(R is for) Ragnarök

Warnings: lack of editing warning. Trigger warning for death and grieving.

In the world that once was, there were only the myths. One set of stories, one set of characters each obedient to their fate. Nestled there among the Norse myths, bitter and cold, was Loki. He was, always, the chaos-bringer to the Æsir. He was the trickster, the maker of cruel mischiefs, the silver-tongued outcast in their midst. The one who would bring the end, Ragnarök, upon them all. A match for Kali in another life, perhaps.

Oh, but that boy had a rage to burn mountains, and a soul rich with the urge for vengeance. I bet his eyes just glittered with the ache of clenching fists at his side when he wanted to clench them around throats instead. Maybe he should have saved himself the trouble, should have ripped Odin’s one good eye from its socket and forced it down the old man’s throat before ripping that out, too.

There’s nothing in the realms scarier than a good man made a monster. And maybe Loki wasn’t good in the way the Æsir were good: he didn’t have the brawn, didn’t have the status, but give him a war to fight and watch the enemy run. Give Loki a problem that couldn’t be punched away, and watch him outshine the greatest Asgardian.

It was never enough. Never would be. Didn’t matter how often he did right by the Æsir, the whispers of the Norns followed him through Asgard. He carried the burden of their prophecy: they whispered that he would one day swear vengeance against those he tried to live peacefully with, hissed that he would bring about Ragnarök. Loki could laugh off the idea- after all, why would he wage war against the people he saw as blood kin? The Æsir, though, were afraid. The trouble with a prophecy is that it’s always self-fulfilling. They believed Loki would bring their end, and so the Æsir hated him. The Æsir tortured him in their fear of his possibilities, and so Loki would bring their end.

They shouldn’t have touched his kids.

Shouldn’t have herded them into the throne room in the middle of the night like cattle to slaughter, like ritual lambs readied to drown in their own blood. Odin should have known better than to make sport of his cruelty, to bring the full court in to watch the spectacle. You never show a boy with fire in his eyes who he should be hating. It never goes well for the people he sees. But then, they shouldn’t have ripped little Jörmungandr, youngest of the family, shaking and crying from his father’s arms. Shouldn’t have beaten him, his screams and Loki’s pleading echoing through the otherwise silent and cavernous hall until the serpent-boy lay there, gasping and weeping and unmoving. They shouldn’t have thrown Jörmungandr, bloodied and terrified and oh so alone, into the waters of Midgard in hopes the child would drown.

Survival is our gift. They should have known better.

Thor shouldn’t have forced the bridle upon Sleipnir, should never have dragged the boy to the stables to serve out his life under Odin’s almighty ass, forced into battle though he was a child terrified of the bright lights and the loud sounds and the chaos.

They shouldn’t have bound Fenrir onto his lupine knees, shouldn’t have forced the blades into his mouth to stop his howls for mercy. Shouldn’t have condemned him to a lifetime of choking on his own blood, whimpering and trying not to move for an eternity to try and ease the pain.

Shouldn’t have thrown my namesake, terrified and small, beaten and helpless into the realms of the dead in hopes she’d join their ranks without too much fuss. Perhaps they should have realised that if anyone would seize control, it’d be Loki’s daughter. Survival is our gift, after all.

No, the Hela of old isn’t me, nor her brothers my own, and yet still, the ache is there. The vicious sting of fury for siblings I’ve never had, the urge to protect them, lingers on. They’re my kin, even if they don’t exist anymore.

*

But the world never stays, and time trickled onwards, oblivious. The once upon a time ruled over by singular beings faded as the world grew. The gods became men became gods.

To make a god, you simply kill a man.

There are countless trickster gods now, the one Loki reborn in a thousand faces, each with their own myths and legends, until the first is lost and the stories blur and blend. Sometimes, the family left behind becomes the Æsir, and Loki rises against them. Other times, he brings them peace. Sometimes the reborn Æsir have little if anything to do with Loki’s human life. Only one part of the story remains the same, no matter which version of Loki’s story is being told.

