October 15, 2010

Artwork by K. Sage Steadman

If all the imaginings she'd had of an afterlife Anna had not expected to see angels. They sat on clouds several feet above her, their hands and eyes aloft, rejoicing in the magnificence of the cosmos. She was lying in an over-sized bed in an expansive room with mahogany walls. The delicate sent of lilacs from large bouquets on either side of her filled the air.

She was wearing a casual sun dress and heeled sandals. Her hair had been curled and her nails painted. She wasn't dead, but where was she? How long had she been unconscious? And who had done all this?

"I promise not to chase you if you decide to run," Argus said from somewhere above her head.

She sat up and turned toward the sound of his voice.

The room was tastefully ornate, and elegant. Stairs on either side of the space led down to a lower level with a formal sitting area. Floor to ceiling windows, at least twenty feet high, made up the far wall behind.

Argus stood in a casual dress shirt and dark jeans, watching the sun crest over the eastern hills. "At least for now," he added.

She stood, casting her eyes around the spacious room, making note of possible exits. There had to be at least a dozen doors scattered among the three solid walls. Not one of them stood apart as an exit.

Argus turned and started up the steps to her left. Instinctively wanting to distance herself from him she started down the steps to her right. He picked up a bowl sitting on a side table and circled around the room to her. "Here," he said, offering her a dish filled with dark chocolate.

She eyed him dubiously.

He shook his head and sighed, irritated. "Just try some. You'll feel better."

She cautiously placed a piece in her mouth. He took one for himself, set the bowl on a nearby end table then casually took a seat on one of the couches and continued to watch the sun rise.

"I've always loved chocolate," he said. "Did you know the cocoa bean is actually a seed?"

She swallowed the last bit of chocolate melting on her tongue. "I shot you," she said.

"I really liked that sweater," he sighed. "In retrospect, perhaps I should have said that bullets are no match for me."

"You broke my neck."

"I hate seeing you in pain," he reasoned, leaning forward on the couch.

She shook her head, failing to suppress her emotions. "I... I don't know how to do this," her voice wavered as silent tears fell down her cheeks. "I don't know what to think or feel or say or even do."

He rubbed his brow with his forefinger as she'd seen him do a thousand times in the past. "It's not your fault," he reasoned. "I needed you to love me more than you feared me," he said. "It was wrong of me to have such expectations." He stood and met her eyes. "I hold no ill will toward you Anna. I would like it if we could be friends."

"Friends." Her breath caught. "You would like it if we could be friends?" She said each word slowly, deliberately. "Because I failed your little test, is that it? Because I loved you - because I loved Gus," she corrected. "Because I wanted him to have every opportunity his mortal life would allow instead of destroying him?" Her voice became angrier and louder with each word. "Or at best, dragging him into a world where his only option is a life of servitude?"

"Anna," he started.

"No," she cut him off. "Not a single day has gone by that I haven't thought of you, haven't longed for you, haven't loved you. Him," she corrected.

"I know," he replied.

He knew? He knew and never said anything. He knew and never did anything. He knew and let her fall in love with him anyway, let her leave him, let her worry, care, suffer and ache for him.

"I don't see all of your thoughts," he said. "You're very adept at shutting me out, much more so than others. But it was quite early on that you connected Argus to Gus and let me into your thoughts that way."

Her head suddenly felt very light, her knees weak. She stumbled toward the stairs and took a seat on one of the steps. He knew. All along. "You never loved me, did you?"

He strolled casually toward her. "You came here to kill or be killed by me," he said, crouching down next to her. "You hate me for destroying what you love, as much as you hate me for being what you love. I believe it's more accurate to say that you do not love me. You never did. You're not capable of it."

His words stung worse than any pain she'd ever known. She met his eyes, etched with anger and disappointment. Why was he being so cruel? Because it was his nature, she told herself, because he was Argus and Argus was cruel.

He scoffed as he stood and turned away from her. "I wonder if you would hold so much hatred for me, had you met me as Fenton Sugar," he growled.

