Blood Like Apples

They say the world will end when a wolf swallows the sun.

***

I see him on the sidewalk, blue shirt tucked into pressed jeans, jacket unbuttoned, and tie knotted perfectly. Shoes polished. Yellow hair smooth. Everything about him elegant and untouched. And his hand-of-gold bends gracefully against his stomach.

I remember what his flesh tasted like when I chewed it off.

***

This is how they say it happened:

Because of Loki’s crimes against Odin, when I was born I was taken from him and brought to Asgard. There I was raised among the gods. But I continued to grow and grow in size and beauty, I gained cunning and magic, too – such were the gifts from my father. I ate and I ate and I ate, until the gods recalled the prophesy that I would be strong enough to one day swallow the sun and cause the end of the world. So they decided to chain me down.

With a ribbon woven from six impossible things they caught me, and the only god brave enough to tie off the knot was Tyr. He tightened it about my neck, and I snapped my jaws around his wrist. I was a wild beast, not to be trusted.

***

I double-park my Mercedes and leap out, sniffing the air. Gods smell like apples and I only notice burned grease from the diner across the street and the undercurrent of salt and fish from the bay a few blocks over. And him. His apple-smell is distinct, and I could follow it over miles and mountains.

It makes me hungry.

My high heels click on the sidewalk and the bracelets on my wrists jangle. I wear enough to hide the binding ribbons, and a thick necklace of abalone and silver to disguise the chains around my throat. I am impossible to miss like this: a demi-god in an orange cotton California dress.

I dash up behind him, running on my toes, wishing I could transform into my beast-self, my giant angry wolf-god self, to snatch him up and carry him away. But I am bound into the body of a girl. At least it is a beautiful body.

Every breath is suffused with the sweet-cooking-apple smell of him. My stomach growls. I reach out and touch his braid, just skim my fingers down the thick rope swinging slightly in the rhythm of his walk. Though he can’t possibly feel it, he stops and swings around.

All the polite inquiry filling his face melts off like a glacier in the sun. “Fenris,” he says, voice unsure.

I don’t wait. I grab his face and I kiss him.

***

This is what it was really like:

There was my father Loki, the boy-god everyone loved and hated in equal shares. He carried me over the Rainbow Bridge to Asgard and put me into the god’s bower. They raised me on the mountain with kindness, though most feared the sharp fangs appearing where my baby teeth had been. Only Tyr brought me meat instead of fruit, and when I was my wolf-self, starving and running wild, only he brought me flowers instead of whips. He sang me songs to help me learn control, and taught me the language of peace.

It was my own fault they remembered the prophecy that I would swallow the sun: I ate a feast’s worth of sacrificial horses and pigs. I’d done it because they were meant for Freyr, who kicked me and called me Loki’s bitch. But all the gods saw was my never-ending hunger.

I was brought to the Shining Hall, where Odin and his brothers sat waiting. The gods of Asgard circled me, made me gag on the sour and sweet and bitter smell of apples. We shall subdue her,Odin said.

With the sound of a cat’s foot, said Freyr.

The beard of a woman, added his sister Freya.

Thor said, The roots of a mountain.

My father’s god-wife Sigyn: With a bear’s nerves.

With a fish’s breath, whispered Hothr.

And the spit of a bird to bind it all, Odin finished. These impossible things shall keep the impossible at bay.

“Wait,” Tyr spoke. He stood before me, sword at his hip, stance balanced. He was one of the elder gods, and if he had not the sharp wit of Odin, the loudness of Thor, or the fecundity of Freyr, it was not because he was not strong. “This wolf-girl is one of us. A child of Asgard. Shall we treat her so poorly?”

I held my head high, the hunger gnawing inside my chest for bones to crunch between my teeth, or for one of his songs. I growled.

Show us, brother, Odin said. Show us then that she can control herself. That she can resist the sun-sized need.

No. No, I thought, but Tyr walked to me. I backed away, my body ripping and cracking. He was not safe for me, he was not safe! The transformation broke my bones and reshaped my teeth. It changed my tongue until I could not speak.

