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The Three Swans of Time

A myth. A love story. A tragedy.

By Gina C.Published 7 months ago Updated 7 months ago 14 min read
4
"New Moon, Full Moon" by Michael Parkes

Long ago, when I was a beautiful, young empress of the heavens, I made the unfortunate mistake of falling in love with the moon. So grave were the repercussions of our affair that I was condemned to fly with the three swans of time. As a subsequent consequence, humanity - to which I grant life - was forever cursed with the inability to appreciate the present moment. This is the story of how this all came to be.

Of course, it was my brief romance with the moon that caused all of this, since the sun was angered when I fell in love with his nemesis.

The sun, being the highest lord of the sky, had been waiting patiently for me, ever since the moment I’d blossomed from the ivory-white womb of the clouds, to emerge into my sensuality. Having heard from the molecules of time themselves that I was destined to grow into the most beautiful being of the heavens, his radiant majesty’s ego had caused the delicate heart within him to fixate on claiming my hand in marriage. Thus, he waited for me through my childhood. Powerful as he was, he allowed me the time I needed to grow.

“Behold the lovely parhelia, Calliope - how they flower about my halo today. Do you see, my sweet seraph?”

I glanced up and took sight of the most beautiful, apricot peonies of light that danced around him. “Oh, yes, my Lord, you are right! The parhelia are lovely, indeed.”

“Always pause to appreciate your surroundings, Calliope, for your existence is happening now, just as that of the parhelia.”

I brushed a tendril of amber-red curls from my supple, eight-year-old face, and lifted my sapphire eyes to look up at him. However, his majesty was so luminous that he blurred my vision, forcing me to turn away.

“Tell me, my Lord, why can I not behold you?”

“My sweet Calliope, you must never look directly at me. The flame that emanates from my core is the future for you. While I know I seem close, the truth is that I am billions of light-years away. The rays that kiss your soft cheeks in this very moment are your present, and the present is the place in which you must always rejoice in my light. Never in the past nor the future.”

“Well, if I cannot look directly at you, what about in my memories and dreams? Is it not possible for me to reminisce about the times I’ve spent watching you rise from the clouds? It is too much to dream of your light when I'm surrounded by darkness?”

There was a moment of silence as the sun contemplated my questions. The gentle, celestial winds tousled my long crimson curls, and I studied the elongated shape of my shadow against the cloud-mottled sky.

Finally, the sun answered. “You are right, dear Calliope, it can be lovely, indeed, to reminisce. However, we must be careful to never dwell on the past. For this reason, and because you are a young empress, you must accustom yourself to remaining in the present moment, as I do. Behold how I am magnificent and full in the sky. This is because I am present in every moment of the day. I do not lend parts of myself to the unknown.”

“But, my Lord - you did not answer my question about dreams. Tell me, why mustn’t I be so clever as to have aspirations for the future?”

Before the sun could answer, however, a cloud drifted in front of him. For a brief moment, the heavens around me dimmed and the warmth of his rays left my shoulders. Then, he managed to burn the vapor away, and his rays returned to caressing my skin.

“You must always remain grateful for what lies in front of you, Calliope. You mustn’t focus so much on the future. Your present is full of opportunities, and, should an obstacle arise, you shall learn to take it one day at a time.”

I smiled, soaking in his advice just as much as I did his warmth. Being a young girl, I was entirely oblivious to his romantic intentions with me.

“I must bid adieu to you now, sweet Calliope, for the time has come for me to set below the cloud beds.”

“Please don’t leave, my Lord! How will I manage to see without you?

"I will always be here for you, my seraphim. During the dark of the night, all you must do is look to the moon, for it is my light that reflects off of him and onto you. Please, always remember this.”

And remember, I did. As I moved through the tides of my childhood, I never forgot the sun's words. That is, until one night.

***

It was his smile that first caught my eye. It was the summer I would be turning eighteen, and one evening, against papá’s wishes, I’d decided to stay out past the sunset in order to tend to the formations of the clouds.

My papá, being the lord of all heavenly vapor, was second only to the sun. Therefore, he worked closely with the sun and was in charge of all storm patterns for both the heavens and the Earth below. Because of this, he was capable of moving the clouds in the sky. As a young girl, Papá started to teach me the ways of arranging the patterns of the clouds. Unfortunately, I'd never taken a particular interest in the art. On this precise evening, however, I had something alluring in mind.

Though I would never have admitted it to anyone, the sun was beginning to become a bit of a bother to me. During my childhood, he was lovely and protective, yes, but as I began to effloresce into my womanhood, I was beginning to become distrustful of the sun’s intentions with me. Thus, I’d devised a plan. I was going to rearrange the clouds while no one was awake to see me, positioning them in such a way that fragments of the sun’s light would be shielded from my skin. It seemed like a harmless notion, and I didn’t put much thought into what could go wrong.

