Enjoy an excerpt from KA Masters’s “Per Aquas Ad Astra” featured in our new anthology ON TIME.
He was just a boy running from his fate.
Everything was too much, too fast, too soon.
Too much power rose to meet him.
A fuller’s son before Hadrian had found him, Antinous walked through his father’s shop and spent his days imagining life when he would inherit the family business. Each day, he watched his slaves sloshing about in the laundry tubs, up to their ankles in piss, cleaning the togas for the local magistrates.
He cleaned the garments of the province’s governor and their imperial guests. He had washed the emperor’s toga with pride, running his fingers over the purple wool in envy. At night, he had draped the cloth over one shoulder and stood as still as a statue, childishly fancying what life would be life as an emperor.
But now, he shuddered at the color purple and envied the life that he once had.
The life he should have.
A fuller’s son, who knew nothing of power, became the emperor’s consort.
A fuller’s son, who had never even been beyond his city’s gates, journeyed to Rome.
And every day, as he travels in the emperor’s shadow, he sees a new city, a new town, and new people. These people could be him. They should be him.
And every day, his new tutors tell him how to act. How to behave. How every motion he makes, every nervous twitch, every syllable he speaks is wrong. They remind him how he must never disappoint the emperor who loves him. They tell him he must be loyal as a dog to the dominus et deus, who believes that he—a simple fuller’s son—is worthy to be crowned in Rome and rule by his side.
His life had changed with such dizzying speed, he sometimes forgets that this is all real, and thinks instead that his new life is just a dream. He often closes his eyes, washes blank his reality, and like the flash of a meteor, he recalls the accidental meeting. The awkward fumble, the stuttered words, the delicate glance between himself and the emperor. The blossoming romance that sprouted like kudzu, suffocating everything that had once been so certain in the boy’s life.
The honeymoon on the Nile: days dizzily whizzing past him with lessons, rebuffs, reproofs; nights in the emperor’s arms; a man he knows without a crown, without the purple, simply a man named Aelius.
He loved Egypt. To Antinous, it was his honeymoon voyage, a land of possibility. Each ancient wonder greeted him as an equal. The landscape pierced time itself.
But Egypt, a land that conquered time, was rent asunder by the Nile. And the Nile, the endless stream, led him forward.
KA Masters is a fantasy writer who specializes in twisted fairy tales and zombie-infested historic fiction. She attributes her passion for Greco-Roman mythology and Germanic folklore to her alma mater, Dickinson College. Her debut novel, The Morning Tree, was recently published by Indie Gypsy.