Month: April 2020

Happily Ever After

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This post was originally published through Patreon on December 18, 2018.

Happily ever after.

The cliché mocked Samuel in the moldering darkness of his one-bedroom apartment. A fairy tale ending, saccharin sweet, and so unlike the reality of human life.

Happily ever after.

It was a lie told to little children to shield them from the dark, sinister truths of the world, and perhaps also a lie told to adults too weak to face their problems head-on. In either case, it was a con man’s ruse, as plastic and artificial as a G.I. Joe action figure.

Happily ever after.

Once upon a time, Samuel had tried his own luck at “Happily ever after.” And what had it gotten him? A low paying job and a lonely, miserable life. No family, no friends, no wife or children.

But that was about to change.

Happily ever after.

The accursed phrase had been the object of Samuel’s obsession for almost thirty years. Every day, as he fought rush hour traffic, as he toiled at a job he couldn’t care less about, as he stopped at the groceries to buy his microwave dinners, he mulled over those perverse words, a slow, acid churn that never stopped until he turned out the light and allowed his bitterness to assault him in his dreams.

That was when the demon had visited and made Sammuel an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Happily ever after.

That was the wicked creature’s proposal, and Samuel hadn’t paid a moment’s notice to the price.

“A wish granted,” the demon snarled, “in exchange for a kind thought turned sour. A harmless enough cost, I should think, and a chance to live—”

Happily ever after.

And Samuel had wished, and Samuel had watched each one of his desires spring to life.

What an extraordinary power, he thought, and in the heat of his excitement, he didn’t see the change that took place inside of him.

A harmless enough cost, the demon had said, and it had seemed at the time that he was right. In Samuel’s elation, how was he to notice his desires turning dark, his wishes turning vindictive, his own definition of “Happily ever after” turning more and more twisted by the day?

Now, Samuel had conceived of the ultimate wish, and all he had to do was summon the demon one last time.

Just one more wish, and in the ashes of a smoldering post-apocalyptic world, Samuel could, at last, live—

Happily ever after.

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The Unnamed God of the Sea

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“My daughter’s dead! Are you happy?”

Stephen stood on the edge of the world and watched the tide roll in. A cold and bitter wind swept through the empty beach, and he steeled himself against it, shirt billowing like a maritime flag. The loud crash of the surf swallowed his words, and after his anger reached an excruciating crescendo, it tapered, leaving him limp, listless, and subdued.

It was almost three in the morning, and the pre-dawn darkness had already worked its way through his skin. It leeched into flesh and bone, fused with every organ in his body until all that remained in his withered heart was the cold void of empty space.

“I gave you everything,” he continued, and the surf swelled in reply.

Not enough, those churning waves seemed to say.

“I spent my whole life contemplating your ancient mysteries, serving you in every way I could, and you rewarded me with death.”

Stephen could still see the body of his four-year-old daughter, spilling over the side of a ship he never should have taken out to sea. The weather had been off the entire morning, but it was nothing Stephen hadn’t encountered before and he never could have imagined those terrifying charcoal clouds, rolling in from the horizon with impossible speed.

He remembered the salty tang of the air soaked with rain, the heaving back-and-forth of the almost capsized boat beneath his feet, the mortal screams of his daughter as she called out one last time to a father who’d reached for her hand too late.

That morning, he’d prayed to the Unnamed God of the Sea for protection, and when that protection failed, his world had capsized like his boat.

“Does my devotion mean nothing to you?”

Nothing, the sea agreed.

And how could he respond? He knew the Unnamed God spoke the truth.

Your years, those lapping waves continued, are but a drop and your accomplishments little more than anthills. Your daughter is mine, and one day, you will be, too.

“I’ll defy you.”

Defy me or don’t. Either way, you’ll return to me. Mortals always do.

The tide lapped at Stephen’s ankles before rolling back into the ocean. Stephen called out again, but this time, there was no reply.

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Memoir of a Star

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Lyra was a noble star descended from a long line of other stars: Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Perseus, Andromeda. Together they reigned in peace and prosperity, each of equal stature, strength, and rank, presiding over an expanse of space and time that blazed with their celestial light. But in the midst of such perfection, Lyra grew bored and, restless for adventure, decided to leave her kin and stake out a corner of the cosmos for herself.

And so, after saying goodbye to her family and home for the last time, the star set out, crossing the threshold of her ancestors’ domain into empty space.

She thought the darkness beyond her realm both novel and unique, and, for a while, Lyra was entranced. Here was an endless mystery waiting to be uncovered by her otherworldly light. But as time progressed and her sojourn continued, the darkness started to oppress her. It pushed back, jealous of her light, and with time she began to dim.

After eons of aimless traveling, Lyra stopped and, surrounded by the void of empty space, thought better of her quest. Only then, on the verge of returning home, did she look back and realize she’d lost her way.

Despair set in. She could already feel the relentless cold reaching into her core, gumming up the forces that kept her alive. Numb and frightened, Lyra cried.

Her tears fountained in the endless dark, shimmering like stars in miniature. Soon her sobs and heavy breathing slowed, and she watched, fascinated, as her tears first pooled, then condensed, pulled together by the fundamental force of gravity. Nine distinct bodies emerged from Lyra’s despair: nine worlds, each with their own unique needs and desires. They huddled about her in the darkness, afraid, and she offered them her light, rekindled by the fire of a blossoming love so intense that she was never to feel the cold of empty space again.

Lyra loved each of her children in different ways, but Earth was special, for this was the daughter who’d seen fit to bear children of her own. Life erupted from Earth’s fertile soil and swept over oceans and forests, mountains and plains. Some took to the skies, others to the water. Some marched across Earth’s rugged terrain on two legs, others on four. Lyra beheld their various forms and loved each and every one.

First children, then grandchildren. Her new family was nothing like the stars she’d left behind, and Lyra was pleased.

If only my ancestors could see how happy I am now.

Lyra had set out in search of herself, and in so doing had almost lost herself. Now she had a family of her own. Her place in the cosmos was set and she would never feel restless again.

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