Part Three - Earth

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.

 

Imagery by Natasha Vermeulen of From The Mill, featuring The May Project wearing a custom gown by Etta Every

Words by Katie Brown

Music by The May Project

Part Three: Earth

 

Epimetheus

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. 


Moros

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! 

Pandora

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. 

Elpis

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. 

Why?

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!

 

Zeus

Catharsis

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.

Elpis.

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. 


Epimetheus

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 - 

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.

Elpis

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.

Soon. 

What then?

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?

Moros.

Tick, tock.

No thought for anything more.

So tired.

No breath -

 

Pandora

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 - 

 

Moros

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!

Ophelia Mikkelson for Part Three: Earth

Oh, but I cannot hear the answer

One day closer to the end

Free in a circle trapped forever

You'll forget about me now

Oh, but I cannot hear the answer

It's so easy not to try

Couldn't have fallen any lower

You'll forget about me now

You'll forget about me now

You'll forget about me now

(lyrics from upcoming release by The May Project)

 

Ophelia Mikkelson for Part Three: Earth

Ophelia is an Auckland-based photographer, artist and designer / maker. She has a very particular eye and aesthetic, and all of her works have a delicate, earthy ethereality to them - a special fit for Part Three: Earth. The following are images she has selected and submitted for this project. 

www.opheliamikkelson.com

Kareen of Companion for Part Three: Earth

 

Part Three: Earth - Kareen of Companion

Kareen is one half of Companion & Co., a social enterprise and co-design company. Companion collaborates with migrants and former refugees to create wooden stools and silk scarves, combining traditional craftsmanship with technology to create unique objects as a means of providing sustainable, meaningful employment. The below is Kareen's take on Part Three: Earth as part of the Pandora's Box myth exploration, and features shots of the scarves Companion creates. 

www.companionandco.com

 

Words and imagery by Kareen Durbin

 

Pitch

The quality of sound, its standard 

A resinous substance (tar-like)

The field and the throw

Both angle and level; context dependent

A sales spiel 

Claimed spot along with the action vital for tent on said site to result

Ships lurching. The headlong fall off of

To help out / to attack

BLACK

 

 

Everything Is Collective for Part Three: Earth

I looked for it everywhere, up, down, inside and out - but it was nowhere to be found. Four sides, a top and a bottom - or six, a dice, a box, a collection of quadrilaterals - space inside, or no space, full, empty, a container, an object: whatever its qualifications, I cannot feel it in my hands any longer. It is gone. 

 

Part Three: Earth - Everything Is Collective

Everything Is Collective is a United States-based trio of artists who work in collaboration: Jason Lukas, Zachary Norman and Aaron Hegert. Their work addresses contemporary issues in photography and image-making, and challenges the boundaries and limitations typically placed on these artistic fields. Their work is truly collaborative and each work is attributed to the group as a whole. There is a clever and intentional magic in their explorations; each piece is a little unexpected and prompts questions without a blatantly obvious answer. 

www.everythingiscollective.com

Korossasu for Part Three: Earth

There is a certain kind of darkness that is all-enveloping – inside and out, body and soul, like a molten, formless, thick, but empty torture…

It holds you, holds you closely, in a vice-like grip, but at the same time softly and tauntingly loosely - as physical a constraint as a straightjacket, but like the dream when you’re trying to run but your feet won’t move.

 There is a certain kind of darkness where even to breathe is terrifying – the sound of your breath is awful and rends the silence around you, as if to turn it in and against you – but you cannot escape. You cannot escape, you cannot escape, you cannot escape, and all you can hear is the sound of your mind, which seems to be shatteringly shrill and piercing.

 Can they hear it too?

 

Part Three: Earth - Korossasu

Korossasu is Auckland-based artist Daniel Bartlett, and Mons Mortis is perhaps his 'Paradise Lost': a beautiful, dark, explorative soundscape. It is a haunting and mysterious journey, taking the listener through the landscape it is named after - the mountain of death. 

korossasu.bandcamp.com

Juliette Mogenet for Part Three: Earth

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.

 

Part Three: Earth - Juliette Mogenet

The box is a familiar subject matter for French artist Juliette Mogenet, and it is a concept that has always fascinated her. The following are images she has provided of her work in the theme of 'Earth' as Part Three of the Elpis story, incorporating ideas of the box's interior and exterior, referencing earth and nature.

www.juliettemogenet.com

Juliette Mogenet is a French artist whose work focuses on the perception of space and combines different elements - perspective, reflections, and mise-en-abîme photography. She makes use of different materials such as glass, wood and sand paper to explore the realms of these fictional spaces. Her work is exhibited in France and in the United States, Belgium, Switzerland and Canada.

