Holy timeliness, Batman! In an epic quest to try to do an entry for all the quarterlies, here's my entry for the Quarterly 3: December 2015 edition, "holiday fic!" Due to somewhat mature themes, this will be a PG-13 entry! If a mod thinks the topics covered warrant a full M-rating, just let me know *fine print: my response will not be immediate, as I'll have very limited time to check up on things for the next few days*. I THINK there may be one instance of a past/present tense confusion somewhere in the fic that a beta pointed out, but I can't remember where they said it was. Oh well. Just getting that out of the way first since I know I usually let a minimum of ONE of those slip into the final product. Hope you enjoy!
It was when the townsfolk first started putting on jackets in September that the first Terminus Reap merchandise hit the shelves. Snowblowers that had been left unmarked were suddenly marked down 10%, with a neon pink or yellow sign saying "Terminus Reap Sale Now!" taped onto the sides of them. Of course, rakes were not part of the Terminus Reap festivities, so they went ignored by big businesses, even though the townspeople needed rakes more immediately than they needed a snowblower. Axes, both ones made for adults and special kids' axes, also went on sale, buy two and get the third free. Branch clippers were usually sold right next to them. Special flavors of hot cocoa started being stocked, with the implicit threat that they would be removed from the public after the Reap season was over. They were always among the most popular flavors, so they always sold out quick, and people tended to forget they even existed after the Reap season passed, only to be startled again the next year when the flavors were reintroduced. Sleds and thick clothing, both decked out in the white and blue Terminus Reap coloring, were also on sale. Most people complained about how there was all this Reap season merchandise being sold in September, and that the Reap season doesn't actually start until December, but nobody ever does anything about it. They complained about how all this commercialism blatantly ignores September's Veterinarian's Day (or they complained about how Veterinarian's Day doesn't get any commercialism), and seriously downplays the importance of November's St. Joy's Day. The fact that traditionalists say that Terminus Reap season begins on the second week of November and St. Joy's Day happens to fall on November 6th every year doesn't help disprove the notion.
Brian was once one of those purists, but ever since having kids of his own, he's been slowly coming around to the idea that maybe it was good to celebrate the true meaning of Terminus Reap for a longer period of time, and if that meant more commercialism and dumbing down the meaning of Terminus Reap, then so be it. Besides, it made Sol and Luna happy. Brian had told his kids "No" on the idea of getting new kids' axes in September. But now that it was the second week of November, his defense on his position was starting to lose credibility. Sol and Luna wanted new Terminus Reap axes, even though they had perfectly usable ones from last year, and they wanted them now. So, Brian agreed to take the children to the general store and get them new axes, on the condition that they start compiling their donation pile early. The kids eagerly agreed.
Driving across the greater Icirrus City area, Brian saw the white and blue banners start to appear on official buildings. Many were being scrubbed early. Most houses in the area already had Reap colors displayed, along with all of their lawn decorations put away. Their mailboxes were draped with decorative white and blue Reap veils. There was at least one car that had its trunk draped, but most people think that's taking it too far. It was a very porous drape, so visibility wasn't too much of an issue, but the safety concerns were still there. The family passed by a truck selling end-of-the-season crops off the side of the road. Corn, squash, pumpkins, and all other sorts of fruits and veggies were piled onto the trunk space of the truck. The children were more interested in axes, though.
At the general store, Terminus Reap music was playing on the overhead speakers. It mostly played the classics, or remixes of the classics. The classics, including the timeless "Let's Free," were all minimalistic and somber, talking about the gathering of loved ones and the shedding of the old and excess, of the beauty that awaits upon reawakening, and of the inevitability of the end. The remixes jazzed it up considerably, although the messages behind them were still mostly intact. There was a hot new song playing that all the out-of-date people hated that was death metal. Brian hated it, but his kids knew all the words.
"You know," Brian said, as his kids were busy picking out white or blue kids' axes, "Terminus Reap isn't about getting new stuff. There's another holiday for that. It's about the exact opposite. That's why you make donation piles every year. You're supposed to be getting rid of stuff you don't need anymore."
His kids didn't hear or understand.
"But we don't NEED our old axes anymore!" said Luna. "And Mikayla and Jenique are getting new ones!"
"ALL the boys in my class are getting new ones today!" whined Sol.
'All lies,' thought Brian.
He remembered back to when he was a young boy, and how excited he was to go shopping for a new axe every year with his parents. This was why he wasn't too upset with his kids forgetting WHY they were getting axes. As Brian and his kids were leaving the aisle, another family walked in, with their children running to the axes section to pick out their axes. Brian thought to himself that he would need to get new branch clippers before Terminus Reap as well, as his current pair had actually rusted over during the current year. Maybe he would surprise Sol and Luna with a pair as well, even if it defeated the purpose of Terminus Reap.
On December 5th, it was Terminus Reap. Like with most years, there had been an early, heavy snowfall just prior to Terminus Reap, no doubt thanks to some extraordinarily powerful Ice-type Pokémon. The marsh area was completely frozen over, with no skate marks on the frozen surface yet. The wild buzzing of the local Pokémon were nowhere to be heard. They had all either migrated away, or were dead. There were no stray Cubchoo rooting through the trash. There were no cars on the road. The whole of Icirrus City was peaceful, quiet, symbolically empty, and dead.
