You never knew death could taste so bittersweet (like the scent of dark coffee in the morning, groggy-eyed stretches and cocoa yawns). A plethora of oracles had conversed with silent gods, and they whispered that your mother had months left in her life, years even (and the oracles? they spoke to the gods, and the gods? they never lied. Their lips were stained blue from frozen honesty). Vanja trusted them, but Vanja was always overly trusting, especially with the oracles. She said that the gods’ blessings flowed through their sealed mouths, ruby red like the sins they carried. You said they were frauds marauding around in silken robes smelling of piss and donning gleaming chains of fool’s gold.
The gods killed your mother later that day. They froze her heart solid under the bleaching summer sun, her arteries flowing with biting ice. You were right, but it was too late to mock Vanja for her naïveté (she was found with blued lips and a frost-bitten neck, an imprint of slender fingers around her nape, on the grey stone pavements in the higher region of this sinner's city. the families up there refused to touch her cursed body- they saw her red blood through her blood-shot eyes). Now, the only thing you can do is curse the gilded gods for killing your mother and sister on the same day (because even the gods used to have the decency to kill them on separate days). That is all the power you have left.
The ocean, the sea, she sprays your neck with salt and grainy sand, embracing you when no god can. You expect to feel... what? Melancholic, tears spilling from your dry eyes? Anger, rage boiling and bubbling your blood? No, you just feel empty, vacuous, like the gods even stole your right to grieve the only family you had left.
You taste the ocean (the taste of death) and smell the sickly smoke lofting from the burning pyres that other lower families send adrift. Your mother used to tell you stories about those floating pyres they pushed into the yawning mouth of the sea. She would coo, stroke your hair while Vanja jumped in her lap, and retold the tale of Elin, the goddess of light and purity who cried an ocean for her mortal lover Agata, whom she accidentally poisoned. Legend has it that she crafted a glorious ship to sail Agata off into the sea to forever be with her true home, her father and her having been sailors on the great five seas. The ship was filled with riches and gauntlets, golden standards galore, so in order to prevent immoral pirates from looting her lovers grave, Elin shined a brilliant light upon the ship, setting it ablaze and releasing Agata’s spirit into the air.
At least Elin could cry a sea for her loved one. All you can do is stare at the lapping waves, watch them undulate and undulate, splashing the sea's droplets on your cold face. The only thing that wills tears is the salt that stings your eyes.
Now, the lower families push out their loved ones to the sea and set them ablaze like Agata, to live forever in the atmosphere, to be one with the mighty ocean. You bought your pyre with the scant coins you had left, wasted it all on a destitute’s funeral, just to scorch it all down. Your mother and Vanja, immortalized forever. You shove the pyre out into the ocean, sand grinding between your toes, the wind guiding your strength. You set a match and watch your mother and Vanja burn, you smell their rotten corpses decay and charcoal in the flames. As they drift out onto the salty sea, trailing smoke and grief and pain in their wake, a different feeling, a weighty, full feeling fills your gut, your heart, and there is only one thought drifting in your head.
The gods killed your mother. The gods killed Vanja.
And you would go to Gunda’s death lands and back just to watch those gods burn and burn and burn.
Word count: 683. Eesh.
- I haven’t written anything that’s purely prose in a while, and this honestly isn’t that good, so please pardon me
- If, by any grant of fortune, you somehow enjoy this piece, like it and let me know if you’d like a continuation in the comments below! Or if you just want me to stop!