I have taken some other food as well, for it is not the done thing to simply have a large plate of bacon. It is better to have other food, even if it is to remain uneaten. Choosing only one foodstuff and consuming it to the exclusion of all else makes people uncomfortable. In my thousands of years among the mortals, I have mastered some small points such as this.

I shift back, appearing in my hotel room just after dawn. Opening my eyes, I see the light already creeping into the room. I did not close the curtains. That was careless. My room is on the fourth floor, and it is unlikely anyone would have seen, but I remind myself that I must attend to this next time. Next time? I only just catch the thought as it passes. Will there be a next time? What need would there be for that? I do not examine the thought further for now. However, now that I know that the forge is still operational, I can go there whenever I choose.

I decide to have a shower. In truth, I do not mind the smell of the forge, but others may find it worthy of comment. It is unlikely that I will be able to remove it entirely, but I must try. Perhaps I can substitute the smell of some of the mortals’ perfumes and preparations that they have provided in the bathroom.

I am tired, though not from lack of sleep. I do not require sleep, although it has become something of a habit. My limbs ache from my exertions, although in a way, I am also energised. I have achieved something. It has been too long since I reminded myself of what I can do.

Lack of sleep does trouble me, but not because it causes exhaustion. It troubles me because I find it useful to have a division between days. I have been awake now for around twenty-four hours, which means the word yesterday is an ambiguous concept. Such details do not matter, given the circumstances.

I take the bundle under my arm and place it in the wardrobe. Why did I not leave it at the forge? After all, I could retrieve it whenever I chose. Do I expect to need the items here? After some thought, I slip a small dagger into my sock. One never knows when danger may present itself. I stand up and consider how I feel. I thought I would feel safer, but somehow I feel more foreboding if that is possible. It is as if the addition of protection makes the danger more real. What danger? I do not know, but I feel something is going to happen.

Before I go downstairs for breakfast, I unmake the bed. I am sure nobody will care, but it is best to be circumspect about these things.

I sit alone to eat. Mortal food is not entirely disagreeable to me. Particularly bacon, although it seems it is something that is usually only eaten at breakfast. I am unable to explain why. Surely it would grace any meal? I do not pretend to understand the mortals and their conventions. I have taken some other food as well, for it is not the done thing to simply have a large plate of bacon. It is better to have other food, even if it is to remain uneaten. Choosing only one foodstuff and consuming it to the exclusion of all else makes people uncomfortable. In my thousands of years among the mortals, I have mastered some small points such as this.

Many of the mortals sit together and talk, and I recognise some from the event yesterday. None chose to sit with me, and so I am left with my own thoughts. I am thinking about when I will return home when someone I recognise dumps himself down in the chair across from me. The cutlery on the table jumps and bangs together, announcing his arrival.

“I thought it was you. I saw you were staying here. You don’t mind if I join you, do you?” Adam, my new mortal friend, asks.

I nod my assent and find I am pleased to see him. How curious.

He places his plate on the table. He has also selected bacon along with other, less delicious foods. I will watch to see if he consumes them. He begins to eat, but it does not stop him from talking. “I had them call your room last night, but there was no answer. I was going to invite you out.”

He was going to invite me out? I wonder what motive he could have had? It is not common for others to seek my company, and certainly not if they do not know I am a god. In fact, I am not sure how much difference that knowledge makes to anyone, given my nature. For now, I allow myself to forget the thought and focus on the most urgent point. He called my room, and I did not answer. This is something else I had not accounted for. What lie should I tell? Deception is not really my area. “I was asleep.”

He seems sceptical. “At eight in the evening?”

I consider this as I chew some bacon. I wonder whether other mortal food tastes as good to my family as bacon does to me. Perhaps that is why they are so enamoured with it. I do like bacon. I find an appropriate response. “I had jet lag.” The mortals say that all the time. It seems to excuse many things.

He looks confused. “Wait, you came here from Greece, didn’t you? Doesn’t that work the other way? Wouldn’t that be mid-afternoon for you?”

I hesitate. How did this happen? Social interaction and lying, I should not be participating in activities that I am not good at. Luckily, Adam is so used to lies that he provides one for me. He smiles and winks. Winking is such a strange thing. In thousands of years, I do not recall ever winking. “I get it. You arranged for someone to come to your room. It’s fine. What happens on a business trip stays on a business trip, eh? I don’t blame you. Wife doesn’t need to know, does she? No harm done. You are married, aren’t you?”

I find myself liking him slightly less than before. This man would betray his wife. Would he even lie with another man’s wife? He is making me think about my own marriage. Is this his intent? Is he ridiculing me? Is he alluding to my wife being with another? No, he could not know of that. I dismiss the thought. “Yes. I am married.”

He nods while eating his bacon and other foods. “Nice. Beautiful, is she?”

How could I possibly describe Aphrodite to him? I find I am not inclined to. “Yes. She is.”

“You been married a long time?”

He really has no idea, “Oh yes.”

He sighs. “Sometimes it seems like you’ve been married since the dawn of time, doesn’t it?”

It has not been quite as long as that, admittedly. They do say that the first thousand years are the most difficult. “I suppose.”

“You got kids?”

How does one end a conversation one doesn’t like? It occurs to me that I usually storm out. It does not seem appropriate here. “No. No children.” I have no children. We talked about it, but I was never convinced that she—

“Three!” He interrupts my thoughts, for which I should likely be grateful. “I’ve got three. Best thing I ever did. Not that it’s up against much competition.”

This conversation surely must end at some point. There must be some convention that allows that. “I am going home today.”

Will that work? Changing the subject, that is what people do, is it not? If anything, this piece of irrelevant information suddenly makes him appear more animated. “What time?”

My flight is in the early evening, but I have to be at the airport before that. “Late afternoon.”

He ponders my answer in a way that suggests he has already decided what he is going to do with the information. “Are you doing anything this morning?”

“No. I am not.” Why did I say that? Again, the ability to lie casually and convincingly would be advantageous in this type of situation.

He is pleased and nods while eating his bacon. It is possible that the bacon is pleasing him, but I feel sure it is my response. “Perfect. I want to show you something.”

I nod and finish my bacon. The mortal Adam has finished all of his food. I admire his dedication to the task. I have left much of the non-bacon foodstuffs on my plate.

I now realise I am dreading whatever it is that this mortal wants me to do. I find it hard to think of anything I would actually enjoy doing. I can only hope the mortal’s imagination is more developed than mine. 

It seems that the day is destined to be unremittingly wretched. Then I recall that it is a buffet breakfast, and I can have as much bacon as I want. As I get up, I consider that perhaps the day is not all bad and that it may be the case that sometimes one must focus on the small victories.

Hephaestus (Iain Houston)
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