|Great Hites 37|
|COUNTING THE DAYS By: Anima Zabaleta|
|The Prison By: Norval Joe|
|Prometheus By: Jeff Hite|
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COUNTING THE DAYS
By: Anima Zabaleta
One more day, dear Lord. Let me get thru this just one more day.
The well-worn office chair creaks under me, and the computer starts to whirr to life.
Lights flicker as the various programs install themselves. Everyday is Monday anymore… I try not to ponder on how many days I have sat at this desk in the past 15 years. If only I could take a vacation… but everything seems to depend on me… the silos, my children, the families of the people I employ…
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I moved to Cedar Grove in the 90s, fresh from getting my MBA at night school. All I was looking for was a low stress job in the middle of nowhereville, where the cost of living was cheap, and I could decompress from taking classes for the previous 6 years. I didn’t like living in Chicago, but that was the best place to go to school. The plan was to work for a couple of years, learn agribusiness and make some headway on my student loans. Being the assistant manager of a grain silo/farming mercantile sounded perfect to me.
When I got hired, I had no intention of forming any connections in this podunk village. I threw darts at the local tavern, and was ok with the few guys who would invite me to go fishing and hunting with them. I liked my confirmed bachelor lifestyle, Then Sheila showed up, to work as daddy’s admin assistant for the summer. I fell for her in a big way. She was leggy and had a great tan, something that wasn’t commonly seen in Midwestern farming environs. Sheila brought a fresh breath of cosmopolitan flair with her, talking about the latest books on the NY Times best sellers list, and how much she liked Thai food. I realized I missed a few things about Chicago.
To make a short story long, I married the boss’s daughter, with promises of taking Sheila away on a “real” honeymoon as soon as the wheat harvest was done in October. Old Man McGuillicutty had a heart attack and died that September; and Sheila inherited the family business.
Together, Sheila and I picked up the pieces of her fathers endeavors, and managed to grow it some. Farming, though, is never a sure concern, and neither are the businesses that support farmers. Sheila stayed with me for 9 years, but she had escaped the small town doldrums once, and had had no intentions of returning to stay. We never did take that honeymoon, which she always brought up when we argued. Once her mother passed, there was no one left she felt she had to impress. I have never understood how she could walk out on the children and me. It was all part of the small town persona she found so odious, she said.
So, here I sit, waiting for the computer to finish its routine. I no longer read the Chicago Daily Herald, finding news of the bigger world to be too depressing. I turn off the television when the advertisements to visit Mexico come on. Sometimes I can’t even bring myself to make French toast on Sundays, because it conjures up images of foreign places I promised to Sheila… Maybe, some day… Who am I fooling? Today is Monday and I need to concentrate on corn futures and the soybean market. There are people who are relying on me.
By: Norval Joe
The walls of the prison cell were exactly as you would expect them; slime and black moss grew in the water percolating through the walls and oozing down to pool on the floor. The air in the cell was humid and smelled of rot, but it wasn’t cold. Not this deep in the cellars of the prison, with in the very foundation of the mountain, upon which the tyrants castle was built.
The prisoner sat naked on the floor of the cell. His clothes had rotted away years ago. His grey hair matted with filth reached nearly to the floor where he sat leaning against the locked wooden door.
He waited for the sound of approaching boots on the stone floor, outside the door. When had he last heard them, and the sound of the metal plate as it was shoved through the gap under the door?
He couldn’t know, in the perpetual dark, during this one eternal night. But he had eaten, he thought, he must have, because he was still alive, having lived long enough for his clothes to rot away and his hair and beard to grow almost to his waist.
He tested the shackle around his ankle. The iron cuff bit into and wanted to tear the thin skin as he pulled on it to test the strength of the chain. The chain, long enough to allow him to reach the door, but not go through. Go through? But it wouldn’t open. The metal plate would just scape the floor as it was pushed under the door.
The door was locked, or at least he assumed that it was. He knew it was, didn’t he? He must have tried the door in the countless years that he had spent in the cell, with his clothes rotting off and his hair growing down his back.
He stood on weak and trembling legs, his knees threatening to buckle under his meager weight. He leaned against the door, supporting himself as search for a knob or handle. But the door, at the prisoners touch, creaked on rusted hinges as it opened into the dimly lit passage.
