This story was inspired by a photograph taken by the talented Michael Marshall Smith who was kind of enough to let me use it. I am again giving you the option of downloading the story (it’s almost 7000 words) onto your kindle of choice, or you can read it below if you prefer.
I hope you enjoy,
The bark had partially peeled of the trees. He touched it lightly with his hand. Time was playing its trick on them, like it played its trick on everything. The trees weren’t made for time, just like his people weren’t made for time. It was as simple as that. They were made for a timeless continuum, an existence of status-quo where all that is and all that will be is the same and therefore endurable. The biggest surprise time gave them wasn’t death, but change and decay. And they all had their metaphorical bark peeled off by now.
He was standing at the edge of the woods looking over the valley below. The resentment apparent on his face, the goatee shivering slightly in the breeze, or perhaps it was his outrage that made it quiver.
He had hoofs, was hairy up to his midsection and had long, white horns on his head. His facial features were mostly human, though the tone of his skin was a bit grey. He had long dark hair and he wore no clothing. It was the way of the Faun. They were deities of the forest, and he was their god. It was a role he took very seriously.
He put his hand on his chest, rubbing the hairless skin.
He sometimes stood there wishing he could be out in the world, that they could live amongst those who had found a way to cope with the hell unleashed when Pandora opened the jar. Time escaped then, disintegrated everything he held dear, tore down the boundaries between his world and this, whatever this was.
Pan turned when he heard ruckus behind him. He knew it was Dis before he saw him.
“There are people in the forest,” Dis exclaimed with deep panic in his eyes.
This happened from time to time and there was never any real danger. People rarely got near the sanctum, and if they did he knew. He sensed the danger and he was always there to defend the woods and his people.
Or what was left of his people. He didn’t have a way to fight the melancholia time gave them and so they vanished into thin air, just suddenly seized to exist. He wanted to vanish too, but he had duties to fulfil. He would be the last to jump the boat, it was his place to endure.
“It’ll be fine,” he calmed Dis as he trudged after him. His long dark hair swaying to the rhythm of his steps.
Some Satyrs were playing their flutes when they walked into the sanctum. It calmed Dis down immediately. He grabbed flute from the hole in a tree where he kept it and started playing. Music was all that was left of his pleasures, of his desires and escapades. Music brought them tranquility and a sense of contentment they never otherwise experienced. There was always someone playing in the sanctum, but when he played everyone listened.
He didn’t know how long he played. It wasn’t in his nature to keep track of time so he didn’t know if the alarm was because of the people Dis had spoken of or if this was a new day, other people. He stopped playing, jumped to his feet and ran out into the forest with a single gesture for the others to stay put.
He ran until he was close, then he hid between the trees careful not to be seen. Two men, a woman and a child were trudging the path not too far from the sanctum. He glared at them, wishing them away.
He envied them childhood. He envied their ability to adapt. They weren’t meant for time either, but they had adapted remarkably well, whereas all his people could do was be the same as always and in a world of time that meant being in hiding. He had seen what people did with the witches, and the witches had been of their own blood. Heavens only knew what they’d do with someone like him, or his people.
But he had powers to protect the woods and the creatures in it and so he raised his arms. The air in the forest became thicker. Darkness suddenly ensued and he saw the people quickening their steps along the path.
He turned around to find a woman standing behind him. She looked slightly stunned. Startled he stepped back. He hadn’t been surprised like this for a very long time. Not since he was careless and the forest was filled with seductive nymphs and horned forest spirits.
He recuperated quickly. Grinned, like was his habit of old and stretched out his body for her to see.
She stared at him, seized him up. She stared at his hoofs, his animal thighs, his chest that looked like it belonged on a human male and his facial features that were a little inhumane in their humanity. He knew his looks always startled people who saw him for the first time. It kept him at an advantage. Usually it simply gave him time to run away, make them question what they’d seen. This woman seemed to be different though. She stared and kept looking at his horns and down at his generous midsection, but she did more than that. She smiled.
He was used to people looking, but most were disgusted by him. It played in his favour. He had enjoyed this game, once upon a time. Chasing after them, convincing them that they wanted him as much as he wanted them. Enchanting them with his flute.
