Lady Midday loved the smell of children in spring. She delighted in their honeysuckle hair, jasmine-imbued coveralls, and the hint of homemade oatmeal raisin cookies on their breath. They were all sweetness and light in joyful, tireless bodies, just as she once was. Now, standing in the cool shade of the weeping willow atop her grassy knoll, she watched two of them play near the bounds of the wheatfields, and she longed to join in their games.
Oh, how she loved to play.
The sun called to her then, dappling at her bare feet as the day’s heat spell reached its peak. Lady Midday stepped out from the shifting shadows of her tree, and her scythe glinted in the light. She was slender and moved like a woman in middle age. Her eyes were a cool green, and she wore a wreath of spring flowers upon her head--lilacs and dandelions pierced with daisy’s breath, woven through a crown of withered vines.
She stretched in the blaze of noon, her sallow skin and sunken cheeks impervious to the sun's burning rays, and her white spring dress like a second skin. She knew neither sweat nor smell of her own flesh. She was an apparition to all including herself--a wraith of skin and bone who passed as a hag to those unlucky enough to meet her.
She looked up at the sky and reveled in the season’s caress.
Yes, it was time.
With a grin, she strode across the field, glided over a flowing stream, and rushed towards the children. They should have known better than to be out at this time of day, the sun hanging like a great searing orb above, looming over everything and everyone. The heat was not meant to be defied, and any sensible person knew it--their parents should have warned them long ago.
Lady Midday screamed.
The boy and girl looked up and saw her coursing towards them like a white-hot wave, her dress billowing behind her, and a scythe glinting in her hand. She raised the never-dull blade to the sky and cackled before catching the eyes of the frightened children. As she surged towards them, she called:
“Out of the sun your mother said
Else the Noon Witch has your head!”
The children turned and fled, their feet crushing stalks of cut-down wheat and racing along the fringes of the field. In the distance, the farmhouse was the size of a wheat kernel, and behind them, Lady Midday was a torrid specter coming ever closer. She continued her calls, which scraped at their ears like horrific lullabies.
“Play and sweat, and sweat and play
Just be home ‘fore Lady Midday;
The sun’s no good for girl or boy
It sucks out life and burns out joy;
So get on home while you still can
And tell my tale if you still stand."
She was upon them now in a clearing, the virgin grass an ecstasy beneath her feet, as the smell of fear suffused her senses.
“Go away!” the girl yelled.
But it was too late.
“You should have listened to your parents,” the Noon Witch crowed, so close she could breathe in the essence of forget-me-nots in the children’s hair.
And as Lady Midday caught up behind them, she raised her scythe and down she cut them. In blood-soaked fields, she is known, and now through you, her tale has grown.
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