Project #1: Elpis is an exploration of the myth of Pandora's Box, broken into five parts.
This post is the final in the series that has been exploring Part Three: Earth since May through contributions by various artists.
The following is Part Three: Earth as the story.
Words by Katie Brown
Music by The May Project
Part Three: Earth
She lies there on the ground - this beautiful, stricken wife of mine, and her eyes are closed and her body limp as I lean over her.
So this was the trick they had been plotting. Did they all know it, or just he, Zeus? Cruel. Unfair. Hopeless.
What drove her to open it? I know she saw through it. Knew it was a ploy for some sort of trickery. How then, my precious, shrewd one? How did they fool you? Curse them!
Soon after Prometheus had dispatched his delivery, sighed deeply in frustration and returned to Olympus (a great bitterness in his eyes and in his heart on behalf of his impetuous brother) the first leaf fell. All green, always, up until now - the earth covered with the breath of freshness and life. But this leaf, it turned in on itself; an old, sad, tired thing weary of being alive, and it chose to die.
Or did it? Was the tree unable to nourish it any longer - was it, also, drained and too tired to support the life it was holding up? Nonetheless - this leaf became golden as it surrendered its greenness, and the tree it fell from gently let it go, like the lingering touch of two lovers parting for the last time when they know that nothing is left to be said. Once it fell, the other leaves too began to drop and followed it to the ground. In the coming days, a cold breeze began to assemble itself and ruffle the hair of the mortals, creeping in under collars and hems and causing cloaks to be clutched closer about the body, and hands to rub themselves together as chill puffs of breath began to form on the air. It was the beginning of the first autumn, the end of the halcyon summer that could have been infinite.
New need, indeed, for the warming sustenance of flame.
Echoes, echoes are all about, always. I like to play tag with them: chase each one as it bounces and reflects off these cavernous walls, falling into my reach like a toy tossed at me to keep me amused, day in, day out. What is day? I don't know daylight. Never have, never wanted to. I glance up, and see the darkness filling this void, down, and there is the same blackness. The tease of a steady drip-drip of water that can't ever be found, the air just slightly too chilly for a body to ever quite become warm. If you're one of them, that is. I'm not one of them. I'm one of us. We are the darkness. I speak our communal language: one of ideas and suggestion, our words travel on silence and slip in on thoughts, subtle invaders attaching themselves like a Y to an X, always and ever anon sparring with the language of the Light One for right of place - Zeus - that deceiver, that honey-giver, the real tempter. No, I am sided with the darkness, with the echoes, with the un-real, because that is what is real. Our own truth - Zeus offers what he can't deliver, his promises are empty. The Dark One offers only what is real: the end destiny of all - mortal and immortal; the worship of him - the world of darkness, the world where there is not hope, because hope is the biggest falsehood ever dangled as a lure before the thirsty eyes of the humans. Ha. So pathetic! Such fools. Like a pack of sheep, like dogs, their eyes tempt them and they follow - so easily led astray.
Novel, then, that she's been committed to my...care, shall we say. Novel that the one who is supposed to represent this promise of good things to come has ended up here, of all places, with the sole command that I kill her spirit! And not even by the bidding of the Dark One, but by Zeus himself! What kind of fire is he playing with? Prometheus' work in comparison was just a feeble prelude to this tomfoolery - Zeus takes the biggest gamble by allowing Earth's one chance at resuscitation from the outcome of the fire-gift to be placed into my hands.
I am very, very good at what I do.
Elpis. Mine to hold, love and cherish, isn't that what they say? Mine to destroy. All mine. Ha!
This morning sultry clouds are rolling in, one by one, as if they mean to take up occupation in protestation against the sun. They're not the peaceful, white, empty, harmless ones that you could fall asleep on; they're granite-centred, ominous, tinted with ochre to let us know they mean business.
It is so warm. The air feels thick and heavy, like a blanket soaked through with hot water.
Me, I feel so restless. My heart is racing within me. I have turned the object about in my hands, over and over and over, a million times. Each time is like a new pinprick into the surface of my spirit: soon there will be so many punctures that the holes will be more than what is left, and quite suddenly, I know it, and I, will disintegrate.
And then what becomes of me?
My bones, my flesh? My mind?
I will distract myself. I will think of him.
He was the last challenge of the morning, on this the seventh day of our union. At dawn he raised himself up on one elbow from where he lay beside me, and through my sleep-laden eyelids I watched him in that pleasant reality that is neither wakefulness or dreaming - a place where all is possibility. He was not looking at me, but gazing out beyond me as the morning light crept inside our one window. The soft glow added a burnished polish to his tousled, tawny curls, and added a marble-like finish to his firm jawline. His beauty struck me yet again - the strength of his physique, his well-constructed face. But it was not this that kept my eyes fixed on him, it was the expression in his eyes. I knew he was unaware that I was awake, and it was the first time I had seen him this way - his playful, charismatic, charming guard dropped and pretences dispensed with. There was such a vulnerability to his face at that moment, and what shot an arrow straight into the pit of my heart was the wistfulness and longing I could see written there. But not only this - it was a deeper, heavier thing: all of the lines of his countenance at that moment delineated a kind of resigned sorrow.
