The Exchange

The Exchange

A Story by Lexi I.
"

Dug this story up from my college days archive. It's a short story I wrote for a class.

"

My fingers lingered above his chest. For the briefest moment, I hesitated, recalling the Fates’ prophecy of this exact moment, a prophecy which had now haunted me for days. The moment quickly dissipated with the jarring sound of another gunshot somewhere in the distance. Startled back to the present, I dropped my hand at last and pressed my fingers into the gaping wound, which the bullet had pierced in the place beneath his prominent collar bone. Blood oozed through the gash and engulfed my hand, its crimson hue a stark contrast against my pale skin. The desperate screams of the mortals--the ones dying and those striving to stay alive--and the now intermittent gunfire perforated the winter air. Chaos. 

 

Urging my focus to the secluded area, between the cover of two abandoned and dilapidated buildings, I turned my attention to Anteros, who lay in my arms. My fingers did little to staunch the bleeding. Gaunt and anguished, from what I believed to be pain, he strained his face and struggled to offer up a feeble smile. I solemnly smiled back, choosing to focus on his beautiful, emerald eyes, which had once--and still--enraptured me wholly.

 

“So, this is what dying feels like,” he whispered through gritted teeth. Despite the frigid cold and the life seeping out of him, he managed to speak. I had no response to fill the silence, so full of unspoken words and memories. His eyes said more than any words; in the few instances that they could focus on my face, I saw through to his perfect soul, now tortured by his physical suffering. I cursed myself for my hesitation, for my doubt, for my inability to do something! I could have been here earlier, warning him and preventing this moment from happening. Yet I had been a coward, afraid of committing the same mistake that he had made ten years ago. A god’s immortality for a human’s life.

 

“You’re not dying,” I murmured, attempting to guise the lie with false conviction. Gods didn’t die.  He shouldn’t be dying, I wanted to add. As the thought crossed my mind, I noticed a pool of blood, slowly forming beneath him; a wicked rose, its petals cruelly unfurling over the white snow. 

 

Amidst the chaos of the soldiers and the gunfire, of the frosty weather and the suffering, secluded near the entrance of a building, it was just him and me…even if only for a little while longer. “I don’t know what to do. I’m sorry,” I said, revealing the sorrow and panic I felt. Thoughts flew through my mind. I wanted to stop it. I desired to go back and beg Hades to give him one more chance. I could have asked Zeus to forgive him and to take Anteros back to Olympus. I could have done more. So many “could haves.” So many “ifs”: if he had not become a mortal, if he had not succumbed to his desire to feel, if he had not sacrificed his immortality so that he could save that human girl. Anger was swiftly replacing my grief. It must have shown on my face, for he read my thoughts clearly.

 

“I may no longer be a god, Elissa, but I can still guess at what you may be thinking. Don’t,” he strained, against the bitter air, against the pain. His hand inched to mine, where I attempted to hold him securely on my lap; his fingers feebly curled around mine. His body trembled and his voice shook when he spoke again. “It was my choice…and it’s…it’s not so bad. Just a little…cold.”

 

The words, barely audible, would have been difficult for any mortal to hear, but each one pierced my heart as they escaped his frost-bitten lips. Those lips, once rosy and full of divine life, had smiled and laughed and incited passion. I met his eyes, which were intently focused on me.

 

“I never stopped loving you, regardless of everything. The Fates may have not arranged things in our favor, but I…I have always cared for you,” he said.

 

“Please. You don’t need to explain anything. Not now,” I started. “But, you know,” I ventured on as he closed his eyes once again,“I always thought it was quite ironic that you were always so set on avenging those whose hearts had been broken. The champion of unrequited love. Yet you also left a few…um, victims in your wake.” I faltered, uncharacteristically shy and reserved. I hoped my words would not wound him, but I couldn't control myself.  He had moved on long ago, but he had chosen to acknowledge his feelings now. Had I been a mortal in that moment, my heart would have shattered, mercilessly and unknowingly broken by him. But I was not a human; his words barely scratched at the wall around my heart.