“You must be different,” he told her. “I haven’t been unaware of a presence so close to me in quite some time.” He walked closer to her, expecting her to retreat, but she didn’t. She did seem stupefied however.
“What’s your name?” he asked and this seemed to get her going. It was as if something automatically took over in her as he asked this. She changed a little.
“My name is Pandora,” she said confidently.
He couldn’t hide the anger he felt. It was apparent in the way he furrowed his eyebrows, the way the wrinkles became apparent around his mouth and in the way his body seemed to rise as if to intimidate her.
“Who…” she hesitated, looked at his face, his goatee shivering with anger. “Who are you?”
He sighed, breathed in and shook his head.
“You’re not that Pandora, are you? You smell like a regular person, but who would name their child after such a witch as she? I keep forgetting that even she perished.”
She looked puzzled, but didn’t say anything.
“I’m the God of the Fauns, I’m Pan.” he told her proudly and was sure she saw how he rose with his words, how his body expanded and how he’d tower over the treetops if he wanted to.
“Pan?” she hiccuped, “Silly me, I thought you were the devil himself.” He could hear a hint of hysteria in her laughter. He had heard it before.
She wasn’t young. He would have called her ageless in a poem, but he saw the drawings of time in her face, around her eyes, in the corner of her mouth, in her glance and in the way she spoke. He liked the look of her. She wasn’t what had excited him in the past, but now it did and he saw something dark in this sudden longing, longing that he hadn’t felt in a very long time.
“I might just as well be,” he said. “I guess your idea of the devil with a tail, horns, hoofs and a hayfork comes from your forefathers meeting me. I haven’t actually met your kind in a long while though.”
“You have a hayfork?” she asked and when she realised the nature of her question she laughed nervously.
“No,” he said reluctantly, “but I play the flute, do you want to hear it?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “Are you any good?”
He laughed at that. “You may very well be her descendant,” he said. “Witty and charming, and you look like a goddess.”
The words were out of his mouth before he could stop himself, as if something old and deformed just took him over and started spouting out the same drivel he’d used back in the days when he hadn’t been able to get enough of them, the human women or the men. It had been such a fun game to play while passing the excruciating time.
He could bring her to the sanctum, but the others would get ideas. They would get ideas like Dis brother had. It had let him down into the valley below, out into the society of people and he had ended up in a cage where he had vanished into oblivion alone and afraid.
He was never going to let that happen to anyone of his people ever again. If they had to perish with time, then they would do so amongst their own, in the company of friends.
“Do you live around here?” he asked and laughed when he realised how ordinary he sounded, ordinary just like her.
“I do,” she said. “I’ve been here so many times, I feel comfortable in the forest, but I’ve never seen… I must be loosing my mind…”
He didn’t answer her. Just walked up to her and smelled her. It was an old instinct, he couldn’t help himself and now he wished he carried his flute with him through the forest like he used to do.
“Go,” he said in a harsh voice. “Go before…, leave and don’t come back here.” he told her. But she didn’t move, just stood there staring at him, then she reached out and touched his horn as if he was an animal and she just had to feel the touch underneath her fingers.
It angered him. “GO!” he shouted.
“Have you always lived here?” she asked.
He pulled himself together, made himself bigger and then he raised his arms up towards the sky. The air around them got heavy, the darkness seemed to close in on her and for a while he thought she would just stop breathing. She didn’t though, but she fell to the ground, unable to go away like he asked her. She lay there, looking up at the half man, half beast Pan and she felt the magic in her. It worked its way into her psyche and took a hold of her. It made her terrified, but it did something else as well something she could almost put into words before she passed out.
When she came to again she was alone in the forest.
Pan hadn’t gone far, he stood staring at her and when she walked away he followed her until she was out of the woods. He stood by the fence and stared after her for a long while after she had vanished out of sight. He sighed and eventually walked back to the sanctum to play his flute.
He played, but there was something lacking in his melody. He played fiercely until Dis, or one of the others, stopped him. Then he stomped off into the forest again, carrying his flute with him.
Time, it meant nothing to him, but he felt as if an eternity passed until he saw her again. Sometimes time seemed to be just in his head, weirdly not passing while he felt like an eternity should pass. It was a part of the horrors of his jail.
