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  • Maddox Herring

A Promethean Liver

Updated: Apr 28, 2019
















With Apologies to Dr. Peterson


In a land forgotten by man, there sat perched upon a dead rock, a bird. This bird did not look regal, for its head drooped to the ground. Its neck was as wet and floppy as a noodle flung at a wall. The bird was as bald as a friar. Its creator had not bothered to give it feathers, so it could not fly. This pitiful bird was the pet of a powerful god, who cared not for it.


This god, who must not be named, sought to fling toward the earth all the creatures he could imagine. He reveled in drafting beings like the platypus duck. But in fact he had little imagination. The fish could not swim. The lions had no roar. The gazelle had no jump. And man had no thought.


Bored of his new game, the god sat down and decided to delegate his new world to his cousin—or perhaps it was his nephew—he cared not for its lineage. He cared not, not for lineage at all. He knew this being was a buffoon and his name was Epimetheus.

This subordinate tried to mould creatures of the earth, but did no better than the All-Powerful had done. His bats flew around in the daytime, diving into the mad ocean and drowning. His cows had legs that could not hold their girth. And his men were too weak to fight off cold or sickness or the wolf that could kill but not eat.


Tired, he too surrendered his job to another, his brother, who was a being of thoughtfulness and foresight.


Soon the fish swam. The horses galloped. The tigers pounced. Birds flew straight. Everything had its place, but men still did not.


“Just destroy them,” said the All-Powerful.


“Who, then, will admire your creation?” This caught the All-Powerful’s attention. He was a great artist, he always said, and great artists must have an audience.


“I command you to make man understand.” So this subordinate sat on a rock, next to a bird without feathers, and he thought. He put his chin in his hand, his elbow on his knee, bent his back and gazed at the wide wonder that he had created. He did not care that the All-powerful told every God that it was he who created this land himself. This sub-god knew.


But what of these gangly, awkward, weak, hairless creatures standing upon two legs? There must be someone to understand the beauty of this land. To pay homage to the petty All-Powerful ego.


He petted the naked bird as he contemplated his creation. The bird moved its ugly head and brushed its sharp beak upon his chest. It squawked and what oozed from its face was a sound that had both deep rumbling bass and high pitched screech, like a grown man in fevered scream. It moved closer to its compatriot and nuzzled its wrinkled, dry skin upon the smooth marble perfection of the god. They sat there upon the dead rock. For us it was an age. The terror prone Man below suffered daily, died in large numbers and could never enjoy the pleasures of existence, because none were offered to him.


A lone man sat at the base of the dead dead rock mountain. He was nude as all men were in those times. He moved back and forth and lay face down in the dirt. His body gyrated there for many moments. Aghast, the subordinate god stood to his height and bellowed: “Stand up you fool!”


The creature below heard the shaking coming from the mountain, but knew not what it meant. He gyrated harder, lifting his pelvis spasmodically and slamming back down to the earth, harder and harder, and longer, scraping his body and mortifying the god who watched.


“Dear bird. Dear bird. What shall I do? These creatures are hopeless and cannot ever enjoy or love or sing or speak or dance or fight. There can be nothing but slithering in the dirt and to be fodder for the predators.” The bird looked at him and asked, “What can you do? It is the will of the All-Powerful. Make the dumb speak and the blind see. You must.” “Not with this material. Not on all the planets he has created. Nowhere in this existence is there any substance to fulfil the will of the All-powerful. None, none. None. not a single material… of… this existence.”


He sat perched next to the forgotten bird and stared at its foreboding beak.


“Dear bird. Dear bird. I know what I shall do. I know what It will do. I know what it will mean. Dear bird. Dear bird. How I pity thee.”


The bird’s noodle drooped further. It understood little but felt that the only love it had been given was going to be taken.


The subordinate god stood to his feet. He climbed one dead rock to the next. His hands were the size of a great white shark. His back that of a whale. Men below could not understand the terror felt as the titan moved up the world to the cliff of the All-Powerful.


Flickering. Flickering. Flickering. The smoke rose from a fire. Flickering, the smoke wafted up to the dark above. Flickering flickering in the vitreous eyes of the subordinate. Witnessed, he did, the All-Powerful entwined with one of his creations. Flickering. Flickering. He moved her to the floor. Flickering. He moved her more and more. Flickering. Flickering. Flickering. The two were one and one. Flickering. flickering. The beating of the flame. Flickering. Flickering. The bodies one and some. Flickering up and down. Flickering flickering flickering flickering louder with each step. Smoke gathered round and round until nothing could be seen, but the sound of thumping thumping as if the hippopotamus bumping bumping. Brighter was the flicker in the eye of the subordinate, louder was the thump as his blood pumped furthermore. Flickering flickering. Until it was no more.


