Her blood spread on the cold black pavement. He could feel it spread across his skin as he held her broken body against his. Her life was ebbing away bit by bit. Her leather jacket was speckled with white snow. Soon enough her entire body had tiny white specks covering her black features.
“Please Salara, this heart beats for you. I could not survive an eternity without you.” He sobbed. His hands shook violently as he pushed the bloody hair out of her face.
Her final struggle for breath was naught but a quiet gurgle. Then her body lay unnaturally cold and silent. Pain blossomed deep within him. Unearthly howls resonated from his soul.
“What have I done?”
He fought back tears as he stared at her coffin. It was unsettling to see that she had not changed since she had died. She looked as much of a Queen as ever even though her veins were filled with formaldehyde and her face painted with modern gaudy make up. The way they made her look took away from her natural beauty it sickened him.
A tiny procession of family and friends surrounded Salara’s grave. Her closest family stood at the front, grief had stained their face even if tears had not. He had only seen them at a distance briefly before, but after her death, they all had aged quite significantly. He had known death changed mortals, but he didn’t know that they changed so drastically. After so many years of residing here, the ways of the mortals still surprised him to no end.
His legs felt as if they were made of lead as he walked to them. All of his movements turned automatic; shaking hands, saying how sorry he was for their loss. It was the same old stuff, different times.
As he walked back to his seat, his hand brushed some of the roses that lined the rows of plastic chairs. She hated red roses. “To cliché” she would always say. These should have been orchids lining the rows. They were as exotic as her. She loved how unique they were to everything else on this earth. Her family wasn’t around enough to even know that. He doubted if they even cared back then.
“I told you things would have been so much easier if you had chosen me.” Despite being a Goddess, Appolymus still thought she sounded like a cheap porn star.
“Nice to see you too Nyx.” He scowled.
“I am sorry for your little mortal’s death.” Her satin fingers stroke his cheek. Her touch intensely repulsed him yet there was something inside of him that still yearned for those long nights in the heavens.
“I’m sure you are.”
Fury started to rise within him. He knew that she had something to do with Salara’s death; there was no question about it.
“You could always come back to the Pantheon with me. Everyone misses you.”
That he doubted very much. All the Gods and Goddesses of the Pantheon no matter how benign did not know how to love each other, it was more of a familial acquaintance and a need to survive that bound them together.
“There’s no way that you could bring me back.”
“Are you deaf as well as dumb? I am not going back, especially with the likes of you.” He sneered. She returned with a glare of her own. Her red hair glowed as she grew more furious. He was sure that it would be an intimidating sight to anyone else but he had grown immune to her a long time ago.
“I’m sure I hear some insignificant demigods calling your name.”
With a snuff she vanished. He walked up to Salara’s coffin for one last look. He knew that he had to change this. There had to be something that he could do that could take back the time that was stolen from her.
He stood in the boat as the Ferryman pushed them across the lake. The smell of death hung like a thick smoke in the air. The taste of it was even worse as it danced across his tongue. All he could see around him was the black walls of the cave. He did not want to look at the water that they were traveling through. The souls of those who could not cross inhabited it. Their moans of agony and misery rose from beneath him. He cringed as a ghostly hand reached over the side of the grimy boat.
“Back!” the Ferryman ordered as he hit the hand with his oar.
The Ferryman’s voice had always made Appolymus uneasy. It echoed off of the cave walls yet it was thin and raspy like reeds in the wind. The boat rocked slightly as it hit the shore. Appolymus tried to suppress a shudder as another hand grabbed at his ankle as he stepped ashore.
“Thanos.” He bellowed. The dreary Underworld had done nothing for his grievous mood.
“What do you want this time Appolymus?” Thanos’ thin stature appeared out of the shadows.
“I am here to relieve you of your debt to me.”
“That was centuries ago, how do you still remember?” Thanos scowled.
“You can’t easily forget a furious legion of Roman soldiers chasing after you.” Appolymus drawled.
