My soul, my soul, forsaken and forgotten in soulless solitude…
My soul, my soul, forsaken and forgotten in soulless solitude. In a black pitch I hover without a throe to give. My throes have been thrown in every direction, but in this cursed abyss, direction has died. My body is no more and my soul a mere husk filled with searing shame. Why couldn’t it be Valhalla? Why couldn’t it be the Inferno? Even Dante’s underworld allowed for action—a kind of moving that is a something, however circular and tortuous. I’m forced to float forgotten in burning tar with the silent black air pressing against my skin and whispering that all is untruth—that all is and has always been a nothing. Suspended in this endless realm of empty nothingness, I’ve fallen into the blank forever of a starless night. My tarring is finished but oh how I long for feathers, if only to be deceived at the possibility of an absurd flight. The foolish lie would at least give me a direction in this directionless blanket of eternal night. I cannot tuck myself in for it appears as though my lot is cast, for those lost in this heavy black have failed. I cannot see, hear or eat here. I’m not even sure if I can speak. I am too afraid to call out into the deep, not knowing what might be lurking.
An answer? I mustered up my strength and called out into the darkness. My voice fell dead in the air, swallowed whole. Echo, the sad, lovely woman could not be heard. Why was I here? I did nothing to deserve suffering such a miserable fate.
“Test?” I whispered. My voice fluttered free. It at last existed apart from my tortured thoughts. This foreign voice that spoke from the deep was a something, and it had brought myself a semblance of being, however small.
Escape Tartarus and you will be rewarded by founding a powerful people, fulfilling Apollo’s mandate. If you look below, one patch of this quilted black is not like the others. The answer is in the past but present.
There were no patches that I could see; there was still only the insufferable total and uniform darkness. This quilt of night was expertly stitched together. I waited as a nothing in the dark, and thought back to my past. Perhaps a clue could be excavated from my memories. There was nothing else I could do, at least in my current state. But Tartarus. I was in the great black abyss. The third deity of Greek legend, preceded only by Gaia and Chaos.
A murmur swam through the lifeless air. A poet’s voice rang out and sang, "First Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundation of all the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth.”
“Hesiod?” I called out to no avail, my voice nothing but thoughts without release. Surging water beaten into a pooled submission at the thick walls of a dark dam.
“Rangabes! Failure of a Roman soldier. Your city lies in ruins with foreigners raping your people. You deserve no escape. If Typhon arose from such loins as these cold depths, how might you hope to burst free? Can you not feel that frigid fear in this nothingness? Tartarus is the void that all succumb to, if they choose the comfort of eventuality. To cease to move is to accept the pull of the forever falling anvil.”
“You said nine days.” My voice mumbled out. But I’d read Hesiod when I was young. I knew his words and worth.
“Quite the scholar, I see. Nine days it fell from heaven to earth. Nine more days it fell from earth to be swallowed in Tartarus. What is done in life will be swallowed in death, equaling all the feats on earth and heaven above. The anvil never stops falling, and its force draws in the masses. Smoke ascends from its old bronze in tails of gray; tendrils snaking about while the herd eagerly allows its serpentine heads to bite their heels and drag them down. An anvil that is an anchor designed to sink the ship.” Hesiod’s voice increased in fervor and desolation till he stammered and sputtered, breaking down into a fit of petrified laughter. His words were chopped in half by fits of bizarre giggling, his insane guffaws the executioner block of his wit and his malice the blade.
“I died a hero’s death. I belong amongst the warrior-saints. I belong amongst the gods!” My words were returning somehow, yet my body was still void. My speech sounded as thought spoken from an echo. I was that echo.
“Wait till you meet Erebus and then tell me why you might be here right now.”
“But why are you, ancient poet? Why speak to me, and how can you in the first place? You are trapped as well. Have you been tasked by the gods to spout your myths and judgements as if muses sang only to your black heart? Are you Tartarus’s jester? I thought more of you—that you’d be in a place of honor in the underworld.”
“The anvil I dropped from Olympus has smashed through my body, and in the wreckage of my soul it pulls me always away like a falling star trapped in orbit.”
