She went under the earth without a sound. Funny that; how everybody is listening on the one day you’re least equipped to speak. Listening hard, as if you’re to open your eyes at any second, tell them they were wrong, and let the ache release its grip from their ribs and throats. On the day they buried her, not a sound was heard – not even birdsong.
Only, she didn’t die, as such. As a germ of her soul fell through the pine, it took into itself a mouthful of dirt, and another. Greedy, feasting on worms, bones and char as the world turned in the far-and-away. The part of her that left her body behind called itself Ophiadne; the snake woman, for she coiled and uncoiled around the roots of the world, choking or giving breath as she saw fit, drinking deeply of the souls that fell down through the cracks. With their joys and sorrows, she strove to fill the hole the silence had left behind.
From her came others, shat out and taken on forms of their own, to suckle at that monstrous teat, and fail to grow strong. There was Jula; the Empty, Sawat; the Cavernous, Egritta; the Blasphemy of Stars. All grand names, struggling in the shadow of the snake woman, feeding on the scraps she left behind until they were little bone twists topped with gasping mouths, ribboned with their many grasping hands, staring eyeless and screaming tongueless against the tyranny of the mud and stone.
All starved, but were denied death. The tendrils of their dreams twitched through the veil and into the dreams of mortals, who woke screaming about a wasteland of souls, and a baroness who ruled the roots of the tree of life. A painter woke one morning unable to paint, and took his hand in a fit of rage. A poet, truly lost for words, cut out his own tongue. There were more, but they matter no more than raindrops on dirt, run together in a shallow trickle of lost souls, a million deep. The draught of gods, or something like them. A draught of which there is no cup deep enough, nor will there ever be.
When they feed, the sky weeps openly, as if a great flood could wash them away. If you would die in the rain, hold on. There are things worse than death, as Ophiadne herself learnt so long ago.
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