13DWF Day Eight: "To Everything There is a Season" by Erica Ruppert

Our eighth story of The 13 Days of Weird Flash is Erica Ruppert's "To Everything There is a Season" from our "Spring '23" release.

13DWF Day Eight: "To Everything There is a Season" by Erica Ruppert
Erica Ruppert, author of "To Everything There is a Season"

Welcome to the month of December, and on a Friday to boot!

We hope you’re going to have a relaxing break before doing this all over again next week, but here at the Weird Fiction Quarterly headquarters, the weekend is going to be busy as we get everything in order for the publication of the hardback next week. We have story proofs to send to contributors, some updated contracts to get signed, updating our authors' information page, and putting together a cover image. It’s a lot of work, but given how well the past year’s paperback editions have turned out, we can’t wait to see how the hardcover comes together.

While we’ll be busy boys and ghouls this weekend, there’s no reason for you to not start the weekend off on the right foot with “To Everything There is a Season” by Erica Ruppert, a story about a (not-so) routine walk in the woods from our Spring ’23 collection.

Erica Ruppert (HWA, SFWA) lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and too many cats. Her short stories have appeared in magazines including Vastarien, Lamplight, and Nightmare, on podcasts including PodCastle, and in multiple anthologies. Her debut collection, Imago and Other Transformations, was released by Trepidatio Publishing in March 2023. When she is not writing, she runs, bakes, and gardens with more enthusiasm than skill.

At this point, you know the drill – enjoy the tale and stick around for a brief chat with Erica afterwards.

To Everything There Is a Season

By Erica Ruppert

On the day before April, Daphne walked deep into the woods behind her property. This was her spring ritual. This was when she reminded herself that the world would go on.

She picked her way around the emerging vernal pools in the low spaces between the trees, pushing aside the evergreen branches of the sprawling laurel thicket, heading toward the stream. At the stream’s edge she stopped, breathed deeply, and looked around her. She had to narrow her eyes against the sun’s white glare.

She did not remember the light being at this angle.

Blinking, she worked her sockless feet out of her boots. She stepped barefoot into the cold mud of the streambank, digging her toes into it. She imagined mud filling the seams and cracks of her dry skin, rich and black and ready to host a clutch of hungry roots. She clenched her toes, anchoring herself to the earth.

She grunted as something sharp bit into the soft meat between her toes. She balanced on one leg to examine the sole of her foot. A dark shard stuck out of her skin, the dry end of a laurel seed pod. She hissed as it broke off under her skin as she tried to pull it out. She dug at it with her nails, but a hard, round thing stayed buried in her foot.

Wincing, Daphne slid her boots on and started back towards her house. She needed tweezers and peroxide.

As she made her way through the laurels the sunlight flared like a struck match. She squinted against the sudden sharp pain of it, and shielded her eyes with a muddy hand. The angle was wrong. The sun could not be so low now. Never so low.

She couldn’t see past the light. It blinded her as she tried to move through the tangled branches. It hid something that moved within it, something burning white. With instinctual fear she turned away from it, running back to the stream, limping and clumsy, the pain in her foot radiating up her leg. Whatever pursued her stayed out of her sight, hidden by the glare. But she knew it was there. She could feel it.

She tried to follow the stream away from the pursuing light, but her feet stuck deep in the soft, sucking mud. It was harder and harder to lift them free and keep moving. Her body ached with the effort. She paused, and pushed her tangled hair back with a stiffening hand. In the glittering sunlight, her hair shone a pale green.

As she stood in the mud the pain moved up her tired legs, tracing her veins, thrumming up through her pelvis and belly and chest, up and up to the back of her throat. She coughed as the small round thing rolled up and into her mouth.

On her tongue she felt it split, and the tickle of the first shoots winding between her teeth, pressing against her parted lips, reaching for the light.

Q&A with Erica Ruppert

WFQ: Why do you write weird fiction and when did you start?

ER: I think I've always gravitated toward horror and the inexplicable. As a kid I loved books about ghosts and the supernatural. Once I discovered Lovecraft, Ramsey Campbell, M.R. James (to name a few) I realized that weird fiction resonated with me. I took up writing it in earnest about ten years ago.

WFQ: Who are the literary inspirations for your contributions?

ER: I pull a lot of my ideas from myth and folklore, but for literary inspiration I often look to Angela Carter, Tanith Lee, Ray Bradbury, and Shirley Jackson.

WFQ: What do you like most about the 500-word format we use? What do you find most challenging with it?

ER: I really enjoy the succinctness of flash, so the 500-word format is fun for me. Sometimes, though, in paring a story down to exactly 500 words, the plot wants to take a turn I hadn't planned on.

WFQ:  If you were made editor for an issue, which theme would you choose to guide a whole WFQ installment?

ER: I would go with the theme of "Elemental". There's a lot to work with, there.

WFQ: Where else can we read more of your work? Where can we find out more about you?

ER: Links to most of my stories and books can be found on my bibliography at nerdgoblin.com. In particular, check out Imago and Other Transformations (Trepidatio Publishing), To the Shore, To the Sea (Hiraeth Publishing), and Sisters in Arms (Trepidatio Publishing). I also have a page on Facebook and my main website is at nerdgoblin.com.

Unless you’re one of our readers Down Under (Australia, not The Upside Down!), we probably don’t need to remind you to wear proper footwear when you’re out this weekend.

That said, should you find the weekend's sluggishness growing on you a bit too much, double-check that you’re not actual due for a shot of Roundup to loosen you up a bit. Then again, who are we to judge folks who enjoy the slower pace of life and are looking to put down some roots?

 We'll be back tomorrow.

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