 

“Nothing matters now,” I remedied before he could say more. Our destinies had been mapped out by the Fates. And yes, they had been cruel. Fair, is what the Fates considered themselves.  Many had tried to alter their fates; none had succeeded. And Anteros now lay dying.

 

His body shuddered in pain, or cold, once more, and he gasped for air. I pulled him closer to me. At that moment, I recalled how the mortals shed tears in such situations, and if I could have had the ability to share in that human form of grieving, I would have allowed my body to give in to the weakness and succumb to the sobs that I knew could pour forth.

 

“It’s becoming…very…cold,” he said softly, his thoughts broken by gasps.

 

His suffering was more than I thought I could bear. Without a second thought, I focused my thoughts inwardly, and called upon some of my divine powers, knowing that they would draw the attention of Zeus and punishment upon my return to Olympus, but I did not care. “I can’t feel the cold, Anteros. But I can help. Look into my eyes and think of a warm place. A happy memory,” I pleaded, hoping he hadn't slipped too far into oblivion. He struggled to focus his hazy eyes on mine, but he held my gaze. I channeled some of my power into him; in turn, I was allowed entry into his thoughts. His mind was on Olympus. It surprised me to see that he thought of the place he had long ago abandoned. I transferred warm energy into his body, absorbing the cold and pain into my own. I could withstand the onslaught of the pain; it must have been staggering for him. He relaxed.

 

“Is it better?”

 

“Yes, thank you,” he struggled. “There’s no place like home, the mortals say.” I nodded, not knowing if he referred to his home among the humans or the one he had left behind. Perhaps he had still thought of Olympus once in a while. Perhaps it had always been home. He coughed. Blood spilled forth from his lips, painting them with color he had once had. My hand, which had been futile against the rush of blood from his wound, moved to his hand which held my other. I grasped his hand, knowing he was slipping away. I tightened my grip around him, allowing more of my energy to seep into him, to keep him alive for a while longer. Please, I prayed to the gods. Please forgive him. So many times I had wished that he would have asked for their forgiveness and that they would have accepted him back. Please, someone hear me. I knew as I prayed that the words were falling on deaf ears.  They weren't listening.

 

Anteros had held the world in his hands and had relinquished it for the opportunity to feel. To really feel. I could never understand. For once, I felt powerless. I couldn't help him. The one time I wanted to give my aide--to be selfless--I could do nothing…almost nothing. I could not eliminate his pain. I could not heal his wounds. I could not take him back to Olympus or return him to his home. 

 

His uniform was sullied; blood trickled forth from the wound, down the skin of my arm and contributed to the pool beneath us. His breathing was heavy. Even if I could ease his pain, I was helpless against reversing his inevitable demise. Hades was waiting for him. Gods were not allowed to use their powers on humans who were on the verge of death, unless I made an exchange, and I couldn't bring myself to do so. It had been his choice to forfeit all of it--just to save her. A god’s immortality sacrificed for the life of a human. He had watched her for years; he’d come down among the humans to see her, to be with her. That was not unheard of on Olympus. Many gods had consorted with the mortals. None had sacrificed eternity for them. She had fallen ill"cancer they call it on Earth. Anteros had wasted no time in making the decision, the ultimate sacrifice of the gods. Perhaps she had made it all worth it; yet, I could not fathom--at that moment, surrounded by the blood, the agony and the supposed cold--where the attraction for mortality lay. His love for her must have been more than the love that I could have ever conjured up. Love had been the price he had paid for eternity. It was one I could have paid. My immortality in exchange for saving his life…

 

“Why…why did you come now?” he asked, interrupting a thought which had crossed my mind on many occasions. He was barely breathing, but he chose to ask me the question that even I didn't know the answer to. It had been years since I had not been near him, and there had been no reason for me to come now. I had loved him, and for one who had been so adept at rectifying the cracks of a broken heart, he had not been too keen on perceiving or returning my feelings for him. He had chosen the mortal world, and I would not follow him to that form of hell. He had made his choice, and I mine.

