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Thursday, August 20, 2015

I AM SIRIUS by Crystal Collier

My feet touch down on the ground, and I’m grateful for the solid earth. I glance back to the sky, the heavenly beacon I’ve left shining in my absence—a guide to my place in the great black once my month-long sojourn on earth ends. But for now, I’m free.

And there’s only one place I want to go.

I’ve had so many names through the centuries: Yoonir, Sigu Tolo, Tishtrya, An-Nahm, Tianlang, Tenro, and Canicula, but my favorite is Sirius—Sir if I don’t like you. Rius if I do.

Tonight I’m in a Rius mood. And who could blame me? After eleven months in the black heart of nowhere, I’m ready to break out a keg and party like it’s the end of time. Instead I’ll go around making plants wilt, weakening men, and my personal favorite, turning on the ladies. It’s my animal magnetism, which is ironic considering how many people associate my name with a dog.

A dog.

Loyal, fierce, blood-thirsty. Everything I’m not. Everything the goddess Ishtar wanted me to be.

I breathe in the pollen-laden wind, the scent of ripe corn and hay filling me with nostalgia. The satisfaction of a bounteous harvest after months of work. Good, honest work. The kind I miss followed by festivals and partying late into the night. I’m definitely primed for the partying, but there’s one thing I have to do first.

The “stars” holding my place wink down at me: Don’t be gone too long.

I give them the finger. “Go burn yourself. I’m never coming back.” I say that every year, and every year I’m sucked back into that hole of an existence by the invisible leash I feel even now tethered to my immortal heart. There is no such thing as true freedom. But if I could, I would escape.

According to mythology, I am a star, a whole collection of stars, a constellation. I don’t believe in mythology.

My soles scuff across asphalt, a wide black path leading me home. The night is quiet, except for the chirp of insects. The houses I pass are silent. Their windows are giant glassy eyes witnessing my sober ascent before the fun can begin: A man condemned to light the sky for eternity after offending a lesser god by passing her up for his wife. A man who cared about crops more than making eyes at pretty, petty things.

Ishtar, called me a dog. You know what they say about a woman scorned—especially one who presides over war? She thought she had me trapped, stuck out there in the black and all to herself, but I’m a resourceful guy. Nine centuries in, I found myself an ambrosia blade and slit her throat.

One celestial war later, I was back behind bars. But, as it turns out, the big guy up there really didn’t like his bratty little goddess, so he granted me one month off every year.

Source
Wind whistles between the metal bars guarding the cemetery. A gentle shove and the gates swing wide, admitting me into a sea of mausoleums and floral bouquets. Plants shrivel as I pass. It’s why I never bring flowers, though I would if I could. A whole field of them. Petunias and daffodils, forget-me-nots and daisies—all her favorites.

The tombs shrink in grandeur and grow older as I progress, until I’m standing before a little hill, a single white pinnacle beckoning me.

I take a deep breath, exhale, and move.

Nineteen hundred years. So much can change in nineteen hundred years. I’ve rebuilt her grave once every century since winning my freedom, and although the land has altered much in that time, her place is always the same. Wind and wear have smoothed the carved flowers on her stone to indistinct bumps, but the symbol of her name remains—the half crescent with underlining squiggles. My moon over the sea.

My fingers graze the weathered stone.

Rhea took a boy who flirted with anything (including goddesses, much to my detriment,) and turned him into a respected man, a pillar of the community. And then she paid for it with her life.

I kiss my fingers and press them to the faded stone flowers. “Sleep peacefully, my kuvalya.” My waterlily.

The issue with living forever is that I won’t see her again. Not in this life, not in the next. Never have the chance to hold her, to apologize, to promise she lives in my heart always and that I have no regrets. Except I do have one.

That our life together was cut short. Because of me. Which is why I’m going to get drunk out of my gourd and spend the next thirty days not caring about anything but becoming oblivious.

A dog whistle pierces my ears. Its pitch pulsates down my spine, resonating with the marrow in my bones, synchronizing with the vibration of my very atoms. I drop to all fours. My muscles lock. I twitch to break free, but it’s useless.

“Hey dog boy,” a sultry voice grazes the back of my ear.

My fingers dig into the dirt, aching to turn on the voice and demolish its source. She shouldn’t be here. She’s dead, and yet I know that voice from the heart of my cold nightmares. “You’re not real,” I hiss though a locked jaw.

She circles me, translucent skirt revealing the length of her legs. I glare at the ground.

“Oh, I’m very much real, and very much in the mood for vengeance.” Her final word lingers like the jangle of a rattlesnake, pulling my gaze to the source of danger—ultra-white teeth between crimson lips.

I look back at the grave before me. She had her vengeance ages ago, along with my desire to live. “How are you here, Ishtar?”

She sits on my Rhea’s gravestone, crimson nails curling over olive skin as she crosses her arms. A curtain of ebony hair silhouettes her shapely form, emphasizing the smallness of her bustier and width of exposed bosoms. She leans forward to give me a better view. “I thought you believed in reincarnation, dog boy.”

Any man would find this she-demon irresistible. Any man but me. I roll my eyes and focus on a tree in my periphery.

“Every thousand years I am born again in mortal form.” Her voice is like ink, dripping in my ear, drowning my brain.

“How wonderful for you,” I mutter, and then the last two words sink in: mortal form. She’s mortal. She’s vulnerable.

If I could break free from this paralysis…

She laughs. “Soon I will ascend to my place on high.” She points to the heavens. “I wanted you to know before I leave that your efforts to end me were futile. Oh, and your brother’s bloodline, the people you check up on year after year? They are going to die. Very soon. All of them.”

Rage surges through me. It pounds in my head like a drum, calling for strength, tremoring down to my toes. Though my body no longer possess blood, the immortal substance that fills my veins burns like magma, igniting my being.

“And this?” Ishtar pats Rhea’s headstone, “This will be crushed and the entire plot of earth turned into a cesspool.”

My fists are locked. Something cracks inside me, like my veins have broken open and leaked the inferno pulsing through me. Fire throbs from my knuckles into my core, barely contained by my skin. It simmers, liquidifying everything inside me, eating away my organs and replacing them with molten fury. The essence of a star.

“And the best part?” Ishtar lifts a hand to the sky, cupping the light that holds my place. “You will watch me do it, powerless to stop me like the leashed dog you are.”

Ishtar is fixated on my place in the sky, oblivious to the transformation occurring right in front of her. I am burning. My skin crackles and I release the last stands of restraint. I will never, NEVER let her harm another innocent. She will not enslave another person so long as I live. This. Ends. Now.

I growl and blinding light breaks through my skin. The grass beneath me shrivels and blackens, turning to dust. Cold heat rips free and I scream, exploding into a billion pieces. The night is nothing but light, freedom, and consuming wrath.

I am a star.

***

I wake to the dawn, the sun barely free of the horizon. With a gasp, I feel my arms, solid and human. I sigh in relief.

Blackened earth stretches out around me, all except for a star shape circling Rhea’s grave. A sliver of crimson fingernail remains on the stone, singed across the top as if burned free by a blow torch.

Ishtar is dead. For now.

Another thousand years and she’ll be back, as conniving and vicious as ever. And I’ll be here, waiting for her, ready to hunt her down like the dog she claims I am.

I am Sirius.



Crystal Collier is a young adult author who pens dark fantasy, historical, and romance hybrids. She can be found practicing her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. You can find her on her HERE.