Bounding down the mountain, the god with his stolen-flame. He brought it forth to man and flung it in their midst. The change was soon for the slithering bipeds. They stood and stood each pointing down to each.


“You are naked,” one said.


“As are you.”


“You are a pleasant sight.” “I was beckoned from the night with this flame. It came down from the mountain. There sits the gods of yore. Bringer of fire and giver of sight.” “And what will we do with this newfound flame of light?” “Survive.”


The subordinate was sticky and wet from his proximity to the activity above. He lay upon the dead dead rock and waited for his love. Down came the all-powerful, sticky from his activity above. With him he brought his rod of power and aimed it at the immortal.


“You cannot be killed by hand or might. Yet punish you I must. You stole the fire of the gods. From this day forth, you, shall be trapped by this dead rock and have your liver ripped out of you to be eaten by one you love.” At these words from the All-Powerful, his wrists and ankles became rock and merged with the mountain round him.


“Bird,” said the All-Powerful. “Go forth and eat his liver!”


“Dear bird. Dear bird. What shall you do? What can you do? I know what you shall do and I pity you.” The bird could hardly move its neck for it drooped like an old birch tree down to the land beneath its feet.


The beak tore into the flesh of his friend. It tore and ripped and gripped the liver. It shoved and squirmed until it was freed from the body.


Before his friends’ screams, the bird ate the liver. For no creature defied the All-powerful. No creature. None. Not a one. Until Prometheus.


Thinking the torment finished, the bird came to nuzzle his friend. His tired beak dripped and dripped and his groggy eyes dripped and dripped.


But that night, by the light of the moon, Prometheus’ liver regenerated. It grew in him like a flower budding and the soil was his blood and the surface was his skin.


With the rising of the sun, came the All-Powerful down the mountain. Upon his face was a devilish grin.


“Bird,” said the All-Powerful, “go forth and eat his liver. As you shall henceforth every day. I have finally created a purpose for you.” With that the All-Powerful was gone.


“Dear bird. Dear bird. What shall you do? I know what you will do. First grant me one request.” “Anything.”


“Say my name.” It did not sound as if it came from the throat of the bird but as if from on-high from the top of the dead dead mountain. “You are Prometheus, betrayer of the gods, thief of fire, damned to eternal punishment by the All-Powerful.” With that, the beak tore into the flesh of his friend and the bird ate the liver.


That night as the liver was born again, the bird grew a feather.

With the dawn the bird crouched low and studied his newfound peculiarity. “Dear bird. Dear bird. What shall you do? But first, what is my name?” “You are Prometheus, Giver of Fire.” With that the bird tore into the flesh and the blood. Dripping. Dripping the bird nuzzled its friend again that night.


In the dawn the bird awoke to a body full of feathers and talons to grip its perch. With a resplendent movement the bird stretched its wings and felt the wind rustle its feathers.


“Dear bird. Dear bird. What is my name?” “Prometheus.” “Good. I am tired now. Will you not spare me a day to rest?” “The will of the All-Powerful forbids it. I must eat of you.” With that the bird ate his friends liver. Within him, the bird felt something grow.


“I hope you will forgive me. My will is not my own.


Prometheus smiled, “Dear bird. Dear bird. What name is on thy lips?” “Prometheus.” With that they slept together side by side.


On the rising of the sun, the bird awoke to a new body. It’s head no longer drooped, for it was powerful and shaped by white feathers. Its eyes were wide and sharp and could see far. Its talons too were sharp and powerful.


It looked with pity on his friend, who smiled weakly.


“Dear bird…” Prometheus said through tight lips. “Dear bird. What name is in your heart?” “Prometheus.” “Dear Eagle. Dear Eagle. What shall you do? I know not what you shall do.” The eagle sat importantly next to his friend. His perceptive eye moved from the taut belly which contained the liver of life.


The eagle said “I am prometheus.” With stertorous breath, the man on the rock said. “Now I rest. Our work is done and it is good. Eagle. What shall you do with your newfound gift of power?” “I will leave this dying place for a new land across the great great ocean to the west. This land is rumor. It may not exist. It may be existence is this barren rock of my birth. It may be a fantasy invented by the All-Powerful to foster hope in hopeless beings. My journey will be fraught with peril. I will journey long. I will sing a song. And I will search for this magical land of green and blue and white and red. Under the stars of heaven by the bars of the evermore, I will perch, day and night, sentinel-like, searching for any man who chooses to whisper my name through the darkened shell of our universe.

Prometheus.”