I could not bear it.
He has been nothing but kind to me since we were wed, always full of life and joy and adventure, and always I slip away from him at just the moment when he thinks I have relented and that my guard is dropping. I will not let him close. Truth be told, I cannot. I know that he has begun to care for me, even despite himself.
Only a week, and the desperate work seems to have been wrought. He has changed from gallant, teasing flirt to a man falling in love, and I did nothing to facilitate the transition.
It was too much to see this rawness of emotion in him, but at the same time, I felt a new sensation within my chest that I did not understand. It was heavy, and it ached, located just to the left below my ribs. The ache was not unpleasant, but it tortured me with a kind of longing I had not yet known. For the first time, I wanted him to see me. In turn, I wanted to be able to tell him that the curve of his lips when he broke into a grin made my knees weak, and that there was nothing I wanted more right then than to smooth those curls from his brow and treasure the experience of their glorious silkiness against my fingertips. I wanted him to respond in like, and tell me that he loved me even though I was an enigma and mistress of disguise, and that the little flaws and quirks of my ways were what kept him lying next to me.
"I can see you watching me, Pandora."
His voice was quiet, and gentle. But there was a strange, new quality to it.
"Of what are you thinking?"
His hand reached out to my face and tipped my chin slightly upward.
"Of you", I responded, without thinking or weighing the words before speaking them, and reddened as a result, lowering my chin and my eyes to try and hide my embarrassment.
"Are these thoughts pleasant? In what sort of light do you paint me?"
"I cannot understand you. I am thinking that what I see in your face makes my own heart sad, and I cannot make out why. I...wish that...my being here could cause those expressions to change...that I could be for you an antidote to what it is that you feel."
He smiled. He smiled like he had just been whispered a secret, one that the faerie-tongue of the whispering only he could understand, and as though it were a treasure to be tucked away into the most hidden, locked-away corner of his heart.
"I love you, Pandora."
And this was the challenge of the morning.
He loves me.
I think...I love him.
I do not know how to be this thing, either loved or in love, and it strikes a terror into my heart.
I hadn't anticipated this. At all. I thought I would enjoy my time with him, like a draught of a fine wine that I enjoy for a few moments, and then put down and leave, knowing it affects me in a way I don't wish to feel more than momentarily.
The pinpricks return. I resume the motion of turning the box this way and that in my palms, numbing my hands with the frequent motion. It gets heavier and heavier and its edges begin to merge all into one, a cube becoming a sphere.
I think it is time to go.
Moros is his name. The dark one who hides in the shadows, and whose bidding these same shadows obey. I have not seen him clearly yet, but I can sense him watching me, always. And it is funny - though I am so repulsed by this blackness and the sliminess it conceals, the dank, unsanitary odour, the hidden creatures around me, there is something within me that always turns to where I know he is.
It is as a battle within myself - like my own hands gouging out my own eyes because they think they can see better, or them cutting off my own feet because they think they're better equipped to walk.
Eyes, and feet, look and test the way lest I go where I must not!
Let my hands be tied behind me, where they can do no meddling!
All must be catharsis
What has entered must be expelled
One entity alone over all shall rule, always
Its power must be in its weakness
She must be the catharsis.
All is not as it seems.
If it were, then each pair of eyes would be living in a very different reality from those who live alongside them. One might know beauty to be the absolute truth, another, despair, another, ambition, another, desire, yet another, terror - and whose truth is the real truth? Who holds the key? Whose light is the one true light?
All is not as it seems.
There are two worlds. The one that is, and the one that appears to be.
She's slipping from me - each day it is as though her essence gets a little less, like she is evaporating before me, melting out of my hold. She looks up into my eyes, this vulnerable slip of a thing playing at strength and confidence, and I see the fear and uncertainty dimming the would-be sparkle in her eyes. Something has a hold on her. I wish I knew what it was. I would tackle it head on, bring it down, fell it with all of the force and strength within me.
It mustn't claim her.
I mustn't lose her.
How has it come to this, then? I didn't care at first. Thought it was a game. Thought it would be fun, a laugh, to see their little intricate plots unfurl.
But she, she -
I can't bear it. My heart was bound in iron, and she, unknowingly, found the key to unlock it, and now that it is free there has been such a depth unlocked within me that I don't know which way to turn.