“So, your own myths were too much to overcome. Your own writings became your guilt. The weight of your creation has you lost in the chasm of the sea. Why should I listen to you, lonely poet?” I said.
“Because I want to leave. Because light came to me in this darkness, and in its blaze, I saw your face.”
The thought of light pulsed in my imagined temples; such a concept whispered holy into my vacated body. I reached with invisible hands and felt for a way up, or a rope to hang myself with. Eternal darkness made me want to tear myself apart. Only, my flesh was gone and whatever self I was now, was imperishable. Oh, that I might perish!
“All of this black here is a flawless blanket. Below me, and everywhere else there is nothing but that same, cold black. Where am I supposed to find a difference?”
Who never wears the quilt of night yet always lives in darkness?
The same voice from the deep torrented through Hesiod and I. I didn’t want to know who such a stampede of a voice belonged to. It threatened to trample our nothingness into something even less existent. I shuddered at the impossibility of such a concept. I tried to focus on the words themselves.
“The god of sleep, the dreaming god Hypnos? No, no... that can’t be it. He always is covered with such a quilt in the depths of his dreams. Ptah? The Egyptian god my dear pagan friend Belen worshipped so strangely—the god of the sun at night. But to be the sun, no matter how dark the surroundings, that is not living in darkness but sitting outside of it with resplendent fire serving as a beacon of light to scare the shadows away.” I paused and stopped my rambling to think deeper of the mythologies my father had taught me so well. “Or is it Selene, the goddess of the moon. She does not sleep as the moon is always somewhere else, so she never quite abandons her chariot. If the quilt of night is sleep, then it must be Selene.”
“No?” I paused, my voice evaporating into sighs.
It is I.
“And who might this I be? My own eye cannot see, so you’re going to have to give me something more. Perhaps a name?” My bodiless mind grinned, pleased at my own mirth in such dire straits. Tartarus couldn’t darken my soul. I wouldn’t let it. But the word eternity pressed itself into my being. I lurched but forced myself to hold strong. Losing myself would only make forever that much worse.
The voice roared stronger than Zeus’s thunder ever had. Fitting that only the father rumbled louder.
“You are in darkness here with me. But do you not wear the quilt of night? Do not all who dwell in Tartarus wear the same quilt?” I said.
Wild white eye balls appeared inches in front of me, irises and pupils missing. But no... I peered closer and could see that what I was seeing were two perfectly fine eyeballs, only they were rolled backwards and quivering there. The eyeballs were surrounded by a face with cold white skin that was concaved and sunken. A wild black beard enveloped half of this madman’s mien. Long, knotted black hair hung in tatters like the rags of a beggar. And then the eyeballs rolled forward and fixed their black pupils like augers, directly at my soul, unmoving and unforgiving.
“There is no sleep here. There is no night. There is no anything. It is only this expanse of nothingness.”
“But Zeus has long since fled. Why are you still here imprisoned? Have you forgotten that Olympus once was yours?” Hesiod spoke but Kronos didn’t react, still staring at my nothingness. I shivered.
“But the quilted black not like the others! Why say such a thing if you’ve never managed to find it? Who even told you that?” I said.
“Moros gave you his signs. Your cathedral lit up with a fire that fled, leaving your pathetic city behind,” Kronos said, his face tremoring as it floated before me, its gaze still fixed upon my soul.
I swallowed my spirit, my mind flexing with a sinking gloom. I remembered it all too clearly. At the time I had scoffed at the peasants’ superstitions. They had all claimed that the suddenly glowing cross atop of Hagia Sophia and its strange fiery light soaring away, was the Theotokos leaving us to our dismal fate. I should have heeded the warning. But in a city’s last days, all signs become apocalyptic.
“Moros, the god of impending doom. But how were you aware of such things down here, Kronos?” Hesiod said. Kronos remained staring at me, his mouth spreading to a sick and twisted grin, baring gray teeth.
