Myrmidon had no intention other than sending the children on their way; on a path that would take them as far from the imminent destruction as possible, if it was at all possible to find a clearing, a ground of lighting, where anything can appear – where they could stand defiantly unconcealed, not in hiding, against the darkness, held back and at bay. Naturally, this was not a spatial consideration but one of time – both the time to hold out and the general preservation of time as notches on the mortal belt. It was necessary that Myrmidon ensured its forward march and that it was not swallowed up in a uniform stream of nothingness, of timelessness of eternity. Yes, it can be counted “1…2…3…” with steady interval and punctuated by exact measurement but this shows only statistical time and not its poetry, the syncopation of life. For if you graphed your life in relation to time and how it felt, relatively speaking, and how it soared and dipped, shrieked and lowed, you would discover that it is surely not flat and linear but wild with anticipation, revelation and memorialization; past, present, future. Myrmidon only had to send them in a direction in which he hoped would be unmolested, in which they could avoid the menace; until he drove the messenger, Nuntius, into the last of them and twisted and the report would be sent back to whatever depth where they were headquartered and be read aloud “Myrmidon says No more.” It was to be the great battle of infinity versus eternity. Infinity concerns man, while eternity neglects him; for it is that eternity is timelessness, while infinity is time with no end. But, though it may seem counter-intuitive, man needs infinity for his own beginnings and ends. A man may anticipate the end and know that it must come, but never with clarity that does not presuppose the infinite succession of time, only the vague premonition of his end. Infinity may not have an end, yet it is replete with its own innumerable subsets of starts and stops, births and deaths of the lifecycle. Infinity divided by the beginning and end of one life, of two lives, three lives…thousands of lives…millions of lives…billions of lives…is still infinity. Eternity, the unrestricted empty set where nothing ever happens and which lurks below every other set, is a paradox and cannot be divided. Thus, it cannot be occupied. Now, its domain is closing in with the power and speed of trap-jaw mandibles.
There had not been much resistance to move through the city toward the other. The wave had not yet crashed down but Myrmidon was standing under its shadow. The few opponents he had met were alone or small in number and either armed with improvisation or not at all, though they attacked him just the same. The sun had since abandoned the sky as much as denizens had abandoned the streets and the city. However, Myrmidon felt that they would return, once they turned, as seemed to be their end, swallowed up and then spit out, to churn in the gyre.
Myrmidon moved through the south market and toward the Beggar’s Quarter, closest to the entrance to the City of Asterion and the most direct path from the palace tunnels. Over time the poor of the city had congregated to that particular subsection, from whom it derived its name, due to, pragmatically, proximity to one of the markets where they could scavenge and ply their trade of supplication; and, secondly, due to otherworldly considerations, the closeness of the entrance to the labyrinth and, thus, the Temple of Iapetus.
As their days were filled with no Sisyphean distractions – in other words, the hurdles and up-hills of cyclical task and completion – but only linear accomplishment – or, the extension of their days by the procurement of the barest necessities and evasion of privation’s spotlight – so it was that they took as beggars in the market but gave of the Self, their alms, in the monument to moments, that is, mortal life. Therefore, while others of a pious nature and of differing worldviews may look at the afterlife and the eternity of the soul as the gift and mortal life as a trial of desert; here it would seem that eternity, without time, is a place where nothing happened and no measure could be taken so piety must judge itself in light of a mortal rubric. The bodily vessel is the only carriage and the equestrian spirit be damned it would not pull its load to the highest heavens.
Nuntius picked up the rear, dragging behind and hanging from Myrmidon’s grip, needling the ground as if Myrmidon were back in his stone chamber and engaged in his late-night tourneys. It sang a plaintive song for those who had fallen by its sting, those it anticipated to entertain and those it had not the voice to save. Shoulders drooped and head dropped, Myrmidon passed by the last of the market stalls. The entrance to Asterion stood within his sight.
Turning his head to the side as he brushed strands of dark hair away from his eyes, Myrmidon caught two other pairs spying from behind an overturned stall. Their eyes plied their trade – they were raised as beggars and their look was one of searching for sanctuary. A boy and a girl who resembled one another enough so that they could convincingly be named blood, but perhaps it was the same masks of filth they wore on their unwashed faces that made them appear consanguineous.
Come out, Myrmidon ordered the children, It is not me who will hurt you. The eye of the storm may provide a haven for the time being but trouble is on the move.
Myrmidon was regarded with a peculiar irreverence produced by the mix of a young mind and surviving by one’s wits. The girl, standing full-up, replied, The only thing moving is you and your mouth and the only trouble we see is hanging from your hand.
You know who I am?
The boy, who measured shorter than his companion, attempted to dull the sharp words of the girl with a Yes, my prince.
And I will have you know, Myrmidon said, grinning at the girl, that the trouble with me starts before the sword begins.
The city proper spread out organically with ways and means coming out of and connecting marketplaces and quarters of living. If one stood atop certain roofs they could see the layout, unplanned but not without pattern – much like the lives it mimicked. But within the approximate center of the living city lay the ornamental and sacred city. This city, the City of Asterion, was planned with the exactitude of a cartographer’s wet dream.
The city, as viewed from above, was composed of three spirals with the most hallowed temple of the people in its center. There was a single path, thus one would not become lost, but, for the unfamiliar, the tracing back and forth was devastatingly confusing. The curvature was so slight that it would sneak up on a person and he questioned his navigation for having become turned around, though his memory swore never was there a turn and only one course. If viewed drawn on a map the beauty of design could be appreciated, holistically; if walked by the initiated it was meditative; if infiltrated by the unwelcomed it was claustrophobic and hopeless. It made no attempt at hiding or subtlety; so differentiated it was from its surroundings. The widths of its walls accommodated barely more than one man’s shoulders (perhaps those of a child, as well) in file; it was built with obsidian-lined walls, casting mirror images; and it had no signs of dwelling, of habitat – it was a path, meant to pass through and it was uniform in objective.
In the center, at the co-mingling of the spirals, there was a temple dedicated to mortal life. Or, more accurately, a temple dedicated to the Titan Iapetus – father of Prometheus, creator of mankind, vessel of mortal life. While the punishment of Prometheus is so often told, the fate of Iapetus is mostly passed over. Already out of favor following the Titanomachy and the Olympian victory, Iapetus was in a precarious position and viewed with suspicion. After Prometheus molded man – adulterated substance in the pure form of the gods – Iapetus too was held accountable for the action of his son. For, why else would Prometheus produce that bastard creature if not to give account to and make actual his father’s vision of beginnings and ends?
The Olympians summoned Iapetus, already hurt by the sight of Prometheus bound, and charged him less with conspiring but rather with inspiring. Hephaestus came to Iapetus, wielding his tools, and separated his testicles from underneath his phallus. They were launched to the ground below, landing at the sight of the temple and from which grew a massive oak, taller and wider than seemed natural of its kind. The temple, a great room, was built around this tree, its roots infiltrating the floor and its branches accommodated by an opening in the roof.
To this place Myrmidon would lead his assailants. First Myrmidon was to stifle the enemy with the tight and winding and then draw them out into the openness of the temple and its grounds, where he would be vulnerable to their masses but their masses vulnerable to his sting – the reminder of the will to live and the regeneration of mortal life.