He met her at the edge of the woods. He stood by the fence and glared at the houses in the valley. When he saw her approaching he thought of running, thought of hiding, like he always did when he saw people, but he didn’t. Instead he waited for her.
“I’ve thought about you,” she said. “How could I not,” she whispered and grinned “look at you? I want to talk to you.”
“You should go, avoid this place. Go away,” but he heard the lack of conviction in his own voice. He felt the inconsistency between his words and the way he looked at her, as if she was already his to long for.
She approached him, put her hand on his cheek and stroked it lightly. “You’re such a beautiful creature,” she said and he suddenly resented her. He wasn’t a creature, he was Pan – a god trapped in a cage built by time, degradation that continued into eternity. He had enjoyed the game at first, but then it got tiresome and now he just wanted everything to be like it had been back then, before Pandora had opened the cursed jar.
“Pandora,” he whispered, “such a pretty name and you’re such a delicate beast,” he grinned and let her curiously study him. She did so with her eyes, while others before her had used their hands. He didn’t mind. It felt real.
“You’re just infatuated because I have an aura of..” he started. She stopped him, looking startled.
“I’m not infatuated,” she said and he saw how she struggled to look away, look at the trees behind him instead of his facial features or his horns. “I’m not…” she whispered.
He didn’t answer her. Let her fight her own battle and when she seemed to have a grip of herself again he approached her.
“Back in the days,” he said, “I would have taken out my flute, which I do have with me now, and I would have played my melody for you. It always enchants the likes of you and then we’d spend wonderful moments in the clearing by the creek and when we were finished with each other you’d go back to yours and I would contentedly return to mine. But I’m not like that anymore…”
“I’m not easily enchanted,” she said and he could see the sternness in the corners of her mouth and around her eyes. As if the things time had drawn on her face had somehow extended itself into the soul. “You can ask my ex-husband,” she said.
“Was that the man walking the path the other day? The one accompanied by another man, a woman and a child?”
“It was,” she said.
“Why were you following them?” he smiled at her as he realised he’d guessed her secret.
She didn’t answer him. Just sneered and turned away.
“Leaving so soon?” he asked, and he managed to admit to himself that he was a bit frustrated with her ability to ignore him.
“Pandora?” he said, “Will you stay with me a while? Talk with me? We can sit underneath a tree and talk about life? I can tell you about Pandora, the woman who you have your name from and I can …” he stopped talking. She had turned around again, fury in her eyes.
“What are you?”
“I am Pan,” he said. “I’m a Faun, a deity of the forest and let me tell you there aren’t many of us left. There is no room in this world for the likes of us, your kind has seen to that. Pandora’s time has seen to that.”
“Pandora’s time,” she whispered. He saw her face become soft again and she walked towards him and cupped his cheek. This time he didn’t resent her for it, he put his hand on hers and saw her jump at his touch.
“You don’t look like a goat,” she whispered more to herself than to him.
He laughed. “People always think I’ll take offence,” he said.
“Animalistic and charming,” she said, “and quite obnoxious.”
“Why did you call him ex-husband? What happened?”
“I don’t know. We grew apart.”
“Everyone grows apart, to think that time doesn’t ruin that too is to be a fool. Besides, why would you limit yourself to one?”
“I loved him, thought we were going to spend the rest of our lives together and then…”
“Then time pulled your love apart, distorted it and transformed you and him into something you weren’t before…”
She just nodded her head.
“You know some people manage,” she whispered.
He just sneered.
“I wasn’t following him, I saw them in the forest and I was hiding so we wouldn’t run into each other. It would have been awkward.” She sighed and looked at him.
“You don’t like time?” she then asked.
Bewildered he stomped about, startling her so she pulled away. She’d had her hand on his cheek before, but now she was alarmed, maybe even afraid.
“Time isn’t natural. It’s not supposed to be like this. We’re not supposed to be like this. Neither you nor I. We aren’t made for time. We’re not made for this world, but another one, a kinder one, one that doesn’t pull everything apart all the damned time.”
“What would the fun in that be?” she asked him and the seriousness of her question hit him hard.
“What do you mean?”
“I can’t imagine not having time,” she said. “But I imagine that all adventure would be out of the question. There would be no excitement. You’d always know what was and what wasn’t as everything would be simultaneous.. you’d be lifeless, like a statue in the park,” she mumbled the last words.