His face was calm. He did not shake. My back bowed and he put out a hand. “She will not attack,” he said to them. “My word shall bind her.” And to me he lowered his voice: “My flesh shall bind her.”

I opened my mouth to howl and he slipped his fingers past my teeth, sliding them along my tongue. I held my jaw open, my entire body trembling, and breathed in the apple-smell of him. I sucked it down my throat and into the hollow of my stomach. Until it was all I knew, all I wanted and needed in the universe.

I bit down.

***

I kiss him now, hard enough to draw blood. His living hand wraps around my ribs and pulls me closer. The golden hand presses between us, hard against my diaphragm. I take everything I can from the kiss: taste and breath and life.

“Fenris,” he says into my mouth. But his arm is tight around me; I cannot move back.

I groan, a girl-shaped growl that is all I can manage with the binding-ribbons holding me here.

***

The gods cried out in fury and horror as I drank Tyr’s blood and crunched the delicate bones of his hand. He himself stumbled back, lips white, bleeding wrist spilling apple-sweet blood onto the floor of the Shining Hall.

I swallowed his hand.

Relief and satisfaction made me lay down, spreading my wolf-self out, licking lazily at the bloody droplets staining the space between my mouth and his body.

It was easy for them to hold me down, to wrap the ribbons woven of impossible things around my neck and paws.

***

All around Tyr and I, human men and women pause to stare or to walk with wide berth around us. They are jealous of us, or afraid. They sense we haven’t seen each other in a long time, longer than long. They can see how strongly I need him, how much he loves me and has sacrificed. They know we belong to each other, that we are more than human.

But they can’t possibly know that this kiss is the only thing keeping the sun in the sky.

65 thoughts on “Blood Like Apples

  1. Just lovely. I needed that story today. Not sure why, but I know I needed a myth. Thank you, Tessa.

    By any chance do you have good resources/book recommendations to find more on these Norse myths?

  2. Yay! I’m glad. There are just some days when nothing but a myth will do.

    I can recommend some basic books, but have to give the caveat that when I write about them, I change a LOT. Whatever I want. However I want. I write more in the “spirit” of the mythology than the “fact” of it. 😉

    GODS AND MYTHS OF NORTHERN EUROPE by H. R. Ellis Davidson
    MEETING THE OTHER IN NORSE MYTH AND LEGEND by McKinnell
    BEOWULF’S WEALHTHEOW AND THE VALKYRIE TRADITION by Helen Damico
    MYTH AND RELIGION OF THE NORTH: THE RELIGION OF ANCIENT SCANDINAVIA by Gabriel Turville-Petre

    (Esp the Davidson and Damico)

    And I recommend just getting your hands on the Eddas and poems of Snorri Sturlusson.

  3. I do so love the way this reads like something the Beowulf poet would have written, sun-starved, skin-strong. 🙂 I love that Fenris is a wolf-girl. This wouldn’t happen to be from APPLES, would it? Tease.

  4. I hate you for writing this, because it’s all I can think about. Ugh. Almost on par with ASH-TREE SPELL TO BREAK YOU HEART. I hate you for writing that one, too. Gorgeous, good job, and now I have to go show this to the world like I did with Ash-Tree…

  5. I like the line “With a ribbon woven from six impossible things they caught me, and the only god brave enough to tie off the knot was Tyr.” I like it a great deal. Lovely story!

  6. I LOVE the title! AND the picture! and of Course the story! This is one of my favorites for sure! 😀

  7. “But they can’t possibly know that this kiss is the only thing keeping the sun in the sky.”

    What a powerful ending. My chest suddenly felt relieved, as if I forgot the sun was at risk of being swallowed.

  8. That was amazing, Tessa!
    It’d been a while since I’ve been here and read a story, and this was a perfect one indeed!
    Loved it ❤
    So powerful.

  9. Haha, I got all mine from university libraries, too, before I figured out which ones I wanted to buy.

  10. Thank you! I love the word-play of all those old poems, as ya know.

    This is same world as APPLES, yes. All the stories here under the “gods on earth” tag are APPLES stories. Though none of them are *actually* APPLES.

