You are floating in near-darkness. You have been here a long, long time. A cruel punishment for what was ultimately an act of love.
You sigh, and crumple your dry, aching throat to swallow your own ropy saliva. It hurts a little.
After a time, you hear an echoing voice, simultaneously stern and oddly caring. "Tantalus, there is a way out. You must eat and drink it all. It is the only way."
You bend your neck to the water.
Miraculously, this time, it doesn't vanish. You gulp it down, feeling its cold finger stretch through your body, into your cramped stomach.
You crane your sore neck to the fruit, which remains in place. But when you take a mouthful, you taste only phantoms. It burns your cheeks, your gums, the roof of your mouth, the back of your throat. It feels like razor blades against your tongue. You can barely swallow it, and when you do, your stripped mouth continues to sting. The water seems to curdle in your gut.
"Tantalus, you must eat and drink it all."
The tree suddenly looms impossibly large, swollen with every fruit you have ever wanted, and some you don't. How will you possibly eat it all? You look down at the wine-dark sea in which you float, and wonder how many mouthfuls it will take.
Seven weeks? 2 years? 5 years? The rest of your life, such as it is?
You gulp. Tears roll down your face. It's this or...what? Nothing? Is this tortured gorging better or worse than the endless deprivation? If nothing else, at least it is different.
In the distance, you see the tiniest pinpoint of light. As you swallow, you think it grows larger. You're not sure, but maybe. Yes. It has to be, right? You cannot be sure. You will never be totally sure again.
You steel yourself, and take another bite.