“Yes and that was when I learned how well the name ‘Destructor’ really did suit you.”
“I still need that favor Thanos.”
“What is it then?” He sighed.
“I need a soul.”
Thanos stared. A touch of fear flashed across his face.
“For what purpose will you need it?” A dark light of suspicion danced in his eyes, they both knew what evils could be done with lost souls.
“She is my soul mate.” Appolymus’ voice dropped to nearly a whisper. The pain of her loss was still fresh in his mind.
“You know the repercussions of bringing back someone from the dead.”
“Then, she must eat a soul a night for sustainability. If she fails to do so then she dies.” Thanos instructed. Appolymus nodded drinking in the hope that she can live again.
“Go, when you return home she will be there.”
Appolymus left the cave feeling lighter and happier than he had in a millennia. Even the ride back through the soul infested swamp did not diminish his jovial mood.
When he returned home he bounded up the steps. He hands shook as he opened the door.
“Salara?” He called. A small ball grew in his stomach as he heard his voice echo off of the empty walls.
“Right here love.” She was leaning against the doorframe behind him. As he looked at her weight was lifted off of his shoulders. He grabbed her around the waist and pulled her close.
“I missed you. I love you so much.” He said.
“I know Appy.” She murmured. He missed the feeling of her body pressed against his, the smell of her hair and most of all the gentleness in her eyes.
“There is something we must do for you to stay like this.” He said rolling his hands up and down her arms, “You must consume a soul every night to stay alive.”
It was like she stopped breathing. Confusion had arisen on her face.
“Consume…a…what?” She stammered.
“No.” she gasped. Her long delicate fingers covered her mouth in a silent scream, “No, there is no way that anyone is dying to help me live.”
“We can find someone who is already dying and use their soul.”
“But then they won’t go to heaven.” She cried, “They will never know the bliss of heaven or see those who have passed before them.”
“We all go to the Underworld Salara; eventually the souls that feed you will too.”
“How do you know that?” She demanded, “Have you ever fed on someone’s soul then go traipsing off into the Underworld to look for them?”
“Well no.” He admitted. There did not seem a way to convince her that this was the only way that they could be together.
“You are a god are you not? Why not let me die and come see me.” She pleaded.
“Just because I am a god does not make me all powerful!” He thundered, “I am more powerful than any human being ever could be but there are things that are even beyond my reach. Besides I do not want to spend all my time in a dank cave with a bunch of dead people.”
He froze. He realized his mistake after he said it.
“Dead people,” she murmured, “Like me.”
“Please Appy, I don’t want to do this.” She begged. It was not like for her to beg. It showed how much she was appalled by the act.
“Just try it.” He lightly prodded the body with his hand, “While it’s still fresh.”
A sloppy grin spread across his face but Salara’s mood could not be lifted. Her hands were pressed to her nose as she surveyed the dying man.
“He smells.” She observed dryly. It was true that the small alleyway had an odor that was a mix of death, bad hygiene and other things he would rather not identify.
“May I point out that you smell as lovely as ever?” He grinned. Her long raven black hair fell over her face as she blushed in disgust.
She jumped back as the man drew his last breath. She cringed as he struggled for a second then lay perfectly still, his mouth hung open and his eyes bulging. A thin milky smoke arose from the man’s mouth.
“Grab it.” Appolymus whispered. Salara stared at it blankly. Appolymus hissed at her, trying to get her attention. Frustrated he grabbed the milky substance himself.
“These things don’t just hang around forever.” He sighed. The soul felt like thick air. It was nothing that he had ever felt before. It was squirming trying to get out of his grasp.
“That thing was inside of him.” Salara said blankly.
“Take the soul!” Appolymus demanded. He thrust it into her hands. Once again she stared at it blankly unsure of what to do with it. Instantaneously there was a queer light in her eyes as she released it from her hands. The small soul squirmed out of her reach and vanished into the atmosphere.
“What you do that for?” He demanded furiously.