 

“I couldn't leave you here, like this. Despite everything, I always kept you close,” I whispered the last part, choosing to keep some of the bitterness I felt from my tone. I then allowed myself to do something I had not dared to do in a long time--at least a few centuries since he had decided that we were better off as friends.  My fingers moved to his face and caressed the lines, which had formed across his forehead. As gods, we did not age, and his wrinkles were features of his mortality. When he felt my touch, his eyes opened once again, and I gasped, for their emerald color was so magnificent…so bright.  They were eyes that had always sparkled with mischief or stared at me intently, as he explained his perplexing problems with the mortals and their issues with love. His golden hair, which had once shimmered in the sunlight, now lay plastered to his forehead, matted with dirt and blood. While he had physically changed, I could still see Anteros--the divine--beneath the human exterior. 

 

“Besides, I am almost convinced that you would be here with me, if the situation was reversed,” I added, as I allowed my hand to cup his face.  If I would have been dumb enough to join the mortal ranks, and chosen to fight in their barbaric wars. But I would not share those thoughts with him. In that moment, it seemed that all around us had calmed; the gunfire had died down and soldiers’ voices were becoming more distant. The soldiers--the  pathetic humans that he had decided to live among--chose to kill their own kind for ridiculous reasons; yet, in the end, they all wound up on the same place: on the fields, as corpses.

 

“Don’t frown…it’s unbecoming,” he managed to murmur. I chuckled softly at his attempt to humor me. He was silent for a while, and then he continued, “They…these mortals have their motives for being here. They are different than we always thought they were…very different. I think…it’s because their lives have an end.” He faltered, inhaling deeply as he attempted to breath past the pain of his wounds. My powers could only do so much for him; I could feel him slipping away, but he went on. “They have a limited time here…and they must make that time have meaning. They fall in love…their hearts break. They feel joy…and loss. But they always fight for what is theirs…family, country…freedom. Even if…even if it means dying.” His words held no regret, as I had expected after all of his suffering; he said those words with pride. Somehow, he seemed at peace.

 

“And so…it’s off to Hades with me, and I…I…hear that the Styx is quite busy these days,” he said, trying once again to make me smile, but there I felt no joy at the moment or in his words.

 

“That’s what they say. It’s always that way with these human wars,” I said, thinking of the many times we had walked along the Styx, watching as the souls made their journey into Hades. There were so many questions I had for him, and thinking of him making that final journey made me shudder at the finality of our time together. But there was one question, which I would ask; it had plagued me for many years.

 

“Was it worth it?”

 

“This?” He knew I referred to his mortality and the life he had led in the World. “More than I hoped for, Elissa…much, much more. These people are more…complex than I ever could have thought. I may have roamed the Heavens for ages …hell, I was there for the Creation of the World…but over the centuries, I felt the need to feel something…something…else, I guess. And when everything happened with Liana…when she was sick…it was my chance to…to really experience life. There are experiences I’ve had…had here among the humans that I would…would have never had on Olympus. No matter how long I …lived as a god,” he finished softly. He was sapping the last of his energy to answer my question. As I opened my mouth to speak, he continued, “I could feel the seasons…the sun on my face, the snow…melting on my skin. I felt the pain whenever I would cut myself …and I watched in wonder as blood poured forth. It was the unpleasant human things which made me appreciate the pleasant…so much made it all worth it.” He looked at me, but beyond me--to his time among the mortals, his time with Liana.

 

“And, what about her?” I ventured, seeing that I had nothing to lose. He had sacrificed immortality for her.

 

“She made it all perfect. The love we shared…it…it transcended all things. Before I left…to come here…we said our goodbyes, knowing that…that there was a possibility… I would…not return. We didn't know…know what would h-h-happen. B-b-but I will always love her…I have her love…to make this…painless. It…it was a worthwhile exc-c-c-hange,” he whispered, each word a rasping attempt to breath and speak. Although the words tugged at my own emotions, for it was me who now held him and not her, I understood. There had been a time--briefly--when I would have entered the World just to be around him once more, but that time had long passed.

 

“I am glad that you are peace, Anteros,” I whispered in return. The day had aged into dusk, and with the dark, the gates of Hades were opening. There was little time left. He had closed his eyes once again. I gave his hand a squeeze, channeling some more of my power into him, easing the pain of the final moments. A god was dying, and even in those final moments, he had been strong, holding on for as long as possible.

 

He was still for a while, and I wondered if he had lost all consciousness before he passed on. I brushed some of his hair from his face, deciding to hold onto him before he left his body for Hades. I could only look at him and stave off the feeling of loss that would haunt me for many more centuries.

 

It was a few minutes later, as I waited, that his words reached my ears. “I hope you find happiness, Elissa,” he said before I even realized that he had spoken; I half wondered if the wind had carried them to me from another place, but then his body convulsed and with that, he took his last mortal breath. His body became heavy, and his soul--a brilliant flash of light shooting from its physical constraints--disappeared into the evening sky for the Styx. At that moment, the wind picked up, and the World took on an eerie calm. All noise had dissipated. All was still as Death made its rounds.

 

There, in some god-forsaken town, lay hundreds of bodies, buried in dirt and snow, covered in blood and agony. And amidst all those mortal corpses, lay the corpse of a god, not distinct from any of the others. There in my arms, Anteros’ body found its final resting place. Before I returned home, there was one last thing I had to do. I cupped his face once more and softly pressed my warm lips to his hard, frigid ones as I said my final goodbye. 

© 2013 Lexi I.


Author's Note

Lexi I.
Thank you for reading. :)

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I enjoyed reading this story. I really like the love story between the two main characters.

Posted 4 Years Ago


Great story telling and your flow is marvelous so was the concept of your tale...Looking forward to read more of your work.

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Lexi I.

6 Years Ago

Thanks for the feedback. :) I hope you enjoy the others although this is probably the most complete .. read more
A. Amos

6 Years Ago

You're most welcome my friend...
'Expressive, professional , interesting.

I have never mingled with gods or godesses,
so I am in unfamiliar territory, but I appreciate
strength and design and you demonstrate
a superb ability.
Thank you
-----Eagle Cruagh


Posted 7 Years Ago


Lexi I.

7 Years Ago

Thanks for the review! :)
Death teaches us to caress life. For shadows to exist, one must have light. It is through the opposing forces of nature that we learn to enjoy the time given to us. A divine being will never understand such feelings in a world of light.

Beautifully crafted.

Posted 7 Years Ago


Lexi I.

7 Years Ago

Thank you for reading. It is true that death teaches us many things!
A very beautiful story and if t were a book I would have definitly read it. Awesome write!

Posted 7 Years Ago


Lexi I.

7 Years Ago

Thank you for the kind words! :)
If you're not a published author who's actually paid for her work, you need to be! Everything I've read has been beautifully written and inspiring. If you had a novel or anything out there for public cosumption, I would purchase right away. You are a wonderful storyteller. Please keep sharing your work with the world :-)

Posted 7 Years Ago


Lexi I.

7 Years Ago

Thanks, JC! That is very flattering feedback! Don't we ALL wish we could be published writers??? ..... read more

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Added on February 8, 2013
Last Updated on February 8, 2013
Tags: love, broken heart, gods, mythology, war

Author

Lexi I.
Lexi I.

Somewhere, MI



About
Like most people here, I aspire to weave magic with words and to create worlds where others--as well as myself, of course--can escape to. From a young age, I loved reading and joining characters--who .. more..

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