Annona by Shelly Jones

When asked about the ravaging of the land, the old ones talk of the collective, and of Annona.

The collective had read the ancient texts by candlelight in their earthan cells, texts that prophesied the coming of the Harvest after a conflagration. With each forest fire, they sent their botanists on a sacred mission, stalking the charred hollows of the land. The missionaries waited like midwives at the roots of petrified trees, expectant. But nothing ever grew.

Over the years the collective grew weary of waiting, their faces grizzled, their bones brittle like the burnt limbs haunting their moldering texts. In desperation they burned their books, a sacrifice to coax the Harvest. Finally, after another great fire that left the forests barren, the collective disbanded, scattering like seeds in the wind.

After a time, when people talked of these old ways, they would spit, shaking their heads. "Fools,” the old ones would tut.

But fire burns fools and the wise alike, and soon the forest was alight, splintering in crackling flames once more.

And from the wood sprouted a child with tufts of coral fungus along her arms and an articulated spine of conks. She searched the land, mycelium bristling with hunger. With each footfall, the soil blackened, the grass turning to husks, as Annona uprooted villages, sapping the earth of its nutrients.

Still now, the old ones say she continues her hunt, searching for the collective to harvest and bring home, sustenance for her ravenous kin below.


Shelly Jones, PhD is a Professor of English at SUNY Delhi, where she teaches classes in mythology, literature, and writing. Her speculative work has previously appeared in Podcastle, New Myths, The Future Fire, and elsewhere.

Author's note

"Annona" was written in response to a micro prompt about harvest. I immediately thought of humanity's relation to the land, and about climate change. As someone who teaches mythology, I was drawn to the idea of (mis)interpreting ancient texts, and how the meaning could be misconstrued by those reading it.