Brian woke up first. After getting ready for the day ahead, he woke up Sol and Luna. At first they were unhappy about being woken up so early, but once they realized that it was Terminus Reap, they quickly got excited and sped through their morning routine. They wanted to get outside as soon as possible. Once everybody had bundled up and gotten their axes and clippers, the family went out, passing by each of their donation piles that would be taken to the town square's designated donation building later on that day, ready to begin the holiday trek up to Dragonspiral Tower. Other families on their street soon joined them. At first, the talking was kept to a minimum, but as the townsfolk neared the forest, the chatter increased, both in quantity and volume. The children danced on ahead of the adults, excited to get to the tower as soon as possible, and inevitably they danced their way back to the adults once they figured out that the adults weren't keeping up with them, only to soon after dance on ahead again, repeating the process over and over. The adults calmly chatted with one another, catching each other up on what they've been up to since the last Terminus Reap.
Slowly, the whole town made their way to Dragonspiral Tower. The tower itself was painted white with snow, the moat surrounding it frozen over, as it was every year. All of the healthy dragons had migrated away by now, so there were no seemingly distant roars to be heard. But it was not Dragonspiral Tower that was the focus of Terminus Reap. It was the forest surrounding it. As the townspeople looked around, they surveyed all the dead trees around them. Though somewhat clustered, the trees were randomly colored either a dark brown or a fiery red. The children all went up to the red trees, Sol and Luna included.
"Sol! Luna! Wait for the signal!" yelled Brian.
All of the children stopped themselves from chopping away, though that didn't stop them from assigning themselves red trees, with a few children bickering with each other over who gets to chop a particular tree. The adults had to step in to decide on things. From off in a distance, back at the Icirrus City town square, the ancient bell, rung once a year now for centuries, and had once been used to warn villagers of potential invasions from other settlements, rung twelve times. Though there was once significance to the number twelve, it has long since been lost to time, and the bell is now rung twelve times just to give the bell use, to give the townspeople enough time to pick out red trees and prepare themselves, and to make sure everyone actually hears the bells. Upon the twelfth rung, the adults cheered on the children as the children started chopping away at the red trees.
As Brian was cheering on Sol and Luna, there was a small child, just barely standing, next to her mother, who was also standing within earshot of Brian. The child was Cindy Luhue, who looked like she was no more than two. She was clearly way too young to participate in the festivities.
"But why are we only cutting down the red trees?" she asked her mother, Wu Luhue.
"Well," Wu said, kneeling down to Cindy's height and putting on a bright smile, "a long time ago, a terrible virus struck the forest around Dragonspiral Tower. It turned many of the trees red, and when a tree turns red, it's as good as dead. It will never grow again, and will never produce any fruit. But it won't wither and crumble because it's so big, so every year, we come out here and chop the red trees down so that there's space for all the healthy brown trees to grow in the spring!"
"Ohhhh..." replied Cindy, who seemed to have a basic grasp of the concept.
Once the children had gotten tired from chopping away at the red trees, the adults took over, finishing the job the children had started. The children would start clipping the branches of the healthy trees, taking away the excess weight the trees would otherwise be burdened with. Any trees that fell would be collected the next day by lumberjacks and disposed of, and the stumps and roots would be taken care of at a later time by professionals. One of the adults was playing "Let's Free" loudly on an mp3 player.
"Daddy," asked Luna, while Brian was busy hacking away at a tree Sol and Luna had started on, "did Mommy die and leave us so she could be happy?"
Brian froze. He knew that one day his children would ask this question.
"Terminus Reap is all about getting rid of what you don't need and starting over anew in the new year," said Sol, as if he was quoting from a textbook. "It's why all the animals go away, all the food dies, all of Mother Nature closes up, we have to get rid of all the toys we don't play with anymore, everyone puts away their lawn decorations because they're considered excessive, and when everything dies, they reincarnate to a better life next year."
His own children were trying to corner him with logic.
"Yeah, so if Mommy died, she reincarnated and has a happier life now, right?" asked Luna. "Was she not happy with us? Didn't she love us? Is that why she hasn't visited us?"
Brian was on the verge of tears. Eclair...his lovely, long auburn haired wife that he had spent so many Reaps with, the woman who gave the both of them two beautiful, intelligent children. The woman who died suddenly around Terminus Reap five years ago.
"Maybe I should die so that I can reincarnate and visit Mommy!" said Sol, excitedly.
Brian had to suppress the tears. What kind of monster would tell his own children that their mother never loved them? Who would tell their children that they didn't love their parent hard enough? Who would give them the impression that their own birth mother chose to walk away from all of them? Worse, that she would rather die than to be with them? Perhaps Terminus Reap had not thought about children who would want to take their own lives so that they could be with a deceased loved one? The fact that his children thought this was like a stab in the heart, and he felt that he had failed as a father in some way, that he had failed Eclair as a husband. He would never allow Sol and Luna to think this way about their mother or playing with their own mortality again.
He turned to them and smiled.
"Honey, son, your mother didn't leave because she was unhappy. She loved you both more than life itself, and she would never leave because of you two. She just happened to die around the time of Terminus Reap. Sometimes, that happens. People die without warning, and there's no way to prepare for it. We should all be happy that she DID reincarnate and IS enjoying a happier life now. She hasn't forgotten us, and she is constantly watching over us. Mommy would want all of us to enjoy our life as it is right now and not be sad that she is gone. And she certainly wouldn't want one of you to reincarnate just to see her again. You two both know that you wouldn't be able to come back once you reincarnate, so Mommy would be sad that you'd be leaving me alone. We don't want to make Mommy sad, right?"
"Right," they both said.
"Good. Now, come help me cut down some of these branches."
Sol and Luna picked up their branch clippers and went with Brian to one of the healthy trees that had many useless branches that needed trimming. They would give their donation piles away in a few hours after that. Later on, they would all watch classic Terminus Reap cartoons from decades ago and eat a feast that utilized every part of the Miltank, and sleep early, for the vast amount of food would make them very tired. Such would be the tale of all the residents of Icirrus City this, and every Terminus Reap.