It was the darkest day of the year. The sky was draped with countless constellations, each spelling a different story. Mount Olympus reached into this jewelled drapery, causing wrinkles that recast events and refashioned lives. This is one such episode.
In the beginning, there were three parents— the sun, the earth, and the moon. Each gave birth to men, women and androgynous, respectively. A human had four legs, four arms, and a single head with two faces looking at opposite directions.
For a while, the presence of humans did not ruffle the gods. On the contrary, the gods enjoyed the tributes and burnt offerings from human devotees who flocked around their temples daily.
However, the humans increased in power with each passing day, and their limbs endowed them with great strength and speed. One day, they decided to scale Mount Olympus and overthrow the gods. This prompted the two-legged entities into action, and they gathered to face this menace.
The throne room was tense as the king of the gods thoughtfully scratched his beard with his master bolt. It had been a few hours since he announced that he had the perfect solution for their problem. Nonetheless, Zeus was lost in reveries filled with nymphs and dryads and failed to pick up some godly impatient cues from the others.
Ares, the god of war, has had enough already. He proposed to obliterate the puny mortals but retracted once he realized that he would have no one to impose his war games on. Visibly upset, he resumed scowling at everything in his line of sight.
Hades, who was surprisingly invited to Olympus and offered a seat to tackle this adversity, provided Ares with a solution. The gods can kill humankind, and Ares can continue playing war in the underworld. Ares’ excited ‘yes’ was drowned by a collective ‘no’ from the rest of the Olympians. There was no way they would help Hades build his growing kingdom by exiling the already powerful humans there. A distressed Hades continued to brood in the shadows.
Hephaestus, the blacksmith god, chimed in helpfully— kill all the humans and replace them with automatons. This offer deeply unsettled his wife, Aphrodite. She barraged him with her concerns about whether their offerings would be just as good or just as hygienic. And most importantly— would the automatons look good but not too good. A dumbfounded Hephaestus gave up and carried on with his tinkering.
The gods continued to mull over their predicament. The humans can be trounced, but that would mean no more fawning, olive oil or cake every Monday, which was simply unimaginable. If they were not put in their place, then no cake and the gods stand the chance of being ousted from Olympus, which was blasphemous.
A few motivating death stares from Hera, and some severe ruminations later, Zeus came up with a viable option. He suggested cutting the humans into two halves and condemning them to spend their lifetimes searching for the other half. This would sow confusion and distract them from attempting to depose the gods. It would also double the human population and thereby, the offerings presented to the gods. And if they dared to step out of line again, they will still have a pair of arms and legs left which can be halved once more. Zeus rubbed his palms in glee, thunderstruck by his brilliant comeback.
The gods sat stock-still, and something resembling faith was restored in their self-declared leader. Hours passed by as a slew of compliments accommodated Zeus’ ego.
The gods beamed from ear to ear when they heard a knock accompanied by loud garbles— the humans were just in time for their surgery. As Zeus sliced them into two halves, Apollo sewed them up into single-faced beings with a lone pair of arms and legs.
The night was long and dreary as the threshold of the gods reverberated with cries of soul-crushing anguish and pain.
A shock surged through her body, and when she looked at it, there’s two legs and two hands, instead of the usual four. Ophelia’s person wasn’t there anymore. ‘We might’ve had arguments and our moments, but can I survive without them? Could I transition from being we to an I?’ She thought to herself.
All I have to do is think of them; she thought. The moments we shared, the arguments we had, and the way we made up for it. Sometimes we wished to run away from each other, tear us apart, but neither of us could have thought of this, could we?
“Have you found yours yet?” She looked up to see Adonis, towering over her. She knew what he meant, but she still asked, “Found what?” The words weren’t even out that the memories started to slip away. Remember the moments, the arguments, all of the times you’ve had. She constantly thought. Only, moments and arguments with whom?
“Your soulmate, of course! The one you got separated from!” Ophelia looked around to see confused faces, and understood what they were thinking— I have a soulmate but who were they? Where do we, or rather I, begin to even look for them?
“Zeus separated us, for we planned to topple Mount Olympus. Everyone’s soulmate was torn from their body. Some have already been found! It’s almost as if they were meant to be, you know?” Ophelia had zoned out by now. She saw two people rejoicing— crying into each other’s arms, hugging, but most importantly, they looked content. Was she not going to feel like that till she met hers? What if she could never find them? Would she spend eternity just wallowing in pity? Before she knew it, she was engulfed in darkness.
When her eyes opened again, Ophelia was in a dark room with no one around her. When someone finally did enter, it was Ramona, who started to ramble on as soon as she saw Ophelia awake. Ophelia had to ask Ramona to slow down to understand what she was saying.
“Adonis was explaining what Zeus had done, and you fainted. All of us were scared; we started to think that maybe this happens because of the withdrawal. When we found out you were still breathing, we put you to rest in my house since it was the closest,” she spoke, and then turned around to water her plants before continuing. “You have to take care of yourself. After all, all of us have been separated from our soulmates. We have to look after ourselves, right?” When Ramona turned around, Ophelia had already left.
As she saw others either find their soulmates or feel weak, crying to someone else about their situation, it started to sink in. Just because some people found their soulmate right next to them, it doesn’t mean it’ll be the same for everyone. Zeus might have thrown hers to the edge of the earth, and she didn’t know if she could look that far for them. As the sun set, she found herself tired— tired of having to wonder about being alone once more. That night before she went to sleep, her head was filled with thoughts of worry and doubt.
Ophelia struggled to get out of the house the next morning, or the one that followed that one. The week that followed was monotonous, with soulmate-less people surrounding her. Whenever she looked at the people who’d found their soulmates, she felt sad. She wondered if it was the same for her soulmate. She knew she had shared those mundane meals, those trickles of rain, that onslaught of fresh air with someone in the past. She remembered the happiness it brought her, but she remembered the person no more.
Another week flew by, and it became easier for her to get out of bed. She stopped seeing the people surrounding her as soulmate-less people but instead her friends. Eating a meal became lesser of a burden than it was in the initial days. Talking to someone wasn’t a task anymore. She felt more and more normal as the days passed.
While she was feeling more and more like herself during the day, some nights she felt powerless. She would dream of a meadow, filled with beautiful flowers, bright sunlight, and a faint voice which she felt like she recognised. She would wake up only to find herself in complete darkness, frozen with fear right back on her hopeless, tiring quest.
A few months after the calamity, the sunsets brought her to peace. The utter panic of having lost another day without a soulmate went away as she started to think about everything that she did have, surrounding her. As she stared at another sunset, she couldn’t help but think out loud, “I wonder if my soulmate realises what I realise now.” Ramona stared at her, clearly wanting an explanation.
“There are people who’ve found their soulmates, and they look so happy—as if somebody served them their favourite food. But not having a soulmate made me realise that if I keep waiting for my person to show up, I might die trying. After all, who knows where they are? Sitting here, though, and watching the sunset every day, for the past month, fills me with content. It makes me realise I can enjoy something minute like the movement of the sun on my own. I wonder if they feel the same, that they can survive another day, another week, or even a month on their own.”
Ophelia stood up and saw the sun dip graciously into the valley. For the first time, she was not afraid of the sunset; all she could feel was contentment. She did not lose her other half. Rather, she found herself. She might never find her soulmate, and she will never have her old life back. She might run into them some time and may even get to keep them forever. In the meantime, she had these little sunsets that checked in on her at the end of each day. That thought brought a smile to her face— the descending night wasn’t as dark anymore. She had nothing to fear, for she was finally home.
Written by Deepthi Priyanka C and Kaavya Azad for MTTN
Featured Image by eden-saga.com