The Gods Themselves. Short Story.

He sat looking at the small vial, watching as the light bounced off the liquid. When it settled, Jason picked it up and shook it again, then set it down and watched as the colours rippled through it. It was quite pretty, he’d give it that much. The rest of it however, he still wasn’t convinced. There had been plenty of things like this throughout his life and none of them had worked. Perhaps it was wrong of him to want this, but it was his life. Everyone and everything else was unimportant, the only thing that mattered was his happiness and he hadn’t been happy in a long, long time. He paused, trying to remember the last time he had been happy. He couldn’t do it. That just made things worse somehow. He was happy once, he knew it, he had happy memories, but the last time he was happy he hadn’t realised it was the last time. If he had maybe he would have cherished it more, committed it to memory more thoroughly. Instead, it was gone. Carried away by the rushing rivers of time.

He closed his eyes and leaned back into the couch, calling up his favourite memory. One where he had been truly and completely at peace. It had been so long ago and he no longer gained any small amounts of contentment from it, but still, the faint pangs of sadness and regret were nicer than the numbness that usually coated him. Huh. Was happiness a finite resource? Or was this just what happened when you had lived a life like his? He opened his eyes and pulled a journal over to himself and jotted that down. It would make some people think. Even if he was gone, his thoughts would still live on. He placed the journal on the table again and sat back, he closed his eyes and let out a little sigh as he relaxed down.

It had been at the fountains, with Trina. They had been laughing and splashing. They had the entire area to themselves. It was a welcome respite to the crowds of people. Light glittered off the water, casting rainbows all around. The water cascaded and splashed and crashed down into itself, creating a pleasant melody. They were laughing and splashing one another, the water was deliciously cold against their skin after the long, hot day they had had. Trina splashed water at him, and as he turned to splash back she tackled him, driving him under the water, arms wrapping around him. They playfully wrestled for a moment before parting and surfacing, both gasping for breath and giggling. They continued playing for what seemed like days, but was only a few hours. They waded out of the water and collapsed onto some beach chairs, spreading out and allowing the sun to dry their skin. As they lay in the sun they talked about nothing and everything. Someone appeared briefly and dropped off drinks and a platter of food before respectfully leaving again. They talked and ate and drank until the early hours of the morning, when the sun was gone and the air was finally cooling. It had been the last time he had seen Trina alive.

No one was entirely sure what had happened to her, she had disappeared the next day and three weeks later her body was found. The autopsy showed no signs of damage, nothing that would cause her death. It was as if she had just decided to stop. Her body did not rot, her skin still felt soft and supple with a faint warmth to it, the cuts of the autopsy had slowly healed over the course of a few weeks. They had displayed her in the temples for two years before Jason was driven almost mad with grief. Seeing her lying there, day after day, not moving, not speaking, an empty husk. He had burned her and the temple to the ground. During the fire, when the flames were at their peak, they flashed a deep blue, Trina’s favourite colour, then they raged even higher and calmed a second later. Jason found it both terrifying and comforting. He had wondered if she had still been alive, if it was some kind of hibernation, if it was he who had killed her. In the end though he realised that he had just watched as her soul was freed from the confines of her body. That was what was keeping it from rotting. It was her thanking him as she left. That was all. That had been almost four hundred years ago and he had been alone since then. The last of his siblings. Over time the others had gone. He didn’t know where. Perhaps they were living on other parts of the globe, blending in, pretending to be normal, to be human. If so, none of them had tried to reach out. They had all found ways to escape, but he never had. He never could. He was too well known, to beloved by the people. But that vial, the vial of shifting liquid, that could be his escape. He had tried many times in the last two hundred years. Still no one could figure why he lived and others died. He had taken potions and poisons, always in secret, and none worked. Sometimes he would feel sick or tired, but that was all.

Jason wondered what would happen if he ever succeeded, he and his siblings had been worshipped as gods, still were. Theories abounded as to where his siblings went, what happened to them all. He wondered what would happen when someone read through his journals. There were thousands of them, some in conditions that made them illegible, but they were there. They contained his inner thoughts, his fears, his worries, the things he wasn’t supposed to feel, the things he wasn’t supposed to show.

Jason picked up the vial and uncorked it. He gently brought it to his nose and smelled the fumes wafting from the bottle. They smelt bitter, but there was a sweetness to them too. It was pungent, but in a pleasant way. It smelt almost refreshing, like a cold drink, just a bit too sour, on a hot day. He took a deep breath, and before he could reconsider, he downed the contents in one swallow. He placed the vial down carefully and sat back. As he did he shifted slightly, trying to get comfortable, Jason closed his eyes and waited.

They found him two days later. Not breathing, his body still slightly warm. Just as the records had claimed of his sister. There was no apparent reason for his death, it was as though he had just stopped. Carefully they carried him down to the temple and set up a lavish bed and display, allowing the worshippers to come and view the body. They came in droves, standing in lines for weeks just to touch his body, hoping it would bring them luck and blessings.

Jason was could still hear and see, but he was unable to move. His body no longer responding to him. He felt the people as they brushed their hands over his body, praying over him, crying over him. He wanted to recoil from their touch, to brush away their tears, to cover his ears and block out their cries, but he couldn’t. As he lay there he realised that his soul was trapped, it couldn’t escape alone. It needed help as Trina’s had. He thought back to that first night, as they discussed what they would do with the body. They had all agreed that he should be displayed, just as his sister was. They had wanted to display her indefinitely then, keep her for all the people to come and visit. He lay there, day in and out as the never ending stream of people visited, unable to move, to speak. Stuck.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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