I was picking and pulling stubborn clouds every which way, creating new storm patterns in the sky, when I saw him, smiling at me from a pinhole I’d created in the celestial quilt. My heart fluttered upon taking sight of him. He had the most beautiful, breathtaking grin I’d ever seen - a luminous crescent that glowed in the sky.

“Hello, Calliope,” he said to me softly.

I paused to catch my breath. “Hello,” I said back. I felt his soft incandescence brush my skin, and my cheeks began to blush.

“I’m so honored to finally have the chance to meet you.” His voice echoed off of the stars and wrapped around my waist, pulling me to my feet.

Though I still struggled to catch my breath and stand on my own, he held me somehow. “I…I believe I’ve heard about you,” I stammered. I fidgeted to remove a single strand of hair from my forehead, which was damp from perspiration. Two arms reached out of the sky in the form of a breeze, and he wiped it away for me.

“Oh my, I do apologize,” he said, “allow me to introduce myself to you. I am the Cheshire moon.”

I smiled, still feeling the cooling effect of his breeze on my forehead. “The Cheshire moon,” I repeated, “I’m sorry, I can’t quite remember my lessons about the moon, I know mostly about the sun. Are you the same as the waning crescent?”

He smiled a bit brighter. “Yes, that would be me, smart girl. I appear after the full moon, you see.”

I looked up at his magnetic grin in the dark of the sky. I felt his grip, which was still firm around the small of my waist. His words seemed to wander directly into my veins. His voice was angelic, resplendent, pure, and quixotic. With each echo, I imagined myself painting his breaths in the sky.

“Calliope, are you all right?”

“Yes, I believe so. I’m not sure why I’ve never seen you before, is all.”

He pulled me closer. “It’s getting late, Calliope. You should be getting some sleep. I’ll be here again, soon enough. I will find you.” He illuminated the tops of the clouds so that I could find my way back to the kingdom. “Remember,' he said, “I will come back for you."

***

I awoke the next day to mottled, weakened sunlight. I sat up abruptly, remembering immediately what I’d done.

Outside my door, papá was in an absolute huff. “What in the heavens?!” He exclaimed.

I shrunk under my covers, disquieted. Was there any way for him to know it’d been I who’d adjusted the clouds?

“Calliope, my sweet seraph,” whispered the sun, “I am weak today. Will you be all right without me?”

“Oh, my Lord! I’m so sorry to hear you’re not feeling well.” For a moment, I caught myself feeling despicable for my actions. Then, I remembered why I’d done this in the first place. Already, my skin felt liberated and free without his constant caressing. “A wise old star once told me to take it day by day, my Lord.”

The sun chuckled. “Yes, beautiful angel, you are right. Thank you for reminding me.”

I climbed out of bed and set out to enjoy the day.

***

I quickly became accustomed to cloudier days. Every night, I snuck out of my room to reposition the billowy, swirling formations of vapor. Somehow, papá had not managed to catch me yet. I was lucky in that he blamed it on Atticus, the lord of the winds.

Repositioning the clouds in order to gain a bit of an escape from the sun was not the only reason I continued to slip out at night, of course. In the dark of the evening, when the sky became strewn with a canopy of stars, I met up with my darling, the smiling Cheshire moon. Unfortunately, he only lingered for six or seven nights at a time. Then, he disappeared into the darkness. When this happened, I was forced to wait several weeks until I could see him again.

“I miss you so much while you’re gone,” I said to him softly. Must you leave me tonight?”

He wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me closer to him. His strong hands ran through my long, cerise tendrils. “I will always come back for you,” he whispered assuredly, “remember, when you see the full moon, it is only another week before I return.”

I gave a small smile, and a tear ran down my cheek.

He wiped it away quickly, kissing my forehead. Then, he helped me reposition the clouds with his cool, tranquil breeze.“This should keep the sun off of your shoulders tomorrow, my love," he said, running his fingers down to my hips. "Do you remember where to go if Atticus should attempt to move everything back?”

I blushed, then nodded.

He held up my chin. “Don’t be so sad, beautiful girl. Everything is perfectly fine. I’ll be back again soon. Until then, Calliope, keep yourself safe while I’m not here." He smiled at me - his irresistible, Cheshire moon smile - and we danced under the light of the stars until it was time for me to wander back home.

***

“I just don’t understand why the clouds are shifting like this, causing absolute mayhem!” Papá exclaimed. His anger rocketed through the air.

As I watched him pace back and forth in the foyer, I felt frightened, guilty, and absolutely dreadful - but I was at a loss as to what to do. I tried my best to console him.

“I’m sure it will be fine, papá, I promise.”

“Calliope, my sweet angel, you don’t understand. The sun is already furious with me for this ongoing disaster. You have no idea what he’ll do if our clouds block his light for much longer.”

I gave a small huff. “The sun? What can he do, papá? He’s not as wonderful as he seems, you know.”

Papá looked at me, his eyes exhibiting great prudence. “Careful, Calliope, for you have no idea what the sun is capable of doing if he’s angered.”

