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Midsummer in Midwater

Summer Solstice Challenge

By Rebekah ConardPublished 8 days ago 5 min read
Top Story - July 2024
Midsummer in Midwater
Photo by James Sullivan on Unsplash

"It couldn't hurt," the Mayor remarked to no one in particular as he watched a crane swivel back and forth at the construction site.

He could see it from his office window: the "future home of Sandhill Supermarkets, Inc." Not just the "home of" a superstore, but a corporate headquarters. And just what the hell inspired some suits from out-of-state to plant their base of operations in middle-of-nowhere, barely-a-city Midwater? Well, truthfully, not in the city of Midwater, proper. If that were the case, the Mayor and city counsel might have had a little more say in the matter. No, the ground was broken just far enough from the city limit to be under the purview of the county and the state. Lord knows the governor loves progress for the sake of progress, and he has the deep pockets to buy consensus from the county.

---

While the city's hands were tied, the citizens took matters into their own hands with varying levels of legality and severity. There were organized protests, but they were largely ignored. Acts of vandalism at the construction site, also ignored. The kids moved the vandalism to the houses and backyards of key players in the development. All that did was get the Sheriff's office involved. The authorities became concerned that the next act of protest could get someone hurt.

A town hall meeting was held. It was meant to give the community an opportunity to vent their frustrations in an effort to curb the vigilantism. The Mayor didn't expect any viable suggestions to arise. In any other city, among any other group of people, the collective anger would have flared, then fizzled, then faded over the course of the evening. Any other city wouldn't have Cybil Carpenter.

The Carpenter family went way back, and was said to be one of the first to settle in Midwater. Cybil, still in her 20's, was a quiet and bookish young woman. She spent a lot of time reading or working in public places, rarely joining in conversation, but keeping tabs on everything around her. It was unusual for her to stand up and take the floor. As Cybil strode with echoing steps to the microphone, all eyes were on her.

What followed was so surreal, the Mayor pinched himself to see if he was dreaming. Calmly and confidently, Cybil described an ancient ritual practiced by her ancestors. It contained a lot of the familiar tropes of pop-culture paganism: holding hands in a circle out in nature during the summer solstice, repeating the names of nearly-forgotten gods a proscribed number of times, an intricate dance around a bonfire. It sounded like nonsense, and the explanation was long.

The ritual, Cybil said, had been known to revitalize the land after draught. It could banish floods, or call down days of rain. Some said it encouraged fruits to grow doubly quick and corn to grow doubly tall. If there had been mountains in Midwater, the solstice ritual surely could have moved them. But it wasn't a yearly routine. The immense power of the spell was to be used sparingly, during times of great strife, and the knowledge to be kept and guarded by a select few.

It sounded like a fairy tale. The Mayor bit his lip and glanced around the room. The members of the city counsel listened attentively. The secretary scribbled detailed notes. Men and women in the crowd wore serious expressions, and a few of them even nodded in agreement. Were they seriously considering her words? Or were they just being polite?

No one made a sound as Cybil finished her story. She didn't wait for a reaction. Instead she walked a folder of "supporting documents" to the counsel's table, gave a small, respectful bow, then returned to her seat. The meeting came to a close shortly thereafter, since nobody wanted to follow that act.

The Mayor didn't see who from the counsel took the folder, but whoever it was had access to a copy machine. A day or two was all it took for the papers to circulate. Incredibly, there was evidence, at least textual evidence, of this Midwater solstice ritual. There was a diary entry from an early settler of the region which detailed the steps, much as Cybil had related. There was a collection of snippets from old almanacs that recorded weather and harvest data. A few even mentioned whether or not the ritual was performed in a given year.

As recently as 1918, a local historian had published an article about the solstice tradition in the Midwater Herald. By this time, it seemed to be more of a folk tale, inching closer and closer to the realm of the forgotten. It was an entertaining read, if light on substance. None of these documents spelled out the "hows" or "whys" of the thing. "Legend only says," read the 1918 article, "that the ritual ensures fertile land and a prosperous harvest."

Then the inquiries began. Slowly, folks trickled into the office to gauge the city's interest in the ritual. Of course no one was saying they should actually perform it, "but isn't it an interesting story." By the end of the week, the citizens seemed to have made up their minds to try. The city counsel asked the Mayor whether they had his support.

The Mayor blinked a few times as he chose his words. "Whether it helps or not, it couldn't hurt."

---

On the longest day of the year, the people of Midwater held a festival. Then, as the sun set, the wind began to howl.

Little sleep was had that night. The sounds of the storm were loud, constant, and chaotic. Mothers comforted frightened children. One or two folks began to wonder whether they'd made a grave mistake. Some of them drank, continuing the merriment of the solstice under their own roof, taking the power of the storm as a good omen. Something had to happen, right? It just had to.

In an old house, Cybil read a book by candle light, leaning her warm skin against the cool window pane, breathing in the scent of the rain.

---

So, what did the citizens find in the morning? It's hard to say. It wasn't covered in any papers or on any 24-hour news networks. You could stop someone on the street in Midwater and ask, but more likely than not, you'll only receive a smile. It's not something they like to talk about with outsiders.

But, I'll bet you've never even heard of Sandhill Supermarkets, Inc, have you?

By Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Short Story

About the Creator

Rebekah Conard

31, She/Her, a big bi nerd

How do I write a bio that doesn't look like a dating profile? Anyway, my cat is my daughter, I crochet and cross stitch, and I can't ride a bike. Come take a peek in my brain-space, please and thanks.

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Comments (9)

  • Gabriel Huizenga5 days ago

    Really cleverly written! Congrats on the Top Story :)

  • Cyrus5 days ago

    Congrats on TS!

  • Liam Storm5 days ago

    Great story! Really nicely written, kept me interested until the end! Congrats on top story! Good luck with the challenge!

  • Sheharyar Malik5 days ago

    nice story

  • Andrea Corwin 6 days ago

    oops, forgot to say congrats on TS🥳🥳🥳🥳

  • Andrea Corwin 6 days ago

    hahaha the joke was on them!! Nice story😍

  • Sam Avery6 days ago

    Amazing excellent good work.

  • Great read! Definitely a good time to use such a powerful spell! 😉 Good luck in the challenge.

  • Harbor Benassa8 days ago

    I love the ending of this story! The tone was consistent throughout, which made the "ancient ritual" storyline feel less cliche. What a short, cozy read! Thanks for sharing.

Rebekah ConardWritten by Rebekah Conard

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