"You're Fenton Sugar?"

"No," he said firmly. "I'm not August Ambrose either."

Anna shook her head. She watched the back of his head for a very long time, coming to the conclusion that there was only one option left for her. "I surrender," she said.

He turned to face her.

"I'm not cut out for this kind of fighting," she explained "But a war with rogue immortals is coming. You are my king, and despite your reputation, our differences, or what has come between us, you have always been very gracious to me. Let me fight for you."

"Despite my reputation," he scoffed. "What is this death wish that you have? I've seen you fight. It's largely dependent upon luck. You wouldn't last a day."

"I'll never stop loving the man I believed you to be. I'll never be able to look at you, to think of you, without thinking of him, without wanting him. He is worth fighting for, worth dying for. I fight for him as I fight for you."

He turned and crossed the room away from her. He pressed a button on the far wall near the window, causing a set of translucent blinds to descend that shaded the room from the brilliance of the morning sun. "Do you regret us?" he asked, leaning against the furthest window.

"No," she replied. "Do you?"

"Sometimes," he said softly. "I knew it was a mistake to kiss you, to let you in, to make love to you, to feel safe enough to just be when I was with you," he growled. "I was a fool. I never should have allowed any of it. Never should have allowed myself to believe that you could ever actually love...me."

"You never wanted my love, Argus." Anna said.

Argus shook his head.

"You were a professor who wrote books rationalizing the mythological claims. You existed a million miles away from being the unseen king of the immortals and overseer of the immortal holocaust."

"The immortal holocaust," he said brusquely. "Anna, don't talk of things you know absolutely nothing about."

She took a breath before she continued. "I knew that if Gus were to ever find out the truth about me it would ruin him. He was better off without me," Anna sighed. "What would you have me do?" she asked.

He didn't respond.

She watched him for a long time, remembering every moment with him and every sorrowful memory after him, willing him to turn and look at her. He didn't budge.

She quietly slipped out of her heeled sandals and crossed the room to him in her bare feet. She slipped her hand across his waist, slid up next to him, and leaned against the window.

"What are you doing?" He shifted his weight as if to step away from her.

"Remembering," she said as she shifted with him. She ran her hand up his stomach, over his chest, to his neck.

"Anna stop," he said, his jaw tight.

She met his eyes, a deep iridescent slate and azure reflection unlike any she had ever seen before. She loosed her vision to him. "No more lies between us," she said.

He brought his hands up and took hold of hers, as she moved slowly in to kiss him. A second later he pinned her hard against the window, with her arms above her head. "Stop!" he growled, his fangs sharp.

Aching to bite him, she let her own fangs descend.

"Why are you doing this?" he whispered, his tone low and gruff.

"Because we were meant to be," she answered.

He leaned close, bringing his lips close to hers. He loosened his grip on her and ran his hands down her arms and around her waist. She lowered her arms, entangling herself in his embrace.

"Will you have me forever?" he whispered.

"Longer," she said.

He bit his lip. The sharp scent of his blood caught her senses. Inviting her, enticing her. There was no equal to it. She bit her own lip.

"Gia pánta os mia," he said softly as he pressed his lips to hers.

The whole of eternity existed in their kiss. The sensation was unlike anything she had ever experienced. A thousand lifetimes flooded her consciousness, enveloping her, overwhelming her, consuming her. He was forever.

She pulled at his clothes eager to feel his warm flesh against hers, each touch, grasp, caress and kiss as their bodies intertwined. She was swept up and set adrift in the endless nature of his being, bound only to the physical by his touch and the exquisite joy of becoming one with him, of becoming lost in him as he became one with her.


Chapter 42 - Gia Pánta Os Mia

Chaos reigned Anna's thoughts, an after affect of such pure blood in her system she was sure, but she didn't mind. She was in the arms of the one she loved and she was content. "I missed you," she whispered. "I missed this."

