You did not think you would see him again.
You still remember the day you left; the thick heat of the air around you, the atmosphere always heavy with water from the oceans that surround your home. You still remember the night of your descent, the pieces of you and of your power falling to the ground around your feet.
You remember facing your sister. You remember losing.
(Death, unfortunately, left you with those.)
The knowledge of your failure circles the air around your head, trailing the paths of these creatures that are here to remind you of your purpose.
They are getting impatient. They are getting hungry.
The first they see after your return is a girl whose mother you once loved. She sits in the midst of a shrine to you, next to another who is the closest you’ve ever had to a friend.
Your reminders bite and snarl, but you see the piety of those at your feet and so you turn to your sister, seated on the throne you so foolishly challenged.
“You will not take them,” you tell her, teeth grit against your leash. There is searing in the piece of your soul left behind, the mark of what you have to lose, a reminder that you have no power.
But the creatures calm.
You reach out to those who mourn you as you pass, run a hand through the girl’s dark hair. You wish her calm and power. You wish her light and strength.
Neither of them see you, but that is your doing.
Years later, someone will call you callous. He will be looking at now, at your hand pointed unrelenting at someone you used to love.
He is not you; he did not see what you’re seeing. He was not faced with the decision of sending someone to hell in your place, in place of a bet you so foolishly placed on your own power. He did not return from death expecting joy and receiving only lukewarm guilt. He did not return to his throne from the bottom of the Kur only to see his husband sitting there, swathed in colors from his wardrobe and being attended by those he’s claimed.
Those that followed you from below snap and snarl in delight. This is exactly the kind of hunt they’ve been looking for.
Your husband does not see you when you first enter the room. He rests comfortably on the throne you built, weaved from roses grown by your mother’s hands. His head tilts back, your crown resting softly on his brow. Those attending him rise at your entrance, and come to stand at your side, next to those who you claimed as your own, as safe. They are also clothed white; you let them come.
Your husband has chosen your riches over his own safety, and now he will regret it.
The demons of your failure that have been following you claw giddily at the air around him, and he does not open his eyes until they begin to tear into his flesh. His eyes alight with fear when he sees them, but that is nothing compared to the dread he shows when he sees you.
“Inanna,” he says, but you care not for the words burning his tongue.
He screams as they grab him, and you are satisfied by the terror in his trembling voice. He throws himself to the ground at your feet, and you think, now, he kneels.
You think, now, it is too late.
He should have worshipped you before you left; you were always more of a god than he. He should have mourned your death before fear and guilt could burn the air in his lungs, doing it for him.
The creatures release him from their grasp long enough to watch him grovel, to laugh as he claws at the ground beneath your feet. Blood from his time in their hands begins to slide down his back.
Your husband draws a breath from his place on the ground.
Your husband runs.
You are still slow from your time in your sister’s domain; death has drained you more than you would like to admit. When you reach out to catch him he slips between your outstretched fingers.
Power pounds through you, but snags and slumps against your fingertips. By the time you have the breath to try again, he has already scrambled his way out of the room.
Your attendants standing around you may have mourned your passing, but they still hesitate with siding against their king. Especially as they notice your divinity has been stripped, is threadbare, is stretched to meet your soul still trapped beneath the earth. It is there until you can find another to replace you.
The reapers that have been freed to claim the soul you damn clamber uselessly at the wall he escaped through. They cannot make it through the wards you yourself have made against your sister’s magic, the magic that causes their hearts to pound against their ragged, death-torn chests. They cannot follow.
You do not bother tearing after him. You know where he will have gone.
His sister comes to you, the next morning.
She is shaking with anger and fear. Her arms drip with blood that is both hers and not, shaking from the weight of holding her sword.
“You will let him go,” she says.
You wonder at how similar she is to your husband. They were both graced with the same wide-set shoulder, with the same burning love in the ember of their eye.
You wonder at how similar she is to your sister. Her hands look born of earth and toil, and you can picture your sister in the burning anger of her stance.
You want to reach out to her, brush her crusted bangs back from her eyes. You want to take the time to tend her wounds. You want to listen to her talk to you, let her words lull you to sleep.
You do not know if yearning is born from the likeness to your sister or your husband.
The sword in her hand falls heavy, condemning you both.
Shelby MC is a queer writer from the heart of Texas that would rather live anywhere else. They live with their five cats and their laptop, and do their best to write often and well. You can find them at shelbychild.tumblr.com (where they will soon be screaming about their upcoming podcast.)