Diner Theogeny

In the middle of the night an egg.

It was Gay’s cafe originally, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, forty eight weeks a year—she took two weeks off, spring and fall, for her vacations—rain, snow, drought, fire, it made no difference. She had a generator out back and the freezer was a dirt cellar before it was a walk-in; the only time she closed it was when St. Helens burst and the whole town was evacuated. Even then she was the last out and the first back.

But then Oran kept through, and he was a talker. Charming, clever in small doses, affable as long as things were going his way; you know the type. Smoked too much weed and made a few too many bold claims: he used to work for Boeing (he said) but he left (he said) because he didn’t want the company claiming the patent (he said) for the motorless freight carrier he’d invented (he said). Gonna revolutionize hauling, just as soon as he got it working at full scale.

He spun her round his finger, and after a while they were living together, and a while after that he started helping out around the diner, and then it wasn’t too long before he was doing more and more, and then Gay left for her spring vacation and just didn’t come back. Staying with her sister down at Rockaway, he said. He was just keeping the lights on, he said.

Lies, of course; he’d locked her in the basement and kept her down there for years while we figured she’d merely got wise and cut her losses. We didn’t get the straight of it until the son he’d kept locked down with her broke the lock and hacked his nuts off with a kitchen knife. Served him right. He was at Coyote Ridge for a while before they shipped him out of state; up to Montana somewhere, maybe.

Anyway, Gay doesn’t work the grill much these days, but the son still does. Corran’s his name; he’s not much of a talker.

Heelgripper

“Shoot,” he says, the lazy son, the clever one. “I’ll wrassle ya, if you’re so het up about it.”

The stranger grins in that inhumanly beautiful way they had, and they drop into a wrassler’s crouch, hands held out like there was an invisible beer bottle in ‘em, as if to say, watch out for broken glass. Heelgripper, he pops a similar squat and they circle each other in the fading firelight, serious enough but also friendly. Nobody’s after grievous bodily harm, but it wouldn’t be the first time a body left a friendly wrassle permanently the worse for wear, nor the last; he might be a jackass with more lip than sense, but he’s not a fool. His time in exile has beaten some of his early bad habits out of him; his life in the hills has left him rich, strong, and be-sonned.

He gives as good as he gets, least for the first few hours, but the stranger keeps grinning that immobile, inhuman grin, eyes warm and friendly and fixed, even as they take turns flopping each other into the dust, and it ain’t long before he realizes the fix is in and he is a damfool, but by that point the fire’s long burned to ashes and the sun’s peaking over the hills.

The Earth Curses The Untrustworthy Sky

Prometheus regretted it the instant the chains slipped away and he tumbled forward off the crag. Swallowed, into a mouth of blue.

He fell for days, night passing into day into night, until his devoured liver regenerated and his torn flesh reknit itself, an unpain grown long familiar during his eternal confinement. The wind of his passage tore the moisture from his throat and eyes.

He has fallen before, many times, from earth to earth, from Ossa to Pelion, from sky to grave; this has happened before, will happen again. He could resist everything except a revolution — or, rather, revolution was worth failure; the fall was worth the climb.

Still: he had grown into the rock, and the rock into him, skin as hard as petrified oak; the generations of eagles that had grown fat and powerful on his recurring liver now old friends, loved the way a stone loves the root that shatters it. Breaking free was not without cost.

Colony Collapse

Eventually the tributes stop coming and hunger pricks him forth from the laybrinth’s comforting coils. Pushing through a thick bramble, Asterion blinks weak eyes in confusion at the ruins above. What has become of the city he barely remembers? The palace court that towered above his infant head? The people that recoiled in fear and holy dread when he passed? Roots have riven the stones of the road, each from the other, flowering shrubs have colonized the roofs, attics resound with the untroubled burbling of pigeons.

He is alone with the grass and wild beasts and the sound of the waves. He is used to being alone, used to wandering in places that refuse familiarity; this is no worse than that, but still he wonders.

Days and weeks of privation have worn his body hollow, and when he stumbles upon a group of giant rabbits, two feet long and a foot high, who stare utterly unconcerned into his eyes, his fingers twitch for a second with old habits. But the sun is high and warm and no one is screaming, no one is fleeing, there is nothing he has to do in the moment.

Asterion of Minos crouches down, curves his back, his neck to brush the earth with his lips, and takes his first bite of grass. Unwatered wine was never so sweet.

The Body Is A Language

When they were scattered to the winds, words lost, minds mazed, it wasn’t just an exile from place, but from each other. Community gone, language gone, every friend a stranger, every stranger a foe, they wandered the earth, incomprehensible not just to others to but themselves, too. They must relearn speech, even for their internal conversations.

That first generation never ends.

They do not notice at first — they have no words for passing time, no numbers to count the days or months — but when they have clawed enough of a sense of self together, they find the world has changed, their children’s children long dead and gone, their great work a rumor for a shepherd’s night, nothing more.

They do not recognize themselves in these new faces.

The gap may have always been there, may have grown wider during the unknowable period of their wandering. These new people are soft, without the pliable layer of keratin that keeps them safe, with only vestigial moons at the tips of their fingers and toes, and with no skyward ambitions. They rage to see them so. They try to seize them, to call them back to what they were, by deed if not by words, and pass through them like smoke, like carbon monoxide, invisible, inaudible, inimical.