The wings did crest,
Above our protagonists’ eyes,
As a face quickly came to lean abreast,
Accompanied by a tight-lipped sigh.
“You seem heavy my boy,
Like the stones on this beach,
Can you stand?
I doubt I’ve the power or the reach.”
After a time,
The boy did a reply,
A hoarse croak,
A slow push to his feet.
Face to face with this man,
Flashes of red peeking through grey streaks.
“What brings you here?”, he asks simply.
“A purpose less clear”, the boy sighs in reply.
“Oh?”, says he, his words easily slung,
As the boy grabs his shirt to be rung.
The water drips against the Earth,
As the Earth consumes, greedily, a green carpeted tongue.
The cries of birds deafening above,
The boy looks to the man expectantly,
Not so much as even a shrug.
“Come with me my boy,
You’re shaking worse than the men of Troy”.
And he was,
So, he did.
An expressionless face,
Still as carved stone.
Sand drags against his soles,
As the wind continues to blow,
The trembling in the trees,
The cold sticking to his cheeks,
Following a man who promises relief.
“How long do I have”, the boy thinks,
“How can I save those,
Who can’t even notice their woes?”
The pair cut through the foliage to a clearing,
A place devoid of the forests rearing,
Wood piled in the center,
But at the far corner,
There sat a stone,
Spattered with gold.
His eyes rooted to the space,
His heart began to race,
“Take a seat by the fire”, a voice breaks the boys silence.
A roaring sound follows,
The boy jumps, and then swallows,
As flames erupt,
A column of fire reaching up.
The man takes his place,
Cross legged, from the fire but a pace.
Shadows slinking from the blaze.
The boy shook like a leaf in the wind,
But refused to step in.
“I thought you cold?”
“And yet you stand?”.
The boy remains rooted, a gaze flickering from him to the stone,
Looking for any cut in the man’s cloak,
Any blood that is shown.
A deep chuckle rips through his throat,
“I see… you know of me”,
A hand moves to his side,
“You impress me,
The scars, they’re not so easy to see.”
A winding growing up through his chest,
The boy wondered,
Was he growing bolder,
Or was it fear beginning to smolder?
“Will you run?”
An impatience pulls on his lips,
A twitch, a twitch,
As the coiling reaches his throat,
The pressure had for him chose,
His teeth form a seal,
He pushes forth his zeal,
“What advice have I for dogs in my mind?”,
His foot moving back.
A voice interrupts,
“Ah, are not even the dogs worthy of a crumb?
Are not even wilting plants worthy of feeling the Sun?”
The boy grits his teeth,
Then runs a finger over his thumb,
Wondering how to here he had come.
He steps back,
A heel to the earth,
But only one,
A biting of his tongue,
Metallic, unsavory, numb.
He turns, and takes his seat,
Eyes drawn to the titan as he bares his teeth.
“You do me a kindness,
To sit here with me.”
“I am not here for you,
Can this you not see?”
The embers rise between them,
Feet away but miles apart,
The boy looks up, but still sees no Sun,
The boy looks to the floor,
As the orange across his skin dances and runs.
The man’s voice then comes,
“I know those eyes”.
“I’m quite certain I’ve never met you nor your kind.”
“Oh, but you have,
I am no one new.”
The boy finds his eyes,
“I’ve been there,
My boy you’ve been ensnared,
Salvation is a fickle hare.”
The boy scoffs,
Water dripping from his hair.
“And what do you know of salvation.”
The man’s eyes drift above,
To his circling fate thereof,
“I know of how it hurts,
I know how it tears”, he answers, his eyes glossy,
“I know how it can be something unfair.”
The boy feels his form soften,
This was not something he allowed often,
“Does it come often?”
“She comes every day.”
“And the pain?”,
“Over time it’s become plain.”
“I want to help”, the boy admits.
“I’m afraid she would not permit”, he laughs,
The sound is not returned,
For within the boy something stirs.
Something within him heightening.
“You laugh in the face of this?”,
His view falls back on the boy.
“What would you have me do?”
The boy remained silent,
For he did not know,
He tried not to let that show.
“There is always a chance to do more”,
He felt the emptiness of his words shake the earth to the core.
“I’ll tell you what I learned my boy”, the man spoke up,
Shifting his weight,
The flames bending his way,
He could have sworn,
He saw the boy lean in closer.
“You want to save a man, you teach him this”,
The tension sitting in the air like lovers poised to kiss.
“You teach him it’s okay to say this,
And help me.”
Shorter this time,
The words seemed to miss.
