Zaphila's Love This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

January 19, 2010
There was a time when mortal man knew nothing of love. He could neither define it, nor explain it, for he had no knowledge of the existence of such a phenomenon as this bond between himself and another. Mortal man lived to survive, because mere survival of his species was his only purpose in life. Love, as we know it today, the binding power of a profound, passionate affection fueled by attraction and desire, was in existence only among the gods. The deities amid the highest heavens had solely known and experienced the essence of a romantic love since before the dawn of humankind, and had forbade this passionate affection from the lowly mortal. This was the decision of the god Xerus, the most powerful among the deities and the creator of man.
Xerus had a daughter, Zaphila, his only child, whom he loved very much. He had given her the task of nurturing the flora of the earth, because she was restless in the heavens. Even though it was forbidden for a god to leave the heavenly realms and walk among mortals, Xerus allowed Zaphila to do so as she pleased, because he loved her very much and he knew that she could never be happy as long as this law constrained her. Xerus had created man in his own image, in the likeness of himself, so it would not be uncommon for a mortal man to mistake a goddess for a mortal woman, except for the fact that the face of a deity glowed white and sparkled with the brilliance of all of the stars in the night sky. Because of this, Zaphila would stand out among the mortals and would be recognized by man, and the gods would hear of her disregard for the law and be outraged. But Xerus loved his daughter and did not wish her to be unhappy, so he wove a scarf of dull colors for her to wear over her head to shield her beautiful face from the eyes of man. He told her that she had to wear the scarf every time she went to earth to nurture its floral beauties, and that she could never take it off while she was away from the heavens, or destruction would be brought upon her by the other gods. Zaphila promised her father that she would obey his command, for she loved him very much and did not wish to dishonor him as his only daughter. Every day, when she left the heavens to walk among the mortals, she wrapped the scarf around her head to shield her face from the eyes of man.
One day, Zaphila was tending to the water lilies growing along the bank of a rippling spring in a narrow valley between two massive green hills, and she began to sing a song of the gods. Her voice rang through the valley and across the hills as beautiful and pure as the essence of her glowing face behind the rugged scarf that hid her identity from the world. Not far away, a mortal man heard this voice but did not recognize the song, for it was of the gods with whom mortal man was unfamiliar. He was so entranced by Zaphila’s song and by the sound of her voice that he could not help but follow it until he came to the place where she sat tending to her water lilies. He did not recognize her as a goddess, but as a woman, and though he could not see her face, he was attracted to her beauty through her voice. When she noticed him standing behind her, she stopped singing abruptly for fear of being discovered as a deity. She was frightened of him, but also curiously attracted to him, for never before had she seen a mortal man so closely, and he was a man of good stature among his kind.
“Do not stop singing,” he pleaded, “Your voice is beautiful and unlike anything I have ever heard. Please…tell me your name.”
With both curiosity and attraction growing inside of her, she answered him, “My name is Zaphila, and my voice is unlike any other because I am unlike any other you have ever known.”
At this, his eyes light up with intrigue and he began to sense something within himself that he had never experienced before. Unsure of what he was feeling, he asked Zaphila, “Are you some kind of spell caster that you should set this unusual sensation upon me?”
Zaphila’s eyes glowed brighter behind the scarf at his words. “Why do you ask me this? Do you not like this sensation?”
“I do like it, but it is unlike anything I have ever known. What is it called?” he asked with pleading in his mortal voice.
Zaphila paused in thought for a little while, and then a smile spread across her face as she whispered to him from behind her veil, “It is called love.” At that moment she removed the dull scarf from her head and allowed him to see the beauty of her shining face. And then, completely disregarding the most important rule of the gods, she kissed him. At that moment the skies parted with a roaring crack of thunder and Xerus, with all of the other deities behind him in a flaming mass of fury, towered over them, glaring at the man in rage. Then he looked to his daughter who was cowering in fear. His piercing eyes watered and his voice trembled as he spoke to her.
“What have you done, my daughter?” was all that he asked, but the way that he looked at her, with so much hurt and heartbreak written across his shining face, broke her heart as well as she realized the full extent of what she had done.
“I am sorry, father…,” she whispered painstakingly. “I have wronged you and the gods. What must you do to me?”
A single tear fell from one of Xerus’s glowing eyes as he forced himself to respond to a question that he had wished he would never have to answer.
“I think you know what must be done, Zaphila,” he whispered. “Because you have let love into the world, you will be forced to live in it and to watch as the consequences of your actions unfold before your eyes. Mankind did not know love because mankind could not handle love. Mortals will turn on one another because of it; they will fight amongst themselves and even kill for it. Death will increase drastically within the human race and you will watch it happen, my daughter, as one of them. Love is not all bad, Zaphila, but it is the root of many evils. With love, you have also brought into the world jealousy, lust, possessiveness, and selfish desire. I loved you, my daughter, but you have taken that love from me and given it to them, so you shall be one of them until the day you die as one of them. You are no longer a deity from the heavenly realms.”
With that, Xerus and the gods vanished, as did the glow on Zaphila’s face. She was no longer a goddess, but merely a mortal, weak and vulnerable, and for the rest of her days, she watched the repercussions of her actions. She watched as man fought for love, and she watched as he killed for it. She experienced the effects of jealousy, lust, possessiveness, and selfish desire, and then she died, alone and without the very love that she had brought into the world. But when she died, Xerus took pity on her and raised her lifeless body into the heavens from where she came and allowed her face to shine brightly once again in the night sky.
And there she remains to this day, cold and lifeless, but with a face that shines with such brilliance that it guides many mortals as they follow it by night. They call her by many names. Some call her Polaris, others call her Phoenice, and yet others call her the Northern Star, but the mortal man to whom she gave her love will always call her by her true name. When he looks up to the heavens, though he is old and his sight is failing, he still sees her face and smiles at she who brought love into the world and into his life. Zaphila.





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