When Erebus woke, he was back in his cave. Exhausted and mentally drained, he didn’t want to see any more memories of the past and of what used to be. Rolling over onto his side, he wondered what time it was, what day was it? Has this all been a mad dream? I need to get out of here. Deciding to get out of the cave while he still could, he quickly grabbed his black pea-coat and ran to the big slab of a door. No sun leaked through the cracks, it hadn’t turned day yet; maybe it was over.
He smiled as he pulled back on the rock, only to be greeted by the rushing water of high tide. How had he slept through an entire day? Slowly retreating back within the cave, he grabbed a mop to soak up the water that had come in. Where is the next spirit? High tide had come and yet no one is here? Erebus was confused. Surely he hadn’t missed it. What if they were still to come? When all the water had been mopped up and the floor was dry, Erebus walked back to his bed, only it wasn’t his bed. It was, but something different appeared in front of him. The dark, lonesome cave had suddenly transitioned into a version he’d never seen before.
Candle lights flickered all over the cave, and flowers he had seen only in the Elysium Fields hung all over the walls and filled vases that had magically appeared. In the middle of the room was a chair that resembled a throne made with layers of palladium and black matter. Nyx sat regally on her throne, a crown made of stars upon her head.
“Come forward,” she called to him.
Erebus walked slowly into the middle of the room and stood before his ex-wife. She was magnanimous. She wore a black iridescent evening gown that was low cut in the front, leaving barely anything to the imagination.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Present.” Her voice was carefree and joyous.
Erebus didn’t dare roll his eyes. Even if the “spirit” in front of him wasn’t the real thing, he knew better than to show any disrespect. If there was anything he had learned the night before, he knew he needed an attitude adjustment.
She held out her hand, waiting for Erebus to approach her. He wasn’t sure if he was supposed to bow or take her hand. He did both.
A boisterous laugh escaped her delicate lips. “Oh, Erebus, there’s no need for such formalities.” She rose from her seat, taking a step towards him. “You know why I am here?”
Erebus nodded timidly. “I have seen enough to understand that change in inevitable. I have yet to learn why it is good, though. So, if you insist on showing me more I will follow you, wherever it takes us.”
“Then take my hand.”
Erebus did as he was requested. No sooner was his hand in her palm were they swept up and flying through the evening sky.
“Where―where are we going?” he hesitated to ask.
“You’ll see.” Nyx winked at him like she used to do.
They landed in the North Pole and entered what looked to be a dinner party. It was a Christmas dinner of sorts, he assumed. All of Erebus’ family was there, along with a few other Olympians. He knew what it was in an instant, turning to the spirit next to him.
“This is your dinner party.”
Nyx nodded, her eyes full of excitement. “This is her dinner party.” Both of their eyes fell on the real Nyx, the one who was immortal and not wearing a tiara of stars. Guests mingled about drinking and having a good time. The dinner had yet to start.
“I haven’t even decided if I was attending this dinner yet.” Erebus muttered to himself.
Eros and Dinlas were joking around in the corner, and Nyx was looking over at Dinlas like he was a piece of meat. Erebus’ heart ached at the sight of this. This was the reason he hadn’t RSVP’d to the dinner. He wanted to show Nyx that he was capable of moving forward and rekindling their friendship, but he wasn’t sure how ready he was to witness this new romance of hers. Chloris stepped up to Nyx and asked the million dollar question of the evening.
“Is Erebus coming?”
Nyx shook her head. “I guess he just isn’t ready yet.”
Eros appeared by their side, having overheard the conversation no doubt. “He told me he was staying home. He wanted to do some research on…something.” he said raising his brow.
“Brother, I’d say that’s just a weak excuse,” Dinlas chimed in.
“Well, duh,” Eros said while slapping Dinlas on the shoulder.
Hekate joined the conversation. “Well, if you ask me, the last time I saw him, he looked like he was still in revenge mode.”
“Nah, he’s come along way since Mischief Night, he’s really trying.” Eros spun an arrow in between his fingers like a drumstick.
“I hope so,” Nyx smiled.