All that is heard is the snapping sound of a twig,
As the boy shoots up,
Into his palms his fingernails begin to dig.
“Such a fool you are!
With whom do your words lay?!
Your meekness is not what will save!”
The man lets loose a gentle hum,
As the grass near him he begins to strum,
“Perhaps, but it feels nice to say.”
“And you wonder how it is you’ve gotten this way!”, the boy shouts.
“The giver of life, the bringer of fire?
A trickster, a liar!”
The man remains seated,
His patience was not even an ounce depleted.
“There are three different lies we tell my boy,
The ones we tell our brothers,
The ones we believe from another,
And the lies that our self we believe before all others .”
The boy lets his mouth hang askew,
Searching for the words,
But they slip like fingers through dew.
“I hold a hope for you, you see,
A hope for you, I couldn’t keep for me.
I don’t know if you can save the world,
But I think you can fight,
And I don’t know that you can find this sight,
But I think you can try.”
His anger boils,
In his eyes develop a moisture,
“But it’s hard,
How do you know what’s right- I”,
If you wait till it feels right,
I fear you’ll be waiting your whole life.”
The words manage to sink,
Finding their way to his feet.
The man shifts his weight,
“I’ll ask you this my boy,
Do you ever wonder about love?
Is this life what you thought it was?”
The words set like anchors in the sea,
Heavier with every heartbeat.
The boys voice shakes, his words small,
Empty of pride,
“So many lives lived and then to die,
Here for a moment, then turned around,
So many, hardly even made a sound-“,
He pauses, a catch in his throat,
“I don’t want to live a life,
Just to die.
I don’t want to live a life,
If at the end there’s a risk that I-“
He stops, unwilling to continue,
Something heavy, something cold,
Had been sewn into his sinew.
“Do you know why I appreciate fire so?”, the man chimes,
The flame dancing in his eyes,
“Because even when it burns out of hand,
Smoke rises to show us the way,
Then we’ll know what it is we must save”.
The boy remains standing,
“What if all that’s left is evil after the flames?”.
Then came a reply, gentle, swelling with life,
“Even from wickedness can something be learned,
Even in vileness can something be discerned,
Did not Tantalus teach you this in his turn?”
The name was a catalyst,
The man watched the boy’s eyes grow wide,
He felt a sickness begin to materialize,
The name striking realization as he looked to his side,
Trees blocking the way to the sea,
Where Tantalus ought to be.
He didn’t know how to feel,
Something was shaking his zeal.
A screech from above,
As the birds began their descent,
The man made no move to defend.
The boy felt a fear rising,
He felt like he was losing a friend,
There must be more,
There must be more to this end,
Can’t you stand,
Won’t you run?”
The man stood up,
His face was calm,
And his shoulders broad.
He approached the boy with an outstretched arm,
“I’ll give you a gift,
One man seems to have missed”,
The flames from his eyes danced outward,
Down his arms and to his fingertips.
He pressed them to the boy’s lips,
As he did, he breathed in.
A burning, but not of skin,
The fire worked its way within.
His skin grew warm,
His clothes grew dry,
But he felt a wetness form in his eye.
The man turned from him,
Stepping with purpose,
Making his way to the stone,
Where ichor so brightly shone.
“Fire for when you need it the most,
May it help you against even the strongest of foes”.
The boy stepped towards him,
An eagle’s cry causing him to shake from limb to limb.
“What if they’re too strong?
What then?”, the boy inquires,
The man’s grey streaked auburn hair tilts back,
His eyes upward as his arms grow slack,
“No matter the power you yield,
The battle is not fought solely on the field”.
He leans back on the stone,
His fate to the boy was already known,
It was not something to him he wanted to be shown.
A deep voice demands, “Go boy, go”.
And so, he did.
He kindled the flame within him as he swam,
Across the sea and across the lands,
To the gates of Tartarus, he ran,
He pressed another coin in the ferryman’s hand.
Climbed aboard and collapsed upon the floor.
Oh, to have never been born.
How could he even be sure?
He forced his eyes shut,
The coil in the pit of his stomach only tightening,
A worrying struck across his being, a lightning.
He clutched onto the edge of the boat,
Keeping the fire beneath his coat.
As the stars danced beneath his eyes.
He began to dream of a sea,
Made of reeds.
A face obscured in bright,
Behind him sat a stark, and lonely night,
He took his hand,
It was callous and harsh,
Worn from sand,
And dipped in tan.
Teeth now gritting,
Squinting to spite the bright,
His frame now bathed in light.
He felt within his head a splitting,
In search of something… something fitting.