- Vol. 10
- Chapter 07
She wore centuries of service lightly. The eternal handmaiden, destined to do their bidding, she was frozen in time and her shimmering wings stayed hidden when not in flight. But her hands, callused and stiff, came close to baring the scars of several lifetimes. These hands delivered messages that sparked devastation and heartache, for that was all the immortals ever had for us.
I was no more than a boy when I first saw her, cutting through the storm clouds, tracing vaulting arcs of refracted light. All my boyhood assumptions about the world were reduced to carrion for the birds upon sight of her golden wings flapping before me.
Despite her solemn expression, I devoured the sight of her greedily. She told me she carried messages to mortals from the gods, sharing news of death or lighting the spark of war. All while the Olympians feasted, eagerly awaiting her return so she could refill their cups. I wanted to ask why she had to leave. But before the words could form, she spread her wings and flew, blazing her brilliant trail behind her.
The second time I saw her, I was a young man. I had loved women, but none had ever matched her iridescent beauty. I ached for her to see me as the man I had become but she was preoccupied. Her mission had caused sorrow to burrow deep in her heart, a maiden goddess taken to the Underworld.
‘I must retrieve the grieving mother,’ she said, her voice smooth and cold as a stone weathered by the elements. ‘She must take her place on Olympus, regardless of what she wants.’ Her eyes darkened like the skies her journeys brightened. ‘We all must.’
The final time I saw her, my wife was long in the ground and my children had grown weary of my sullen, solitary presence. My step was uneven, and my knees creaked, but she looked as radiant as ever. Her aged hands clutched a note, wrinkled in her desperate grasp. Her eyes flicked over my stooped frame as she led slowly me to a nearby grassy bank, damp from the morning’s rainfall.
‘He has a message for you.’ Her voice cracked and her eyes were cast askance. The note's contents were not surprising. The gods come for us all. It was a surprise they had not come for my loved ones earlier.
‘I must go,’ she said softly.
‘Stay,’ I croaked. ‘Make me immortal. Make me as young and beautiful as you. We can be together.’ She shook her head gently. We all must answer our fate, so she said. I tried again.
‘There’s nothing left for me here.’
She sighed, perhaps disappointed. ‘There is nothing for you there either.’
Her face – beautiful, unchanging, immortal – regarded me one last time before she disappeared as swift as the flap of a butterfly’s wings, leaving naught but a trace in the sky.