Disclaimer: The following story is about the aftermath of violence and may be upsetting to certain readers. However, considering that incidents like this actually happen every day in real life in North America, its rather foolish to be offended by its occurrence in a short story placed in ancient Greece. Look around you, and be offended for the right reasons.
This is also inspired by incidents and characters owned and created by RenPic, MCA; may they do well by them.
Am I alive?
I am caught somewhere between. I cannot feel, but I breathe.
I recognize that I must be awaiting the Final Judgment of the Gods.
I am able to open my eyes and still see that mans body, lying where he fell after the last conclusive blows. I did that, I want to shout. He said I could not stop him, but I did.
I search in my soul, but cannot find any pleasure in that now. His death will not, could not, cancel the debt he owes me; the lives he took from me. I look to the house and think of the battered bodies that lie inside. My Wife. My Son. My Daughter. I fade again, even as the tears begin.
For a moment I see my daughter, as she was, so blonde from the sun and only ten summers old. So beautiful. She is wearing the scarf that she would never remove, making grunting noises like a bear as she chases her laughing little brother, my son, about the yard. My wife is watching them, with a mothers smile. The smile of a woman in love. They are all lit by sunlight cascading from a blue sky. Is it a memory, or a vision of them in Elesia? The pain returns and all else disappears.
I awaken to find I am being surveyed by two strangers. As my eyes clear, I discern that the Fates must have not yet decided my end. They have sent two Goddesses of Light and Dark to succor me. To judge me. To hear the petition I must make before my final reckoning. I am prepared, though it is fraught with many questionable actions.
Most importantly, I was forced to kill, because I was too weak to stop him from taking them. Will it be decided that their deaths are directly a result of my failure as husband and as a man? Have I reinstated my honour and theirs? I feel the infirmity come again, and try not to yield to it. As a man should not.
This Goddess of Light kneels, as is appropriate, on my right. She has hair the colour of the dried wheat, and eyes of such a lucid green. She is all spark and life, and she gives me water to drink. The dark one is her exact inverse, and yet I feel no threat from her as she examines my wounds. They begin to wash and clean my injuries and I wonder at the pain I am now capable of feeling, Am I to be healed? Is there also a chance to live? Perhaps my time for judgment is to be postponed. But I will not have this. So I make my plea.
"Please. Judge me now. Do not let me be separated from my family. I would not live without them. Please...." It is only a whispered entreaty, but they hear me.
Such wondrous compassion is in the eyes of the Golden One; but it is the Dark One who asks me, "your children, your wife?" and points to the house. I manage to nod, knowing that a glance at the children will prove it so. There is some of their mothers features in their faces, but so much more of mine. I cry again at the loss. I wish again for that clarity, that sureness that was always mine. For the strength, or even the anger at the one who took them from me. But I am too feeble.
They carefully carry me into the house and rest me on a bed, not knowing this is where he took her. Not knowing I can hear her cries again. From where I hid, as a coward hides, before I found the courage. The cries of my wife in this bed still vibrate to my marrow.
They continue to try to attend me. Whether for anything other than a momentary easing in my last moments, I do not know. They ask for the name of the one outside, why he destroyed my family. I will not speak his name. " They thought he was helping them, but I knew he was evil." I rasp. "He said he would stop me, but I stopped him." I find I can still smile.
Then they brought out some of the clothes that they found in a closet to wrap about me, to keep me warm, but of course, they do not fit. I am puzzled as to why they should think they would. Bewildered, I explain. "This is not my clothing, it is His, this is His house." There is a silence, and all their movements stop. I explain. "This is where he took them after stealing them from me. Where he hid them from me. Where he took what was mine. Where they made love... in this bed..." I do not try to disguise my anger and resentment.
There is a stiffening in their forms as they stare at me, and as one, their eyes close. I wait for the trial I know must come. I am prepared. The Dark One asks me the First Question in a voice as soft as a breeze..
"Why did the children have to die?"
And I have my answer prepared. I tell Her "They died because of him. Because they should have wanted to stay with their Father. Because they defied me. Because they left me. To go with him."
