Let the bells ring out
You cry for the gods to save you, but they are already there.
Sweet honey, gold on red lips as a smile curves upwards to light clear eyes like sea foam. Beauty that steals the breath from your lungs even as the fortunes scream disaster in the back of your mind. The young god, yours, and you his. The arrows of Eros fly true and pin you like a butterfly, the wound opening new worlds, new sensations. Worshipful silence, the ancient songs, take on a new meaning, a bright and shining semblance in your mind as he fills your thoughts even as your lips shape words of devotion to another. The temple is cold and gleaming, sterile and pure, all you know and all you have loved. But another now, a spark, a flame in your heart and it seems as though it might burn you to ashes, this new love, if only you would let it.
Yellow leaps the flame inside you at his touch, burning through your skin and synapses and renewing you like phoenix fire, like the pyre of an immortal. Beautiful, yearning, lips whispering sweet words that shiver into the heart of your soul and you fall faster and faster, dropped from Heavens’ heights and the ground is too far away to be seen, to be thought of. So you fall as Icarus fell, wings forgotten and your head filled with the thought of your golden sun, smiling in the summer heat.
The prophecies vouchsafed to you shimmer and waver, flicker in the furnace blast of desire, and you follow the sickly sweet promise of safety. Averting the catastrophe, sailing blithely through the storm as the lightning thunders around you and warnings crash, unheeded, ignored, in your mind. Niobe, her children scattered and dead, dying, but so far from your paradise that it’s hardly even real. A myth, a story. Less immediate than the press of skin on skin, the disavowing of your most sacred oaths, the breaking of the troths you undertook in solemn silence and with utmost intensity. For your words pale and quiver, to shrivel and die on your lips as honey-kisses steal your mind and drown your senses.
Sharp blood, crimson on pale lips as pale eyes cloud like a storm gathering on the horizon, thunder cracking like a breaking heart. A million pieces, a thousand shards of glass as quivering hands drop your soap-bubble reality to the ground and the crystal ball of the future condenses and crystallises into a single path even as it breaks. The future, now, as temple bells call dolefully through the streets even though it isn’t a holy day, not even close, a cursed and dead and dying day instead and still the bells cry out. You flee the truth, running as Daphne ran, filled with fear and disgust, but the laurel will not save you, for you left it behind you, discarded it and it lies withered and broken in the gutter. Above you, the birds begin to circle against a sky that holds the promise of rain to come, if promises can still be trusted.
Rain and tears and charcoal wet and sticking to fingers as you toss the offerings to the hungry sea, watch them describe patterns on the surface and sink into the depths. Footsteps leading to Delos, to the temple where the future sits enshrined in silence, where the sermon drones interminably and figures like ghosts flit through the halls as you scrabble to hear meaning in words you once knew by heart but which the flames consumed. Choking on ashes, you repeat the words and perform the actions but the honey now is bittersweet, tainted by blood, and all you hear is the rain pounding on the streets like the army of the future rushing to confront you. The fire burns low and you bank it, stoke it, coax it to life to burn away the impurities, but only ash remains and dead embers give you nothing but burned fingers and dust.
Masked in the majesty of the law, cloaked in blackness and blankness and suffering, you watch the carrion crow medics walk the streets leaving behind them only coldness and pitch-dark feathers fluttering in the breeze. Crouched, hiding, praying, but not to the gods, only to whoever, whatever, might listen to the frantic pleas of a forlorn, lost apostle that gave everything to the fire and once forsaken burned like kindling until nothing remained. Swollen tongue tasting the memory of honey, the sweetness of rot carried on belaboured breath, you wait and wait and pray and wait, hoping for release, for escape. The doctors, the doctors, they killed your fire, doused the flames and in their avian visages you see the Erinyes hunting you for your broken promises, the oaths you swore and then discarded; their eyes watch for you as you cower in the dark. Lost. Afraid.
Crisp clean walls surround you, new places, new faces, untouched and unknowing as you slink like a rat into their midst, this gleaming city where you can start anew. The future is clouded and dark now, all gone, all broken with the cracked vows; your god abandoned you to your pleasure and in your hour of need still remains silent. Buzzing lights and colours in your mind’s eye, fantasies and flights of fancy that remind you of summer heat and golden honey, of the touch of your love, of the touch of your god. You’ve heard it said that you should never love someone who cannot die, but you loved another and look what it brought you; perhaps loving an immortal might have ended differently, for bloody lips taste as sweet as honey and as sour as death. Ambrosia you sought, found fire and passion and as you abandoned the quest your god forsook you, and now the rot inside you is sickly sweet and on your lips with every breath. You cry out for Apollo, beg forgiveness, beg for succour, but your pleas echo distantly in your head and go no further, there is no breath to carry them as the sickness consumes you. Fever dreams rise, delirious and nauseating, and you hope, hope that in your last moments, in your hour of need, that Apollo will forgive all sins, will deliver you from the depths of the cold ashes and lift you up and away, ignite the flames to burn the rot away and how you wish for it to be. Never again, never again will you be tempted you pray, never again will you stray.
But in the last, it appears that your god has abandoned you to a future you cannot see, cannot imagine.
As the fever consumes you, burning through your skin and synapses like fire, like a pyre for a mortal, you forget that golden Apollo is also the god of disease.