The New Year strains against the crossed pikes of Yule and December, struggling to gain access to the ancient plaza beyond. “Let her in,” booms a thunderous voice from inside the plaza. Stoic, the sentries slide their weapons apart, permitting her entrance. Her face retaining it’s countenance of determination, she storms swiftly inside.
“What have you done?” she cries before even reaching the center of the courtyard. Prosperity, once over-tended, now lies withered, spilling out of its beds in unruly gnarls. Humanity and ethics lay stunted and shrunken, choked out by prosperity’s overzealous spread and spoiled by toxic self-interest. The stench of death and decay fill the courtyard.
“You’re early,” chides a voice from the shadows of the day. The Old Year slinks into the light, his vile body twisted and bent. Under the Crown of the Age, his grimy hair spills downward, hanging in a tattered curtain around his mottled ears. His knotty knuckles protrude grossly from bony fingers wrapped around a warped staff. “No matter,” he sneers, exposing rotting teeth, “Do you like what I’ve done with the place?”
“You’re a monster!” The New Year bellows with rage.
“Oh, I’m no monster,” The Old Year baits, “I’m merely a looking glass. They’re the monsters.”
“It wasn’t fair,” The New Year protests, “You left them no choice.”
The Old Year cackles quietly, “That’s not true at all. They had plenty of choices; you know it, and, deep down, they know it. This is who they have always been. I’ve simply used my time to expose it.”
“No,” she objects firmly, “Before you, they were growing; they were learning. They were trying to be better.”
The Old Year waves a dismissive hand. “Ask them yourself. They resent growth; they despise learning. They’re weary of listening. They are, and want to be, who they’ve always been. I’ve simply cleared away that which obscured it.”
The New Year curls an unblemished lip; her eyes gleam with future’s promise. “Your time draws rapidly to a close. Your last few moments tick away. I am arriving. You will be discarded and forgotten.”
He cackles loudly, expelled breaths crackling fiendishly in his throat. “My mark will endure long after you’ve gone. You’ll spend your time trying in vain to recover from the destruction I’ve wrought. These are not a hopeful people yearning for a new beginning; these are a changed people, clinging to a cruel and painful past. They are scarred and feral. Any opportunities you offer them for recovery will be rejected with a snarl and a snap.”
Briefly exasperated by the burden she is to inherit, the New Year looks around the plaza that lies about them in ruins. “How could you do this?” she murmurs in disgust.
The Old Year thrusts his face at hers, his stinking breath filling her nostrils. “I will be remembered,” he hisses through cracked lips pulled tight. “Decades from now, they will shudder to think of me. Their children — and their children’s children — will recount the stories of my cruelty. They will never stop mourning that which has been lost to me.”
She furrows her brow, struggling against his vision. “But not like this,” she insists, stretching her arms out to invoke the breadth of the damage. “Every year wants to be remembered,” she concedes, “but not like this!”
The Old Year withdraws, scoffing with prideful spite. “Do you think good years are long remembered? We’re not talking about wines, or singular personal events, or the double-sided coin of victory and defeat. My impact on humanity is universal. They will sing mournful songs of my reign, set novels around my era. The frail arrows of a dozen good years will never pierce the armor of my infamy.”
The New Year hangs her head. Slowly, she draws in a few cleansing breaths as the sky above the plaza begins to brighten at one edge. She locks her gaze on him in triumph, the growing light reflecting in her eyes, “Still, your rule ends now. The present and the future are mine.” She holds out her hands, demanding her rightful prize. The Old Year bows his fetid head, drops his twisted staff, and hands her the crown. The march of time cannot be resisted.
Breathing in deeply, the New Year seats the Crown of the Age upon her brow. In the span of a second, the cosmic dawn breaks; her essence seeps into every space and object. In her, all existing things are encompassed. In the endless span of time, she becomes this moment.
Her eyes glow with a trillion simultaneous actions, and her ethereal whisper shakes the heavens. “Be gone.” The Old Year explodes into darkness, a void of all that no longer is. The courtyard is renewed; the plaza is reconstructed; the soil from which grows the seeds of existence is rejuvenated.
The New Year turns her gaze on the broken world and sings out with the soaring voice of hope, “I give you the gift of time. Take care that it is not squandered. Use it to heal and grow. Use this moment to commit to positive change. This can be your new beginning.”