The Golden One makes a noise of pain. I can not listen, I must be prepared for the next question.
The Dark One knows the second question as well. In a voice of stone She says, "They left?...Because...you beat them?"
I will not hide from my judge. "Only as I should. As I was taught by my father. And he by his. Only when they disobeyed, when they would not tell me what they did, where they went. When they hid from me."
Her eyes grow darker than any mortals. In a voice so low I can barely hear it, She asks the Third Question. "Your daughter, she has been... Did you Touch her?"
I will not lie but I must lower my eyes. "Sometimes. But not often, I swear by my Name. Only when the weakness was upon me." But I look up into the stern face of Judgment and plead. "But she forgave me. Always. She forgave my weakness..."
The Golden One has stopped the cleansing of my wounds. This cessation is abrupt, and I see horror now in those eyes. I can feel her constrained sobbing, and I know it must be her sorrow, her compassion for the judgment that they have now made.
For I know now that I am not to live.
Her fingers still move as though she wishes to continue her ministrations, but she cannot. And I see that her limbs are shaking. But she is still torn, and I want to ease her pain , though I am curious.
"I did nothing that you immortals have not done. Why are men condemned this way?" I turn slowly and look into those supernatural eyes of green. I want to understand. I ask the Golden One. "You are a goddess. You must have done worse? You cannot be condemning me for killing my own child in order to save it? To prevent evil from entering through her? It was for the Greater Good!"
She moves away from me as if struck; thinking that I will not see the truth in her eyes. Her mouth forms a denial. "No!" Whether she intends that her No be a denial of our common truth or just a further confirmation of my curse, does not matter. I know, and she knows that I know. That her judgment of me will be of her as well. This brings me peace, and I can feel the clarity again, the strength of right, that I had been my companion throughout my adult life. She says again No. quietly, and I know that it is my turn to comfort her, because she does not understand.
"It was not a sin. We only did what was necessary." But this only seems to wound her more. I turn to her companion, whose blue eyes are blazing with barely restrained power. I ask her "You know the laws. What responsibility I had as their father. They are safe now. Better off. They knew they were wrong to leave. They knew what I had to do. But now I ask you to let us have a chance to be together again. As a family."
The younger one is crying. I know it is for me, and the Dark One comforts her. And I realize by their emotions, that they must be only demi-gods, caught for all eternity in this place in between. How tragic. They are holding one another, and the Dark One is pleading and arguing with the Golden One. But she pulls away. I can only lie there awaiting their final judgment. Wondering if I will be reunited with the family I have now given my life to save.
The Golden One has gone to look upon those beautiful children of mine. Their room is filled with my daughters clever drawings and mementos, My sons keepsakes and toys. With care and skill, I made sure that it all was untouched by their blood. To preserve their memory to the moment before my righteous violence. She is making sounds, but I do not know what they mean. She returns and says nothing to me or her now silent companion. She begins to slowly remove the cloth wrappings she has prepared for me, and puts them away in her case. Her eyes shift between her packing and the children in the next room. And I wait to know the decision. Death was only the first part of my judgment, now it is the disposition of my soul they must decide. And I care more for that. To know if I will be with the ones I have loved so well.
But when she turns to me, her face is cold, there is no hope in it, there is only pain. And she gives a short shake of her head, and I watch as a single tear drops from that perfect lens. She closes her eyes before standing, picks up her kit, and then turns and walks to where the Dark One waits. Who takes her into her arms, and whispers to her. And she supports her, both their shoulders slumped, showing the burdens of their charge and obligations.
So it will be Tartarus.
Even the anger I feel for having been separated from my children and wife is eased by the knowledge that this is just another sacrifice I will make for them. That they will be in Elesia because of my efforts, my saving of them in time. And as my pain fades, and I feel the force of my life dissipate, I can only feel sorrow for my judges. As they slowly leave me, without a backward glance, they are still trapped in between. Neither Gods nor mortals. Neither unstained nor guilty. I take a last pleasure in that I know what I am, and where I am going.
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