Response to Ruthanna Emrys' story, "Brief Candle", published in episode #157 of the Drabblecast.
Maranda stalked the fields the night she discovered what kept the storks away. Of course, a full moon lit the fields in dull grays, corn tassels blowing in a bathwater warm wind creating jerky shadows on the dried earth. The storks didn't come any other nights. Maranda paid scant attention to the shadows as she mulled over the old wives words. She scandalized them, she knew they believed that she scared the storks away when she didn't stay home waiting for them.
Moonlight reflected in the pond outside the village and Maranda stopped to look at the reflection. The wind calmed so the lake became a single smooth pane that was still enough to reflect the stars. Years ago, before she'd been married, her mother told stories about how babies are young stars that are flown to us by the storks. Looking at the stars reflected in the water, Maranda doubted that could be true. The stars flickered in the water. They were still here. What cruel punishment was this that the storks no longer visited them with babies swaddled in their beaks. But where did babies come from?
On the other side of the pond, a loon surfaced -- Maranda imagined it was hungry like her husband, sleepwalking for a midnight snack -- and the ripples spread across the pond. Something dark flew through the moon's shadow and Maranda looked up to see a large wide-billed bird carrying a blanket with the four corners twisted to tie into it a harness that dropped from the bird's mouth. It had to be a stork.
Maranda crept along the edge of the field in the shadows of the oak trees. The stork flew as a darkness against the moonlit fields and she hoped she wouldn't spook the stork. Whose baby did it bring? If it got to her house before she got there, would it leave and never deliver the baby?
Up ahead, the stork dropped towards a tree. Maranda slowed in her pace, making sure she kept to the shadows, and careful to step in the tilled field where she wouldn't rustle the grasses. Dark bumps filled the tree, and as she neared, she heard squalling of what must be babies. A whole tree full of babies. She wondered which one might be hers.
A net, made out of dark rope that didn't reflect in the moonlight, fell over the tree so that it covered every inch and draped down to the ground. The storks flapped their wings in agitation, but couldn't escape the net. Maranda hid in the trees, she hoped her footsteps in the dry leaves would be masked by the tussle of the net.
Men stuck poles through the net to stab at the storks until they dropped their bundles. The baby's screeching at the base of the tree enticed a stork to descend but a man was under the net and wielded a club. He batted at the stork knocking it against the netting until the stork flew up to land on a branch out of reach of the man. One of the pole-wielders looked up and the moon shone on his face. Maranda recognized him, her sister had married into Oakthorn Village and married him. What was Philip doing here? Maranda slid back into the shadows, she didn't need to see any more. She had to get home and tell the others.