Flash Fiction — End of a Thread

Earlier this week, I mentioned I had three flash fiction pieces thanks to taking part in the NYCMidnight Flash Fiction contest, and shared the first of the three. Today, the third story comes to play. Now, this was where I ended my journey in the contest, as I did earn an honourable mention, but only the top stories moved on into the final round.

That said? For this round, I wasn’t confident. I was given the genre of “mystery,” something I rarely touch, and scissors and a pasture. It’s possible I could have perhaps done better had I not gone to a queer and non-contemporary place with the story, and the judges’ feedback was pretty clear: they weren’t very keen on me pushing “mystery” to intersect with Greek mythology.

I do like the piece though, and like I said, honourable mention was granted.

When his last mortal friend dies in a pasture, Ganymede finds the scissors of Atropos and realizes he is witness to a murder. The motive seems clear: there is one goddess with very good reason to punish him for stealing her husband’s attention, but how can a mere immortal cupbearer find justice among the gods themselves?


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Image from Pixabay.

End of a Thread

On the hillside where I was snatched away, I visit my last mortal friend. He tends a flock of cattle, and though my opportunities to visit him are rare and he is already changed compared to me, I treasure him. Together we often laugh and speak of simpler times, before I became cupbearer to the gods.

I walk through the pasture. My immortal talents part the animals for me. I feel a pull on my heart and turn, expecting to see my friend waiting. But he’s not there.

A few hesitant steps reveal my mistake. He is there, but he is not. He lies in the pasture, eyes closed, one hand still holding his walking stick, his legs curled beneath him.

It isn’t sleep.

I weep. He was mortal, as I am no longer, and I knew this day would come, but he is barely a man grown, not even a father. Nothing marks him, no reason for his stillness. It makes no sense.

My eyes—changed by my immortal state—catch a glimpse of light.

Beside him in the grass, there are scissors. I lift them.

Their weight is not earthly. I bear the cups of the gods. I know when I am holding something of theirs.

This is not death, then.

No, this is murder.

*

I remain in the pasture; I also go elsewhere. It is a gift of immortality, but not one I use often. It is tiring, and it’s difficult to concentrate on two selves at once.

But a dead friend needs little attention.

They are together. My lover and his wife are speaking, and so before I am noticed—before I even exist among them—I deflect, and step aside.

And I realize.

I am by no means the first to capture his attention, nor am I not so vain to believe I will be the last. But my position is cupbearer. Lover.

My position is not wife.

If a thing of the gods struck down my one mortal friend, then surely the motive is godly, too.

Hera.

If it be so—and it must—then what can I do? Even with this loose thread, what justice can I unravel from this tapestry? What proof is there?

Threads.

Of course.

*

I am standing in a pasture with the cool, still body of my friend; I am elsewhere again.

“May I ask you a question?”

If she of wisdom and war is surprised to have the cupbearer speak to her it doesn’t show. “You may.”

“Atropos. How does she know when it is time?”

Athena is silent long enough that I wonder if she won’t answer. She only granted me permission to ask, after all.

“Is that the right question?”

I pull out the scissors. In Athena’s gaze, they glimmer.

“No,” I say.

It is a hard thing, I think, to embody both knowledge and destruction. She has grace many of the others do not, and I think it is born of this.

“Perhaps, cupbearer, I am not the one to ask.”

*

I am standing in a pasture with the cool, still body of my friend; I am elsewhere again.

Facing the three women takes every ounce of courage I have. I, who bear cups to the gods, who by my lover’s act will never meet the eldest of the Moirai, can barely raise my chin.

Clotho’s gaze is curious. Lachesis’s holds compassion.

But Atropos merely waits. Were she angry, or sad, I wouldn’t be able to speak.

I raise the scissors. “Yours, I believe.”

She takes them, and while I stand there—and elsewhere—she gathers three strings from Lachesis and shears them, wraps the lose end around the spindles and places each in the shadows behind her.

“I don’t understand,” I say.

“Do you not?” Her voice is a caress of shadow and rest.

“Why strike him down?” My voice breaks. “Why now?” It’s an unfair question. Atropos knows the measure of every life. She does not have to share how with a mere cupbearer. She answers only to fate.

Except… Except no. Not just fate.

Athena’s words: the right question.

“Why leave your shears behind for me?” My voice grows weak.

“So that you might ask,” Atropos says. She snips another thread. “That you might ask me, Ganymede.” Another. “Thank you for their return. It is agreeable to have met you. Now go.”

*

I am standing in a pasture with the cool, still body of my friend; I am elsewhere again.

The first words I ever say to Hera become this: “I’m sorry.” There are ways to speak as immortals, to include more than words. I think I do this, too, for the first time. She sees the pasture where now the sun is low, and she sees my suspicions of her as they were born—and as they have died, as surely as if cut by Atropos’s scissors.

She does not look at me. She does not speak to me. It’s possible she never will, and in this immortal place, never has weight.

But Hera nods. The slightest inclination of her chin. She has heard me. Perhaps she understands me, perhaps even forgives me—though whether for considering her as murderer or for my mere existence catching her husband’s eye, I do not know.

*

I fill his cup, as always. His smile for me is as full of his love and lusts as ever, and even as I stand in the pasture, waiting for someone to notice my friend is missing, to notice he is gone, to come and learn he has ended, that look warms me to my very core.

I have the love of a god. It is magnificent. It lifted me to immortality.

I step away from where the gods feast, from he who snatched me from a pasture and made me his forever.

From the only one who could order Atropos. From the only one she must obey.

And I know.

Zeus.

He will not share me.

 

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