  11. Thank you! I’m not sure any of my stories have been called dazzling before. I like it. 😀

  12. Um, thanks for hating me? LOL. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    And also love it when you push our stories on the wide internets.

  13. Thanks! The Norse myths are so so full of incredible imagery like that. I wish I could take all the credit.

  14. I have to admit I had like ten titles before I settled on this one. So I’m glad this works for you!

    This picture (by John Bauer) has always made me sad, so it was about time I wrote a story about it. (Thanks to Maggie, who told me to.)

  15. Poetic and lyrical. But mostly, I love that last line, for summing it all up in context and being almost as great out of context.

  16. Oh my goodness, a happy ending! I love it when that happens, and especially when it involves a myth.
    Yes, happily ever after for now counts.
    Thanks for a great Monday present!

  17. I must really be somewhat an idiot, but I didn’t realize that it was Tyr that Fenris was kissing till the last line. But it was an awesome story, and with a perfect title and picture.

    And, the part about the sun, that was just creepy.
    First Maggie destroys the moon, and now your wolf eats the sun up. Really, all light’s disappearing from the world…

  18. I swallowed his hand! Thats love. This is why I don’t use apple scented shampoo.

  19. I KNEW you’d make this picture entertaining. With kissing! And blood! And also, nicely done, us, at threatening the most recognizable intergalactic bodies. Brenna should do one about the North Star in danger and we’d be sewn up.

  20. Haha, I think of this one as sort of an on-going ending. It’s definitely just happy for now. Next time, she might not be able to find him and… BOOM. RAGNAROK.

  21. Heehee – as long as it doesn’t ruin the story, I don’t mind at all that it was a surprise who she was kissing. Kind of cool actually. Thanks!

    I didn’t even realize we were attacking the celestial bodies! lol. We’ll have to get Brenna involved.

  22. Aw, it’s entertaining on it’s own. :p

    But better with kissing.

    Can’t take credit for threatening the sun. That’s all those pesky Norse gods.

  23. That is AWESOME. I love the re-imagining! I have a weakness for myths redone, especially myths redone for females, and this is perfect. I remember finding this myth for a project about wolf stories I did way back in high school, and I wish I’d had this an as example at the time.

    Well done.

  24. Thank you! I love retelling myths (as you’ve probably figured if you’ve been reading stories here long enough, hehehe).

    Fenris might just be the original Big Bad Wolf. Unless it’s my story. 😉

  25. So beautiful it left me in tears. Thank you for this bit of beauty on a rainy morning in my world.

  26. So this is what comes from hanging upside down with the blood rushing to your head. I like it. I haven’t revisited Norse mythology since my childhood, but I’m definitely going to have to get to know Fenris again.

  27. Run! Ruuuunnnn! I love Mything Links so much–it’s just a treasure trove of story ideas. (I don’t know why LJ automatically signs me in sometimes and other times, hates me.)

  28. Heehee, I hung off my bed while I was working this one out. 😉

    Norse mythology is my fav. Have fun!

  29. It’s got some really great ways of organizing the stories. Thanks again for the link.

  30. This was the desert to my lunch to day, with a cherry on top. Please do more.

  31. Thanks. I love your icon. It’s the best kind, where I’m all “what is that? Is that a claw or… teeth? Dude it’s teeth and one of them is gold but it’s a monster! AHH <3"

    (welcome to my pre-coffee though-process)

  32. Thanks! Yeah, that’s one of my wolf skulls, Thane. My favorite. One of his teeth fell out, so I glued it back, but not before I gilded it. Because seriously, that is awesome.

  33. They all get names eventually, as do most of my other large carnivore skulls. I’d feel kind of weird *not* naming them, you know?

  34. Love this! So beautiful and romantic and tragic and just a little scary and wow.

    Best phrase: girl shaped growl.

  35. Thank you! all the things I wanted it to be.

    (*whispers* that was my favorite line.)

  36. Alternatively Oxford does a brilliant translation of the Poetic Edda.

    Also to the author, another win, thank you!

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