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a merciful hell

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We did not bemoan our Fate.

We were the firstborn of the darkness, us Furies three. Born of the blood spilled in the first war, long forgotten; born in the abyss and left there. No sunlight touched our feathers, no mother caressed our skin. We had eyes that did not see kindness, arms that did not embrace love. We did not feel love.

And we did not bemoan our Fate.

We were made to punish for what other mantle is left for the children of war but to punish those who create it? Those who made war learned to rue it in our hands: the masters of the war above (made, struggled, and won, without our influence) did not turn their eyes to our machinations. Those who came to us were given what we knew: darkness, pain, and endless toil.

And we did not bemoan our Fate.

So things went, and so things went, for time feels immaterial for beings such as us. There is no sun in our darkness, no moon. There is no indication of the time that passes, not for creatures such as us. We do not eat, we do not sleep. We do not age. There is nothing to bind us but darkness, nothing to interrupt us but the intrusion of a new and unwelcome visitor. Those who come to us learn to regret it, drowned between our fingers. We do not know gentleness, kindness. We have never known such, though mourners who come to us mention such foreign terms.

And we did not bemoan their Fate.

It is the rule of humans to fall into the pit or the valley; the valley is beyond us. The doors are locked, and we cannot escape our erstwhile placement. There is no judgment we can offer, no pity that warms our hearts. Their mourning ends soon, replaced with resentment, with prayers for Gods we have never seen. They shake the doors, they cry, and sooner or later, they turn as vicious as we are. There is no love here, no peace, and it is all too quick to forget such things.

And we did not bemoan their Fate.

Those who come to us become wild, matted fur and violent-eyed. Their claws attempt to rake our skin, but our tough hide, made of time immortal, does not allow such intrusion. We hiss, they attempt to scratch. We flutter our wings. They fly away. Such is how the time is passed in this hell. The world is short, nasty, and brutish in all ways. There are no tears, only shrieks.

And that is how things have always been. What point is there in weeping when all one has ever known is hell?

Until the arrival of the most unusual girl.

She is Orpheus, or so she says. Come to bring the dead back to life - an impossibility. We curse this newcomer, no different than we have done with thousands of other newcomers. She is not special. Many have come here wailing of some old soul left them with only mockery in our hearts.

"No!" We shout, and we clasp our claws over our ears.

Please, sings the girl with a voice so sweet that it hurts to hear. Please offer me this succor, for a wife whose life has been cut short, through nothing but pity, through nothing but dire Fate--

"No!" We shout, and we clasp our claws over our ears. We do not wish to hear such. Fate cannot be changed. If Fate were so insignificant, the doors to our abode would not be locked. If Fate were not the unending justice of the universe, we would not be born to such a cavern. The endless hordes push up against us, and we push back, our tongues and our teeth shrieking our discontent.

Please, cruel furies, the girl sings. For the love of a girl, please, great furies, let me pass by -- let me find her in the darkness, in the deep despairing gloom --

"No! We shriek, but the music is lovely. We want to smash the lyre. We do not. We cannot smash such a beautiful thing, the end of all such. But the notes are lovely, the first loveliness we have ever known. The damned surrender to them, put their heavy claws down. The damned do not voice their no. "No," we shriek, but it is fainter than before.

The Orpheus girl turns toward us, her eyes dark with both love and despair. We have never known the first but we can see it, the warmth of hope, somehow not drowned out as ours have been. We notice, for the first time, the absence in ourselves, for it is easy to feel what love must feel like in the path of her fingers on the lyre: the strings shake as our souls shake, moved by the absence of an unknown kindness.

Please, furies, Orpheus whispers, her voice no more than a whisper. We can all but see her Eurydice: her hair dark, her eyes darker. She is not here, we think, for what soul could not be moved by such music? Were we her beloved, we would be running to her, our claws scrapping those fingers in passion. Take us,  we want to whisper, but we do not.

Instead, we whisper yes, yes. We whisper anything. We lay down, overcome by the fearsome song of the woman in love. It is ecstasy. And, in turn, it is agony, for what could an overwhelming show of love be but proof of the absence of it all our lives? We weep, our tears a mix of both sadness and joy. We want nothing but for Orpheus to continue. We cannot handle the idea of such music ceasing. Nothing in our lives has ever ceased.

Please, whispers Orpheus, her lyre set aflame. Please.

And though we do not wish it to end, we cannot deny her.

We rip open the gates without calm. The keys that had kept them locked bend easily in our fingers for the first and last time. Orpheus passes through and plays us music in celebration. We dance for her, as we have never before.

Please, we whisper, play for us. Do not let such sweet songs pass away from us.

But of course, the woman, so consumed by her love, journeys on. Her music grows fainter. And we are once again, alone in the dark.

And it is then and only then that we do bemoan our fate.

Desperately, we sing to one another in uneven, rarely used songs; it is something new between us. But it keeps the song playing, if in a different key, and that is enough.