He sat down. Couldn’t do anything else. He rested his hand on his knee and buried his face in his hands.
“You’re the perfect creation for time, I guess,” he said. “You’ve adapted marvellously, enduring without the hellish anxiety that comes to the rest of us …” he stopped talking. “And yet you perish. You know you’re going to die. How do you do find it in you to accept that knowledge?”
“I don’t,” she said. “It’s not easy. We have our anxieties and our fears. It’s easy to think others don’t but we all do… we’re all afraid, we’re all terrified.”
He took to his flute, it was hanging in a string around his neck and he started playing it. Not because he wanted to enchant her and live through the bliss of old times, but because he thought this woman might actually be able to withstand the charm of the song and just enjoy the melody.
She listened and for a long while he was sure she had fallen under the flutes spell, like most of them had in the past.
Then he noticed the grin on her face.
“You know,” she said when he stopped playing, “You don’t need to use some kind of ancient magic to charm me, I’m already charmed, by nature I’m charmed by you, god knows why. Besides, I don’t think your flute has magical abilities.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Have you never been liked for who you are?”
He looked at her, silent.
“I liked the look at you the first time I saw you. Raw and a bit gloomy, I’ll give you that, but I guess that’s always been my style. And yes, I’ve seen the deities, the images depicted of what you were supposed to do, the mythology around you is not for the easily offended.” She snickered.
He would have laughed at that, once upon a time. He would have laughed and told her he liked seeing the shocked look in people’s eyes as they realised his decadence. Not anymore though.
He put his flute down and shrugged his shoulders.
“You were young and stupid, right?”
“I’m not a creature of time,” he said. “I don’t age like you do, I…” he hesitated.
“You may not change much visually or die, but you do age – I can see that clearly in your eyes. Have you ever been loved?” she asked.
“I’ve seen more love than you human beings could ever dream of.”
“I’m not speaking about sex, nor women who enjoy making you think they’re just doing as you please. I mean real love.”
“Real love?” he sighed.
“You have, you loved her, the woman you now hate so deeply. You loved her didn’t you? The woman with my name?”
He sighed. “It was puppy love, she was pretty, new and I was …”
“What? Young?” she laughed.
“Did she love you back?”
“I doubt she ever did,” he said.
“Well, now I know you’re lying. I’ll be back later,” she said turned around and left him with his own thoughts.
He went back to the sanctum, thoughts weighing heavily on his shoulders. How could she so simply put everything he believed in upside down in a matter of minutes? Time, always measuring things with time. He always knew he was battling an impossible enemy, it had never occurred to him though that the way to win was through giving in, giving up. The others saw his gloominess and kept clear of him. The melody that evening sounded melancholy. They couldn’t put their finger on what it was that changed, but the song was different somehow and they all heard it. He could see Dis smiling, as if this change in pace made him happy. Something had made him happy. It was both revitalising and devastating to see.
The next time he saw her she came bearing gifts. She gave him strawberries. He sat down on a large stone and laughed till the tears ran down his face. When he managed to get a hold of himself he said: “You do realise you don’t need gifts to seduce me?” and with that he burst out into laughter again, completely unable to contain the feeling of glee that ruptured in his chest.
Pandora didn’t seem offended, she just smiled and laughed a little, as one does when someone is laughing but you don’t quite know why. Puzzled she proceeded to eat from the strawberries until he calmed himself again. He took a strawberry and ate it and then burst into laughter once more. This time she joined him, for no reason at all except to just laugh.
Then he suddenly became serious again. He sat down by her side on the ground. She was hugging her knees and he put his hand on her shoulder and pulled her towards him a bit.
“What?” she asked, a bit taken a back.
“Just let me hug you,” he said. “I won’t bite.”
“What do I know?” she exclaimed, “You have horns and hoofs, you still might very well be the devil himself.”
“My name is Pan. I am the …”
“I know, the god of the Fauns,” she grumbled, but let herself be awkwardly hugged. He found he hadn’t been so close to another creature in a long while and it had apparently taken its toll, because now he never wanted to let her go.
“If I kiss you will you be revolted?” he asked.