***

The full moon illuminated brightly, and I found myself looking up at it, missing my darling. It had been two months since I’d begun tiptoeing out at night to reposition the clouds, and I had fallen hopelessly in love with the man in the moon.

I sighed, clumsily lifting up bundles of marshmallowy vapor and struggling to rearrange the formations. The only good attribute of the full moon was that it enabled one to see better during these midnight mischiefs. However, I despised just about everything else there was about it. For one thing, its perfectly spherical form reminded me of the sun. For the next, the full moon meant it would be at least another week before I was in the arms of my love again.

Indeed, I longed for my smiling, Cheshire man. And, as I beheld the full moon before me, all I could do was dream about him - about the future, when he'd return - and about the past: remembering when he held me firmly in his arms.

***

"Calliope, my love, I'm afraid I've failed to tell you my name."

I looked at his handsome face, which smiled brightly as ever at me. I held my hand up to his firm, chiseled cheek, and gazed into his luminescent, silver-toned eyes.

"I've wondered," I said, "what is it?"

"It's Rowan," he said softly. Then, he braced the mid of my back with his hand and leaned over to kiss me.

I felt myself melt into his embrace.

We sat on the edge of the clouds, dangling our feet down into the heavens below us. The backdrop of stars formed constellation silhouettes of lilies, roses, and tulips. Or at least, that was what Rowan told me. As the moon, he was better positioned than I to see such things on the Earth.

"Do you know what a swan is, Calliope?"

I thought for a minute. "Is that a flower?"

Rowan smiled at me. "No, it's a bird. One of the most beautiful you've ever seen."

"Oh! I know what birds are!" I exclaimed. "I see them sometimes as they fly beneath the clouds."

"I want to show you what they are," he said. He took a tuft from the clouds in his hands and began sculpting the most beautiful creature I had ever seen, with a long, thin neck and wide, feathery wings. Then, he handed it to me and picked me up in his arms.

I held the swan out in the air as he twirled me in circles. And, for the first time in my life, even though I'd lived a life as an empress, I felt I could fly.

***

We woke up the next morning, laying beside one another on the clouds and holding each other in our arms. My heart dropped when I realized what had happened.

"Rowan!" I exclaimed.

Rowan shot up and looked around, but it was too late. The sun had already found us. We'd spent the night making love and had forgotten to reposition the clouds.

"My Lord!" I bawled out, for I noticed him watching us from the sky.

"You've betrayed me," said the sun. His voice was deep, agitated, and angry.

"She did nothing of the sort!" yelled Rowan. He stood up and shook his fist at the sun. "You don't own her! She's never been yours, you pathetic old man!"

The sun ignored him and continued to fixate only on me. "My child, you disappoint me, for I've been watching you while I've been under the weather. I've seen how you've stared longingly at the full moon, dreaming of the future for the waning crescent to return. In the same way, you've gazed at the full moon and reminisced about the past, all the while staring at my light - the light of your LORD."

"Your majesty, I - " but before I could finish, the sun continued:

"You've betrayed me, Calliope, and you are no longer fit to be an empress. I hereby condemn you to fly for the rest of eternity with the three swans of time: the past, the present, and the future. You shall be forced to forever gaze at the moon in its fullest form - the form which causes you to long for the waning crescent - for your darling, the Cheshire moon. The swans of the past and the future will fly eternally by your side, which shall be a representation that you exist between two places that do not truly exist.

I gasped. "Please!"

"That's not all, Calliope. Your greatest curse shall be that the swan of the present will always be out of your reach. And because you have insulted me so, this curse of yours shall also be extended to mankind, to the people to whom you breathe life. They will struggle to stay in the present just as much as you do. For this, my fallen seraph, they shall always resent you."

And with that, the sun made Rowan disappear from my arms. In his place, the swans of the past and the future now fly by my side.

And that is the reason why mankind has such difficulty living in the present moment, I'm afraid. You see, it is all my fault.

Made with Canva

Fantasy
4

About the Creator

Gina C.

Achievements:

  • Twice-published in Vocal's Moment of Freedom Collection:

My Soul of Red

Free Verse

Free-Form poet of ethereal style 🧚‍♀️✨

Fantasy writer

"Waterfall" rhymer ☺️

Illustrating my own images since January 2024 🎨

TT/YT: poetry.in_pajamas

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  1. Compelling and original writing

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    Well-structured & engaging content

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Comments (3)

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  • Heather Hubler6 months ago

    Oh my goodness, this was such an engaging tale. I was as caught up in it this time as when I read the original version. These stories beg to be put into a collection!! Loved it. One of these better place :)

  • I was so happy to read about Calliope and Rowan again! I love these characters!

  • Ah, but it is not your fault, Caliope. 'Tis the sun who, for all his age, has no more wisdom or maturity than a jealous child pitching fits & throwing tantrums & causing everyone else to suffer whenever he doesn't get his way. Never shoulder the blame for someone else's intemperance. Yep, loved it every bit as much as I did the first time around, lol.

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