I decided to take the suggestion of “mythology” under the fantasy genre, so this story is inspired by the Greco-Roman myths of Narcissus & Echo.
Narcisse’s hurried steps echoed down the empty alley. With a heavy sigh, he stopped and slumped against the cool red brick wall.
“Narcisse!” a sultry, feminine voice warbled from the far end of the cramped, littered passage.
He leaned his head back, staring at the crack of dark gray sky for half a second, and growled low in his throat. “Leave me be, nymph.” He wished she could hear his mumbled words and heed them.
Pushing off from the wall, he hunkered down and ran. Where? He had no idea, but Central Park came into view. A surge of hope quickened his pace, but that honey sweet voice continued to edge closer, the distance closing by some power outside his comprehension.
Narcisse stumbled onto a little used path. Tendrils of vines like sticky fingers grasped at his clothes as he pushed through the thickening darkness.
“Oh, Narcisse, you really mustn’t run from me.” The sound of her chiding tone reverberated amidst the trees, like a growing storm building and stirring the world by the sheer force of her power.
She was right behind him, and what he thought were vines proved far more sinister in their nature as they wrapped and twirled, swiped and slithered all around his body. Every move or jerk tightened their grip. He gasped and squeezed his eyes closed.
It took every drop of strength to keep from struggling against his restraints as a puff of hot, walnuty breath tickled his neck just below his ear.
“Why must you run now? I only wish to love, Narcisse. I only wish to have your love, but I cannot stay here. You must return with me.” She purred the words into his ear and sent a chill coursing through his body.
Fingers pressed into his temple, where her nails dragged along his cheekbone toward his nose and inched upward.
“Open you eyes, Narcisse,” she said in that sing-songy, teasing way, but the edge in her tone tingled through his already taut muscles. “Come. Why must you fight it?”
“Echo, I cannot return. I won’t.”
Her fingernails scraped down his cheek.
“Oh,” she cooed, now several feet away, and her voice deeper, deadlier, “but you will.”
The vines holding Narcisse captive yanked and dragged. He could not tell which way they pulled as he was poked and prodded, slung and nearly strangled by the deadly weeds, but he persisted in keeping his eyes closed through it all.
Echo’s laughter filled the open space, and Narcisse wondered why he could hear nothing else. Light filtered in through his eyelids. The musty scent of earth and rotting leaves assaulted his nose strongest, but his stomach lurched at the recognition of water too close for comfort.
In a quick twist and drop, Narcisse gasped, the vines tearing into his shoulders at the sudden stop. His eyes shot open in that moment of panic, and he cried out, rage filling his chest as his reflection stared back at him.
“Better than a selfie. Wouldn’t you agree, Narcisse?” Echo said and chuckled low in her throat, almost as if she were choking on it.
Beyond that, Narcisse heard nothing else but the heavy whoosh of air, or was it massive roiling waves pouring over him? His body tumbled through the chaos, limp as a rag doll, his spirit just as lifeless. It seemed to take hours before he came to rest on his back on an unforgiving hard, flat rock, a night sky brilliant with uncountable stars shining overhead.
The scant solace of it was soon interrupted by a shadowed figuring looming over him.
“She brought you back?”
Narcisse’s eyes closed, a sorry dam for tears. “Yes,” he said, barely above a whisper.
“Where is she? I’ll curse her from now to eternity!”
“No, Narcisse. Don’t try to stop me. We had a deal, and she broke it.”
Before Narcisse could sit up, Hera spoke the words even she could never undo. He saw Echo three feet to his left, half hidden behind a tree, her eyes wide with surprise.
“Do not pity her, Narcisse. She pretends to love you, but it is only your beauty which she covets, and that she can never have.”
“Never have,” Echo said, her eyes wide as saucers. “Never . . . have.”
Narcisse watched Echo reach for her throat, her mouth moving but no sound coming forth.
Hera kneeled beside him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Her love was never pure, and you could never return it, my dear. My love is better still, but at least I recognize you love yourself more than you could ever love another. You are both far too selfish for me to waste another second on.”
She lifted her hand and cold seeped into his skin in its place. He stared at her. She stepped back and frowned, first at Narcisse and then at Echo. “Good-bye.” She disappeared in a blink.
“Wait!” Narcisse cried, rising to his feet and reaching for thin air.
“Wait!” Echo’s voice repeated.
“At least let me go back! The other world admired and loved my beauty but never expected I give it in return. Send me back.”
“Me back, back . . . back,” Echo mimicked, shaking her head and backing away.
Narcisse’s hand dropped to his side, and he glanced over his shoulder at Echo who disappeared into the forest, her shoulders sagging and tears streaming down her face. The only other companion to pay him any heed was his own handsome reflection, laughing up at him from the glistening pool.