“Why would you kiss me?” she asked surprised. “You who can enchant whoever you want?”
He sighed and thought of being quiet, tried to find something else to talk about but instead he shrugged and confessed, “You’re not enchanted and that’s the thing, isn’t it?”
“I thought you were all about carnal pleasures? Doesn’t that mean the woman you are in love with at the moment needs to be picture perfect? Young and stunning?”
“You forget I’m not a creature of time. I see your inner beauty, and the lines time has drawn on you has only served to make you more beautiful.”
“So you do want me for my body?” she snickered.
“No, I want you for your mind,” he said and stroked her hair. “I think you woke me out of a slumber that’s lasted so long that its almost devastated my people. Funny that it would take someone like you to wake me up.”
“What do you mean someone like me? I’m nobody. I’m just me.”
“There is something familiar about you, not just your name, but something about you that strikes me as unique and I’m not just saying that because you managed to sneak up on me.”
He rose, raised his arms in the air and protruded with all his power. The air around him became heavy and it started raining, it became dark and she could see his facial features turn and become something completely different than it had been a moment ago. She was frightened, yet she stood up and cupped his cheeks in hers.
“You can’t scare me away,” she said. “I guess I should run, but I won’t.”
He didn’t answer, but concentrated harder. The rain became heavier around them, the shades turned into darkness so thick she believed dusk was upon them. Thunder roared and she could hear it strike the ground somewhere close by. Then he lowered his arms and looked at her.
He didn’t say anything, but crumbled to the ground. She could see tears in his eyes, large and genuine.
“I’m an asshole,” he said. “If I become happy, the way I used to be, then I’ll be the same asshole I once was. I don’t want that,” he said.
“Asshole? You don’t need to be anything you don’t want to be. That’s the beauty of time. It allows you to grow and become someone you didn’t use to be. You can change.”
The word sent shiver down his spine.
He looked at her and this time it was he who cupped her cheeks in his hands, and he kissed her lightly on the lips.
“Unbearable beast, kissing your lips, how can you stand someone like me? A goat in human form. A beast that’s just like the devil himself.”
“I always liked the odd ones out,” she said. “The black sheep,” she threw her head back in laughter. “I guess some things time can’t change.”
“It will never last you know?” he mumbled.
“What does that matter? We’re here now. You are so obsessed with time. Stop it.”
“You know that I used to enchant them? I used to play my flute and put them under a spell. They would do things they might not otherwise have done. I believe you call that rape in your world.”
“I know you think highly off yourself, which is not necessarily a good quality, but I doubt that it’s true. You play the flute well, it sounds beautiful but you’re kidding yourself if you ever thought it made people do things you wanted them to do against their will. You may have abilities, but I’m quite sure that’s not one of them.”
“What do you mean…?”
“I mean they never did anything they didn’t want to, but maybe the idea of the magical flute also helped them do the things they wanted to do but were too timid to?”
“You’re making excuses for me. Predators are predators and they shouldn’t be excused.”
“Everyone has a story, everyone has the right to be listened to and heard.”
“I thought your world didn’t look kindly on rape,” he said and pulled away, sitting down.
“Have you raped anyone?”
“I don’t know. They were all enchanted. I never touched a person without playing the flute first. Can you imagine anyone ever doing the deed with me without me playing the flute first?”
She laughed and the laughter irritated him.
“I don’t think your flute is enchanted. I think there’s something animalistic and appealing about you and I think that when you’re happy and ravishing then people get drawn to you. Have you ever done anything to anyone they didn’t seem to want?”
“Well, next time we meet, leave the flute behind. Leave it at wherever you call home. Come see me without it.”
With that she kissed him on the cheek and walked out of the forest leaving the basket full of strawberries.
He was puzzled and he watched her go. Stared for a long time after she was gone. Then he went back to the sanctum and played his flute, but when he was done playing he left it in the hole in the tree. The melody was yet again different, a bit hopeful this time. It puzzled the others even further and he thought he saw some of them staggering a bit, as if they didn’t know in which foot to stand. He hadn’t seen Dis for a while either, it didn’t bother him though. Dis was probably just patrolling the woods like he always did.
When he met her again he didn’t have the flute with him. She had no strawberries, but was wearing a warm jacket with the hood up over her head.
