Name One Hero Who Was Happy
*After Madeline Miller’s The Song Of Achilles
it is two am and the camp is asleep.
you should be sleeping, too. but your chest is heavy and every time you shut your eyes the image of a smile is seared into the blackness. so instead you wander outside, gleaming metal sword clutched in your trembling hands, tangled sheets left forgotten at the foot of his too-cold bed.
you scream. you scream until your throat feels hoarse. you scream until your lungs ache for air and you can’t force yourself to breathe again. you scream until you’re sure hades himself can hear you. but you scream again regardless.
then you’re down on the ground, sword sunk deep in the blood-stained dirt. and you’re praying to every god and goddess that has ever been beaten into your religion.
you pray to the big three. and you pray to their children. you pray to artemis until your knees shake from the weight of your words. and you claw at the dirt and you beat your chest and you scream just a little bit more.
because his smile is still burning the back of your eyelids. and his voice is ringing in your ears ‘i’ll be back, my love. i’ll be back. i’ll be back.’
‘be careful.’ you said, forlorn, unwilling.
‘i will, my love. i will.’
and you pray to artemis some more.
because you know she could rid you of his memory. of your hands slicked with too-red blood. of that last kiss pressed against his forehead with shaking, tear-soaked lips. she could get rid of the nightmares.
if she so wished.
if she so wished.
but she doesn’t. and the ghost of his last breath you didn’t get to feel hangs around your neck like a noose.
and when you’re all cried out, when your heart feels heavy but your chest feels hollow, when it feels like every breath rips up your throat because you screamed so much you lost your voice, you wonder—
does patroclus feel this, too?
First published in Fresno State University’s Spectrum, KR Szyszka is a procrastinator first and an author second. Currently attending PCC, they can be found spending most of their time searching for the right playlist to write and never finishing their tea.
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