Eumelia

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"Only after disaster can we be resurrected. It's only after you've lost everything that you're free to do anything. Nothing is static, everything is evolving, everything is falling apart."

- Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

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One day, Eumelia became a stranger to the world. Her electric blue eyes still distinguished colours and her spider-legs fingers still moved when they were required to, but her eyes skimmed over me, and she no longer performed the entrancing melodies she used to play for me. Gone were her songs, too, but her gods-given voice remained, and sometimes she would answer when I addressed her. It was painful seeing her vacant, beautiful body lying next to me every morning, going through the motions of life only when she was prompted to do so. For years we had been whole, and suddenly half of us got torn off and disappeared in a place I couldn't reach.

Her self left reality, this I was sure of, but when I explored the limbo where we were born I couldn't find it either. I went to the Skies, asked the gods if they had seen her, but they all answered by the negative, even the Lord of Dreams, who could find anyone if he so wished. I went to the Deep Ocean and asked the mermaids, but the Lord of Seas told me that no fish had heard of her. I went to the Underground; the harpies remembered her voice and wondered when they might hear again its delightful sounds, and the Lord of Death grew irate that I had allowed such a disaster to happen.

After a year of the Earth turning and Eumelia continuing on cold and emotionless, I decided to ask the Oracle. The price is high, for an answer from the Oracle. When I offered my eyes she said no; when I offered my voice she said no; when I offered my ears she said no; when I offered my heart she said yes.

"Give me your love, son of limbo," the Oracle said. "Give me your faith in her, give me a child who will belong to both my territory and yours, and I shall provide the answer you seek."

For a year I loved her as I loved Eumelia. I slept and woke by her side, kissing her sweet, dark brow in the grey hours preceding dawn. I wove her sweet illusions with limbo's fabric, and I showed her the place where Eumelia and I had been born, brought forward to reality by songs and music, by laughter and mischief. I caught fragments of human wishes and showed her how to imprison thought butterflies in nets of hope and joy. I taught her how to walk into a night vision without the Lord of Dreams realising, and how to hide well enough to observe a harpy collect a soul. She accompanied me on my trips to the cities and laughed with me as we observed mortals.

I taught her jokes and stories, and she showed me how to dissolve illusions and lies and how to expose the truth. She took me once to her world of threads, and tried to explain how to differentiate fate from destiny, and what is done from what will be, but the web remained foreign to me despite her best efforts. I never discovered how to enter her world on my own, and she never managed to travel through limbo as I did.

One day, she woke up before me, when the hours were still dark and the moon glared at us, and she sat on the bed. I opened my eyes to her stroking her round womb. Her eyes, colour of time, watched me and I couldn't watch back, for she was again the Oracle.

"It's a girl," she said, her voice rhythmic with futures. "And I have your answer."

Eumelia belonged to me and I to her, but now I was a third song, a third time, and a third me. The Oracle had become my wife in that year, but I couldn't renounce Eumelia any more than I could renounce my nature, and the Oracle never tried to prevent me from leaving.

"The Singer has left the world, but she still lives on and only the dead can be resurrected. But beware, for the Lord of Death will not part with her easily if she comes to him. I see no outcome that will benefit you, my love," she told me. "I know that you will try, and I can no more stop these events than all others I see, but know this: she is lost to you."

I laughed and kissed her and said: "I never lose, Alethea. Wait for me in a few months, when our child is born and needs to learn my stories."

Eumelia, unchanged, never missed me. She sat by the window and made no move when I entered our home. The dust on her naked shoulders and the spider-webs spun around her erect form suggested she had remained in that position for a long, long time. Her hair had grown longer and filthier. From time to time she blinked and breathed, but nothing other separated her from a statue.

When I said her name, she turned her head and watched me. When I took her hand, she rose and followed me. When I washed her, she stood still and let me. When I clothed her, she put her arms up and allowed the dress to slip on her hips. When I killed her, she sighed and almost smiled at me.

After the harpy came to take her, I followed them to the Underground and slipped in behind them. It was easier than entering a dream, for the road was already open. I stole some fright on the way and draped myself in it, and every one avoided looking at me.

Eumelia, my sweet Eumelia, my beloved, started singing again as we descended. The simple hum slowly turned in an elaborate melody without words as smoky blue tendrils of her personality flew back to her, coiling around her and brightening the dampened colours of her eyes, cheeks, hair, clothes even. By the time the harpy brought her before the Lord of Death, the words of her birthsong had come back to her and her delight and joy filled the darkness and resounded in the creepy hollowness that was the Underground.

"Singer," the Lord of Death breathed, locking his whirl-of-night eyes on her.

"Death," Eumelia singed instead of talking. "Am I dead?"

He slid close to her, behind her, his coat of lost souls touching the white dress I had dressed her in, the wretches thrumming at the contact. "Yes," he said, pushing a lock of her hair behind her ear.

I discarded my fright disguise, and their eyes locked on me. Eumelia, surprised and panicked, hesitated between smiling and crying. She ran to me and wrapped herself around me, kissing my face, my neck, my hair, every inch of me she could reach.

"Are you dead, too?"

I shook my head.

"Have you come to take me back?"

I nodded and she laughed before launching into another song, the one she had created after our union. It started me laughing and I spun her around, creating stars that settled in her hair and were immediately outshone by her eyes crinkling with reflected love. Eumelia, Eumelia, my body cried out, and hers answered with my name.

"Enough!" the Lord of Death suddenly cried, and everything in the place stopped moving. "The Singer is dead, and belongs to me. You cannot have her back."

"I can, if I take her out of the Underground. I got in and out multiple times."

Eumelia clapped her hands and laughed, her humming resuming. But the Lord of Death only smiled with sharp teeth, his snake hair hissing and twisting.

"It only works if she wants to leave with you," he said. "Do you still think she will follow you once she learns that you were the one who ended her life?"

Eumelia's birdlike song shuddered with horror and stopped. I turned and her eyes shot blue thunder at me, her mouth twisted between disbelief and hatred. As the silence lengthened and I denied nothing, the hatred spread. Only an immortal could kill another, and who other than a son of limbo could kill a daughter of limbo, after all?

She fled, melting in the shadows and mists of the souls sea, pursued by her death harpy. The Lord of Death watched me as he pried a small, blue edged memory from the jaws of his coat's wretches and rolled it on his skeleton fingers. A jolt shook me as I recognized Eumelia's memory of our union – not the song she imagined afterwards, but the event itself, our bodies sweating against each other and the sweet murmurs of our confessions. Screaming in intense jealousy, I lunged at the Lord of Death; he sidestepped me with a swirl of his coat that engulfed me. The souls screeched like carrion birds and a thousand hands and teeth plunged into my flesh and tore me apart; I was pushed out of the Underground in searing and blinding pain.

When I opened my eyes, the Oracle stood naked before me, carrying a baby covered in blood and grime who was sucking greedily on one of her tits. Her other breast was covered by her dark hair, tangled with leaves and dirt. The afterbirth laid discarded farther off, and small beasts already worried at it with their tiny fangs, taking away what had nourished my child for so long bit by bit. As the Oracle turned, I could see the baby's open eyes, shining the electric blue of a daughter of limbo.

A great sob wrenched its way through my throat, breath hard and ragged as my windpipe clenched and squeezed with loss. When I started crying, the tears burned their way down my face, leaving acid marks on it.

"You were tricked, Trickster," she said, kneeling and pushing my hair out of my face with her bloody hand. "You lost."

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A/N: Written for WCC April at the RG.

Inspired from the prompt (see quote at the beginning), Orphée et Eurydice arias, and various mythologies.