4

Night has fallen, cold enclosing the mist-grey boat in which she lies, asleep, letting time pass her by. Reeds bow before it, letting their tips dabble in the water, stirring dormant mayflies from their winter slumber. A whisper has run up the river, around its bends and up on the wind until it reached the far-distant hills. Joy! She is borne upon the surface, cupped in a wooden shell, eyes closed and kissed by dewdrops, smile upon her lips, silent in journey. No waves have rocked her slumber, no clouds have gathered overhead.

The birds have sung a lullaby, long, as twilight laid the sun to bed. Now they take once more upon the air, their voices full and glorious. Joy! Pale hints of light begin to caress her still form, about the dress crafted of shadows under the brim of her vessel, about her eyes, gently prying them open with whispered words of love. They are grey, grey and clear, pearls filled with kindness, with cheering thoughts to place upon the minds of those grief-weary, sadness-filled, lost spirits to whom she has come.

From below the lilac horizon, a new sun has thrown itself upwards in exaltation. Dancing with the clouds like butterflies on fields of smooth, soft, still blue. They are all awake with happy bliss. Joy! Her journey is almost done.

Above the jade-lined river stands a wall, black. The message of joy has struck its walls, been sent away without the kiss of ears to hear. Still in the city, they claw at their ears to hold the peace in, but cannot let any enter for fear of what it may bring. Their rations of love have been failing. Their skies are always filled with the dark, thunderous, unlovely anger. Their faces gaze upwards, hoping to perhaps catch some light.

A child is leaning against the wall, ear pressed tight upon the black, waiting for a call he knows is coming. Slowly, it has turned itself back, not willing to merely be deflected. It crawls into the chasms of his soul, dyes it blazing white. Joy! He stands back from the wall, first smile splitting his face and letting fall the grim coat of sadness he has worn.

"She is coming!" Gladly, he cries, arms out, legs spread forwards in a long run. Up towards the citadel, eyes turning towards his form, frowns turning inwards to wonder at his jubilation. "She is coming!" All the city turns its face towards the running child.

"Who?" they demand, their voices as one lifting.

"She who knows," he replies, singing out upon the air. He is one boy, but his words are strong. They break the oppressive silence. Anger and sadness fall away. Joy! She is coming.

"She is coming," they murmur. "Her journey is almost done."

Blue stains grow upon the edge of the wall, creeping about the edges, a mere rim, something more than just enough. It grows without seeming to, without a movement, merely encouragement. The black seeks its heart of colour, blooms suddenly like new flowers in the summer light. Joy! The tear-boat is nearing. She will be by them very soon.

Music lifts up, mysterious spirit, and the work is left undone as the city unshackles the people. They run, watching the stone walls crumble to dust and memory, broken upon the air now filled with euphoric chanting.

"Joy!" they call. "She is coming ever closer. Soon her journey will be done, and she will stand before us!"

Ripples of the sound tremble along the surface of the river, sparkling vines, flowers reaching up the banks and into the fields. Fish slide through the clear shallows, into the depths. Joy! They murmur to their writhing babies in the reeds. Their children are hearing the words; sending themselves out into the world, now knowing it is ready for their innocence.

She sits up in her boat, one lily-white, reed-slender finger trailing in the water. Ripples glitter in the sunlight, first silver, then fade away. The raiment becomes a green of newborn leaves, beaming with the enchanted wreaths hanging about her arms, in her hair. She bears her smile like a child, in the curve of her lips and in her arms. Wide open arms welcome the new-come spring. Arcs of gold are drawn above her head, trailing after the wings of contented birds.

"Joy," she cries. "Joy, for I am here, your Spring, your plenty. My journey is done. I stand before you, children of the winter. I bid you know warmth under the sun."

The people array themselves on the banks of the river, tears glistening, ecstasy glowing in their cheeks like pink roses.

"We are glad you are here," they tell her. "We only wish you could stay."

"Without winter, there can be no joy with Spring, no journey for us to take." She smiles once more. They dance.