“I couldn’t let his soul be forever locked inside my body. He needed some peace, especially after seeing him in this horrid alley.” She fumed.
“Thanos is there any other way to keep her alive?” he begged.
“No there is not. I know of the consequences so I do not suggest you try to find a new way either.” Thanos warned.
“I understand Thanos, I was there when Nyx experimented with immortality on them.”
“There is no other way to do this Appolymus, I’m sorry.” Thanos clasped his friend’s shoulder sympathetically.
“So it seems that you have changed you mind.” She cooed in his ear. Her hands rolled up and down his chest.
“I’m not here for you Nyx.” He said pushing her hands away. She pouted as she sat back upon her bed. The black satin blanket of hers drained away all color from her leaving her looking like a ghost with a mop of red hair.
“It’s that little mortal pet of yours isn’t it?” She bared her teeth at the thought. There was a time that he was there for her every beck and call.
“She won’t accept the souls that will sustain her. I know that you’ve dabbled in that area and I need to know if there is any other way to save her.”
“And why would I do that?”
He lunged for her and grabbed her by the throat. Her breaths came in sharp gasps as he thrust her onto her back.
“I’m the God of Destruction for some very obvious reasons.”
“Hmm very obvious. Well it seems as if you had persuaded me.” She waved her hand and a small bottle appeared, “This should do the trick.”
“And if it doesn’t?”
“Then I guess you will know where to find me don’t you?”
“Appy, I can’t do this.” Salara sobbed. She sat huddled in the corner of his apartment. Her knees were drawn p to her chin. Appolymus was drawn back to the day when they first met, she was crying because her cat ran away. She was only 7 at the time.
“I know my love.” He said pushing her hair off of her tear stricken face. A glimmer of hope was mirrored by her look of suspicion. Without taking his eyes off of her, he produced the glowing purple vial.
“A present from a god.” He smiled. Her upper lip twitched. It was not a quirk that he had seen before.
“Will it work?” she asked gingerly taking the vial as if it was poisonous. He grasped her hands within his. Her hands were unnaturally cold and clammy.
“I’m starting to die.” She whispered. Taking her face into his hand he could see that she was speaking true. Her mahogany face had turned pallid and her eyes lacked its usual luster. Her lips had started to crack and sick white ooze leaked from it.
“Please drink quickly.” Quickly she took the cork out and put the vial to her lips.
Before she drank it, she hesitated and looked to Appolymus for some reassurance. He smiled and lightly kissed her temple. She shot back the liquid and relished it as the warm liquid slid down her throat. She licked away the residue left on her lips. She closed her eyes and moaned.
“Now that’s more like it.” She said.
Appolymus could see that she was starting to regenerate. Her skin once again regained its glow and her eyes shone with great intensity. She tongue flicked over her teeth as she glanced over at Appolymus and kissed him fiercely.
“I take it you feel better.” He said breathlessly. She nodded and stood up. She walked to the bathroom to look at herself in the mirror.
“Not bad.” She stated. She ran her delicate fingers through her thickening hair. Appolymus stood in the doorway staring at her. She was absolutely perfect. She always had been and now he could be with her forever. After a while she glanced over her shoulder and grinned wickedly.
“I want to go out.” She pouted, “I feel way to darn good to stay cooped up in this place.”
“Of course.” He said taking her hand. She dashed out the door and down the stairs.
“Hurry up!” she called up the stairwell. He chuckled and climbed on the railing.
“This fast enough?” He asked as he stepped off and landed gracefully on the floor beneath him.
“Not bad, for an old guy.” She giggled. Stepping in front of him she removed his jacket and put it on herself. She winked at him as she backed away.
They walked for hours, by the time they stopped at a park it was dusk. She took his hand into hers as they strolled down the side of a small lake. Birds chirped in unison with the whispering wind. Softly she started to hum, her body moving to the tune. Appolymus twirled her into his arms.
