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All Stories Are Echoes

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Freyja and Óðr

 

            Freyja was a goddess of love and sex, a seductress, a sorcerer. She was the goddess of beauty and death and this seems like a fair match because death has its own kind of beauty and things are beautiful only because they are fated not to last. She wore a necklace that had its own name and a cloak made of falcon feathers and was a fashion icon. Her pet was a boar and no one talks much about her daughters because their mother was so much more interesting.

            Her husband was Óðr. He was a storyteller, a man of inspiration, a creative, an international pop icon. He might have also been her father in another life, but that’s neither here nor there. Óðr was the kind of man who comes along once in a lifetime, like Freyja was the kind of woman who comes along once in an age, and together they burned bright and hard and when their bodies came together they raised mountains and birthed poetry and blinded mere mortals with the power of their mutual bliss.

            It was a love like no other love, which is what everyone in love thinks about their love, and there were happy days, incandescent days, days that made the possibility of paradise seem like an eternity in primary maths, because they were so special, so fucking special, and this was better than anything else could ever be, because they had discovered the secret love that others couldn’t possibly achieve. It was a kind of love mania, and they wrapped themselves in it tight and tighter and tight as they could stand and then some more.

            Like all love stories, it is not a happy story.

            Óðr would leave. He would have so many ideas and Freyja would tell him to come back to bed but he couldn’t, because when the ideas came he could not stop them, you can’t ever really stop the good ideas, the big ideas, the crazy ideas. An idea is a cancer that explodes beyond all control if you try to suppress it. The only thing to do is let it come, and so Óðr would let the ideas come in, and if there was one there were a thousand, and when there are a thousand ideas in your head, it is impossible to stay in one place. So he would roam, walking through each idea, letting them catch light and some extinguished themselves and others became solid and took flight and still he walked and ran and danced across the face of the globe, because one cannot be still when the ideas arrive. One cannot still their feet when the ideas flock or your brain will explode and there can be no more ideas if the insides of your head are plastered across the wall. Ideas are madness, but it is greater madness to deny them.

            So he would go and Freyja would stay. That is how it works in some stories. One person goes and the other person stays. She stayed because she did not have the ideas. She knew so many things that Óðr didn’t, but she did not know what it was to have this onslaught in her mind, and she could not understand why he went. All she knew was her sorrow at his departure. At first, all she did was cry. Even her agony was beautiful, because she cried so hard that she wept tears of gold.

            He would come back when all the ideas had finally quieted, and their joy was rapturous, and the murmurs at the edges of Freyja’s heart would still, and for a time she would forget that this would not last. These things just don’t last; it is not their nature. They would lie upon their bed and touch one another’s faces and recite lyrics to their favourite songs and she would tell him about the fallen warriors she had claimed for her hall and he would look into her eyes that wept gold and he told her again and again how much he adored her.

            Then he would leave.

            There were times when Freyja could bear it no longer and she would search for him. She would wear her falcon cloak and combat boots and take a handful of names and she would travel to lands where they had never given sacrifice for her and she would ask if they had seen her love, if her husband had passed their gaze, and the answer was sometimes yes and sometimes no. She would cross the earth weeping gold, everything else forgotten, the children, the warriors, the other gods, all for the focus on this one thing, this man, this obsession. There were a few times where she caught up to him, and she would bring him home as he spoke of his ideas, and she would weep for those ideas too, the ideas that kept him from her, but he would return to their bed finally, and she would lay her head down in exhaustion but fearing sleep, for what if he wasn’t there when she woke? They did this down the centuries, and Freyja loved her husband, but she hated him too, thinking this only in the moments when he first returned. Then she would forget again, and she would love him with her whole heart.

            Love stories are all sad stories, because people break up or they die, but this story is truly awful. Óðr went walking and Freyja could not find him and then came the death of the gods, the apocalypse, where the earth was scoured clear except for one tree, two humans (meaning we are all the product of primeval incest) and Freyja. She was the only god to survive, which was her destiny.

            That’s where the story ends, and that’s why it’s the worst story of them all. The story ended and she was still there, but there was no more. Just an open-ended plain with no love and no warriors and no bed with rumpled sheets or the sound of his voice whispering in her ear. It was just her, alone, with two humans who were too busy repopulating the earth to pay her any mind, and the memories, but no way forward. The story was done but she remained.

            So people might think that I would identify with Óðr but I think I see myself in equal measures in the two of them. I’m a madman, and I know what the ideas can do and what they feel like, but I know what it is to be the only one left when the story stops. I know what it’s like when the great love saga ends and there’s nothing but a big empty space, earth blasted clear and the sky dark and nonetheless with the expectation that life is supposed to go on. Go on. Only people who aren’t storytellers would suggest such a thing. They don’t understand.

            Nor do I, I suppose, in the end.

            Anyways. I made a lot of this up. But it doesn’t mean it’s not true.