To explore Juliette's work further: www.juliettemogenet.com

Prequel: Part Two - Fire

Imagery and words by Katie Brown

Part Two: Fire

 

Elpis

It is so dark, and so cold. Deep within me, a singular sort of ache has settled in; it tugs me downward, down, down, down into the ground, which is where I lie. It spreads throughout my chest, seeming to grasp at my lungs with cold, numbing fingers - like someone has taken out my heart and replaced it with a block of ice, and the ice is slowly melting itself only to reform again when its mass becomes too small.

It is like a sort of dream, I think, as I wrap my arms close about myself, barely breathing in the darkness: there is no end to it, and no beginning - I and it meld into each other, as if there is no me and no it - only one entity altogether: that without light.

And then I begin to hear them.

At first they begin as only the smallest brushings of whisperings, almost imperceptible alterations in the sonic atmosphere about me which until then has been deafeningly silent, and I do not know if they issue from my mind or are something else altogether. They are soft and gentle; soothing even, as they hover about me, gradually taking on more of an audible tone, and I begin to make out words -

Sleep, dearest; sleep - 

Close your eyes

Let us nourish you

Let us feed you

Let us numb you

Let us make you one of us

Sleep, dearest; sleep!


Prometheus

Well, I have done what was required and passed on the girl to my foolish brother. He should have known better, had it been me I would have grasped the situation in an instant. Stupid, foolhardy boy! Always blinded by what he sees - driven by his senses. Yes, she is beautiful, and charming, but oh, if he could fathom the deception of the situation! Zeus is laughing at us all, mocking us as he sits back to watch this hopeless drama unfold itself. And still his wrath is not spent - again I am summoned!

How much of a price must be paid for this?

I will not yield, I will not admit that I was in the wrong for this act. I was not. Zeus is cruel and unjust to think that he had the right to withhold such a necessity from the mortals. Why should they not have the blessing that we ourselves are able to enjoy?

There, it was done. Pandora was gifted to Epimetheus, and she did indeed look radiant as he conducted her to his humble home. Did she have a choice in the matter? That depends on whose side one takes. The gods, bar Zeus perhaps, would state that she was not entitled to choice, created by them as she was; perforce, she could only do as bidden. But her face lit up in reflection of his when Epimetheus strode towards her, eyes fixed on hers, enraptured grin gracing his face with an especial charm. General consensus would be that she was as taken as he, and had eyes only for him. She looked neither to the left or right as she approached, a marked singleness of mind about her.

A hopeless case, one might say.

The die was cast and the scene was set, the protagonists lining up to play their parts, and the gods looked on as the victims began to walk headlong into the trap.


Epimetheus

Prometheus was indeed curious today. I know that he didn't want me to take the girl, it was written all over him, plain as day, unencrypted, no need for translation. And she - well, the danger is dripping from her as though she were its original source. Unaware, of course. I don't know if she is guileless or full of guile, it's hard to say yet. I will say this, though; I think she's innocent of the knowledge that these things about her even are symptoms of the Dark Place. And me? I don't care. I couldn't ever stand for a saccharine woman. This danger she doesn't realise she carries is far more intoxicating. Damn! What a day. I know they're playing a game, it's as clear as anything. I know Prometheus doesn't trust me, thinks I can't see the forest for the trees. But, you see, I'm playing my own game too - have all the necessary elements in my hand now, thanks to this gift! I can't wait to see their faces as this unfolds, because I'm going to have the final say, pull the rug out from beneath them. A fine trick of Prometheus, this fire-thiefing carry-on. Of course there were going to be consequences. How did he not see that? Never mind - stirred things up down here well and true, and I'm glad of it, to be honest.

But now, time to kick this fine production into gear -

Where is she, this lovely dark-angel of mine?

 

Pandora

So hot down here, so very hot! The heat is unbearable. That orb of sunlight burns with a much heavier intensity than it does on the mountain. Ah, for a drink of water! 

This husband!

I resent them, if the truth be known, resent them for having the audacity to have formed me with one end in sight, and that being the state of matrimony with a man I don't even know. Why exert that kind of unfairness? 

I would have not gone with him, I would have fled and had my strategy for escape mapped out too - I know I am fast and I would have only been too happy to slip Prometheus' hold and dart away out of their reach, laughing at them all the whole time. I was excited, even - excited to be free to explore this whole new world.

I just didn't take him into account - Epimetheus.

"My" Epimetheus. Ha. Little do they know.

His eyes are full of flame, just like that which apparently has caused this whole ruckus. 

