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Highlights from This Year's Festival of Undying

This is James Beamon's ninth story for Daily Science Fiction.

The Festival of Undying begins as it normally does, with the Pushing of the Wizard. Virtually every one of the eighty villagers trots out their own effigy of Deranged Blomssaft, many of them beautifully crafted with colorful robes, polished stones for eyes and sheared sheep's wool for hair. The villagers gather at the edge of the village and upon the sounding of the ram's horn, they release their individual Blomssafts. While the seventy-seven effigies fall silently to disappear as specks into the distant landscape miles below, the crowd emulates the desperate last screams of Deranged Blomssaft. And then they cheer.
Next comes The Eulogy, given by the village mayor in the town square. This year it's Leymin Draft, a portly man who looks like a chubby cheeked, happy baby when he smiles.
"I believe I must commend Rina Brineswell, whose screams were both panicked and piercing. And the Bellmans really outdid themselves, didn't they? They made a Blomssaft so beautiful I didn't want to see it go."
Rina blushes and the Bellmans wave as townsfolk applaud and congratulate. Mayor Leymin waits for silence to claim the crowd before he addresses them again.
"It is important to remember the Grand Wizard Blomssaft, for both his works and the sacrifice we helped him make. He plucked us from the war, famine and death of the world below and set our land to drift among the clouds. Today marks the one hundred and thirty-seventh year since any of us have seen death and while we wish it hadn't been our resident wizard, we are ever thankful for this place of perpetual magic he provided. So let's celebrate!"
Cheers go up and the overwhelming bulk of the crowd descend into the fair to play various games. The swordfight is especially gory, with a good third of the village getting hacked out of a civilized state. Rina Brineswell is disemboweled and the Bellmans are dismembered, bringing real credence to Farmer Harp's theory that getting the mayor's attention during the Pushing of the Wizard is no way to enjoy the rest of the festival.
For those villagers who are more pain averse or otherwise disinclined to spend the time having their flesh reconstitute itself, there are various cooking contests. Gran Garda handily wins for her mutton curry. She claims the secret is that "it's made with love" but her neighbors agree it's because she cleaves the meat off the sheep while the flesh is actively regenerating.
"Only way to get those mangy old sheep to taste like lamb," Delruy Smote says. "Besides, I can hear the sheep bleating its head off at night as she slices away on it."
Lori Vell wins the "Just like Egg" Contest, but not without something of a scandal. While all the judges agree that his soybean curd, softened then fried then seasoned with a highly sulfurous rock salt is the clear winner, the losers quickly point out that one of the judges, Ulia Vell, had been only eight months old at the time the village transitioned so she had never even eaten a real egg--and she's Lori Vell's cousin.
Near dusk the town enjoys the show, "The Elevating of Heavensward." They get to see one lucky villager play the wizard Blomssaft. It starts off with him in his laboratory, musing over notes and parchments.
"Dismiss me from the castle, will she?" he says to no one in particular. "Her highness lacks vision, they all lack vision."
It ends with his hands out, addressing the people of his home village. "Now, my people, we must dispense with our old name. 'Mere' is too small, too insignificant a name for us, the new immortals. From hence forth, our village shall be known as Heavensward!"
There used to be a second act, but it was cut eighty or so years ago because it was largely unpopular. No one wanted to watch Deranged Blomssaft stumbling around the town square. "This is all wrong, unnatural!" he'd shout to passersby. "The yet unborn are now neverborn, the fuel for life everlasting and undeserved. Madness surely lies here--it's only a matter of time on a road made timeless. I cannot let this continue." It was quite a morose contrast to the majestic first act and everyone began skipping it for the hay dance.
The evening marks the lighting of the bonfires. From there, barrels of distilled grain are brought out, which invariably leads to a drunken orgy. Some of the couplings fuel juicy rumors for the town for quite some time after the party.
Without a doubt, the Festival of Undying is the grandest time to be had the entire year for all the villagers with the exception of three residents.
Those three? Two of them are the Baring couple. Mrs. Baring was the only woman in the village expecting, seven months ripe, at the time of the Elevating. They stay shut in during the festival and reflect on the child that was never meant to be, no matter how much they feel it was.
The last one is Widower Galvan. He was an old man before the Elevating instantly brought him back to the prime age of thirty-five, if we're to believe the exact age from a wizard gone deranged that is. Initially one of the happiest among us for the transition, he has recently lapsed into a state of melancholy that no one wants to be around, especially during the festival.
When asked about it, Widower Galvan simply shakes his head.
"This idyllic bubble that surrounds us chains us. There are no seasons, no weather. Some of us have never seen the leaves change color or tasted snow. We will never again hear the laughter of children playing or birdsong. Butterflies flitting across flowers and lightning bugs flashing their lanterns live only in memory now. This isn't Undying. It's the death of real magic."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, December 16th, 2019
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