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Damnation

Gunnar De Winter is a biologist/philosopher hybrid whose stories have found their way to Daily Science Fiction, Amazing Stories, Abyss & Apex, and other habitats. He roams the Twitterverse as @evolveon.
**********warning: Disturbing, ambiguous, adult story. violence towards women.***********
I am a monster.
The thought hits me as my fist hits her face.
Skin to skin, bone to bone.
She stumbles to the floor. She cowers and tries to disappear in a corner.
But I still see it, beneath the bruises and the scuff marks.
A flicker of undying resistance.
I suppress a smile.
Good.
The Goddess requires sacrifice.
Divinity demands damnation. Damnation for elevation.
I remember her laugh when I asked her, the Goddess. It was the tinkle of a fresh mountain spring. Her loose, deeply cut white dress emphasized her golden skin.
She was, of course, divine.
"Elevate me," I pleaded.
Her mockery sped my heart and colored my cheeks.
With a perfect index finger, she lifted my chin and looked into my eyes. Her eyes were the shimmering blue of fertile fishing grounds.
"No," she said with a flawless grin. "There is too much human in you."
"I'll strip it away until only the divine remains," I replied.
She smiled and my heart shattered.
"I have to admit," the Goddess says as she squats next to my bruised and battered victim, my love, my sacrifice. "That I didn't think you'd be able to banish the humanity from your heart."
She reaches for my lover's face, but the beaten woman whimpers and scuffles back against the wall, willing herself to melt into it.
The Goddess smiles. As she gets up, my heart leaps into my throat, eager to escape. "How does it feel?" she asks.
I force my heart back down and turn my face to steel. "Feel? Like nothing, really."
Her smile widens ever so slightly. "Not bad. For a human."
My steel face cracks.
"Is that so? I wasn't paying attention."
Those were the words that spawned our plan. Her plan. The gods might be able to see everything, but not at the same time. In those unobserved moments, we were free. Truly free.
I was praying to the Goddess for help with the harvest. "Even a little," I said. "A bit more rain, or protection against the pests. We are struggling."
She stepped down from the altar, imperious with every move. Then she said it. "Is that so? I wasn't paying attention. I was observing the war."
That's the first time I really saw it. The bloodlust, the unchecked corruption. Immortality transformed into immorality. I wanted to lunge at her, to make her feel all the lives that were being wasted for her, as tribute to her.
But no one can hurt the Goddess.... No human can hurt the Goddess.
She's moaning in her sleep.
She's so strong. So much stronger than I could ever be.
I touch her face, careful to avoid the worst bruises. Softly, so softly. She still wakes up. In a split second her eyes cycle through a kaleidoscope of emotions. Fear. Hate. Defiance. Love.
Still. Love. Despite it all. Through it all.
I cannot hold back my tears. It hurts so much. But it is nothing compared to what she has had to bear.
"What are you doing?" she hisses. "We're so close."
"General Xander launched the attack," I whisper. "There will be a lot of blood and death. She's not looking at us."
I crumble. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." I collapse.
She holds me, and tells me it's okay, tells me we'll succeed.
She is comforting me.
We hatched our scheme in soft murmurs, waiting for moments when the war had taken a particularly vicious turn. Only an Elevated one would be able to hold the Gods accountable. But the rush of power that came with elevation could corrupt even the sturdiest of minds.
It had to be one of us. She told me it had to be me. It would be more convincing that way.
That was the start of my quest for Elevation. The end of my humanity.
"It has to be this way," she said as she kissed me.
We drowned ourselves in the silk sheets. In each other.
This was a brutal one. There are blood splatters on the wall.
I can't keep this up much longer. I will break before she does.
Coward. Weakling. You will honor her sacrifice, her pain.
She's unconscious. It takes everything I have not to run over to her.
I straighten and crack my neck.
"My my," the Goddess had appeared behind me. "You continue to outdo yourself. Perhaps you are worthy after all."
I face her and, for the first time, I don't feel like flinching. I am staring the Goddess down. She no longer scares me. The only thing that scares me now is what I have become. What I had to become.
The Goddess looks me up and down appraisingly. "Outstanding. I will speak to my brothers and sisters about your request."
Don't hesitate. I could read it in her eyes.
My eyes replied. But how can I...?
It didn't get easier after the first blow. Violence never really gets easier. You just get more numb.
I almost blew it the first time. I almost threw up. Instead, I forced the bile back down my throat and walked out of the room. Her ragged breathing almost made me turn around.
That's when I knew I had become a monster.
No human can kill one of the Gods.
But maybe a monster can.
She looks tired. Not just physically. No one can endure this. No one should endure this.
I can't do this. It ends here. We'll find another way.
Behind me, someone scrapes her throat. "I'm not interrupting, am I?"
I turn to face the Goddess and bow my head. "Never."
The Goddess smiles. Something has changed. There is no more mockery or disdain in her endless eyes. "We've talked. It's been a long time since anyone has been so..." she cocks her head, watching me, "...motivated."
I growl. My veins are burning, ablaze with a golden fire.
The bright dendritic pattern on my skin is reflected in the oceans occupying the Goddess' eyes. "So we decided to burn away the last remnant of your humanity. If you make it, I'll be the first to welcome you among us... brother."
I drop to my knees. There is only fire. Every thought is an exploding star. All that remains is pain.
And her.
This is nothing. Nothing compared to what she had to bear. Nothing. I cannot fail now. I will not fail now. For her. For her. For her. For her.
Something washes over me, cool as spring rain. It is acceptance. It is love. It is hate. It is her. It is always her.
Time becomes viscous. I stand up slowly, a giant waking, pushing past slumber and rising into dominion.
The Goddess must feel something is wrong. Now, here, so close, she must have seen what pulled me through, what I had hidden in the deepest dungeon of my soul.
The Goddess turns towards her. Slow. Too slow.
My arm becomes a fiery sword as I walk over to the panicking Goddess.
Is that fear? Have you ever felt that before?
The deity wants to strike my love and burn us both out of existence, but I have pushed my arm through her before she can do so. Ichor rolls down my arm, to my elbow, and falls to the floor in thick dark green drops.
She who I once feared more than anything becomes nothing. The fading Goddess crumples to the floor, eyes wide with surprise.
I look down at the Goddess. "Your brothers and sisters are next," I whisper before I look up and see her.
Her eyes are fire, raging defiance. My true goddess. The only one I will ever bow to.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, April 9th, 2021


I started this story after thinking about how difficult it is to write scenes with raw, graphic violence. It's hard to find that balance where the reader feels it, but is not so disgusted as to turn away. Then, I added a plot where the protagonist has to do something inhuman to achieve his goal and a first-person point of view to really bring it home. Despite the content, this story is about an unflinching love powerful enough to defy the gods themselves. [Note: For us this story was also about how you become the monster you pretend to be. ]

- Gunnar De Winter
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