The autumn rains still lay across the moor, sheets of shining water under the moon. For days the sky had been clear and the nights cold, until the flood froze and the skating began.
Newcomers to the village strapped on skates, whirled and tumbled in laughing family parties. Excited children shrieked and mocked as their clumsy parents fell on the ice. There was no danger. There was no depth to this winter lake.
If anyone had been looking, they might have noticed that the old families, those whose grandfathers and great grandfathers for countless generations had worked these fields, skated in groups of men or women. Separate. There were no couples. And certainly no children.
Wordlessly they knelt beside the flood and tightened the thongs of their ancient bone skates. Only in a freezing year did they fetch these skates from their hidden place beside the chimney, rub them with a little goose fat, and carry them in silence to the icy moor.
If anyone had been looking, they might have noticed the figures cut in the ice by these skaters. Circles, arabesques, stars, triangles. The year the cobbler had tried to cut a pentangle in his scepticism, the ice cracked without warning. He fell through and broke his ankle. No one departed from the traditional figures again.
If anyone had been looking, they might have noticed the group of skating women fan out around a dejected young woman who stood in the centre of their circle. She had unlaced her skates and they lay like two beef ribs on the ice.
Round and round the women skated, faster and faster. The stars wheeled in their eyes and the cut ice swished under their feet.
With no signal, they stopped. It was time for the lifting.
The women moved as one towards the girl, who stood motionless, head bowed, waiting.
Strong hands seized her, and lifted her to the cold moon. Twice they raised her pliant body without effort, and spoke. At Harvest.
They lowered her gently to the ice. She strapped on her skates and rejoined the women in their silent circuit.
At Harvest, twins were born, and each child had a tiny sixth toe on the left foot. They didn’t know why this should be.
It always happened with children born from the lifting.
Diane Jackman's poetry has appeared in magazines and anthologies, including The Rialto, Outposts and Words-Myth and a short story in “Story” ( Happenstance Press). She was winner of the Liverpool Poetry Festival competition 2006. She wrote the libretto for "Pinocchio", for the Kings' Singers/LSO performed at The Barbican, has published seven children's books and many stories. She lives in Norfolk.