A God, a Monster, My Damnation
My damnation came to me as a widow, and stopped me on some hopeless path to seal my fate. She told me of her husband‘s death and I told her of my sorrow. We stood, in the valley, holding one another lest we, too, succumb to dust.
She begged of me a favor; I was to take the pot of ashes and throw his remains from a distant cliff, that he may rest, unconfined, eternally. I motioned to refuse, but was told her body would soon join his in the water below should she be the one to release him. I journeyed half a day, and meandered as close to the edge as I could manage. He left his urn a dark cloud, obscuring the cliffs beneath me, and spread across the water’s surface. As I looked on, considering my compliance in his mortality, the ocean where he lay began to stir.
From the depths came some mighty serpent—a god, a monster, my damnation. It towered above me with blazing eyes—swayed as if its momentum held the earth in place—and spoke unto me these words: “My child, what of this offering you summon me with?”
“It is the body of a man,” I answered.
“Who are you, to deliver his remains?”
“I am but a traveler, sent by request of his widow.”
“I fear you have been tricked,” it smiled. “The woman knows what it means to come here bearing the dead.”
“I do not understand,” I replied, as its body lingered closer to mine.
“I offer humans an exchange. A life for a life. The widow asked this of you, foolish traveler, so that she may cease her mourning.”
“But I don’t wish for an exchange,” I pleaded, “I never even met the man.”
“And what a pity that is. I extend my condolences, child, but the offering has sealed your fate.” It slowed the constant swaying, and it felt to me as though the earth itself had fallen out of orbit. I looked on, vacantly, as miles of glimmering scales sought my damnation, and ventured a question.
“Why offer the exchange in the first place?” I asked. “What do you glean from the trade?”
“In sacrificing your body, you sacrifice your soul. Your thoughts, memories, desires—all these and more become my own, and you and your self will stay in my company for all time.” I said nothing.
“And I’ve never been in low supply. If there is anything a human is good for, it is to condemn his fellow man.”
I said nothing.
“You look unwell,” it grinned, “does this fate displease you?”
I said nothing.
“Do try to get along with me. We’ll be together for quite some time.”
I said something.
“It’s just that I’d rather not spend eternity with a thief.”
Not a moment passed before the ground beneath me began to shake. Dark clouds obscured the horizon, and the monster’s gleaming eyes burned brighter.
“You fool,” it bellowed. “You wretch. You abomination. You dare call me a thief?” The sky blackened and the water below struck the cliffside with new intensity. It shrieked, a sound I’d never known before and would never again forget.
I ran. Foolish as it was, I ran, and I heard the god call out to me, “I’ll allow you to live, but not without cause. Spend each waking moment anticipating your demise, and you’ll soon wish I had killed you when I wanted. We shall see each other in purgatory; for now, you must appreciate Hell.”
Indeed, it was Hell, for the farther I ran, the closer I came. It appeared to me in dreams, in memories, in moments of peace. Each clouded day seemed to spell my end, and each cloudless night brought it nearer. My god consumed me, and its image became more familiar than my own. I lived this way—if I dare call it such—and asked that my body be burned in the desert at my passing. There my ashes were spread, and I thought, in some far away place, my torment would finally cease.
Yet I could not rest.
Each speck of my being was gathered, and through winds, in rivers and streams, I was brought before those very cliffs I had spent all my life escaping.
And from the depths came some mighty serpent that swayed as if its momentum held the earth in place. It towered above me with gleaming eyes, and spoke unto me these words: “You’ve kept me waiting,” it smiled. “A lifetime can be so unbearably long.”
As it dragged my body to the water below, I cursed the creature for all I knew it to be: a god, a monster, my damnation.