A Thief in the Caucasus
Prometheus hadn’t seen a son so close in eons. He spoke words from Armenia, a tongue which demanded much from the throat.
Centuries had crawled by on broken kneecaps, their slug trail smearing with the aureated ichor of his savaged liver. An everlasting heart ticked off each passing second as preying vultures wheeled over mountain and manacle, high above his sculpted children and far below his foregone friend.
Prometheus was a Titan, true, but his parentage did not exempt him from pain. Funny enough, healing hurt him worst of all. His celestial skin screeching in agony as it was eternally sutured, reknitting only to be torn to shreds, to forever untether the innards of punished Prometheus.
The deity never thought things would be thus. Remember: it was foresight, his facility. Not prophecy. There was still room for surprise, infinite twists. Nor did Prometheus anticipate regret, a metastasizing despondency for the squandering instinct of humans. He had gifted them with godhead, and they, well… whispers sailed on the long winds of Zephyrus, murmurings of slaughter and stupidity. Prometheus craved for his creations to transcend their elders, not become them.
In that tall quiet, he could hear himself mending, the squelch of generation. The prisoner stared upwards and was met by a dense bulwark of cloud, glass through which Prometheus could no longer look.
Heaven was dead to him, and he dead to Earth.
From the stratus, Prometheus silhouetted the skull-born daughter of his jealous jailer. When he fashioned the very first people, she inspired into their hollows a shrivel of her infinity, the instant of a mortal lifetime. And yet, here he was, alone in his durance.
But Prometheus knew better, as did Pallas Athena, goddess of good sense: Quick life and thinking fire were not the same.
Also, she was family, wasn’t she? Though, if Prometheus was honest, there was a time when Zeus would jovially call him-
So violently did Prometheus start, that the crag beneath his bound back rumbled. “Woahwoahwoah, now, hold it a minute! Don’t get scared, fella, I’m just on a ramble like you, and I got exci- are you… wait, you’re… love the mother, who did this to you?”
“The last one whose voice I heard.”
Prometheus hadn’t seen a son so close in eons. He spoke words from Armenia, a tongue which demanded much from the throat. The illuminant in his hand flickered, flaming memories of crime into Prometheus’s petrified mind.
“I’m sorry, but I think… do I know you?” The man unshouldered his parcel, head cocked and curious, eyeballs dilated and dancing.
“You are intoxicated.”
“Oh, yeah, mister. I spied some mushrooms on the way up and-”
“Mushrooms! You would warp your faculties, endanger your life, misspend your inheritance? More fool me, I suppose, an optimistic idiot. You, my sorrow, sleep in the ass’s ear-”
“‘Want some?’ Bah! Certainly not!”
An impudent shrug from a petulant boy, followed by three words carved to cut, an adolescent’s art.
“You know best.”
I once did, thought Prometheus.
“Very well. Place the fungus into my mouth.”
“Ah-hah! First think, guy, then speak. Measure seven times, chop once.”
Prometheus smirked, in spite of himself.
He watched as the outdoorsman reached into his pack and produced a pod. The pilgrim’s satisfied grin faded, his breath even and huffy, surface aswim.
Prometheus cleared his throat.
“Oh, forgive me in great quantities. Amaneem, this shit is hitting hard, on my father’s sun, I can scarcely move or draw a breath.”
“In that regard, sir, we are the same.”
“Yeah, mister, you’re all chained up and… and… and why do I feel like I put you here?”
“Bring me your medicine, young one, and be not sad.”
Prometheus opened his jaws, oiled well by years of wailing. As the traveler neared, Prometheus felt a stirring in the nerves of his wasted body, electricity thrumming along sleeping veins. Excitement, newness, fire. Prometheus harkened back to that night on Olympus, the shouts, the lightning, the chaos. Each step of his escape was sure and straight, the empyrean flame scorching his cheeks. The Titan could conjure the wonderstruck faces of his newborns at will, the memory of it a sanctuary. He pondered now if his own visage projected that selfsame awe, if this man was seeing what Prometheus himself saw.
“Really chew the thing, grind it up to allow for-”
Dying fingers touched deathless lips and shot back, the toadstool deposited.
“-understanding,” finished Prometheus.
Gasping, the Armenian echoed, “Understanding.”
Time went, and they said goodbye to it together. Prometheus and his orphan spoke as Selene traded places with Helios. It was daytime, charioting toward noon, when the vultures cawed and ushered the duo into sobriety.
“Go, their feasting is ugly.”
The rover tried to lift the shackles binding Prometheus and failed.
“Do not waste your strength.”
“You can’t try?”
“No god can undo the jinx of another.”
Prometheus observed his companion thinking, an engine fueled by hallowed heat.
“We’re about the same size, aren’t we?”
“And I reckon they’d appreciate a new bill of fare, a bit of fresh liver.”
“Oof, cease your voice, already, mister.”
“Please, I beseech you to fly, I’ve grown accustomed to their torments and-”
“Look, the river won’t bring a log every time, got it?”
His eyes were no longer dilated, had stopped their tipsy dance. Prometheus saw in them a respite, brief, and hope, sprawling.
“You gave me an existence. Let me give you a day.”
“But, my dear, no one can nullify the work of a god!”
“Wrong! You said no god.”
They regarded each other, two thieves in the Caucasus.
“Tell me, Prometheus: do I look like a god?”
The incarcerated couldn’t answer, his chest was too full, pure inferno, but he would have said no, and that was the happiest truth. Their bondage of him had not been in vain, the stings forgotten, his plunder a boon.
Prometheus never imagined anything like this, but remember: it was foresight, his facility. Not prophecy. There was still room for surprise.
Robert Nazar Arjoyan was born into the Armenian diaspora of Glendale, California. Aside from an arguably ill-advised foray into rock n roll bandery during his late teens, literature and movies were the vying forces of his life. Naz graduated from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and now works as an author and filmmaker. Find him at www.arjoyan.com.