Unbelieving, he stepped forward and the chain fell away from his ankle. He ventured tentatively, into the passage, outside the cell. The hallway stretched off into darkness on both sides, the torch near the open door casting only a small pool of light on the floor where he bent trying to catch his breath, panting in anticipation. He stretched his arms and legs to loosen joints stiff from inactivity and felt a sharp pinch at the bend of his arm, like the bite of a spider. His head started to spin and his sight, even in the darkness, filled with a brilliant blinding white. He fell to the floor and rolled onto his back, breathing hard, trying to ease the sudden nausea.
He lay still for a moment, then slowly opened his eyes. His head was resting on something soft. He turned his head to the side luxuriating in the suppleness of the linen and the fragrance of its’ cleanness. Beside him sat a woman. She looked familiar, but she was much older than a woman he had known. How long ago had he known her? She looked so kind, with lines of concern at the corners of her eyes and across her brow.
She saw him looking at her and she smiled. She reached out to run her hand through his long greying hair. “Dale, honey, you’re awake,” she quietly exclaimed! “They didn’t think it would happen so quickly.” She stood and kissed his forehead. Turning to the phone, she said, “I have to call the kids, there are grandchildren now, too. They will want to say hello. It has been so long.” She paused with the phone held halfway to her ear, “The doctors don’t know how long the drug will last, they have never tried it on humans before.”
She was punching numbers on the phone as the blackness crept in from the edges of his vision, to steal his wife away and plunge him back into the cell, under the castle in the foundation of the mountain, with the slime and moss growing on the walls where the water percolated through and oozed down to pool on the floor.
By Jeff Hite
It had been so long since she called him, that she wondered if he had actually heard her over the howling wind. She thought about calling again, but he had looked up at her when she had said his name the first time. Meridith had been around the old gods long enough to know that they would speak when they were good and ready. Calling him again would just annoy him, and possibly make him take longer to answer. But, she did wish he would hurry up , because the wind here on the cliff edge was freezing.
“What is it that you want girl?” He said finally
“Go away, if I don’t rest my liver will not grow back. If my liver does not grow back.”
Prometheus, I need to know how you did it,” she interrupted him.
“If it does not grow back, the eagle will scratch, and bite at me.”
“I need your help, I need to know how you got away from Olympus.”
“It cannot kill me, but it can torture me, and make me bleed from a thousand places. When it returns the next day it will be hungrier than normal, and even my fully formed liver will not sate it’s hunger, and again it will attack me and torture me.” He paused for the first time and shuttered. “Do you know how long it will take me to heal from those injuries?” She didn’t answer. This was not what she had come to talk to him about. Maybe if she didn’t answer him, she could guide him down the path she came for.
“Prometheus,” she said when he did not continue to talk. “I need to know how you got away from Olympus.”
“What do you mean girl. I have been here forever.”
“Not forever Prometheus. A long time, but not forever.”
“Stop! I will not hear of the time before.”
“You must, you are the only one.”
“There was nothing before this.”
“Prometheus, you know that is not true,” Meredith begged.
“There was nothing before this.”
There was a long silence that followed. Meredith, thought about leaving. She thought about giving up, but in her nearly two thousand years of captivity on Olympus, the one thing that she had was time to wait. But the time to wait had ended Everything here was about waiting. Waiting until your power had so diminished that you simply disappeared. Even Hades had been losing his grip. He had been letting the humans recover people that had been dead, by means of so called science. No, she would not give up. This was the only way that she could turn things around. She was Meredith, the final child of mighty Zeus and his lovely wife Hera. The last of the gods born since Olympus had been relegated to a place of the past, by the humans.
Finally Prometheus did move. He tilted his head up so that he could see her. She tried to push her long hair out of her face so that he might see who she was.
“You have more patience than most.”
“Yes, a blessing and a curse.”
“Why have you come?”
“I need to talk to you. I need to know…”
“Come down here,” he said cutting her off.
“You heard me, don’t waste my time. I have enough pain, come down here so that at least I might see you when I talk to you.”
With more than a little hesitation she stood and lowered herself over the cliffs edge. She found well warn foot and hand holds, that led down to where he hung on the side of the cliff.
“That is better. Now I can see you. Who are you?”
“I am Meredeth.”
“Meredeth.” He rolled the word out and even with his broken voice it sounded nice. “I have not heard of you.”
“I am Hercules’ younger sister.” She hope the memory of the great hero would give her some credence with the long imprisoned god.
“Ah then a Daughter of Zeus. What can I do for you? My powers are limited, and I am kind of shackled to my job here.” He laughed a roughly in a way that seemed almost to be a last breath.
“All I seek is information.”
