Lover Be True

The secret story of the woman whose tragic legend inspired so many romantic songs and bawdy tavern signs.  Or, how being cursed by a god isn’t quite what it seems from the outside.

european-grass-snake-950565 pixabay no att

Last time I went down to visit the living, they had changed the legend again.  Do you even care about that, that they have our story wrong?  I wonder.

The other priestesses were right there when you condemned me.  I don’t understand how they could have mangled such basic details.

No, wait, I forgot how long ago that was.  They did get it right, at first.  The facts have been changed since then.  New people, new ideas.

All the old temples are gone.  Did you realize?  Struggling, then shrinking, then abandoned, then ruins.  Some aren’t even ruins anymore.

I couldn’t find anyone speaking your name.  Any of your names.

If they call you by a new name now, I wish I knew it.  That would reassure me.  That you’re still worshiped somewhere.  That you haven’t left. Haven’t left me, here, like this.

You could tell me.  Would you?  I doubt it.  You promised me an eternity of silence, after all, and you’ve made such impressive progress so far.

At least they got the part with the snake correct.  He’s up to my knees now.  That makes it about seventy days since the last swallowing, give or take.  A long time left to go before he’ll get over my head.  A long time before I can go ghosting below again.  And time is so very long here.  So achingly, insanely long.

It used to hurt.  Really, it did.  It was a good choice for torture, I’ll credit you that.  But being here like this, after a while, any feeling is better than nothing.  It marks the time, each tiny bit more that the snake devours.  I never realized how many distinct kinds of pain you could feel, being digested.  It keeps me occupied.  Something to focus on.

Maybe I shouldn’t tell you that.  Maybe you’ll take the snake away.  Leave me here to float alone in this featureless void.  That would be worse, I think.  You might like that.

Assuming you’re listening, that is.

Anyway, they’ve invented a lover for me.  That’s the rationale they devised for why I turned you down.  Because a mortal could love me more purely and fully than a god ever could.  Because my heart already belonged to him.  Because I was so loyal in my love for him that even you could not lure me away.

Ironic, isn’t it?  They think I turned you down.  The god of infinite beauty and unremitting passion . The god I worshiped with my whole self since my first blood.

But then, you must think that too, or I wouldn’t still be here.  Unless… unless you believe me now, that it was a misunderstanding, and you won’t admit it.

I’ve begged a million times, but I’ll do it again.  However many it takes.  I didn’t intend any insult, I promise.  I only wanted to say goodbye to my parents before I left.  Please believe me.

Having thought about it more, I understand how that would anger you.  Me, asking you to wait, for my own selfish, petty, human desires.  It was foolish of me.  Blasphemous.  I see that now.

Not that me understanding you is the point.  It’s not my place to judge.  You’re the god.  You do what you do.  I accept that.  That’s how it works.

You might think I’m only pretending to be reasonable to get out of the snake.  But that’s not it, I assure you.  If you could find it in your heart to forgive me, if the offer is still open…

Consider it.  Please?

* * *

Now I’m on tavern signs.  What kind of a legacy is that?  Tavern signs with a naked woman—always naked, naturally—half-eaten by a huge snake.   Lover Be True.  What an awful name for a tavern.

At least the images don’t look like me.  They have the hair all wrong, for one thing.  And my breasts were much lovelier than that.  You’d think those painters had never seen breasts in person before.

Apparently I’ve become a symbol for making the ultimate sacrifice for love.  By denying even the gods in favor of my man.  By refusing to capitulate to you, no matter how horribly you torture me.  They think me honorable.  Devoted.  Faithful.

If only they knew.

Well, there are worse ways to be remembered.

* * *

I still can’t find any temples to you.  There’s a religion in the southern part of the continent that might be you.  It’s hard, having only one day to cover the whole world.  I’ll learn more next year.

You thought giving me a glimpse of the real world—the living world—would make it worse, didn’t you?  That it would wrench my soul from its moorings, seeing everyone I ever knew mourn, forget me, move on, die.

It did.

The last one died so long ago, though.  Even if they went to one of the afterworlds, they would probably be dissipated by now.

Didn’t know I knew that, did you?  See, I absorb things. I learn things, even here.  If I concentrate hard enough for long enough, I can sense through these gray gooey walls to your realm beyond.  And I have nothing but time now.  Time and concentration.

Those fake bodies you make for them don’t last that long.  Or the dead don’t last long in them, I should say.  It’s sad, really.  They arrive with such high hopes.