“I love you with all of my being.” He purred. She leaned forward and nipped his nose. Her mouth opened to say something but no sound came out. Confusion skewed her face. Once again she opened her mouth but again there was silence.
“Salara, what’s wrong?” Appolymus asked grasping her shoulders. She shook her head hopelessly. Her hands flailed and clawed her throat. Her eyes stared at him in desperation and terror. He grabbed her and ran back to his apartment.
After her initial shock, she calmed down and grabbed a pen and paper as she sat on his bed.
Who gave you this stuff?
“It was Nyx. She had worked with this kind of stuff before and I was sure she could help you after you wouldn’t consume that man’s soul.” He explained. She looked incredulously at him. The answer was obvious.
“That two timing cow!” He exclaimed and rushed from the room.
“Nyx!” He roared as he burst into her room.
“Isn’t it nice of you to grace me with your grace once again Appolymus.”
Her snide look faded to shock and fear as he grabbed her by the throat and slammed her against the opposite wall. Her nails raked his skin drawing blood and tore chunks of flesh from his arm.
“What did you give me?” He demanded. Nyx struggled against his grip, the only sounds she made were tiny gurgles as she tried to breath. Slowly he released his grip.
“What you deserved.” She sneered. He raised his hand to strike her but stopped. Fury was pulsing through his veins. The power of it was rushing to his head. He knew that it would make him unstable and dangerous if he did not calm down.
“She was an insignificant mortal,” She scoffed, “She should have been groveling at our feet instead of you worshipping her. She is not worth our time. We are all powerful gods!”
She took a step closer to him as her arrogance grew.
“And you had the audacity to defile everything that we have worked to call our own; our sanctity, our pure breeding, and our pride just for your little harlot.” Her nails gently trailed across his shoulders, “I told you things would have been so much easier if you had chosen me.”
Unable to control his anger any longer he hit the wall, crumbling it.
By the time he had returned from the Pantheon Salara was deteriorating rapidly. She was lying on his bed. Her raven hair sat in clumps on the white covers. Her hand was curled around a large chunk of her hair. Her ashen skin was cracking. She looked like a statue past its prime. Tears rolled down her cheek, taking bits of her skin with it.
“My love I did not mean for this to happen.” He said sitting by her side. She lifted up her hand to stroke his face. A small trail of dust fell from her arm as she moved. A sad smile graced her cracking lips. Her hand turned his head slightly so he saw the note lying on the table beside the bed. He looked back at her his eyes moist.
“No.” He said shaking his head. Grimacing, she slowly sat up and took his hand into hers. She gently kissed his lips. He could feel her cracking and falling away despite how careful he was trying to be. As she pulled back her fingers painted invisible designs on his jaw and cheek. Tears slid steadily down her face as she lay back down upon the bed. His jaw trembled as her body disintegrated into dust.
The pain of her death was reawakened within him. Hot tears ran down his face and pooled beneath his chin. The pile of ashes on his bed was all that was left of his beloved. He took a small handful of it and stared at it. It was beyond his grasp that there was nothing more that he could do. He picked up the note and stared at it for a long while. These were her final words. The last record that she had ever existed in this pathetic world was in his hand. Carefully he opened it and held it tenderly.
I know that none of this is your fault. You did everything that you could but I guess it was just my time my love. Please let me go, we will meet again. Remember that I love you more than anything in the world.
For once she was completely beyond his grasp. Appolymus knelt beside the bed his head bowed.
“I cannot live without her,” He said quietly, “I give up my immortality. My godship is for the taking, I am in no more need of it.”
A small breeze lifted up the ashes. They began to dance in the breeze and dispersed throughout the room.
“So it shall be.” An ominous voice echoed throughout the room. Suddenly he was in blinding pain. It was as if he was being torn apart. As quickly as it appeared it stopped. A silvery substance appeared in front of him and flew out the window. A weigh had been lifted from him. A small smile graced his lips as he lay down upon his bed, the ashes feeling like sand beneath him.
“I could not survive an eternity without her.” He whispered as his eyes closed.