Prometheus' tension had been palpable, mirroring that of the gods, when I left Olympus. I had rolled my eyes before we reached Epimetheus, irritated at the cagey edge to Prometheus, his curt manner and quick pace, and his unnecessary grip on my arm. 

But then his brother had appeared - his grin had spoken volumes. I could tell he wasn't fooled, not by the situation and not by me, and I could see that he was delighting in it. The arms folded across broad chest and posture of confidence and nonchalantly veiled arrogance, head tilted slightly to one side. His eyes had held mine, and I made no attempt to look away, couldn't, truth be told. Mainly because I suddenly could see a better way to be free, and this was to play along, and make my escape once all had settled down. I didn't care either way, but I saw in him the means to an end.

Who would have thought?

If I must be here, overheated, parched, dizziness beginning to swim behind my sun-dazzled eyes, then at least there is the silver lining to the situation - freedom! Once I have slipped his watch, that is. And I will do it.

This box, now, that is the curious thing. It's obvious they mean me to eventually open it - why give it to me and tell me not to? That is where the mischief lies, it's clear as this day is hot. So. I will leave it behind when I flee, only I will hide it so that neither Epimetheus or any other poor unsuspecting fool falls into the trap. 

Boxes, and thoughts, and ideas, and warnings. How they all intermingle! Elpis and Pandora, Prometheus and Epimetheus: each had taken their place and each had an involuntary understanding that something bigger was afoot. Pandora had gone willingly with Epimetheus, and all had sighed in relief as neither struggled against their pairing. Prometheus had returned to Olympus, and his audience with Zeus was scheduled for the next day, and he was not thrilled with the prospect. Elpis, sweet, guileless Elpis, was trapped in blindness in the Dark Place, and was being drawn more deeply into it, unable to resist its power.  

Were the gods really so heartless, they who knew that this was not going to have a happy ending? 

Zeus sat impassive on his throne, deep in reverie, or simply waiting; no-one could tell. Not even Hera, his wily wife, dared approach him. The heavens were silent. Olympus, normally vibrant with activity and the music of lyre, harp, lute and joyful voices in song and laughter, was strangely silent. Even the colours had subdued themselves, it seemed. It was sombre and unprecedented: the first presence of a depression in the atmosphere.

Zeus.

Heartbroken.

Prequel: Part One - Air

Imagery by Yasmine Ganley of anyonegirl

Words by Katie Brown

Music by The May Project

Elpis: The Story

 

A long, long time ago, before times were as we know them, there was a many-peaked mountain we know as Olympus. It exists still today, of course, and it is the highest mountain in Greece, sitting on the border between Thessaly and Macedonia as part of the Olympus Range. 

There was a particular peak, nowadays called Mytikas but then named Pantheon, which was the meeting place of the twelve Olympian gods who lived in their palaces in the various gorges of the mountain. On Pantheon was the throne of Zeus, both the greatest of these Olympian gods and the most feared, by mortals and gods alike.

It so happened that one day Prometheus, one of these gods, had the ill fortune to greatly anger the thunderbolt-wielding Zeus by stealing fire from him and gifting it to the mortals who he greatly pitied. This is the tale of the aftermath of his act.  

Part One: Air

 

Prometheus

I was only trying to help. I saw the need, I saw a gap in their knowledge that I could fill, and what a privilege to be the one who could bestow this wonder upon them! I do not think his anger warranted. What is it all about, anyway? Nothing but a spark, a tiny flicker, a little flame - all is suddenly upside down and confused, and I am the target of his very great wrath. 

 

Elpis

I am Elpis. My mother, they say, was Nyx - Nyx the great, the beautiful, the terrifying - Nyx, who over even the aegis-wielding Zeus, the mighty one, has power. 

I am Elpis. In my arms I carry no shield, no weapon - my arms overflow with an abundance of sweetly-scented blooms.

I am Elpis.

 

Zeus

He does not know what he has done.

In his mirth and his lightheartedness, he thinks nothing of it - thinks that nothing ill can come of this badly-timed delivery. There is colour, and there is darkness. He does not know that all colours together create the most potent black, and that there is nothing so terrifying as blackness. Not a soul can bear it, yet he has authorised its release by his impulsive and foolish gift.

He does not know what he has done.

How shall I reverse the terrible damage of this act?

They came together, the gods, all heads bowed, gathered in a circle. They leaned in, and breathed, and reached out their arms. They spoke and they sang; they whispered and they shrieked. A fierce storm roused itself that day and earth was covered in its leaden treachery. It twitched and trembled with sharp shards of light and sound, and all the while they kept their heads together, close, backs to the world, this grouping of such magnificent power. There, and it was done...they stepped away, now silent, and they regarded what they had formed. 