“Don’t you think it’s cold?” she asked.
“I don’t feel the cold,” he said. “I may get a bit hairier when it grows cold. You are a child of time, I’m not.”
She hugged him like she would an old friend and they sat down on a log, side by side.
“I’ve been thinking about what you said.” She started, “I’ve been thinking about the way you were and what you used to do and I’ve decided that you may be right. I don’t know. I don’t think so really, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.”
“And what? Revere me as you would a criminal?”
“I’ve been on the receiving end of violence like that. It’s private and it’s awful. It’s some of the worst things an individual can endure. It can never be reversed and the victim is ruined, something breaks in them. The crack becomes so deep that it can never be repaired properly.”
He said nothing.
“And it becomes so big that it threatens to engulf your entire being and the only thing you can do is either let go off it or let it devour you whole. You might even become a monster yourself. You change into someone that you weren’t supposed to be. You change and decay and you transform, become a person you never wished to be.” Her words seemed to echo around him. “And even though you know they will pay for it somehow, just like you pay for all your crimes with those moments you never wanted to live through, echoing in your memory forever and ever afterwards, you see their lips pushing themselves on you and you feel your body being something you don’t want it to be. You evolve and you crumble under the pressure of the memories.”
“Please stop,” he said.
“Until you forgive, and it’s not just the person who did this to you that you have to forgive but you have to forgive yourself as well. That’s the hard part. You have to forgive yourself more than anyone else. And it becomes insubstantial if the predator pays for his crime or not, because you pay for it. And you know what? Pandora did this to you. This was her violation towards you.”
“Please don’t” he said.
“Do you think any of the people you were with felt like that afterwards? Like they were so dirty that no soap in the universe would wash it off? Like they were the most vile beings on the planet and everyone around them suddenly turned into hungry lions ready to devour?”
“I don’t know,” he said.
“Because these things are unforgivable, and yet we do find it in us to forgive sometimes. And they may rot in hellfire for an eternity for their crime but we rot in our own hell for what was done to us and for whatever it is we do. We’re all sinners, we’re all guilty of something. We’re all put on this earth to hurt other people.”
“You don’t believe that? Some people are truly horrendous. Do awful things. But not everybody is like that.”
“I believe that too,” she said. “But I don’t think you did what you think you did. I don’t think you’re the kind of man who would knowingly put someone through such misery. I don’t think your flute is magical. I don’t think you convinced anyone to do anything they didn’t want to. But if you did, then welcome to humanity. We’re all flawed, some more than others.”
“I’m not a human, I’m a god..”
She laughed at that and turned to look at the view of the valley, thus missing the look of frustration and anger on his face.
“No you’re not. You’re just like the rest of us. Just as confused. Your nobility lies not in the fact that you are a god, which you’re not, but in the fact that you stay with your people even after you’ve surrendered and just want to vanish from this place. Your nobility lies in the fact that you look at what you’ve done and you reflect on what you did, contemplate if it was right or wrong. You may have committed crimes, but I doubt they were the crimes you thought they were. Remember my name-sake, the woman you loved, the one you hate so much?”
He was quiet.
“What was her crime?”
“Curiosity, I guess,” he said.
“Right.” She stood up and walked away then, a glimpse of awakening in her eyes. She left him there looking over the houses all by himself. The air was thick and the light never reached the forest that day, nor the next.
Reluctantly he went back to his people and played their melody with them. It was a sad sound, a dying sound that desperately needed a new rhythm. He walked away not even wondering what had happened to Dis, why he hadn’t seen him.
There was something different about her when he saw her again.
“Pan,” she said. “Have you found it in you to forgive yet?”
He looked at her. She was still the same woman, the one who had talked to him while they looked over the houses, the woman with wrinkles around her eyes and a backbone. But he saw something else in her now. She reminded him so much of Pandora, the awful woman who had loved him, pretence or not, and then opened the devilled jar he was supposed to protect. They called it Pandora’s box, but it had essentially been his. Pan’s jar, it had been his duty to make sure no harm came to it.
“What?” he looked at her. He felt himself growing uncontrollably, felt the air around him become stale and thick, the day became dark and the trees around them seemed to arch under the heaviness that was his anger. That woman had tricked him then and he would never live through that kind of a betrayal again.