How will I possibly cope with losing her? And I know that I will! I know it, and it makes me so, so very angry with them! Zeus! Prometheus! Playing with lives in this manner. There is a base grossness to it.
My beauty. Where is she slipping away to?
Can you see it? It is all beginning to unravel, just as all of our characters are becoming so tangled and entwined between themselves that the ensnaring seems hopelessly permanent. You see, there is a greater battle taking place - the underworld against the upper, as always, in the ancient, sacred manner particular to these myths.
Sunlight and shade, shadow and light: light trapped in the darkness, darkness in the light. Yin and yang, the cycle.
Elpis' light is beginning to dim.
Pandora too is fading as what she carries tugs at her and weighs her down, draining her and causing her to bend toward the earth, too tired to hold herself upright.
Epimetheus, caught up in Pandora as he has become, unwittingly takes on the burden and is bowed down also with its weight, although he does not realise it.
Prometheus still does not choose to accept the consequences of his act, but deep inside he cannot shake the conviction that he was in the wrong, and he dreads the outcome of the story that is unfolding as a result.
And Zeus? Zeus remains silent, still hidden from view behind the dark blanketing of clouds thickly hanging around the peaks of Olympus.
There is nothing much more to be said now.
Even if I hold my hands over my ears, I can hear so many voices, jarring, repetitive, nonsensical. The sharpest of needles incessantly piercing my brain, never in exactly the same place. I have been here for what seems the longest of times - must be days, no idea how many. Does it even matter? Does anything even matter? Here I am, curled up on the ground, because there is nothing else to be done.
I am too tired.
If I sit up, the deepest of lethargies takes over me and my limbs become so slow and burdensome that the effort seems not worth it, and I sink back into this heap that I have now become.
There is nothing to be done.
He has me, and the second I turn to him and surrender I know the pain will stop, the voices will stop, and I will be light again, because he has told me so.
He has told me many things.
He told me that what I thought I knew was nothing, and that my truth was just that, my truth, not the truth.
He talked about the blackness. Said it was the culmination of all colour and the right way of things - it was the all-knowledge. And why had I not known this before? Because the Light One wanted to hide this truth, because the blackness contains a deeper power than his. That it contains our power. If I now give myself over to him and to them that I will not have to try any longer, try to get out, try to be free, try to be...anything. And he means, by that, the activities of my mind - to let it be blanketed in the dullness and apathy I grow towards.
You see, there is too much pain. All around me, there is pain. It's in my heart, it's in my mind, it's in my body. This place is practically heaving with it - it's like it has become the rule governing gravitational pull here. Each moment causes it to spread and grow if I think about it, and the only way to escape it is to slip into the restfulness of apathy and distance. It slows my blood flow. My heart rate has indeed slowed: I have measured the distance, fingertips to icy wrist, between the beats of my heart. It gets slower and slower, all the time, by gradual increments.
It has slowed, and I know it will stop.
How could he have done this to me, he who I trusted without question? It hurts - so, so much, if I let it.
I won't let it.
What is the outcome?
No thought for anything more.
No breath -
It is done, I have left him. I did it earlier this afternoon, after I knew he had left until supper to work in the fields. It has been difficult going, because I am so tired. My body feels so weak now, and my limbs ache. This weariness has been coming on all week, and it's so hard to shake. Sleep does nothing for it, only seems to fuel it. The air has changed too - it is not warm as it was. A chill constantly wants to take hold of my hands and caress my face. I can't stop shivering.
So here I am.
I think he was expecting it. Could see it in his eyes. He looked so sad. His hand on mine as I said goodbye - the lingering pressure of his fingertips, and then the embrace he folded me into as if he would swallow me whole to protect me if he could.
It is torture. I love him, I do love him. But I couldn't continue.
This box, this thing, it has told me so. It whispers to me, at night time, softly, like a lullaby. I like to listen to it, but it holds me entranced, mesmerised, hypnotised. I am doing what it says. It has started to burn my hands, but I can't put it down, so I just keep turning it about, moving it from palm to palm, starting to embrace the almost...wonderful...pain of it.
It has brought me here, to this cold and secluded place a couple of hour's walk from the village. There are rocks, stacks of boulders, and the grass grows high around them, unkempt and wild. There is the sound of a river not far off.
The dusky sky hangs low. Shadows tower over me, curious, ambivalent, watching.
No birdsong. Odd, I think to myself.
The box, it wants me to lie down.
I must lie.
Sit it on my chest, it says.
I do it.
Open it, it says.
I open it.
A tearing sensation throughout my whole body, but no pain.
I think to myself, my heart has gone.
A pure sine note.
And then -
I knew it, I knew that she would bend before me! He has bent before us. We have brought him to his knees!
Hope is nothing. We have subdued it and conquered it -
All hail the Dark Place, and all hail Hades!