“Ah the power of knowledge. If you wanted to know things why not go to an oracle? They can tell the future you know. The only thing I know is the open sky. The sky with the eagle coming toward me, and the sky with the eagle going away from me. Oh, and pain I know a lot about pain.”
“I Seek knowledge of things that only you know.”
“As I told you I don’t know much.”
“You know something that no one else knows. You know of the time before.”
“There was no time before this.” He said grinding his teeth and spitting the words out.
She waited until the fire in his eyes was gone before she continued.
“Once long ago you escaped to the human world and gave them a gift. You are the only one who has ever done this.” She rushed it out so the he would not have time to cut her off. But he did not answer. He didn’t even look at her. “You gave the humans the gift of fire, ten thousand years ago. Now the humans have turned their backs on us, and we are fading away. Many of the spirits have simply disappeared.” Still he did not respond. “Even most of the nymphs had gone silent.” He looked at her then, a tear in his eye.
“There was no time before this.” He whispered.
“There was, and you remember it.”
“No, I don’t. I won’t.” He insisted but his words came weakly.
“Prometheus, please. I beg you. I need to know how you did it. I need to know.”
“Why? So that you can spend the rest of your life like me. You want this? Look at me. Look at my wrists. Look at my face. Look at the scars, and the places that will not heal.”
For the first time she looked closely at him, and not for the first time wondered what would happen to her if she failed. Where the chains met his wrists, the shackels were not there. Instead, the chains connected right to the bones in his arm, or were those odd bumps in this writs the shackles that had simply been there so long that they had become a part of him. His body was covered in scars that she could only assume were from where the great raptor had attacked him because it was not sated by it’s daily meal of his regrowing liver. His Ankels looked much the same as his wrists, but his toes had been torn off. She could only assume by the great bird.
“Is this what you want for the rest of forever?” He whispered softly.
“No.” She admitted.
“Then just go,” he turned his head away from her.
“But I am willing to face it, to help our people.” He turned around in surprise and stared at her. She could not read what was behind those eyes, but there was great pain on his face.
“No.” he said finally. “No I will not condem you to my fate.”
“But I am willing to.”
“No, you are young you do not know what you are saying.”
“Prometheus, we are dieing. And I would rather die here on the side of the cliff knowing I had tried then to just fade away knowing I had not.” He was silent along time after that. So long that her arms began to burn from the strain of hanging there on the side of the cliff. She would not die if she fell, but there would be pain, and many many years of healing. She had just about decided to climb back up when he spoke again.
“I didn’t do it.”
“I didn’t escape to deliever fire to the humans,” the tears were streaming down his face now.
“Of course you,”
“No!” he cut her off again. “No, I didn’t,” he shifted his weight so that she could see the hole in his side where the great bird tore at him every day. “I didn’t take fire to them. I could not, just as you cannot now.”
“But, then you have hung here for eons for something you didn’t do.”
“Please,” he said sardonically, “I gave them fire. Of course I did. But I didn’t leave the mountain, just like you cannot. Like all the gifts from the gods they have to either appear to the humans in such a way that they can see us in the gift, or…” He trialed off again.
“Or they have to be let in to get it.”
“Let in? But humans cannot come to mount Olypus any more than we can go to them.”
“They did once. I let them in.” The releization dawned on her then. Although fire was an incredible gift, the idea of humans being on the moutain was probably more than the gods cound stand.
“You let them in.” She repeated.
“Yes, not very far, but I let them in far enough to come to my campsite. I left a fire burning and let them steal from it. It took years for me to coax a human up that far, and at great risk. If Zeus found out that I had made a way in for them. Well in the end he did find out, and you know the rest of the story,” he guestured as his prison. His face twisted then, and he cried openly.
She tried to move her body closer to him but he pulled away.
“No!” He screamed. “No, I will not be reminded of what comfort is. It has taken me ten thousand years to forget.” She waited until he stopped crying.
“Will you tell me how?” He didn’t answer for a long time and then he just let his head fall forward, in a movement that could have simplly been resignation, but she took it as a yes. “How?”
“Come back tomorrow?”
“Will you come back tomorrow if I you tell you?”
“If you like.”
“I have been so lonely. The Nymph in the tree above stopped coming a thousand years ago. Will you talk to her for me?” That explained the hand and foot holds. “I had almost forgotten about her too, until I heard you tonight.”
“Yes, I wil come back.” And the pain returned to his face.
“It might be better if you didn’t. I might not have a thousand years to forget you too.”