“Remember when we used to go to that little shop in Olympus and E would try and show off all his dark powers? He thought only Nyx was watching, but we could all see what he was doing,” Eros chuckled. “He barely had his shadows in-line, never mind working that ridiculous ring Chaos had given him.”
“I remember one year at Christmas, he was in such a good mood he came home with, like, a zillion gifts. There were so many he had to buy another house just so we could play with them,” Nemesis added.
Nyx smiled at the memories. “A lot has changed since then. Erebus isn’t the man we once knew. I guess he’d much prefer to be by himself then to visit with family.”
Everyone nodded in agreement as they sucked back their drinks.
Nyx went back to mingling with some of the other guests, Dinlas joining her.
The spirit Nyx turned to Erebus. “Why does it pain you so much to see Nyx happy?”
Erebus hadn’t really thought of it that way. “I’m not in pain because you’re happy. I’m overjoyed that you― I mean that she is happy. What pains me is that it took someone else to make you feel this way.” Erebus was having difficulty speaking with the spirit. “I― well, I failed you…I mean her.” Erebus looked back and watched Nyx float among her guests. Her smile was from ear to ear. She was as happy as she had been in the beginning, if not even more so now. So much has changed and he was not a part of it anymore.
“But isn’t this what you wanted― a break?”
“Err―” Erebus remembered the words he spoke three years before. “I didn’t know what I was saying. I was unhappy.”
“Was?” Nyx cocked an eyebrow at him.
“Well, life just got so busy and I barely had any time for myself, and then after we all had to get jobs. I was touring festivals and doing big gigs for parties. It was so easy to lose track of where I was, let alone who I had spoken to. I was finally having time for myself.”
“So isn’t this the change you’ve wanted then?”
“Well― I don’t know. I suppose so.”
“Wouldn’t you agree then that change is good?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Erebus waved his hands in the air, frustrated. “I love Nyx, I always have.”
The spirit looked at Erebus, draping an arm around his shoulder looking deep into his eyes. “Yes, but are you in love with her?”
Erebus hadn’t asked himself that in a long time. Maybe the pain of not having her by his side wasn’t because he missed her as a lover, but more her companionship. Chaos knows they stopped having children millenia ago. Erebus thought back to the previous night when he flew all over Olympus and the world with Arty. Slowly he realized that as in love as he was with Nyx back then; when he watched back the memories of what was, he wasn’t looking at Nyx as someone he wanted to share his bed with, but as someone he admired. Nyx was magnificent, strong, full of fight and loyalty. But the romance had died between them long before he was ready to admit. It was time he finally acknowledged that.
Maybe the reason he hadn’t been able to find a good match or go on any good dates since the divorce was that he compared everyone to her. Erebus had thought no one could ever replace what he and Nyx had shared, but that was the problem. All of it was in the past, which made it impossible for him to live in the present. He was ignoring his friends and family, trying to prove something like falling asleep wasn’t his fault, when in actuality it was. He had been asleep in life for decades. He needed to accept his faults and move on.
“Well, shall we sit down and eat? There’s no sense waiting for him if he’s not coming.” Nyx ushered her guests to the table.
Erebus stood, longing to reach out to his family and friends. He hadn’t realized how much of his life affected them. He wanted so much to be there. He looked back to Nyx, the Ghost of Christmas Present. “Can we go home now please?”
The Ghost of Christmas Present looked upon Erebus and smiled. It was at this point that Erebus noticed she looked older than when the evening had started. Her normally thick silver hair was thinning and her face looked tired and aged.
“Is everything okay, spirit?” he asked.
“My time here is done and I must carry on. Be careful not to forget all that you have learned here this evening, dear Erebus.” As she spoke, the spirit’s body started to wither away. “Do not be so arrogant to believe you are fine on your own. Your family needs you, and to be ignorant any longer would be foolish. Trouble waits for those who do not learn from their mistakes.” Her voice became low and foreboding.
The dinner party that had surrounded them not moments before had disappeared. Erebus heard a clock strike five o’clock somewhere off in the distance. The sky was growing orange as he looked to what was left of spirit Nyx, and she smiled once more at him. “Don’t forget,” her last breath a whisper carried off on the wind.