“Goodbye Mother!” Ria sang out to her disappearing mother’s contour. As soon as Eos left in her unique blast of light, Ria sighed. Everything was happier whenever Eos was around. “Come ladybugs, come ladybugs, twirl in my hair, and snuggle in my toes,” Ria chanted out. Instantly, her hair tickled with the fluttering wings of the ladybugs, and her toes became warm as they snuggled into the crevices of her feet. “Let’s go to the sea caverns today.”
As she flew over the grass, she giggled at the ladybugs’ stories of their adventures. The journey had cost an entire day’s worth of light, and the sun was now casting an orange glow the color of the fruit hanging from the trees onto Ria’s porcelain face. “Shall we enter, little bugs?” Ria whispered to the buzzing, red ladybugs. It seemed they were in awe of the bioluminescent jellyfish as well. “Oh,” she exclaimed when a blue jellyfish crawled across her toes tickling them. “The cave seems so… so…. alive!”
“I made it that way,” spoke a voice from behind her. “Just for a special goddess like you.” A warm breath floated onto her neck, which suddenly became cold. Ria’s ladybugs were whispering to her to run away as quickly as she could, but Ria did not listen.
“Where are you?” Ria asked, not daring to move a single muscle.
“Why, I am right here,” the voice told her now farther off.
“Please,” Ria pleaded, now turning around full circle trying to find a contour to match the mysterious voice. “I want to know who you are, so I may find you again!”
“I am the absence of light.”
“Yes, but what name was placed upon your breastbone when you were born?” Ria pushed. A cold hand came down on her back, while another grasped her right hand that combed through her golden locks. Ria gasped at the contact and tried wresting away, but the hold was firm.
“I am… Auraka,” he breathed against her cheek.
“Auraka,” Ria whispered, trying out the name on her tongue. “Auraka, show me… show me your face.” The hand holding her neck and her hand twisted her body around, so she was facing the god. Her eyes grew wide at the sight of the god that held her captive in his sight. Ria’s fingers moved without command to his hair, black as oil, and moved down to his eyes, blue as a clear day’s sky. Auraka was taller than her by several feet, and he stood proud with his wide shoulders back and chin up. A faint scar rose from his chest, right above his heart. Ria could see his name, white among the dark skin that blended in well with the night, printed on his breastbone.
“I must go. I have stayed too long, and my mother will be looking for me soon,” Ria exclaimed breaking out of the reverie the cave seemed to have put her in.
“Who is your mother?” Auraka asked, with eyebrows furrowed together punctuating his question.
“Eos, goddess of the dawn.” Auraka gasped at the mention of Ria’s mother’s name, which went unnoticed in Ria’s naïve eyes.
“Go! Go now and don’t come back! Do not mention me to anyone!” His voice reverberated off the cave’s walls emphasizing his command. Ria ran as quickly as she could without her ladybugs, which she now noticed had gone missing. She ran until she reached the rocky shores where she collapsed.
* * *
The next day she awoke with her mother standing over her newly scarred feet and legs. “Where did you go?” Eos asked with a skeptical tone.
“The sea caves. Oh, Mother! I had the most wonderful time! There was even a-” Ria stopped. “I mean, the jellyfish were so alive and beautiful. My ladybugs loved them. It was a long journey though.”
“And where are your ladybugs now, may I ask?”
“They… they were talking so much about the jellyfish, so I couldn’t sleep. I told them to leave me for a while,” Ria explained.
“Is that so?” Eos replied. Ria only nodded her head while avoiding her mother’s eyes. “Are you going back today? I would love to explore with you.”
“No, I don’t think so. While the jellyfish were beautiful, I thought it was really… shadowy. I am going up in the mountains today instead,” Ria said, while pressing her lips together until the edges were white to try to stop the truth from popping out of her mouth.
“Perhaps I could come with you there.”
“No, that’s okay. I need a day by myself. Goodbye, Mother,” Ria prompted. Eos looked at Ria, staring into her muddling soul, and simply vanished in a burst of light. Ria breathed out a long sigh. “Come, come, ladybugs. Please come!” She started running, without the ladybugs due to their fear of Auraka, over the jagged rocks causing her scars from the night before to bleed out with pain.
“You came back,” Auraka whispered against Ria’s blushing skin when she arrived in the darkened cave. The jellyfish no longer swam around in the water, and Ria wondered where they had gone. “No one comes back. So why did you, beautiful goddess?”
“I had to know who you really were,” Ria said in ragged breaths after her run. “Auraka, why do you stay in the darkness? How come no one returns to you?”
“All idle questions. What do you really want to know, Ria?” Auraka stepped closer to her on the slippery rocks surrounding the underground pool, causing her to flatten her body against the rough walls. “Ria,” Auraka breathed as he bent his head towards hers, “Ria, what do you really want to know?”
“I want to know you,” Ria gasped.
“I want to know you. I want to know how you talk, your voice, and all your needs, Auraka!”
His grin spread across his chiseled face like a flower blooming. “Well, then let’s begin.”
