Posted on: February 27th, 2011 Dawn

by Cezarija Abartis

Tithonus told me he was the best speller in his academy at age ten. He could spell “irony” and “cicada.” As a child, I was able to spell “hypotenuse,” “dementia,” “metamorphosis”; I would have out-spelled him. When we met he was as handsome as the sun. He wore a gossamer mantle over his broad shoulders, so that he seemed to have angelic wings. He was a Trojan prince, accustomed to command. His eyes radiated humor and confidence. I’ve always had a weakness for a good joke. This time the joke was on me.

“What do the gods want with mortals?” I asked. “Immortal porpoises,” he answered and clapped his hands in childish glee.

“Upsy-daisy,” he said and joined his hands into a step so I could climb onto my morning horse.

My thoughts of rigorous daylight melted.

When I was little, there were mice in my parents’ palace. Cats too. Mother told me a parable (she was afflicted with depression, which I am not). She explained that the mouse is an omnivore, and scurries out on its tiny feet to scavenge the rotten food left behind by other animals; no doubt it wishes it were a cat and had fresh food in its bowl when it wanted. The cat, in turn, wishes it could open the larder and choose the food itself. The human wishes he were a god. I asked Mother what the gods wish. She looked at me with her shining eyes and said, “To die.”

This is not a good story for a child. Thank the gods that I am a cheerful being not usually subject to melancholy. I was angry with Mother about her not giving me a beautiful white horse. I stamped my foot on a bug and heard it crunch beneath my sandal. Mother said I was heartless.

My darling Tithonus was angelic, if a little dopey. He told me to request eternal life for him, so he could be my immortal equal. “We can stroll around Mount Olympus forever. I’ll be by your side.”

The Council met to consider his request. They were reluctant; I begged for the potion, citing the precedents of Helen and Hercules, humans given immortality; the Council members exchanged glances, winked , smiled, and granted our request; I brought him the potion and he drank it. He took a knife and slashed his forearm. (That’s how much my beloved trusted me!) Golden ichor seeped out, and his skin healed over as if it were liquid. He was transformed into an Immortal.

We traveled hand-in-hand over Italy and Greece and Asia Minor. We did this slowly so our eyes could take in everything. We saw beautiful temples built to the gods, bridges that were engineering marvels, and old people dying with boils and scabs, coughing blood. “Too bad about mortals,” I said.

“I was mortal once,” he said, with great pity.

We saw verdant gardens and dust-gray fields beset with drought; we saw ships sailing to explore new lands and armies amassed to invade countries. Sad, but that was not my lookout.

My darling and I were happy, eating ambrosia, drinking nectar, dancing to the music of the locals. He told me he once wanted to be a powerful warrior, but that he abandoned that dream when he met me. I told him that I had similar ambitions, but now I was content to walk by his side. Unlike the other Immortals, we did not want many children to intrude on our happiness, complete as it was. He was my alter ego, my perfect self. Oh, the light we made! One morning, I even forgot my responsibilities and stayed in bed, until I was awakened by the din outside asking for the day. I stretched and turned on my smooth, silk sheets until he nudged me toward my light duties.

And then my darling grew tired, coughed, slumped; moles and boils erupted on his fair skin. He became thin and frail, wheezed and crept on the floor, unable to stand upright. He would not die because he was immortal, but because we had not thought to ask for eternal youth, he got eternal age. After a century, his mind crumbled. He could still spell, but only simple words–”tired,” “old,” “sad.” There’s no outwitting the powers. I gave him another potion, and he is now an insect in this jar, droning and shrilling.

I have gained a heart. I do not like that.

Filed under: bad-ass, stories

14 Responses to “Dawn”

  1. Sandra M. Odell Says:
    February 27th, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    A wonderful retelling with a wonderful rhythm.

  2. Sandra M. Odell Says:
    February 27th, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    A wonderful retelling with a wonderful rhythm.

  3. Steve Ramey Says:
    March 1st, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Very interesting. It kept me just slightly off balance throughout and delivered me to a wonderful ending.

  4. Steve Ramey Says:
    March 1st, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Very interesting. It kept me just slightly off balance throughout and delivered me to a wonderful ending.

  5. Douglas Campbell Says:
    March 1st, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Great job, Cezarija. Oh, so much better to remain heartless! Love the chain of wishing, from mice to gods. A pleasure to read!

  6. Douglas Campbell Says:
    March 1st, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Great job, Cezarija. Oh, so much better to remain heartless! Love the chain of wishing, from mice to gods. A pleasure to read!

  7. Linda Says:
    March 1st, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Very nice write!

  8. Linda Says:
    March 1st, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Very nice write!

  9. Cezarija Abartis Says:
    March 3rd, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Thank you for your kind remarks. Thank you, Sandra, Steve, Douglas, and Linda. Thank you.

  10. Cezarija Abartis Says:
    March 3rd, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Thank you for your kind remarks. Thank you, Sandra, Steve, Douglas, and Linda. Thank you.

  11. Bonnie ZoBell Says:
    March 4th, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Lovely story, Cezarija! Love the immortal porpoises.

  12. Bonnie ZoBell Says:
    March 4th, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Lovely story, Cezarija! Love the immortal porpoises.

  13. Cezarija Abartis Says:
    March 5th, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Thank you, Bonnie. I work on the humor.

  14. Cezarija Abartis Says:
    March 5th, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Thank you, Bonnie. I work on the humor.