“He brought that holy flame down here and let it consume him to ash. Moros died in fear. He died a failure. The only thing that can kill a god is fate, and when the god of impending doom seeks his own doom, he can find a way to make fate his own.” Kronos smiled even wider, and his eyes darted everywhere in spasms. His mouth propped opened, his beard hanging over his wicked maw like spider’s pincers. I shivered as I thought of what this terrible titan had done to be sent here in the first place. The child-eater. “We’re here because we failed. I failed to defend my mountain, my throne. You, Rangabes, you failed to defend your city. And Hesiod failed to create a mythos that would endure as truth and not as mere children’s stories, seldom read by those of the present day.”
I burned. I hated. The rambling of this sinner was awakening something inside. This mad, pathetic beast was beneath me. My fear had frothed into a fury that stormed in surges of fire. As if my blood had returned, I felt a solidity in my being as my rage and wrath quickened in fervor. I struck Kronos in the face with my fist. I was still flesh after all, or at least becoming so once again—by the satisfying sound of bone crunching bone. Kronos cackled, opening his mouth as if preparing to swallow my arm. I struck him again, cracking his blackened teeth, his leaking blood frothing in his decrepit mouth. He grinned wider; his eyes subdued and sleepy. I hammered both my fists into his eyeballs and they burst like rotten eggs, spewing foul blood and grey liquid.
“The flame! Moros, allow me your fate!” Kronos sputtered, his beard blood soaked and his eyes black geysers. Two gnarled hands grabbed me by shoulders that had apparently sprouted over my soul, and as my body became whole once more, Kronos pulled me towards him in a maniacal and sputtering embrace. “Burn me! Burn me! It is too cold. The darkness.” He sputtered like an infant, weeping mixed with chiding and chilling laughter.
I tried with all my might to push this foul creature away, but failed. His black blood was cold, and it seeped through my skin and chilled my core. I shivered, writhing in his embrace with nothing but anger fueling me. I did not fear such a pathetic wretch as this degeneration of divinity. As I struggled, I realized that I once more could see my limbs. Pale as the full moon, my flesh started to smoke as Kronos’s blood cascaded over me and he held me still. My skin glowed gold, and in a sudden burst of light, my body aflame, beams of glorious sunlight burst from my soul, my being sending out its rays and banishing the darkness of Tartarus.
I slowed myself down and took deep breaths as I no longer felt the fallen god’s cold hands upon me. He was no more. My body was unclothed and my skin a healthy olive tone, fitting of the Greek sun I’d left behind. I curled my toes and clung to the soil I now felt. My heart beat, its sudden return like the comforting whisper of the Almighty’s still, small voice. Grinning, I allowed myself to appreciate every crease and fold in my skin, as I stretched and moved, alive and flesh again.
“Look around you. You are dead.” Hesiod’s somber words matched his sullen yet stoic demeanor. In long, grey robes with the right side of his torso bared and his long, black locks of hair gathered messily over his forehead in a clump of bangs.
I breathed the stale, sulfurous air and gagged, happy to smell despite the stench of decay and rot surrounding me. Then, I forced myself out of the revelry of the life of flesh, and looked at my grim surroundings. In bodiless darkness Tartarus was hopeless. In the pale light of right now, it was Hell. Pillars of fire shot upwards, lava flowing to the smoke-covered heavens. The dark gray of the ocean of smoke above, cast the realm in an eerie, dawn-like glow. This was the eternal twilight. This was what was hidden in the darkness. This volcanic tundra that was filled with burning red rivers of fire and boiling blood, somehow remained impossibly cold. This was the fire that froze. This was the heat that halted. I shivered, no longer reveling in the chill of my recovered flesh. Tartarus. I was dead.
is a writer that snarls and barks in the spirit of Cerberus. He believes in the merits of a tyranny that destroys the weakness of the self. He barks at the herd in hopes of bringing a collective awakening to the heroic traditions that valued glory and power. He howls at the dishonored past and writes and works towards a glorious future. His debut book, Barking at the Herd: A Mythic Manifesto of the Heroic, is available now on Amazon. It is part original myth, part philosophy, and part madness. He barks. Will the herd ever listen?