You did so much better with this fake body for me.

Funny, to think that I’ve survived longer than I would have if I had died in your glory.  Like the other priestesses of my order, and those who came after. All long since gone.  Long since forgotten.  Only I remain.

* * *

Your dead have figured out how to get in here.  That’s how myths work, I suppose.  They draw people in.

The dead stand around me, staring, swaying back and forth in their misty, mushy shells.  This is the first time I’ve actually seen any of them.  I would think that a god of beauty would make better bodies for his followers.  More aesthetically pleasing.

Not that I’d ever accuse you of shoddy work.  It must be that you don’t care.  Or that you don’t know.  Or that one of those leads to the other.

I think they’re trying to sing.

Some of them step up and touch me.  Some caress the snake.  When they get close enough, their faces suddenly resolve into focus.  They look like individual people—real people—for a moment.

The rapture in their eyes, it’s amazing.  I’m jealous.  I wish I could touch a myth and believe it.

Then they go all fuzzy gray again.  It’s spooky.

* * *

The first time a dead one disappeared, I thought you had punished it for touching me.  Slowly, I understood.

Each one is so small.  Such tiny little lives they’ve lived.  But when enough of them got inside me, I could feel it growing.

I could feel me growing.

They kept coming, one by one.  I pulled them in.  I took them.  You should have seen their bliss.  A final orgasm of death, devoted to a legend.  Devoted to true love.

They would have faded eventually anyway.  This way, they live on.

I change a little with each one.  Most of them are so neutral, so weak, so tasteless.  There is nothing there for me to become more of.  But sometimes one is sharper than the others, spicier.  More angry, more passionate, more good.  I feel myself shift.  Then I am a tiny bit someone else, and it’s hard to remember exactly how I was before.

Once I knew the trick, I took the snake too.  Now we are one.  Me on top.  Snake on bottom.  I would have missed him, otherwise.

I figured out your riddle.  So clever of you.  You gave me everything I needed to free myself.  To become immortal.  All I had to do was work it through.

I’m past the barrier and into your realm proper.  It would be breathtaking, if I still had breath.  So many colors!  I had forgotten how bright real life was.

But no, I can’t stop to look.  I can sense you.  You’re so close it burns.

I’ll be at your side soon.  Then we can be together, my love.  Together forever.

Just like I always dreamed.

Casual Friday Re-post to The Blog Propellant.


20 thoughts on “Lover Be True

    • I see this god as more like the Greek gods than Christian, what with punishing this priestess for eternity based on such a tiny slight to his ego. (Although I do have another deity who keeps acting like Old Testament Yahweh, no matter how I try to rein him in.) The particular way that this woman achieves life-in-death is very rare, and in the process gives some insight (I hope) into what really happens to most people after they die, if they manage to get to their god’s after-realm. Not quite how it’s described in their holy books…

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Wow. what an amazing way to tell the perspective and get the background without being TOLD the background. She’s talking to someone, maybe even herself, we overhear, and we get so many amazing details .. just absorbing the story. It reminds me of some modern artworks somehow, this fading and changing and repeating. Awesome. Love the tavern details, too. Just makes us wonder what details we might have gotten wrong in so many of our old cultural stories!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Heather! I love that you absolutely get it — the whole idea that we have these stories we think we know, the myths and legends behind the tavern signs or paintings or sayings — but what really happened might be completely different. And yes, you’re never really sure whether she’s just talking to herself all this time, or if her deity/paramour is listening.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed reading the story very much! I like the way the reader progressively (but not completely, which leaves a nice part of mystery) understands who is who and what happened. The personality of the narrator is intriguing and original. No word is useless here, I enjoy so much precision. I was only frustrated when it ended!! Congrats.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Terrific story, Joy. I’ve never read a myth told from the point of view of the sacrificial character. You’ve unlocked a great secret as a writer and that is not to explain all your mysteries. I spent much of this story using my own imagination to fill in certain questions. In this way, I think your story keeps going rather than ending. Great work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Joe. This really is one of my favorites so far. I enjoy turning traditional stories, or traditional ways of telling them, backwards, to see what happens. It doesn’t always work, but I think it did here. Plus now I get to have my characters in other stories casually mention this myth and see who gets the reference. 😉


  4. That’s an interesting story, with several levels. I wonder whether she will find being together forever exactly what she expects…Good writing , to leave the reader with a question!

    Liked by 2 people

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