Hong Kong, China
Choate Rosemary Hall
already, their lengthening shadows stretch behind them. already, their necks, the planes of their arms, the curl of hand-in-hand, carry the glistening remnants of sun into darker, lonelier hours. apollo will return at dawn, as he always has, tumble into hyacinth, until the time comes where he cannot, will not, pry for more.
apotheosis: in which mortals are elevated to immortality, a process undergone through hushed promises bound by icy rivers and emotions that gods goad themselves into believing are for forever. the gildation of rust and veins into gold ichor, paid with a blood-debt for the prolonging of a god’s amusement. their temporary infatuations are spirited away for as long as the deity wills it, and though at some point their myth ends, their now-deified humans playthings don’t. in immortality their souls will never know rest.
but what about anti-apotheosis?
it's a curious thing when gods come to the earth, toying with the idea of mortality as one would a marionette. even as their body of choice goes through a metamorphosis of sorts—from youth to old to life to death and back again; even as their joys are wrought with sorrows, the gods come to play. oh, they come indeed, if only to chip away at their monotony. and when they do, the scale of humanity is tipped ever so slightly, where the lines of transience blur and beings start to live in complacency. to live, to laugh, to know that this day will not be their last—
—or so it usually goes.
apollo’s ribs are empty, hollow bones tinkling against each other like wind chimes as the gulls cry beneath him on the mediterranean sea. his dusty lungs break into his cavern of a chest, and his lack-of-soul, the void that consumes him, heartlessly-burning eternal fire, claws its way out. he falls, spine curled in upon itself. in the near-fetal-position he’s in, he clutches at the sky, embracing the heavens in his downfall.
from across the skies—a lone prince standing barefoot on the hills of sparta, almost arrow-like in his posture, gaze pointed upwards. a star is mirrored in his glassy pupils, plummeting from grace, tracing its way down the fading night sky. he runs, damp-ankled in the dew-strewn grass, towards the flare of gold light—so out of place in the cool azure air. they meet at the very precipice—careful now, beware the open wind—and tangle. apollo and hyacinth, a burst of lovely gold-light that fades as soon as they catch each other. hyacinth falls back into the grass as their hands interlock, as habitual as how apollo cups the back of his head before it hits the ground, thoughtlessly taking the fall with him. olympus above, why bother keeping up the pretense of superiority, of gods outshining mortals, when hyacinth glows with a radiance stronger than any celestial being?
hyacinth’s mortality burns to touch, sears apollo’s skin the colors of the sun; it radiates out in rings, fiery hues painting his sunsick skin. hyacinth thinks it’s just in the nature of immortals, to turn sickly from the slightest blemish-touch of something temporary—flesh and soul doomed to dissolve the moment of it’s born—but apollo knows better. he craves the stains, the slight condensation of their palms against each other, hyacinth’s erratic heartbeat resonating through his very being. the gentle warmth of his breath makes the sun jealous—apollo’s very own sunlight could never thaw him the way this does. the taste of tart berries lining hyacinth’s lips, rivaling ambrosia and nectar, has apollo chasing after a freshness he’s never known.
some say apollo laid claim to hyacinth, ripped him of a mortal’s inherent obscurity to instead bask in a god’s limelight. they say that apollo forced a hand under the fates, made sure it was written in the stars: apollo, over boreas and zephyrus, the two who had before chased him— wind gods, blustering the gales in vain.
that’s just the way of olympian gods among mortals.
no, it was never like that—it was always hyacinth’s choice, hyacinth’s light, him, a languidly moving star at the center of the gods who orbited him— and apollo was just closest to understanding living, the bittersweet art of a rapturous epic that catches all manners of being within its parentheses but must always close to an end. and thus hyacinth chose apollo.
as they lie together under the fading glow of the sun-god, slipping into the crimped layers of dayspring, apollo shifts, folding in on himself until his bones fill out and his ichor runs closer to blood than ice. like this, they match: a god turned to mortal and a human imbued with the divine. hyacinth is watching him, rosy-cheeked. the coiffed curls of apollo’s hair flop down into something more adherent-to-gravity, and he laughs and looks away, downturned eyelashes fine-woven webs of sunrise-stricken gold filaments. like so, apollo could
live forever die in this moment, rust over in the warmth of the dirt alongside his lover.
to know this day is not his last is a curse—the eternal poet, original lyre-strum bard endlessly thrumming the same tune, tirelessly-notched arrows of the sun cutting uselessly into the arc of the scarless sky and disappearing beyond sunset, doomed by the fates to forever wander amongst mortals more radiant than the sun.
someday, hyacinth will give. give out to the fates, give in to the heaviness of his bones, return to the elysium his soul came from. and apollo will return to his olympian chambers, empty with ache and the craving of mortality, letting his lover go to the night he cannot follow and yearning for an anti-apotheosis beyond the momentary, fleeting glimpse of life he sees.
Breathtaking in its visceral language and seamless in its lyrical flow, this bittersweet twist on the classic story of Apollo and Hyacinthus uses a mythological lens to explore some of the most vivid facets of humanity. As the story dances between eternity and mortality, birth and death, the celestial and earthly, the transitions are all at once chaotic and pure, leaving the taste of the freshness of a fleeting human life on the tip of readers’ tongues.
Gigi Chen is a sophomore from Hong Kong attending Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut. When she isn't writing she likes drawing, quizbowling, and playing the violin. She is concerned, both for herself and the world, and would much rather be living in Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR