Time is destructive; it’s an all-devouring force. Cronus was both of these things. He was the titan god of time and the son of Uranus, the ruler of the universe. This is Cronus’ story. Gaia, the mother of the earth, was angry. Her children had been taken from her – the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes, locked away in the underworld, Tartarus, unable to see the light or feel the sun on their skin, and for what? Because Uranus was disgusted? Afraid? Was the ruler of the universe really unable to bear the sight of his own children? As she felt the weight of the stone sickle that rested across her palms, the answer was clear to her, in all of its simple, violent glory. She called the titans to her – the twelve children Uranus had allowed her to keep. All of them, from Oceanus, the oldest, to Cronus, the youngest, agreed with their mother that the only way to release their brethren from Tartarus was to deal Uranus a great wound – he was a god, and unable to be killed, but the titans knew that if they were able to weaken Uranus, he could be overthrown. However, when Gaia raised her voice and asked her children which of them would perform the deed, all fell silent. No one wanted to be the one to risk angering their father; to risk the consequences that failure would bring. The silence blanketed the siblings in a smothering layer – until Cronus spoke up. He announced to his mother that he would be the one to wound Uranus, that he would be the one to end his tyrannical reign. Unbeknownst to the rest of the titans, Cronus envied his father’s power. He was secretly determined that once Uranus had been dispatched, he should be the one to take his place. And so, the day came. Cronus lay in wait for his father, holding the sickle given to him by Gaia. When Uranus appeared, Cronus leapt out and, catching him by surprise, wounded Uranus gravely. Uranus fled, dripping blood as he went. As each drop of blood fell to the earth, it created something new. The first created the Gigantes, the second the Erinyes and the third, the Meliae. The final drop of blood that fell from the wound landed in the ocean and created the white foam from which the goddess Aphrodite was born. Gaia and the titans rejoiced, happy for Uranus to be gone and for the freedom of the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes. Their joy, however, was short lived, as Cronus immediately took control. He once again incarcerated his youngest siblings, this time commanding the dragon Campe to guard them. He took his throne as king, and forced Rhea, the goddess of motherhood and fertility, to become his queen. Cronus and Rhea ruled all throughout the Golden Age. Cronus was happy – he had achieved his goals, and his subjects were loyal to him. He was the ultimate ruler of all. He feared nothing, other than the prophecy. The prophecy that decreed that Cronus would be overthrown by his son, just as Uranus had been. The idea of losing his throne was his weakness – his one fear. Because of this fear, every time his wife Rhea gave birth to a child, Cronus would swallow each one whole – they would not be killed, but they would not be able to harm him. In a desperate attempt to save her youngest son, Zeus, from Cronus, Rhea stole him from his cradle and gave him to the nymph Adamanthea to raise on Mount Ida, away from his dangerous father. To try and avoid suspicion, Rhea swaddled a large rock in cloth and placed that in the cradle in place of Zeus. Cronus, not realising anything was wrong, swallowed the rock and believed himself to be safe. And so Zeus was raised on the mountain, far away from his father. When he was a baby, Rhea convinced nymphs to play loud, beautiful music at the mouth of his cave to cover the sounds of his cries. As he grew, he got stronger and stronger, and the desire to save his siblings and drive away his tyrannical father grew within him. By the time he was fully grown, Zeus had a plan; but he couldn’t do it alone. So, for the first time since was a baby, he returned to Rhea. His mother was delighted to see him, and to see how well he had grown. When he told her his plan, Rhea agreed almost immediately. Seeing Zeus again had made her realise that the grief she felt for her lost children could be eased – she might be able to get them back. The plan was simple; Rhea would poison Cronus. Of course, he was immortal and therefore unable to be killed, just as his father was before him, but the poison was sure to make him so sick that he would be unable to stop himself from vomiting up Zeus’ brothers and sisters. The next day, Zeus hid as he watched his mother give Cronus the poison, disguised as a herbal concoction of strength. The effects were almost immediate, and Zeus’ siblings began to appear in front of him. At last, Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades and Poseidon joined Zeus on the earth, and turned against their father in fury. One look at their raging faces, and Cronus turned and ran. Cronus’ defeat is what started the 10-year war between the Olympians – Zeus and his siblings – and the remaining titans. After a decade of war and violence, the Olympians emerged triumphant, having defeated and imprisoned the titans in the deepest pits of Tartarus. The Olympians used their new power to finally release the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes from their prison. The Cyclopes were so grateful to them for ending their imprisonment that they crafted weapons and armour for Zeus, Hades and Poseidon – the gods of the heavens, sea and underworld. Zeus was given his thunderbolts, Hades his helmet and Poseidon his trident.
With no one to turn to as I wake and only my own coffee to make, I make begrudging steps around the cabin towards the table. I glance up at the calendar. Two more months. Almost there. Six months is a tremendously long time and although I know that I should be enjoying my stay, it’s proving to be far more difficult than I could have imagined. A once in a lifetime opportunity, for which I have been preparing and aspiring towards since I can remember, one which has taken a lifetime of training and something that I am unlikely to ever experience again. But the distance is too great, too far and there is too much space.
I rub my eyes ferociously as I attempt to gather motivation for the day ahead. The importance of each and every task which I complete here cannot be understated. Each one crucial and so easily ruined. My brain desperately tries to shift my focus on to the tasks at hand but my heart wriggles, writhes and despairs to be reunited with those whom it misses. The photos and memories which I bear may try to fill the space, but my heart yearns for reunion. The people who surround me unknowingly comfort me daily, but they feel the space. They know that there is simply too much space.
Work has to be an escape, otherwise I remain consumed. Fitness must be maintained and monitored; research must be carried out. The application of what I have spent so long discovering is phenomenal. We work, day and night, yet we seem to have made menial amounts of progress. I am constantly reporting this back home, yet the team seem nothing but satisfied, even insisting we are marginally ahead of schedule, encouraging us to take more frequent breaks. Relax. Have fun. But my mind must stay at task as I bury myself in discovery, experiments and research. Experiencing what is out there and frantically attempting to find more, is what keeps me going. Supporting those around me and inspiring one another to strive for success. However, even when success is mounting, I am hit by the realisation that there is so much we don’t know, so much we will never know. There is just too much space.
I lie down, numb. This evening, the building longing sense within me has overpowered my logical and hopeful conscience. Overcome by what feels like grief, shaken by what feels like fear and defeated by what I know has to be heartbreak. No matter my willing, it will be two more months before the space is reduced. So, what is the point of wasting it? Determination will have to carry me through, else there is nothing. Because despite my constant neglectful thoughts and attempts to bury my sadness within me, I know that this distance, this space will soon close. My arrival will incur an emotional uproar but as for now, this is the time. The time to prove myself and succeed for the good of so many. There may be too much space for now, but I must continue to prove that space itself is not too much.
I am trapped under ice.
It’s freezing cold and I am frozen still. Everyone I know is sat on the ice cap above happily paddling with only their feet submerged; sometimes they get pulled below and I swim towards them trying to push them back up while I sink; deeper, lower, where the pressure is so great my chest feels like it’s being clamped together.
I am all alone in the vast wide water. I know there are others trapped under here too, everyone of us trying to stay above the water while we try and battle the weight of it all… but I can’t see them The thick layer of ice seems to be pushing down,
down, I can’t hold the ice up. I just can’t anymore, but I have no choice. I repeat the mantra, that I can and must do this, to myself over, over and over. It helps for a while, and I stay afloat, but it’s not enough, soon I have lost all hope again and I sink lower. It’s so cold down here, freezing. It begins to hurt.
Someone hands me a rope.
I take it with a sad smile, and try and help her hoist me back above the water. It feels good for a little bit, I start to take notice of nice small things, like the sun hitting my face or her laugh as we both hold the rope. Although I am still freezing and my body is still immersed in the icy water, my head is above. My grin returns, a genuine smile for once, coupled with laughter and a little more joy. I missed this, I say. It’s a relief to feel this close to happy again, and the weight reduces; staying afloat seems a little easier. It’s exhausting to keep my head above the water still, but I have her to help. And I can help my friends, who are in the water too now, pushing them up out of the water, or try to at least. We’re coming out of the water, some of us paddling our feet, or better still not even a drop of water on them. I feel halfway to feeling better now. Then the rain comes, drenching everything in its path.
Suddenly my surroundings seem desolate; it’s not long before I fall beneath the surface of the water once more. It seems colder than previously, bitter and spiteful now after the warm sun. I shiver, scream and shout to try and stay afloat. It’s all to no avail as I sink further below the water, clinging and hugging my knees for warmth or comfort. There are voices from above; I rise for a moment only to hear the sounds become clearer, but they turn out to be only yells at me, and I cry even more despite being surrounded by water. I cry until it feels like I don’t even have the energy to do that anymore. I have no motivation to try and swim higher.
The pressure on my chest has risen so much that it hurts. I want to give up, I need to give up, but I can’t give up. Even though I crave the feeling I had before, floating above the ice and waves, it doesn’t feel possible at all to get up to the surface now. Now all I see is the bottom of the water. The dark, black, abyss at the bottom. It’s close, within my reach. But as soon as I try and grasp at it the sharp, icy pain immediately forces my hand away. I look back at the dark, the weight on my chest tightens, and I close my eyes. I try and channel some warmth back to my hands, concentrating on the memories of the warmth of the sun from before. The glowing orange, red or yellow contrasts with black void. I grasp at the darkness again, and I nearly reach it, But I look back up to the ice above. I can see people’s feet, paddling in the water or making shadows on the ice. The ice seems thinner, and easier to crack and break through from here. I can hear voices again, laughter so loud it’s deafening. The noises stop me, frozen in the water. I chew on my lip and wait. I wait for the laughter to stop. For the weight to push me down all the way. But nothing. Nothing. I stop and then swim a bit further up. I start to hear calls from above, willing me, pulling me to the surface. All of a sudden the deep, dark abyss seems too scary.
Less helpless now.
It’s still hard of course even now. Sometimes the weight pushes me back down below the water a little bit, just a little bit. But I don’t sink low enough that the pressure is too high. I try and break the ice, pounding on it with my hands, but I have friends to help on the ice above and I am pulled out of the water by them. The sun shines, drying my clothes and hair which cling tightly to my body. I laugh and smile again, it feels like ages since I have, the weight lifted off my chest so I am very relieved, while my feet splash in the water. Occasionally I’m engulfed in water once again, but I know I can get out again even if it takes a long time, as I have a ladder or a rope which pulls me back up from the water. I never sink as low as I once did. I do sink down low but it is nowhere near as far.
I am forever grateful I didn’t sink as far as I nearly did. I’m mostly happy now. Sitting on the ice, my feet in the water, with a hand grasped in my friend’s, and the sun and a smile on my face.
When she was born she was given the softest of teddy bears (a present from an aunt), which she clutched in little fists and wouldn’t let go of no matter how hard people tried. The name her parents had given it was the first word she ever spoke in her squeaking voice and when she was scared it was that item she’d find, the item she’d hold as if she were again a baby.
Four years old, she got her school uniform from her grandparents, a little red pinafore which she wore around the house for the whole summer before she actually got to join the reception class at the other end of the village. It didn’t totally fit, and the plaid pattern clashed with the turtles on her socks, but she wore it anyway, beaming when she finally went to school with her hair tied up smartly in little pigtails.
At age seven she received a book which became like an extension of her hand. It was a compilation of her favourite fairy tales, golden lettering decorating the outside with beautiful illustrations, which she lugged with her everywhere. On long car journeys, all the way to school and back and even next to her chair at dinner, just in case she needed to check which princess had done what. (She never did have to check. She knew it off by heart.)
Ten brought a notebook into which she spilled her soul, every emotion she ever felt, the contents of which were read out loud by her older brother whilst she tried desperately to grab it back. Pages and pages that she then ripped out and stored at the bottom of a trunk, hoping that they’d never see the light of day again.
When she was twelve, she gave her mother a heartfelt poem written in shaky handwriting which then sat in pride of place for the rest of her life framed in the kitchen, so that it could be shown to every friend that came round. She blushed every time, told her mother she was embarrassing her, but she secretly loved it. She was especially proud of the small drawing in the corner.
Aged fourteen, for Christmas, a collection of DVDs that she spent the whole holiday watching, tucked up with her brother on the sofa. He perfected his signature hot chocolate which she used to beg him to make for her, she learned exactly when to pass him tissues when watching his favourite films.
The year of her sixteenth, she got a beautiful silver locket and gave her brother a hand-knitted jumper to take with him to university. In the locket she put a picture of her best friends, wore it around her neck always, and smiled when she got a photograph from her brother of him shivering in his dorm room, the jumper pulled up to his nose. When the chain snapped, caught on a zip as she pulled off a shirt at the end of a long day, she cried and kept the locket safely in her bedside cabinet until her father went with her to buy a new one.
The car that she and her parents bought together when she was eighteen was her pride and joy, bright yellow and tiny, a means of freedom that she’d never felt before. It moved with her to university some months later, changing from trips to the cinema to trips home, filled haphazardly with cushions and books. She’d never forget the jolting sensation the first time she crashed it, bumping over a pothole and into a hedge by the side of a winding country road. (Her brother never let her forget it either; He never crashed his car.)
At twenty she cried her heart out to a friend, bemoaning both her stupidness and her boyfriend’s, as she sipped from a chipped mug given to her for Christmas by her best friend some years before. The mug had been damaged when the boyfriend had done the breaking up, dropped on the counter in shock, but was still perfectly functional for holding the best cup of tea ever.
The keys she was given to her first flat at twenty-two fit perfectly in her hands, and never left her pocket, the comforting click of the lock making her feel safe in the space that was filled with her, her books and her films and her photos. Filled with notebooks bursting with stories and drawers stuffed with pens.
When she was twenty-four she gave her newborn niece the softest of teddy bears.