Best of the Net 2019 Nomination
In luminous heavens imaginable by only humans, there lived a god of the sun. He was a golden-skinned, white-winged god named Helios, known for being a gentle but powerful deity who carried the blazing sun in tan, scarred hands to the sky every morning. He would perch himself on a ray of sunlight almost the same color as his light blond curls and observe the odd acts of humans, weeping cool raindrops when he witnessed suffering and beaming angelic light when he witnessed joy.
The god of the moon, a pale, ethereal being named Iah, would watch the god of sun from a distance as Helios went about his duties, smiling and shaking his silver star-dusted head when the god of the sun would glow with joy, and staring soberly when he caught the deity crying. His infatuation with the god was apparent to anyone who happened to see him gazing affectionately at Helios—though it was unlikely he would ever admit it. But it was abundantly clear that Iah never seemed to buzz with joy as he did when watching Helios radiate light. Iah was known for being careful with his glass heart and particular with his feelings. He only seemed to loosen his tight grip on his heart every so often for the most extraordinary of beings. Helios was more than extraordinary to him.
When the time came for the sun to set, Iah would heft the moon onto sinewy shoulders, ringed fingertips digging into gray craters, and gracefully step from cloud to cloud to hang it in the middle of the sky. All could see the smitten gaze of Helios upon Iah as he leapt across the sky. Helios, unashamed, didn’t seem to feel the need to hide his blatant fascination with the moon god.
At dusk, day after day, Iah and Helios would meet as they crossed the sky and exchange soft smiles, the kind where eyes crinkle and teeth shine against pink lips. Their smiles would linger long after their eyes met.
One night, Iah had hung the moon in the sky, positioning himself against its curve, head tilted downwards and silver encircled ankles swinging lazily, unaware of much but the hazy sky, unaware that Helios sat nestled in a cloud, wistfully observing Iah’s gentle smile and drooping eyes. As the night began to grow darker and quieter, Helios would decide to close his opalescent eyes and curl into the cloud, falling asleep. Hours later—seconds for the gods—Iah would sit up and his gaze would fall upon Helios, corners of his mouth turning upwards at the sight of the god asleep, wings splayed beneath him. Soon enough, it came time for the sun to rise, and Iah quickly floated down next to Helios and gently shook him awake, murmuring that it was time for him to begin raising the sun. Helios blinked his eyes open and smiled up at Iah as he grabbed the glowing sun in his hands. Before he stepped up to lift the sun high into the sky, he planted a swift, confident kiss on Iah’s cheek. Iah’s eyes widened, and he put a thin hand to his reddening cheeks, as if trying to catch the kiss. Soon enough, Iah’s shock would fade and he would sink into the cloud, arms wrapped around his moon, smiling gently, just as Helios was smiling as he sat perched on a glowing sunbeam.
Helios and Iah had begun to converse more and more when they met briefly at dusk and dawn. Some days they would have gentle conversations about the sky and stars, and on other days they would have passionate discussions about the nature of the humans they looked over so often. Occasionally, they would even gossip about the gods and goddesses they shared the heavens with. On particularly peaceful days, they would hold each other on sugar-spun clouds for what felt like the seconds of sunrise, Helios’s toned arms wrapping around Iah’s tan waist. These times in which they could speak and hold each other
were magical, but oftentimes it felt as if they would never have enough time together, an odd feeling for immortals. After all, most immortals had forever to love. For now though, they were happy with the time they had.
One sunset, Iah came leaping from his palace of marble and silver to the landing of clouds where he met Helios, who wearily stepped from his perch dragging the sun behind him. Iah ran towards Helios, arms outstretched, and wrapped Helios in a warm embrace, an unusual show of confident affection for him. Iah let go of Helios and grabbed his hands instead, wrapping them around his own neck, putting his hands around Helios’s waist as if to waltz. Iah said to Helios, “Let’s dance among the stars tonight, my love. The humans will not complain about the sun and the moon uniting for just one night.”
Helios nodded, smiling a smile as bright as his sun. So the couple swept each other away, holding onto the sun and moon, spinning and leaping across the clear sky, both pairs of bright eyes crinkling with joy and laughter. To the humans, the sun and the moon created a brilliant bright sky, the brightest it seemed to have ever been. Occasionally a pair of shooting stars would dance across the sky and illuminate the world if only for a moment. The humans saw it as only an odd night—a magical night to some, and a night of frightening strangeness to others. Perhaps they would never understand the importance of their sun and moon.
Later that night, Helios and Iah could be found on the gilded porch of Helios’s home, a gold palace right below the place where the sun and the moon would hang in the sky. Iah and Helios sat on the cool floor wrapped around each other, holding on tightly as if they were scared to let go. They knew they could not leave their duties for long and though they were happy to be together, the consequences of leaving the earth in darkness or eternal brightness would be much greater than what they could withstand, even with the power of their love.
They were fundamentally never supposed to be together, as the sun and moon are a sky apart. And as the seasons changed, the hours of sunrise and sunset would greatly shorten and soon enough they would have mere minutes together before the sun and the moon would need to be hung in the sky. So the lovers sat together, feeling nostalgic already for the night that was not yet gone. That night they would laugh and cry and exclaim their love for each other a million times until dawn came and Helios had to remove himself from the grasp of Iah’s jewel-covered hands and leave. He grabbed the sun in his shaking hands and flew up, up, up to where the sun would stand and brighten the earth after the night of joyful darkness. Helios sat slumped on his perch, but he willed himself to be strong. It was his duty to raise the sun—the humans and the plants and the creatures of the Earth needed him.
At sunset, Iah rose from the golden floor of Helios’s palace where he had remained alone during the day, and left the quiet house. He grabbed the moon from the cloud it was left abandoned on and leapt through the sky, exchanging a sad smile with Helios when they passed each other. Iah hung the crescent in the sky, and leaned upon it, eyes glued on Helios in the distance, lying outside his palace where they had laid the night before, staring at the stars. He almost wished he and Helios had stopped caring about those damned humans and just remained in each other’s arms. When he looked down at the world though, he realized he could never do such a thing. For if the world lost its sun and its moon, all would fall apart and the humans they observed would erupt into oblivion and chaos. Those pretty wildflowers would wilt away and the little creatures living in forests and deserts would cease to exist.
Iah and Helios would never be able to neglect their duties as the gods of the sun and the moon, but their undeniable love for each other would always pull them towards each other even if they would never be as close as they wished to be. But every few decades, Helios and Iah would be close enough in the sky that
they could hold each other, if only for that day. On these days the power of the sun and the moon would radiate light so bright one could be blinded by it. And on these days the joy of Iah and Helios would shine upon not only the earth, but the heavens of the gods. All divinity would smile and remark that Iah and Helios must be reunited for the universe to shine as brightly as it did. These days were short, but Iah and Helios would always be in each other’s orbits, even if all they had was dawn, dusk, and the crossing of the sun and the moon every hundred years.
As of the Spring 2019 publication of this piece, Hannah Berhane was a freshmen creative writing student at Denver School of the Arts. She loves Frank Sinatra, cheesecake, and learning new languages.