the darkness seized the hall,
until the lights were quite shut out;
until she felt his roughened skin.

Shine the candle, shine, my dear.
Do not these memories revere.

And ah! the nights! She whispered them
to herself each morn, the hidden words
that rustled in the battered hall
the fevered, flustered, fervent sighs –

The wonder in his darkened eyes
Unseen but felt within the night
As, kissing his most tender lips
She found magic in their lack of sight.

Shine the candle, shine, my dear.
The moment draws so near, so near

"Magic means wealth," a sister said
smiling, charming, laughing, light.
"And wealth means magic. Learn his spell -
And in this hall all will be well."

"But I have no magic arts," she said.
"Only the knowledge of his hands,
Only the knowledge of his voice,
And nothing else. In day or night."

Shine the candle, shine. My dear -
Do you not feel it? Can’t you hear?

"Take this candle. Burn it well.
And bring it towards your husband’s cell.
In its light you will see true:
And in true marriage found, he will love you."

She shivered, and glanced about the hall
Graced by deadened grass and aged wood
And felt her husband's fingers tight
Upon her hands. She bowed her head.

Shine the candle, shine, my dear.
Though wax will to your hands adhere.

And took the candle. A sister's kiss,
and they were gone. She waited
and looked to the sky. A hunter's moon
captured her eyes. The wax stuck to her skin.

Hearing the rustled footsteps of a bear,
she trembled, and pulled off her dress
Placing it over the candle. She waited,
And naked, embraced his roughened fur.

Shine the candle, shine, my dear.
Come quickly, now. He rests right here

.They tumbled to the roughened floor
As night caught them. An owl cried.
She flinched, and grabbed his roughened hands
And hid her face upon his chest.

"I killed today," he whispered then.
"I killed." Her body trembled, shook.
"A rabbit. Small, with whitened fur.
You shall have meat and gloves quite soon."

Shine the candle, shine, my dear.
The owl cries! Do you not hear?

Night trapped them tight. They slept.
The owl cried a second time. She rose,
and tumbled to her dress,
And grabbed the candle lying there.

She breathed, and then, the candle lit
turned to his naked sleeping form.
She moved the candle over him.
She looked into his blooded face.

Shine the candle, shine, my dear.
You cannot wait. You cannot veer

Morning crept in on tired feet.
Her sisters followed, laughing loud
And all her cold and trembled sighs
Could not hide the blood upon her hands.

"You found his spells!" they gladly cried.
"And now the wealth! Share it, sister, do!
For always, we have ever tried
to bring our love alive in you."

Shine the candle, shine, my dear.
Let dancing shadows seize your fear

She stood there with her bloodied hands
Laughter almost choked her throat.
"His wealth is of a splendid kind
Wrapt in fur and owl's blood."

They laughed. They tittered, sisters two
And held her close. "Tell us, do.
What gold is kept in owl's blood?"
Do not say his gold turned into mud!"

Shine the candle, shine, my dear.
Do not display a single tear

"That was not my tale," she coldly said.
"And now I go, to find my love,
To take him beneath an owl's flight.
And hold him, caught, in darkness."

One sister laughed. The other smiled,
And told tales of splendors dark and bright
But she did not hear, her mind still caught
In roughened fur and rabbit's blood.

Shine the candle, shine, my dear
And will your true love to appear

© 2005, 2007 Mari Ness

Read more by Mari Ness

Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum

Return to Aphelion's Index page.