Janus looks back and knots his face. Quickly the Deity of Transitions turns back around to face ahead because, gods know, he did not expect this last year to have gone off the rails so badly. Shrouded and indistinct, the future has to be better. It has to.
The molting hasn’t begun yet, but he can feel the first tickles. He shouldn’t have any memory of what that tickle means, but after millennia there is a hovering dreamlike association that is not entirely unpleasant. As each year wanes, a curious sort of déjà vu sets in, a dream-like familiarity with what’s in his head even if he can’t recall having these specific thoughts before.
The lack of control begins to chew at him around the summer solstice. He can only look on as time crowds up to its annual flip. It is positively tragic that once the molting has stripped away the old ineffective observer, what emerges will believe all over again in limitless possibility.
Janus reaches back to carefully pick through the spent leaves of the year ending to find the moment it all began to shred. The molting may strip away memory of what is past, but before he is forced out of this skin, he can recall with absolute precision every day, every hour of those days, the rise of every moon and the fall of every sun.
There was that glorious blizzard that he emerged into after the last molting when he could see with new eyes and feel with new skin. Exhilarated and curious, impervious to cold and wind, he pushed forward into the new year, pulsing with power and sure of his grip on the coming days and nights. The unfolding days and nights swept by, each accumulating missed opportunities that he was only marginally aware of and then only after the fact.
There. There it was. A referendum that went down to defeat. More than one. Could disaster of this scale really have been the result of such small events? The molting is now taking over, but Janus can’t stop himself from looking back to swamped coastal cities and newly sprung deserts spreading across whole continents. With his view limited to the single year just passed, Janus can only suspect that he has been regularly missing these turning points.
Now the molting has begun for real. He braces himself even though he can’t remember why. Will he be convulsing soon? He can’t remember. A diamond hard and completely uncompromising thought rises as he sheds his old self and its memories. His graying hair is falling around his shoulders and he feels a dizzying slice of liberation as the skin over his spine splits. He leans forward and lets the old fall away. In the trailing suspended moment as the air touching new skin before his eyes are forced shut, that splinter of thought crowds out everything else. All those missed opportunities were someone else’s. He simply observes. He suspects he will forget this, too
Published April 2016 as part of the “Two Stories Up!” Series (2016–2017).
Two Stories Up! was an ongoing project that had Tammy Remington and AleXander Hirka (The Anomalous Duo) each composing a new (extremely short) short story every two months which was then sent via postal mail to interested readers.