A girl, dark-haired, olive-skinned, face kissed with a luminous glow, rose-petal lips parting just slightly. Long, graceful limbs, slender waist and delicate neck. Formed by Hephaestus, clothed by Athena, adorned with beauty by Aphrodite, and gifted with skill in crafts, music, healing, and tending the earth. 

But among these endowments - 

From Hera, curiosity.

From Zeus, idleness, the desire to meddle, and foolishness.

From Hermes, cunning, boldness, charm - and a small, black box.

She lay there, still; no movement. Deathly quiet. Expectation hovered around her statue-like form. Finally, Zeus broke forth from the circle entranced by their creation, and went to the girl. Kneeling by her head, he lowered his mouth to hers and exhaled, and all watched as her chest rose for the first time. Rose, and then fell, and she lived, this double-edged sword of a creation.

Zeus raised himself slowly, and in his demeanour was great fatigue. He turned his back to all, and strode off, those same iron-tinged clouds closing in about him and concealing him from view once more. 

Elpis

That charcoal-threaded day he called me to him. I did not know what to expect - he had never summoned me before, and certainly I never expected him to. Of what account was I to one such as he? Dark billowing clouds covered the earth, but the sun still shone above us where we were, in our home of the fine balance of mortal and immortal. 

I went to him, and I wanted to flee the moment the clouds parted about his form and I could see him. He sat on his throne, surrounded in equal parts by the angry darkness and brilliant, headache-inducing light. His regard was stern and he said not a word, but beckoned me to come close.

I stood before him, head dipped low, eyes fixed on my feet. I could not look him in the eye.

He moved down from his throne, and was all at once in front of me. The air crackled, charged with the electricity of the intense power he contained. He reached out his great hand, and tipped my chin up.

"Elpis", he said. 

I could hear the smile in his voice. I raised my eyes to his. So sad, so resigned. So kind! I could not quite believe it. Why should anyone fear such kindness? 

"Elpis".

Again he smiled as he repeated my name. He sat, and motioned me towards a stool to the right of his throne. I too sat, and he took my hand in his, and all within me was still, calm and tranquil.

"I have brought you to me because I must charge you with a necessary mission, and I hope that you will not fail me".

I said nothing, because I could not. I was mesmerised by his eyes and the warmth emanating from him like a great, engulfing blanket, making me want only to sleep.

"You are to go into a place of darkness. There is no other who I would send, because you are the only one who has the strength to undergo what must be undertaken. It will be black as pitch, and you will not be able to see your hand when you hold it in front of your face. There will be no light".

He sighed.

"The time will come and...you will not think it possible to go on. Do not be afraid of this. Do not submit yourself to what you find in this place, no matter how hard pressed you find yourself. At exactly the moment you cannot handle it any longer the answer will appear".

He pressed my hand again and looked deeply into my eyes, and he began to sing. It was a gentle, lilting lullaby, vaporous and light and ethereal, and I could not keep my eyes open. I fell into a transfixed state where all seemed to slow like a heartbeat failing and entering into its eternal rest. I did not breathe, I did not move, and all became completely silent and completely devoid of light.

I was in the Dark Place.

 

Pandora

It is quite a thing to awake from what seems an everlasting sleep, and to find oneself to be all that the best and most enchanting of dreams holds out in its mirage-like promises.

Zeus woke me up, they tell me, and I can feel his breath in me still. It is warming and reassuring, and I wonder at it.

I am to be sent to them, to the mortals. Bestowed upon them. A treasure. Unlike anything they've ever beheld. Well, to him to whom I am to be presented, anyhow. A man. That man. 

Why, why, why?

I turn myself toward the dark clouds that still cover over the earth. 

What a thing! the mortals thought, what a thing, what a creature is this woman. She is delightful, she is graceful, she is as though carved from marble and tinted with the melting sun, tall and sure like the cypress tree, red-like-blood smile to answer the doubts in their hearts. An opiate: heady, warm, intoxicating, wonderful. 

But she was for one man, and one alone. Prometheus brought her to him: that was his consignment. He knew the harm he was about to inflict, and he hoped in his heart that his brother would heed the warning look in his eyes when he presented her. 

He did not.

Epimetheus. The very embodiment of impulsiveness, so delightfully impish and exciting, tall and handsome, strong and amusing, forever getting himself into scrapes and forever fighting to make his way out of them.

So she was presented to him, Pandora, that beauteous gift of the gods. To be his wife, he marvelled. His very own, this creature nobody could take their eyes off. How enchanting. He could feel her in his arms already, watching her as she approached, and knew his heart would beat at just the same tempo as hers: only his would carry the upbeat and hers the down, the breath out to his breath in. 

He was ready.