Chapter 1:

Embers of the Hearth

Embers of the Hearth

December 31st. It was almost midnight. The snow fell to fill the streets of the busy city down below. The cold snow had already taken over the rooftop I was standing on.

I was not alone in this place. There was a woman. A woman with black hair and soft facial features. Most people would call her a beauty and they wouldn't be wrong.

If only she didn't have those dead eyes… She would be a beauty in my eyes as well if she didn't have those eyes. A sign that the sacred flames given to the woman by the Goddess Hestia was about to be extinguished.

The woman seemed to think that she was alone while grabbing onto the guardrail and looking at the streets down below.

It was for the better, I always told myself. I am merely an observer after all.

"..." The woman was contemplating in silence whether or not she should take the next step.

It is not too late for her… I thought. She might still have some life in her. From the dying embers of her flame, a new light might spark. I was hoping that would be the case.

"As I thought… I'm tired of this." With those words alone, the woman shattered my hopes.

There's no saving her now, I'm afraid… Those were my thoughts as I shook my head with disappointment.

It is said that there are two types of people in this world.

Those who identify themselves with Eros, the God of Love, who are people with the uncontrollable desire to live their lives to the fullest, and those who align themselves with Thanatos, the God of Death, who are people who seek to end their lives before their time.

I believe that such an idea is not entirely correct and is also a great misconception of the work of the gods.

A long time ago, Prometheus stole the sacred fires from the hearth of Olympus and gave it to humanity, his children. Ever since then, humans have been blessed by the sacred fires created by Hestia.

A flame that is ignited from the moment humans are born and is only extinguished when they are near their end.

Thus the jobs of the gods are as follows:

Hestia blesses humans with their sacred flames when they are born, while Eros protects that ever-growing flame and guides humanity with a powerful desire to love life and live it to the fullest, and lastly… Thanatos clears the fading embers left behind by humans after their deaths so they can be used to give birth to something new, creating a never-ending cycle of life and death.

So, to say that someone is Eros or Thanatos is not a correct statement. At least, that is my opinion on the matter.

"I'm tired of this… To the world that decided to spite me every step of the way, I curse every second I'm still on it." The woman spoke with anger and frustration.

Of course, the work of the gods is not perfect. More often than not, their work is difficult beyond belief. The sacred flame that Hestia grants to mankind is not the same for each human.

Some shine brightly but die out quicker, those who shine weakly and last an eternity, and obviously, those who reject Eros's teachings and decide to extinguish their flames by themselves.

The people who supposedly align themselves with Thanatos. Like the woman in front of me, who is about to reject Eros’s guidance to extinguish the remaining holy fire, which is burning weakly deep within her core.

“He is taking too long… I suppose after so many frustrated attempts he got tired of coming to save me.” The woman said while looking at the door leading to the stairs of the building. She was waiting for someone.

Yes… The reason why the fire within this woman was still ablaze was not due to a desire to live. She yearned for someone. Someone that she couldn’t bear to abandon no matter how much she wanted to breathe her last.

As I continued to observe the woman, the door that led to the stairs flung open with extreme violence. A young man near the same age as the woman came rushing toward her and the guardrail she was holding onto. He was an endless fountain of sweat.

“Wait! Stop! We've talked about this!” The man shouted in a panic as he held the woman’s hand.

“Please let go of me,” The woman said. “I’m tired of this… I’m tired of everything… I’m tired of all the people in this world… All of them but you.” The woman spoke with affection toward the man despite her vacant eyes.

“You said you wouldn’t try again! You said that things were good!” The man complained loudly, clearly trying to dissuade the woman and failing miserably.

“They were for a bit.” The woman said. “But that no longer matters… He is calling for me. Thanatos is waiting for his answer.” The woman suddenly looked in my direction.

It seems she can see me now… What a shame.

The previously vacant look in the woman’s eyes was now that of a maiden madly in love. Something which greatly frustrated the man holding her. He looked in my direction as well, completely enraged.

Unlike the woman, the man was unable to see me.

“Thanatos this, Thanatos that… Why can’t you stop with that?! Why are you so obsessed with the God of Death?! Why can’t you look at me like that?! Why can’t you look at me with that same love?! Even though I have loved you with all my heart, why can’t you look at me like that?!” The man shouted angrily. His frustration had gotten the better of him.

“You still don’t get it, do you?” The woman asked curtly. She was looking at the man with sadness.

The man felt silent due to her words. Somewhere in his mind, he seemed to be feeling ridiculous for being jealous of someone whom he couldn’t even see.

“The God of Death is waiting for an answer, dear.” The woman suddenly moved toward the man and hugged him. “Aren’t you tired of everything like me?” She asked.

“Yes… I’m tired…” The man muttered weakly.

“Aren’t you sick of having to save me knowing full well that I will continue to try to jump?” The woman asked as her face sank deep into his chest. “Aren’t you tired of feeling jealous of something invisible to you?”

“Yes, I’m sick of it… I’m sick of it all…” The man replied with a defeated tone.

“Don’t you just want to end it all? Don’t you want to die? I want to die.” The woman whispered those words softly.

“Yes… I want to die too!” The man was filled with relief as soon as he said those words.

“You finally get it.” The woman took a step back and smiled softly at her lover. The soulmate that she couldn’t leave behind.

Both of them looked at me with relief before looking at each other with an expression of absolute love.

“Shall we?” The man asked his lover.

“Yeah, let’s go.” The woman replied.

Both of them hopped over the guardrail and stood at the edge of the building, watching the stars up above and the lights down below. They were madly in love with each other and both were filled with the desire to extinguish their flame.

As they held their hands, the couple set off toward the night sky, leaving the last of their burning embers behind.

“They say that death can whisper sweet things if you listen closely…” I said as I collected the embers of the couple. “Too bad I wasn’t the one whispering those things. I was merely an observer. Such a curious thing that I would get to witness the same event twice in the same place.” I placed the dying embers in my pocket while shaking my head.

As soon as I took my leave, a myriad of fireworks ignited the night sky for the couple. Instead of one, two bright fires were extinguished as the world welcomed the new year. A new year filled with both dazzling possibilities and grim death during the eternal cycle.

Such is the job of I, Thanatos… To maintain the eternal cycle and to bear witness to these kinds of events. Whether those events are joyous or tragic, that is not for me to decide.

I am only a spectator and cleaner, and as such I will remain as long as the cycle persists for eternity.

F.C Fondness
Taylor J
Mario Nakano 64

Embers of the Hearth