“Will you ever find it in you to forgive her? Was her crime that atrocious? Will you ever find it in you to forgive yourself?”
He came at her, horns first but before he actually hit her he stopped himself. He felt the rage in his body. It boiled and scoured and he feared there would be nothing left of him but regret once he was finished.
Then he remembered her. Not this creature in front of him who seemed to glow with some otherworldly timely beauty, but the one he had known before. The one time hadn’t yet released its anger upon. Her penance was to live through eternity time and again, growing old and dying only to live through it again and forever. He remembered that now.
His penalty was much worse. His penalty for allowing her to break the jar, allowing her curiosity to get to him was much worse. She had been so full of life, giggling as they made love telling him how wonderful it could be if only the gift of the jar would be released upon the world.
“I am still real,” she said, snapping him out of his thoughts.
“It’s always you,” he said, “Hasn’t it?”
She sighed. “I’m sorry,” she said but he wasn’t sure if it was a question or a statement.
He sat down, the atmosphere around him transforming. It was bright again, the leaves were green and the sun cast its rays in-between the eager trees.
“Time does to me what it does to you. I change. Will you forgive me?”
“She did this on purpose, didn’t she? She knew what would happen? Did she know what would happen?”
“She probably had an idea,” she said. “Though she can’t have known the extent of it. She’s responsible for more evil than she ever wanted to be responsible for, but there are wonderful things in this too, if you’d only see that?”
“Like what?” he laughed.
“My foolish Faun,” she chanted then she shook her head. “You will start to fade away. You seem to almost vanish out of existence when I talk to you sometime. Then you remember your people and you become quickened again. I can’t watch you crumble under your burden, under your hatred. I wish I could help you. Undo what she did, but it’s too late,” she smiled at the irony. “You had such tastes for life, what happened?”
“Time,” he said. “And you, she.. she left.”
“You were fine for a long time after she was gone.” “No, I was just good at pretending back then. I thought she stopped loving me. Who can love a faun but a fool or another faun?”
“She loved you. That’s why she did what she did. She wanted you to grow into the creature she knew you could be. The world before didn’t allow that. You were constantly both and the same, where you not? No room for improvements. I just wish she had been brave enough… I wish she had been brave enough to face her own demons and stand beside you.”
“She wasn’t allowed,” he whispered.
He took her hand and squeezed it. Saw the woman he had loved in her eyes. The soul of that curious creature, crumbling under the burden of time. For a while she thought he would break her hand, but he was gentle. Just caressed it until she grabbed a hold of him and pulled him to her. She kissed him.
And for a long time he didn’t kiss her back. Then she pulled back and he saw the worry lines in her forehead and the laugh-lines in her cheeks, her deep dimples and he kissed her then. He kissed her until the air around them sparkled with electricity and darkness engulfed them.
“You know I can’t stay,” she said when he pulled back.
“What does it matter? We’re here now…?” he mumbled.
“Time keeps one promise to you, doesn’t it? You’ll always see her again in some form, unless you give in,” she whispered, but he didn’t hear.
He kissed her again, the hair on the back of his neck rising, the goosebumps covering his body. He accompanied her to the clearing by the creek and spent time with her there. Time never eternalised by artists ardent to explore the wild animalistic side, just out to shock whoever wants to be shocked. The two of them got their moment in peace, moments donated by time itself.
Then she went home and he went back to his people. He was ready to face the decay of time or vanish trying. He almost did vanish when he heard of Dis’ demise. Kicked himself repeatedly for not seeing the change in his friend, for being too absent minded to notice, for not seeing what was happening before his eyes. It wasn’t the first struggle he faced and it wouldn’t be his last as he tried to instil new ideas in his people. Ideas he now believed in because of a memory he had.
An old memory of a young girl giggling, telling him they could be so much more if only they … He had adored her then, but he felt real love for the woman who sometimes came to visit him by the edge of the wood. He often stood there, leaning towards the trees that had lost their bark and would slowly lose their battle and he thought of how time had given him one great gift.
Memory, he had learned, was times greatest gift and the only weapon he needed in his war against it. Making memories was all his people needed to survive time. Though this was a war he was confident he would lose… in time.