Henry Miller is waiting for his cue to go on stage. He is about to become Aiden Bennington, a condescending trust-fund brat. But before that, there is a moment in which he is neither himself, nor an ... [+]
Many kings and princes came in the conquest of Isil, showering her in wealth. Isil accepted their gifts but had no desire to marry any of her suitors. As Belgrin had fallen in love with her, she had fallen in love with him. At night, the god would dim himself to a soft golden glow and speak of all the loving things he would do if only he could take human form. If he had legs, he would sprint with Isil through the golden fields of wheat. If he had fingers, he would run them through Isil's shining black hair. If he had a mouth . . .
"A child," Isil said one night. "If you were a man, we would make a child."
"Yes," Belgrin agreed, and he rippled his light over her body in colors few mortals have ever seen.
Once Isil imagined this family she might make out of light and love, she thought of nothing else. She spent every waking hour devising a way to make Belgrin into flesh. She searched out every text written on the properties of light. She summoned all manner of alchemists, astronomers, and priests for questioning. She studied and deliberated and experimented until, at long last, she settled on a plan. She would use the wealth of her suitors to erect a great tower that would hold a series of enormous glass lenses.
The construction took years, and Isil's suitors grew impatient. They demanded she choose a husband. They demanded she tell them what on earth she meant to do with her ridiculous tower. One by one, they withdrew their funds, leaving Isil without a penny. The tower was near completion, but the craftsmen she had hired all left when they found there would be no more wages.
Undaunted, Isil toiled to complete the tower with her own hands, brick by brick. Work that would have taken the craftsmen a few months to finish took her another year. Belgrin, wishing he could do more to speed her efforts along, shined down on Isil's labors as she worked day and night.
Finally, hands calloused and cut, back bent and sore, Isil placed the final delicate lens into place.
"Now, my love," she said.
Belgrin did not hesitate. He dove through layers of curved glass until they bent and squeezed his form into a single white-hot point. A great plume of smoke flew up and Isil fled from the tower as flames rose. She watched in despair as the fire raged and her tower, along with her hopes, came crumbling down. But from the smoldering ash, a man strode out. His skin was translucent, as if formed from the tower's shattered lenses. And beneath his skin, a familiar iridescent light undulated. Overjoyed, Isil ran to Belgrin, but he flinched at her approach. He held up his hands and demanded to see his beloved Isil.
"It is me, my love," Isil said, thinking the transformation must have confused his mind.
He peered at her soot-stained face as smoke blotted out the setting sun. "No," he said, "My Isil is—" he gasped. "It is you." He reached out his hand to command the light within him to shine where he pleased, to illuminate Isil's face once more. But to his horror, he found he could not move or shape the light trapped beneath his skin. Isil leaned in for a kiss, but Belgrin held her back.
"Evil woman," he said. "You have imprisoned me!" He ran from her, but he was not used to his legs. He stumbled and crashed into the grass.
Isil, running close behind, fell on top of him. She felt his skin crack beneath her and watched in horror as thin beams of light bled out of his wounds.
Belgrin, desperate for escape, gripped a fistful of Isil's hair and pulled with all his might in an attempt to throw her off.
"No!" she cried out. She leaned forward and held him tighter. Belgrin roared and shattered beneath Isil in a blast of blinding light. All went dark and silent.
Isil stood and felt the blood running down her arms and legs where she had embraced her broken love's jagged edges. She marveled at the darkness around her. It had been a long while since she had experienced so little light in the world. She stared, blinking into the night until a glowing speck of light caught her eye. She bent down and saw that it was a piece of Belgrin, still intact—a tooth, dimly lit from within.
She swallowed it. The tooth shattered as it slid down her throat. Isil winced at the pain but relished the feeling of warm light descending to take hold in her womb.
"How I will shine on you, my child," she whispered. "How I will shine."