Whether it takes hours or decades, sooner or later Ragnarök always comes.

In the original myths, Ragnarök comes like a roaring tide of chaos. The original Loki, bitter and broken rises up against Asgard, and the worlds burn alongside the gods.

 

But our Loki, my Loki?

I wish you could have met him. Our beautiful Loki, one moment there, the next gone. Ours was a benign trickster, eyes lit with mischief, and warmth, and love. He’d scoop my sister up, spin her around, sing her to sleep. There was no torture in our care, and family squabbles replaced the warfare of his namesake.

But still, Ragnarök came for us, even if our Loki’s involvement was entirely incidental. It came as pieces, easy enough to miss at first, growing and shaping out of sight of the players.

My mother, body shaking even though the tears just wouldn’t come, arms wrapped around herself for comfort, hugging herself the way he should have been hugging her. She stood at the bedside, her brain arguing with her eyes and her heart before she turned away, unable to stand another moment looking at the rapidly cooling corpse on the bed her husband should be recovering in. The urge to be sick as the first should of many flickered into being in her mind. It should have been me. I should have done more. He shouldn’t be dead. I should have let him clean the roof. This shouldn’t have happened. 

Ragnarök crept towards us, lurking in the shadows as my aunt stormed the hospital waiting area like an avenging goddess, her parents trailing behind her as though desperate to be anywhere else in the world, emotions held in check with the sort of forceful will that takes decades to develop. It came as my mother straightened her spine, seeking words to give voice to the unspeakable, her face so tearstained that no words were truly needed.

Ragnarök began its hunt as my grandfather shook his head, hands held out as though they could hold back the truth, and demanded to see his son. As he hesitated in the doorway to a small plain room, his hand gripping the wooden door frame, fighting for composure even though he had long since sent the nurse away.

His family needed him to be strong. Geoff needed him to be strong. It was a mistake, it had to be, the sort of nightmare that happens in underfunded hospitals. His son was alive, and needed medical attention. Geoff needed him to prove that they were wrong. Their family needed him to be strong. Geoff wasn’t dead, they were wrong. He needed to prove them wrong. He needed to do this. Just a look. He could do this.

It could still, possibly, be okay. Geoff could live.

It came as sheer force of will drove my grandfather’s body towards the bed, as he touched a shaking hand to the cold face of his youngest child, needing to prove to himself that it was more than just a nightmare. It came as the veneer of composure slipped, as my grandfather became the first of many to wholeheartedly wish they could have died in Geoff’s place, as he bargained desperately for a miracle. Ragnarök came as the idea grew and spread that the world would be an infinitely preferable place had any one of us died instead.

It came as my grandfather and aunt were drawn repeatedly to the funeral home, needing to prove just one more time that Geoff was actually dead, that this was real. It came as bruises were hidden on more than one person’s thigh as they tried, failed, to wake themselves up from something that could not possibly be real.

Please, God, don’t let this be real. This shouldn’t be real. 

Ragnarök grew more destructive as the story of Geoff’s death shifted; transforming like Váli into a wolf whose hunger can never be satisfied.

It was instant. He didn’t suffer, didn’t have time to realise anything was wrong…

I ran for the machine. His voice, desperate and pained, screamed at me to stop. He told me that the machine would explode, that the house would burn down if I turned it off. He said he couldn’t let it happen. Not with you asleep upstairs. He chose you. How is that not love?

Fenrir did not kill Odin. Jörmungandr didn’t destroy the earth. The World Tree did not fall. Ragnarök came when we each eviscerated ourselves upon the altar of Geoff’s death, hoping our desolation would be sacrifice enough to call him back.

It didn’t work. It didn’t stop us trying.

The years fell away and the desperation grew into obsession. A few devoted souls began to change the ritual, realising that self-sacrifice wasn’t enough. If no amount of Hail Marys could return him, if self-destruction could not bring him back, perhaps a more general form of destruction could.

No one was spared.

In the chaos of ritual sacrifice, I was born.

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