"Me too," He kissed the top of her head and lazily ran his fingers up and down her back.

A scattered thought - something about ancient Greece - flitted through her mind. "Has your name always been Argus?" she asked.

"Yes," he responded as though this were a trick question, "And my nickname has most often been Gus," he said as if predicting her next question.

"Were you named after the hundred-eyed monster, Argus Panoptes?"

"Am I back to being a monster again?"

She lifted her head to look at him, confused.

He looked confused as well. "No," he said. "Anna, I am Argus Panoptes."

She shifted her leg underneath her and sat up. It made her head spin. "But... Greek mythology dates back what - four, five thousand years?"

"Something like that," he answered cautiously. "Are you concerned that I'm too old for you?" he smirked, "Or is it that you think yourself too young?"

"How old are you, exactly?" she asked.

"According to my driver's license I'm thirty two," he said lifting himself onto his elbows.

"And according to the number of times the earth has revolved around the sun?" she pressed.

"I've never bothered to keep track," he answered as if he were telling her something she already knew. "Mortals, I assume, keep track because their existence here is so short but that's not the case for us. Anna, are you feeling alright?"

Her head felt full, her thoughts unclear. She nodded slowly, trying to take it all in. "I think... I just need to splash some water on my face," she said.

He slipped into his jeans and retrieved a robe for her from the bathroom.

The bathroom was as expansive as the rest of his space. Not as ornate, but just as extravagant. The tub was massive, full and still like a reflecting pond, gently spilling over at its edges. Soft pink water lilies floated gracefully on its surface. At the very center of the ceiling was a large domed glass window.

She made her way to the double sinks, backed by large mirrors across from the tub. The water made no difference. She caught sight of her eyes in the mirror, a deep green reflection. She tried to return them to their common state, but no matter how hard she tried, they stayed reflective.

An undefined thought stirred in her head, something huge, something intangible, but the more she tried to grasp hold of it, the more the thought eluded her. It was dizzying. No, she realized, she was literally dizzy.

She stumbled backwards and fell landing on a grassy hillside edged by ocean and sky. She had been somewhere else a moment ago, but she couldn't remember where.

"Anna," Argus sounded troubled, as he appeared on the hillside next to her. He slid up next to her, and put his arms around her. "Something's wrong," He said, a look of confusion and alarm crept across his face. "You're thoughts are too scattered. Talk to me Anna."

"It's beautiful here," she said, feeling a little dazed. "Where are we?"

"Anna?" Argus's voice sounded far away.

She saw a group of young children running across the hillside. Somehow she knew all their thoughts, they were looking for her, but she wasn't her, it was like a dream.

"Argus," a woman's voice called. Somehow she knew this was his mother.

She closed her eyes, overwhelmed; when she opened them again she was back in the bathroom, nestled in Argus's arms. "It's so rich, your blood," she sighed then moaned. She put her hands over her eyes to shield her eyes from the painfully blinding bright. It helped some.

"You're not a blood drinker," he realized. "How could I have been so careless? So stupid?"

He swept her hair behind her shoulder and kissed her neck. "To the new age," he said softly.

"What are you going to do?" she breathed.

She felt his smile against her shoulder. "Level the playing field," he mused. He pulled her close and held her tight against him. "I just hope it doesn't kill me," he said softly. 

She had no idea what he meant by this, but there was no time to ask as he sunk his pointed teeth deep into her flesh. His venom surged, filling her with euphoric sense of calm and pulling her back into the room, into his arms. She felt her blood oozing in warm streams upon her shoulder. "Argus," she moaned.

He moaned, pulling her tighter to him.

Her body lurched as he issued another surge of warm venom into her system. It was different this venom. It burned as it traced through her, tearing at her, ripping her apart. She opened her mouth to scream, but nothing came out. It was both excruciatingly painful and oddly euphoric at the same time.

She held tightly to him as her body seized and convulsed. Pain superseded thought, but she had the perspicacity to know that she would never be the same.


(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart