What is there to live for without you?
He had asked it when he felt the seal break. An invisible thing beneath his skin, a thing that burned when the god was around, it had been given to him as a sort of gift. In the beginning, it had been a tracking device to find him when he inevitably found himself in peril. After the seal broke the first time, he was promised a better one, one that would connect the two of them together forever, linking them in an unbreakable bond.
Or, so Augustus was led to believe.
So, when the seal that had been burned into his chest shattered, sending pangs of sharp intensities through his body like broken shards of glass, he knew what had happened. It was the only thing that could have happened. Augustus searched wildly about his little castle home for anything, anything that would give away where his lover could have gone. Frantically, his search took him through room by room, a monster destroying everything in sight. He could feel his hearts thump, thump, thumping in his chest, in his ears, a migraine crawling up the back of his neck like an infectious disease. Was this grief?
His search got him nowhere, and now he felt trapped, a prisoner in his own castle on the Irish moors. He remembered the day Apophis had asked him to move in. They had been discussing Augustus’s unfortunate arrangement with the Lightbringer. “Tortured, played with… something like that,” He had said, pain twisting on the demon’s face as he gazed up at the other man. He had been called by the devil to join him, and Augustus had been ignoring the call for weeks. He had hidden in the castle Apophis owned, buried between black satin sheets with the god at his side.
It was rare for the demon to feel actual bliss, and he hadn’t recognized the sensations that made his fingers tingle and his chest warm. Not until Apophis had brought him down to a river near his home, had wrapped his arms around the smaller frame of the demon, and spoke, lowly, absently.
“I’m thinking of living there… If you ever get tired of your flat at times… my door is open to you.”
If Augustus had not been hooked before, he was certainly hooked then. Images flooded his mind of long walks on cold, foggy days, of sunny mornings huddled on a couch drinking coffee, of soft, warm kisses and holidays and all their time spent together. He knew bliss, then. He knew heaven. He had lived a long life of love and loss, of mortals dying in his arms, of unrequited feelings and broken hearts and abuse and screaming matches that led to packed suitcases. But this was it. Apophis was immortal. He would live on, like Augustus, and they would live together, their hands intertwined, their lives the same. Forever.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This was supposed to be it. What was the point of calling yourself a god if you could die?
The house’s wreckage surrounded a body that lay, unmoving, on the old wooden floors of the castle’s main room. Once a ballroom, the space had been redesigned with more walls to separate the layout and create smaller, more livable areas, like a library, a sitting room, a music room, a conservatory. The castle had not been enormous, though was certainly too big for just one person to live in.
“It… would be awfully lonely…”
The body had not moved, after that first day, in nine months. Not that the body had been counting. Quietly, as if from a distance through the muffling sound of rain, there were footsteps. A form knelt beside the body. Augustus could feel the warm touch of a hand on his shoulder, a gesture meant for comfort, although his eyes remained unfocused.
‘You caused quite a mess.’ He said, lifting his gaze from the demon, surveying the scene. Curtains and blankets lay in shredded piles about the room. Broken dishes littered the kitchen, shattered vases and other antiques the living room. Once well kept plants and flowers had dried up, rotting away in their own chipped or crumbled pots. The glass table in the living room was now spiderwebbed with cracks, black splotches like droplets of India ink tainted and smeared over its surface. The once pristine library of books was now an unrepairable pile of wooden planks that had once been bookshelves, books with the pages ripped out and their covers ripped off. Scorch marks on the rugs and the wooden floor were terribly evident.
Augustus did not respond. After a while, the hand slid from the demon’s shoulder, and pressed gently, but firmly, to his chest, as if he was searching for a heartbeat. He found three separate ones, beating slowly, irregularly, out of sync. He frowned. This touch finally made Augustus’s eyes snap open, and he stared up into the face that loomed over him, setting his jaw.
‘It’s been nine months. If you don’t eat, you’ll die. Don’t you feel sick?’ He pulled his hand away and sat back, cross-legged on the floor.
“Tell me who did it.”
‘…’ At first, he shook his head, like he wasn’t going to respond. Finally, reluctantly, seeing the way Augustus took shallow breaths, like he was in pain, dying already, he said, ‘It was his family. They conspired against him. August, you had to know this would happen. He was the god of chaos. He wanted to destroy the sun. These stories always end this way.’ The demon did not sit up, instead only rolled over onto his side, digging his nails into his fleshy palms, a bad habit he had never been able to break.
The other man pulled his knees to his chest and sighed. ‘You can’t wait like this. He’s never coming back to you. Even when he is reborn, he will be a completely different man. He won’t remember you. You have to move on. Reach out to your sister, or your friends. Please. I don’t want you to die. I love you, you know?’
Well, this warranted a response. At the words, Augustus laughed, something low and dark and humorless. “Fuck you.” He said, and what followed was silence. It seemed like he was out of energy, and so the other man was startled when Augustus slammed his hand into the floor beneath him, with enough force that he heard the old, sturdy wood splinter.
“Fuck you,” he said again, and this time the demon did sit up, turning his thin, narrowed eyes on the other man. Ordinarily, they were black orbs, void of all light, but now they glowed with a bright white fire, an uncontained blaze of rage and pain and grief. “This is your fault.” He spit, and the other man flinched.
‘I did nothing.’ And the other man was confident about this. He had only done his job.
“You could have stopped it. You could have brought him back to me, you didn’t have to take him. I called for you, I begged for his life. You could have taken me. I wanted to be in his place, to suffer for him. I begged you. Fuck you.”
‘That isn’t how it works, and you know it. I can’t change fate. I didn’t want you to die, I don’t want anyone to die. I did what I had to.’ The man scooted himself back from the body that was beginning to emerge from its catatonic state. Disuse of its limbs made it slow to start, but he knew not to underestimate Augustus. He stood up to back away, thinking better of his position on the floor.
“Fuck you. I don’t ever want to see you again. I hate you. Fuck you. Get out. Get out. Get out!” The rage still poured over, and before the man knew it, Augustus was on him. The demon’s claws were sharp and hooked like a cat’s, and they shredded the man’s skin to ribbons. He had turned to flee at the first sign of palpable anger, but he had not been fast enough, and the demon had caught his arm, and slammed his head into the room’s brick wall, and then the door. Augustus could feel the thick, warm blood that pooled from the puncture wounds in the man’s arm, where his claws sank in and did not release.
Throwing open the door, Augustus finally let go of the man and shoved, sending him tumbling slightly down the hilly walkway the castle sat beside. The man only looked at him in return, and then turned away. With a plea in his voice, he said only, ‘Call your sister. She wants to see you.’ And then he was gone.
Augustus only watched, his body shaking with anger and exertion. When he turned back into his fortress, he locked the door behind him. With unseeing eyes, he gazed in front of himself, finding his place on the floor amidst the wreckage. His phone had long died, had long been dropped and stepped on and crushed. If he couldn’t talk to Apophis, he couldn’t talk to anyone.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Without any sort of sustenance, it took him four years to die. First, he felt the hunger pains. Then it was the sickness that took over, his pale skin growing even paler, clammy, cold to the touch. The dizziness and nausea that came with anemia, the coughing up of blood. He ignored it all. To him, now, it felt like nothing.
He withered away, going from a slender figure to skin and bones, hollowed out cheeks, sunken eyes. He could not sleep. Even if he desired it now, he could not eat. Augustus closed his eyes. He wasn’t sure if he could even speak, now, his mouth long since dried, his voice lost to the shadows. He knew what death felt like. It was just usually much quicker than this.
When it began, all he felt was warmth. The feeling was a comfort after how cold he had grown, and it spread over his body like a thick wool blanket. Soon enough, the warmth grew hotter, and hotter, until he felt the black flames around him licking his bare skin, eating away his clothes, his skin. He felt it all, as he faded to ash, as shadows ripped his skin apart, until he was nothing to the world anymore. It was as painful as it always was, white hot and indescribable in its intensity.
‘I wish you well.’
In the blackness, there stood a man. His hair was long and silken and white, and his frame was clad in a traditional kimono, black and gray. Prayer beads were held between his pressed together hands. The man stared, and the demon stared back. For the first time since it all, the first time in four years, Augustus sobbed. Until there was no breath left in his lungs, until his tears had dried up, until the clawing pain in his chest subsided, he wept.
And the man, like he had done countless times before, both with the demon and with others, held him. He held him until it was over, until the shaking body in his arms was just a silent figure, an empty shell of a thing. He stroked the demon’s hair.
“I’m sorry,” The demon said, and in response the man said only, ‘You will always be forgiven. I hold no grudges.’
After a length of silence – this place had no concept of time, was beyond what time was – the man released the demon.
‘Do you know what your name will be?’ He asked, knowing that this was a creature he could not hold on to, a creature that was beyond his own realm. They could spend brief time together, and they had become close friends over the millenia. But the demon did not belong to him.
Slowly, the demon stood now, an enormous mass of boney limbs and thin gray skin that dripped with a sickly smelling, viscous substance. Hair as long as the man’s, just as silken but black as the void around him, floated around him as if in a sea of black water. Curling horns topped his head, and his eyes glowed with their eerie whiteness in the dark. He pondered the question. Then, turning away, he faced the pinprick of light in the nothingness that he knew so well.
“Call me Legion.” The demon said to the man, and at this the man smiled. He raised a hand to bid the creature goodbye, and watched him leave, the demon’s form dissolving into the small white light, a hundred thousand miles away from him.
‘See you next time, Legion.’