It’s the pain that wakes him. It’s night, not much longer till dawn, and he can not sleep through the white hot, swelling pain in his belly. The moon - waxing or waning he can’t remember - shines enough for him to see. Where he expects flaming swords to be piercing his stomach, he sees nothing. But the pain just intensifies. Bile sloshes against his uvula. He cries, begging the gods for it to end. He tries to double up, to somehow comfort himself.
But he can’t. The chains that feel like silken ribbon around his wrists and ankles when he lays still burn hotter than Tartarus when he moves, struggles, and strains. They keep him tied to this mountain. This Gaia-forsaken mountain. He prays the mountain will burst with fire and he will be swept away in a river of molten rock. He prays, but it never comes.
Dawn comes, though. What most would see as renewal, a restart, as hope, he just sees the reminder of his crime and the beacon to the rest of his torment. The sun blazes like the fire he stole. His name means “forethought” but when he stole that flame, he had no thought to what retribution would befall him. He thought he was doing good, being gracious to those who couldn’t know better or help themselves. But no. The gods saw him as a usurper, a traitor. So they made their judgment and sentenced him to this.
art by Kim Holm (@denungeherrholm)
You shall suffer for as long as they benefit from your “kindness”, the gods said as they chained him. A thousand-thousand years.
From the horizon rises two vast shapes. As dark as clouds at dawn, the eagles soar to him. Their wingspans double that of his own, they’re almost beautiful; majestic kings of the skies. He can almost count the feathers in the fans of their tails. But as they approach, they change. Their heads and necks shrivel as golden feathers disintegrate. Their shoulders fill with a collar of bushy, white plumage and their bodies turn an inky black.
Talons dig into the limbs they land upon; one to his leg and the other to his outstretched arm. He can feel the warm blood ooze from his wounds. Their eyes are pure white, sunken into their scrotal flesh and they blindly sniff their prey. Beaks, curved like Cronus’ scythe, glint in the morning light. They caw and screech with delight before they begin digging into his belly.
The pain he had woken to is nothing more than a pin prick compared to their attack. Their beaks gouge into the lumpy, scar tissue of his abdomen like dull spoons into mahogany. But he feels everything. Agony, blinding, ceaseless agony, as the tangled mess of nerves and flesh ignite his synapses. He struggles, flails, and the chains burn. Hours pass before they finally tear into his organs.
He can’t scream. As the blood pools around him, as flesh is rendered a pulpy mess inside him, and as his brain melts with pain, he can not scream. He tries. With every tear and every blister, he tries to scream. But his mouth is sealed. Whatever magic or curse is on him makes the minor catharsis of a scream impossible. As he watches and feels the two ugly condors eat though him, his chest, his lungs, his very soul, swells with wails of agony. What feels like iron screws and bolts fasten his teeth together and the pressure of his screams threatens to burst through his eyes.
When they begin their feast on his liver, they fight over each sliver they tear away. They beat their wings at each other. Feathers as sharp as razors slice into his face and body. Their fighting causes talons and beaks to slip and slice into his other organs. Collateral damage to their gluttonous feast. Finally, he feels the last morsel of his liver get yanked away and watches it disappear down a wrinkled gullet. They prod their blood soaked beaks inside him, ensuring their meal is gone. Then in a chorus of satisfied screeches, they take off. They leave the dying man chained to the mountain and their calls seem to scream, “tomorrow and forever. Tomorrow and forever. Forever.” With the last light of the sinking sun, they disappear into the horizon.
“I will not see tomorrow,” Prometheus says, “Surely, I will die. I will die. I...will...die…” The titan falls asleep as the stars twinkle above. He will not heal, surely. He must die before dawn.
It’s the pain that wakes him up.