Those four little words began a year of adventures in the sea caverns. Ria spent her nights in the sea caverns, sleeping next to Auraka and quickly scurrying out like a crab to meet her mother on the rocks where she slept the first night. Their days were filled with joy and laughter that Ria’s initial fears and worries about Auraka melted away just like her heart. Ria danced with Auraka among the stars at night and danced with him among the caverns during the day.
Weeks and months passed by as Ria spent her waking and sleeping moments with Auraka. One day Eos questioned Ria about her adventures. “Where do you go every day, Ria? I ask you, yet you do not answer me.”
Ria swiveled around to face her.The look of worry upon her mother’s face didn’t change Ria’s thoughts as it was meant to. Instead, Ria’s eyebrows scrunched further together, and her mouth crinkled downwards at the corners.
“What has gotten into you? Normally, you would run to me, or tell me everyday where you have gone and what you have done. Now your soul is no longer the vibrant, young one that it used to be, instead it is a muddled, dark soul. Ria, you know you can talk to me,” Eos inquired.
“I have finally grown into a woman, just like everyone else, and you want me to go back to childhood? What has gotten into you?” Ria shot back.
“Ria, please darling,” Eos pleaded, “We were always close. All I see now in you is harshness, not the maturity you think you have!”
Ria began to walk towards the sea caverns and away from her mother. She stopped when she heard her mother begin wailing like a newborn child, but Ria refused to turn around for fear that she would break down and cry right alongside her.
“Where have you been, Ria? Where have you truly been?” Go now and don’t come back! Do not mention me to anyone! Auraka’s voice rang through Ria’s head, warning her to not tell.
“I have been… with someone,” Ria told her, for surely he could not disown her for saying that.
“Who have you been with, Ria?” Eos asked.
“I have been with…” Ria paused, “I have been with Auraka, Mother.” Eos’ surprised and concerned face was not a surprise to Ria. This must have been the reason Auraka didn’t want her talking about him to anyone. “What do you know of him? Surely it is all good things.”
“Auraka-” Eos stopped. “Auraka has been missing for years, Ria. If you know of his whereabouts you must tell me. He has not done good things, nor will he ever be good.”
“You must be mistaken,” Ria told her.
“Or you must be,” Eos replied. “Auraka is not a good god for he is the god of darkness and misery and mischief. He has you tricked, Ria. Believe me.” Ria collapsed on the soft ground as the reality of her life set in. She would have to go back to Auraka and tell him what occurred. She lied one final time telling Eos that she was going to take a stroll along the beaches.
When she reached the caverns, the jellyfish did not glow as brightly as her first visit to the caves. “Auraka?” Ria called out to the darkness that was normally soothing, but now gave her fear stronger than her first visit. “Auraka, darling, where are you?”
“I am where I always am,” he replied.
“Auraka, you have to know something that I learned,” Ria whipped around and placed her hands upon air rather than his arms.
“I know what you did today, Ria. And I know what you learned for I have known it for years now.”
“Auraka, listen to me-”
“Ria, I need to go, and you will not be coming with me. I gave you one rule and you disowned it,” Auraka scolded her like a child.
“Auraka! Please,” Ria asked, falling upon her knees. “Do you not see my face? It pleads for mercy. What am I to do without you? Have all our days and nights spent together gone to waste?” Auraka merely turned his head and blew a gust of darkness out towards her. The darkness, cool against her skin, encompassed her body and her soul. Ria pushed and thrusted at the darkness, but it would not loosen. Her heart broke into pieces against the pressure of the blackness, and only a small flare of light came from it. Ria wept for allowing her heart to have darkness within it, and she wept for her foolish thinking that Auraka could ever love her. Surely, she thought, at some point in their year together, Auraka had to have cared for her. At this thought, Ria broke down and began to cry harder. Her body convulsed with sorrow and despair at her situation. The darkness gradually began to consume the warmth from her body. She cried for days until the gods heard them carried over the winds. After learning about Ria being trapped in the cocoon of darkness, Eos ruptured the blackout of the cave with her traveling light. Eos tried to break through the darkness with her bursts of light, but the dark magic was no match for the sunlight. She battled with her thoughts on the possibilities of what could happen next until she came to her final decision.
“Ria, darling. Listen to me closely.” All Eos could see was the faint convulsions of sobbing through the darkness. “You have cocooned the earth with your sadness.” Eos looked out the cave where sunlight once poured in, but all that was seen was Auraka’s dark magic at work. Asteria, goddess of the stars, had proposed what Eos was about to do when the first tentacles of dark magic trickled out of Auraka’s cave darkening the young Earth. “Your darkness will not hurt the stars, so that is where I must send you.” Eos closed her eyes and ears to what was before her because it broke her own heart. She placed her wavering hands upon the blackness before her, and with a great thrust catapulted Ria up towards the sky. Many nights Eos stared up at the sky, laying in the same meadow where Ria’s dark journey began, and she searches for the swirling blackness that she placed there. Every night Ria tries to stretch out her legs and hands to reach back towards Earth, but all she feels is the numbing sensations throughout the blackness. Ria cries each time she discovers that she will never be back on Earth with her mother and ladybugs for eternity. The stars around her give her little comfort in knowing that they are just a smaller version of what her mother, Eos, can create. This comfort wanes her crying and sobs slowly each day until the Earth will no longer live.