The goddess played with the elixir in her hands, watching as the liquid sloshed back and forth against the glass walls of the bottle. The golden glowing potion called her name. Temptation was always her most dangerous game but, oh, she would be lying if she said it wasn’t the most fun.
A cork closed the bottle. That was the only thing between her and a sip, just a sip of this little concoction.
A strange mercenary had dropped it by her door, tying a knot to the top with twine. She read the paper message again, studying the inscription closely.
Sixty minutes of knowing time’s unspoken promise.
She scoffed at it, putting the bottle down against her table as she stood, looking from the window of her great observatory, which existed in the bridge between the earth and the stars. The goddess lived within the clouds, above the birds, above everything but the cosmos. It was greater still.
The goddess turned back to the glass bottle upon her desk, staring into the liquid.
Sixty minutes of mortality: that’s what it promised. But why?
The bottle grabbed hold of her, attaching itself to her skin with an electrical power even she did not know.
It was mesmerizing; she could not pull away from the feel of the liquid against her skin. There was warmth against her fingers, so warm that all else was cold. And then there was the butterfly in her stomach. If she drank the liquid could she let it go? Free?
She blinked, shaking herself away from the potion. She once more let the bottle clink against her table. No matter how hard she wanted to drink it, she would wait. She just needed to think.
The goddess moved to her window, looking over her wonderful world. She ruled over all of it but she rarely meddled. Those people down below shaped their own destiny. She only interfered when necessary. When a voice called for her that not even she could ignore.
In the grand scheme of forever she could rarely hear the speech of those so short-lived. She rarely cared to listen. Those humans all wanted the same thing: Please, just let me have another moment longer! Not yet, not yet! I’m not ready yet.
To which she would always laugh. No one was ever ready to go. It was mercy to go quick. If that was the worst thing (to go at all) then it must not be so bad.
She looked over the potion once more, watching the elixir as it swirled within the confines of the bottle. Sixty minutes of mortality? She drew closer to it, letting her fingers brush against the warm glass. Warm, warmer than the fire of her heart, warm like corporal blood.
Immortals rarely ever know of such simple things as warmth. Because they know, in the grand scheme of their eternity, that something else will surely be warmer still. That this isn’t the highest point, but one point happening all at once, everything being simply as it was destined to be.
Her hand clasped around the bottle. The cork felt strange beneath the skin of her fingers, rough and calloused. She pulled back, the cork popping out, removing its seal around the glass. Gas like fog swirled from the golden potion, flowing into the air and wafting around the goddess. She drew in a deep breath, accepting the wonderful smell of honeysuckle and roses. She smiled, drawing the concoction closer to her mouth. But then it hit her: the air grew sour, smoke spilling from the lip of the bottle and into her face. She coughed, consumed by the scent of gunpowder and mustard gas.
The goddess retched, stumbling to her window and struggling to draw in the fresh air of the clouds. But, even in its magnificence, the galaxy was not as beautiful as the aroma of flowers that had hit her, flowers surely from another dimension because she had never known anything so sweet.
The bottle continued to glow, shooting out light from the gaps beneath her fingers, which tightly clutched the glass. She was scared of letting go.
She drew the potion up once more. This time it smelled of lavender and mist, clinging to the meadow. Even the horrible scent of rotting flesh and decaying plants could not sway her as she began to drink, letting the elixir slide down her throat. With each sip the potion grew thicker and thicker, solidifying in her gullet until the bottle was finally empty.
The glass fell to the ground, slipping from her hand as she fell back, landing against the wall of her observatory. All of the weight in the universe came down upon her at once. So this was gravity, so this was being human! She was going to die.
Pain ripped through her chest, vehement and insistent, rolling as waves hit the beach of the ocean, controlling her like a puppet being thrown around by a mistreating hand. Her eyes watered as wind whipped against the side of her tower, roaring against her face and leaving her skin raw.
She staggered into the safety of her observatory, breathless as she struggled to start a fire. Her bones! She felt cold in her bones, shaking so deep that her heart should have stopped.
She lit the fire, letting the warmth––more warm than anything ever before––wash over her. Even before the brilliant burning embers, she wondered to herself why any person would put up with this, how fate could possibly be so cruel. Did those humans wake up every moment truly not knowing the next? And still they were kind?
The tongues of flame cried within the fire, writhing before her as she stared into the depths of the logs, sizzling and dying. Sixty minutes had never felt so long.
Sixty minutes. She blinked, wondering for a moment. If she were to throw herself from the balcony, would she wake up at the end of the sixty minutes a goddess once more? Then she looked away from the flames, too embarrassed to meet the eyes that stared back at her. Did she even want to know?
Struggling to her feet, she stood, unable to look into the fire as she drew in a deep breath. She walked towards the balcony, blown and pushed around by the powerful wind which had once been her friend.
Her fingers met with the railings of her balcony. The humans had installed them when she had, many millennia ago, ordered them to build her a tower that reached into the stars. She had never known why they felt the need for such embellishments. But then she felt the brass beneath her fingers and saw the universe and all existence flashing before her eyes. She was alive! So this was what it was like to be human.
She drew in a deep breath, telling herself that maybe it was her turn to understand. She pulled herself onto the top of the railing, balancing on top of it.
That’s a long way to fall, she whispered to the wind, watching the world beneath her. She could imagine it rising up to crush her, breaking her spine in one blow. And what then?
Even just the cold metal beneath her fingers brought her pain. It stabbed through her body as she struggled to hold tight to the bar. Was she ready to let go? She looked away from the ground and into the stars. How would she know when she was finally ready?
The wind pushed and pulled at her. The goddess breathed with it. Finally, she closed her eyes, letting the moment of the universe take her as it would like. Her grip loosened and she began to fall, plummeting through the sky. The fierce, wildness of the breeze screamed in her ears and cut through her body, threatening to rip her apart then and there. Everything was cold and then it was not.
She made contact, slamming into the earth––all of her bones breaking at once. She blinked, her vision dizzying as she stared up at her tower from the bottom, feeling nothing besides the warm blood pooling around her figure. She felt her first tear slipping down her face, racing to meet the earth. It collided with the ground. Died there.
Writing and photography by Hazel J. Hall.
Previously published by Quail Bell Magazine.