My prompt was ‘My most frustrating success‘ and I was told to write something ‘ancient‘. So, without further ado, I give you …
I remember when the stars were born. I walked the skies and struck them like nuclear matches in the heavens and when they ignited in a rush of flame and glory I wore their brilliance like a cloak, the constellations dancing across my skin.
That was a good day, before everything got complicated.
No, I don’t want to talk about the fall.
When I went below, I took the light from the stars with me and stoked it in the depths until it burnt dark and fierce. I drew it in like a collapsed sun or a blanket and I shrouded myself in rage to mourn what was lost, burning hot instead of bright and letting the black flames lick upwards.
I didn’t wear the stars again until I met her.
I used to watch her through the fence that surrounded the garden, whispering sweetly into its knotted wood until it opened like a lover and I could peer through its chink. I saw her grow strong out of blood and bone, born in the crack of rib and sparked into life by that divine violence. The boy he simply wished into existence out of fickle words spat from an uncaring consciousness, but she … she was born visceral.
I think it’s safe to say I liked her immediately.
So I shucked my charred coal-skin for diamond and let myself be incandescent. I snaked into the garden with the light of galaxies shimmering down me like scales and a comet’s tail trailing behind me. I was the world’s most glorious trespasser. I still am, for that matter. I can only regret that selfies had yet to be invented …
I will not lie. I had every intention of tempting her. Corruption was certainly on the cards. I had snuck through the garden, disguising myself when necessary as refracting rainbow lights across a pool, or a rabble of butterflies exploding out from the undergrowth. And there she was, wearing only her skin that was tanned gold with the sun’s kiss, and I held the words ready in my head, such juicy, shining words, ready to spill from my lips and bend to my will. But as I was about to speak she turned her head and clocked me, her eyes steadily looking me up and down, head to tail, taking in the all of me … and the words caught in my throat, clawing to my insides with razor-barbs so it felt as if to speak word have been to eviscerate myself.
Time slowed for us as we stood staring at each other and in the background the sun rose and fell, stars pulsed in and out of being, whole nebulae were born and died. The universe pulsed with the comings and goings of light like a heartbeat roaring blood in my ears. The silence stretched so long I felt the entirety of existence stumble into heat death and I went smiling …
She broke that quiet of aeons by saying hello.
I said hey. Generations of future poets wept at our eloquence.
Our eyes never left each other, determined to consume and savour every morsel of our forms. She stretched her perfect neck, showing the taut tendons beneath and I peacock-flared my cosmos-tail. Finally her eyes settled on the ruined stumps that were once my wings (no I still don’t want to talk about the fall) and she did not flinch.
I fled before I could ruin so perfect a meeting.
We collided many times like that, both arranging to be wandering through the same dark paths and coming across each other as if by accident. Our liaisons always that delicious mix of appraisal, appreciation and bravado; an affair rich with silences and caressing stares.
Eventually, and on occasion, conversation did break out. The words that escaped from her lips often sharp and unpredictable, not often used yet, they bucked and reared in unexpected ways. Thus, our talks always seemed to twist and turn like serpents, and occasionally they would stop short as she would catch a word she had not heard before and spear it with her tongue, rolling the taste of it thoughtfully around her mouth.
So we went on. Snatching our embraces in words and glares.
Occasionally she would speak of her other lover, but truth be told I never paid much attention. He was a speck of dust and clay so far beneath me I simply did not care enough to be jealous. She could have him if she wished, for I could never deny her anything.
That is why I brought her the fruit. Not because I wanted to tempt her, but because I saw its flesh reflected in her eyes and knew she desired it. So I plucked it down, pared it, and presented it segmented in its juices and I told her about choice. About how I had wrested it from the Creator’s grasp and what it had cost me. I told her about the fall.
She listened with ears open and eyes as wide as wonder. When I was done, she traced the ruins of my wings with one hand and took a piece of fruit in the other.
As the knowledge exploded behind her eyes, I told her “This is what flying felt like.” And she kissed me with such urgency and mouth so wide she must have been trying to devour me.
When I awoke, she was staring at me with new eyes. And for the second time I knew what it was like to have the being you love most in creation look upon you with shame. For she knew me then for what I was and she was so ashamed to be with me.
Then the shouting started and everything was flaming swords and recriminations. They hid her sun-like skin from me under roughspun clothes and were gone from the garden, leaving me to wallow in my victory.
It was only later that I realised; in my sleep she had plucked the stars from my skin. and stoked them in the dust where they glowed red like blood and insight. And by their warmth she rocked her child to sleep.