Saturday, December 14, 2013

Prompt: There is no Death for the old gods

Thanks to Piotr Arnold Peterius for permission to use his haunting image, "untitled 58"!

Athena cradles Bubo, his lifefire dimly flickering. She dwells deep in the caves under the Parthenon, hiding from light, noise, danger, life. She rocks the owl like the child she never bore. She rocks herself, back and forth, side to side, with an endless chant no Greek would recognize today. All gone, all gone.

Immortality without company, without worship, without love has leached all traces of humanity, beauty, life from her bones. Ancient, withered as an old tree, or the stone of the mountain itself, her once strong limbs have shriveled to barest skin-over-bone, knotted with the weight of ages.

She wraps her face in the dusty remains of her once-beautiful pepos, woven in her contest against Arachne. Oh, beautiful girl, surely Eris whispered in my ear, flaming my jealousy and temper. I can only hope you have forgiven me in these long years, as I forgave you here in the quiet dark.

Still rocking Bubo, she steps forward in the dark. She freezes as the brittle bones of Erichthonius shatter under her feet. Ah, my faithful child, the child of my heart, if not my body. Would I could have shared my lifefire with you, when you chose to hide with me down here, away from the din and discord of the world above.

Bubo’s barely flickering lifefire reflects dimly against her shield, leaning against the dank wall. How she reveled in bearing that shield into battle. How many times had she raised it,
Panic mounted high in a crown around it,
Hate and Defense across it, Assault to freeze the blood
and right in their midst the Gorgon's monstrous head,
that rippling dragon horror, sign of storming Zeus*

Ah, the Gorgon, wreathed with the snakes that endlessly whispered Athena’s wisdom until she went mad. Athena eyed the shield for a moment that might have been a blink or a century. Could she even lift it now? Her strength came from light, faith, divine power. All gone. All gone. All gone.

Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle

Time writing
75 minutes, including research and dog interruptions

December word count

* Iliad 5: 841-857 (Fagles translation), per

1 comment:

  1. Prompt: There is no Death for the old gods

    “Hello?” Verene’s voice wavered like the flickering flame of her lantern. There was no answer. She swallowed and licked chapped lips, then stepped deeper into the cave-like opening.

    One wall was stone, the other soil, tangled with roots. The passageway turned left, toward the soil side, and appeared to be a tunnel hewn out of the ground. The lantern’s light gyrated widely, exaggerating the shaking of her hands. The old gods were said to guard the doorway, which existed only at night and would open only twice in each life. Once at the second full moon after one’s sixteenth birthday to provide a soul’s destiny, and once to admit one’s soul after death.

    Her parents were waiting back in the village, to hear with what destiny she returned. The tunnel curved until she could no longer see the moonlit forest behind her. She was surrounded by roots, which appeared to wiggle like snakes – or grasping fingers.

    Then she saw the door. It appeared to be covered by parchment, or perhaps birch-bark, with a faceless, twisted human shape rising from the centre. Verene’s impression of the body vacillated between wooden and mummified with each sway of her latern.

    “Hello?” she called again. It seemed only polite. No other door did you ever approach without greeting.

    Bright eyes opened in the smooth curve of the face. A mouth cracked open. “Who enters?” The words were distinct, yet so faint that they sounded more like dried leaves blowing over the ground than speech.

    “Verene,” she said, amazingly steadily given the sudden racing of her heart. She could not tear her gaze from the eyes, which burned like underwater embers beneath a glassy surface.

    The figure stepped off the door, which now appeared to be made from polished birchwood and resembled the door to the cellar of her father’s inn. “Enter.” It gestured at the newly-normalised door.

    Verene stepped forward, eyes flicking between the shape which she must pass to the comforting door. The figure backed until it sank into the soil beside the door, fading into near-invisibility amidst the tangled roots. Verene placed a hand on the door and it swung open onto a darkness that her latern-light did not penetrate.

    She turned to look back at where the figure had gone. It was still barely visible; the eyes half-open. “Are you all right?” she asked on impulse.

    The eyes opened fully and glowed brighter. “I am fine child,” said the old god. “View your destiny first. Then we will talk."

    Time writing: ~30 mins