Imagery and words by Katie Brown
Part Two: Fire
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!
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.
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?
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!
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.