Part five: AITHER / Spirit
PART FIVE: AITHER / SPIRIT
It aches, doesn’t it? Nothing pulls a body downward into the earth like the heaviness of a heart that has become like lead. But, you know, they say the darkest of nights must come to an end, and so it is in the case of this, our little tale.
Let me take you back to Olympus.
There is a conference taking place. The stone table is massive, its broad, sturdy legs covered in symbols and inscriptions. There are twelve occupied thrones placed about it, and he sits at its head. There is a dark cloud around him and it sputters with white-hot sparks. He slams his fist down, causing hairline fractures to scatter out from the place of impact. He stands up, tall and massive, and his form cannot be seen at all: the cloud conceals him. He cries out, long and loud like a commanding blast from a trumpet. In his shout is the terrible war cry of Olympus’ most feared warlord, roused up like a hornet from his place of repose. But right in the centre of it there is an unspeakable anguish, and this horrible duality causes the other eleven to fall back in fear. The sparks intensify and lightning strikes flash out again and again, causing the sky around to boom with heavy cracks of thunder, and down below the earth is pounded with a sudden relentless downpour. His cry reaches its peak and once again he slams his fist into the table, and this time a crack like a fault line opens up right the way through it, from head to foot. The cloud about him starts to become translucent, and he can be seen with hands resting on the end of the table, arms supporting slumped shoulders, his head hanging.
“It is done”, he says, and the words travel out from his lips on a sigh as his broad chest deflates. He sits once more.
The others bow their heads. They wait in silence, eyes closed.
It is a long time, and still they sit there, quietly. Night falls, and they sit. Midnight passes, and they sit. Dawn rises, and they sit. Midday, night, dawn, midday again, and still they sit. As dusk falls once more, again he lets out a long sigh, and this time it is quiet, like the rippling river that has long since spent its strength in the rapids of times past.
The Eleven raise their heads. A golden glow starts to pulsate outwards, from his left and from his right. The light grows on either side, and reaches to each of the thrones nearest. Soon they are wrapped in light, and then it spreads to the next, and the next, on both sides of the table, until all twelve are linked by it in a ring of perfect light. They stand, in unison, and raise their arms, hands outstretched before them. He begins to sing. As his voice melts into the light and it wraps itself around his melody, the others join in, and the song is the beauty of all that is good and well, and all that is forged by pain and sorrow. It is so beautiful that it is too substantial: no mortal can bear the glory of its truth.
The glow softens, and what is passing in the midst of the twelve becomes visible. On the cracked table before them lies a human form, a woman. The light spreads out from the twelve to engulf her too. She is clothed simply in a white tunic that softly covers her like a tender protection, only it is rent at the chest, exposing a gaping wound. Her skin is ashen with a bluish tinge, lips pale and lifeless, hair dank and limp. She is emaciated. And she is completely still.
Zeus is the one to break the circle, in mirror of the first instance. The others continue with arms raised, and the air hums with a warm suspension. He mounts the table and kneels beside the girl. Tenderly slipping one arm around her neck, he raises her head and draws her toward him. Mouth to hers, he exhales slowly, once, twice, and a third time – and lays her gently down again.
He resumes his position at the head of the table. His eyes are dark with emotion and the tremble of his heart makes itself known in the shuddering of the earth underfoot.
The sky lightens as the clouds dissipate, and the sun offers its rays in an intermingling with the golden light of the gods, adding a soothing, quiet warmth to the Olympian gathering.
Love is tempered of a different stuff than I ever thought it to be. I believe in it still, even though my own has been robbed of me still in its infancy.
Beautiful woman – that my heart could beat within you in place of yours and you would live again!
But see, I can water this earth with these wasted tears, like this relentless rain soaking us both to the bone, and nothing is gained. Perhaps in time something may grow from them, but I can’t wish for anything further than to see those eyes open again and meet mine in that shy way you were beginning to!
Some dreams you don’t realise you had until they’ve slipped away. You were my dream, Pandora, my one deepest and truest dream that only could be awoken by you yourself.
Don’t you see it, my loveliest one, my life?
Know that you were loved, Pandora! And know that this kiss is everything I have to offer you – because it comes from a heart so true, born of a love so strong, the stronger for never having been awoken before.
Can it still comfort you in death? Is there comfort in that? I will offer it nonetheless – my best and purest to meet you, the answer to my heart.
Oh, this ache!
Zeus made me come here, to find him and watch him, and see him in his grief – I suppose to see the damage I caused. And I have found him – he leans over the body of his wife, wrapping his great strong arms around her, stroking the hair from her head and weeping as he rocks her to and fro.
Anguish is a palpable thing, and it brings me to my knees. It’s a dark torment that is settling about me this day. I think the shame of what I did will never leave me.
He has pressed his lips to hers. Cold and lifeless as they must be to the touch! It is too much to watch and too much to bear.
I should not be here, intruding on this private grief.
But I must go to him. Perhaps – perhaps a brother can offer some comfort?
That is all I have to meet him with, comfort and a feeble attempt at a hollow apology that can never take the place of or atone for what he has lost.
Night is dark, and day is light.
Moon reaches for sun, sun evades moon, an ever-turning cycle.
Blackness hiding all colour – colour banishing all blackness.
Circle turns its full rotation to restore all things to order.
Threads woven in and out, fabric encapsulating all.
Song that sings it all into being –
The cry shatters the stillness.
Again it rings out!
She moves -
The exclamation breaks out after a sigh, the sigh of a man who thinks the slight shifting of the form beneath him is the memory his muscles still hold of the woman he has lost.
The exlaimer – Prometheus.
The sigher – Epimetheus.
Forethought, and Hindsight, linked forever by brotherhood and their sharing of this one matchless moment.
The prostrate man registers first the voice and then its import. He lays still a moment longer, arms about Pandora, and then as if startled into he reality he scrambles to his knees with the confusion of a man who thinks he spies his love in the distance and is not sure if she is the mirage born of wishful thinking, or real flesh and blood.
“Pandora?” He exclaims, gently shaking her.
Cruel trick, if Prometheus has played him false!
He looks down pleadingly at her, hand urgently now caressing her arm, now her face.
And then – she inhales.
She opens her eyes, and they are eyes of wonder.
He thinks he is dreaming, she thinks she is dreaming.
She slowly raises her hand to his face.
The spell is broken.
The box has vanished.
A beautiful bloom has settled over her skin, red with the blood of life.
With a great gasp of breath, I open my eyes, and stand. I am not in that terrible place anymore – the darkness has gone.
I am here, in the middle of a circle surrounded by Zeus and the Eleven, and Pandora is here with me, opposite me, climbing to her feet too, with a look of bewilderment on her face that I feel sure must mirror mine. She wears a robe, torn at the chest and stained with dried blood, but her face and lips are coloured with the warm vitality of life.
She looks at me, and I at her.
The same thought dawns on us both at the same time and passes between us – I can see it flicker across her brow as it transfers from mine, and it is this:
We are one – we are the same – we are two sides of the same coin. She and I, mortal and immortal, death and life, despair and hope, loss and love, Pandora and Elpis.
We gaze at each other wonderingly while the truth of this sinks in.
Life returns gently. It is a quiet awakening and a slow realisation that the crisis has passed, and that all creatures consist of the dark and light.
The truth has to be got at, doesn’t it? Even when it means the exposure of something ugly and terrible in the process. Then can come the healing. If the heart is neglected, it dies – and only its owner can recognise that and start to reverse the damage.
We dream, and we consider all things.
What is the darkness, really?
The closed box, and the opened box?
And what is the antidote?