Erebus stood alone on the beach, the high tide washing over his bare feet. He didn’t know how he had arrived at the beach, nor did he care. The only thing he cared about at that moment was the future ― of the things yet to come.
Selene’s moon was full and the brightest he’d seen it in awhile. He thought of Nyx and his extended family all the way north, spending the mortal holiday together. He had the sudden urge to flee there to meet them, but he knew something waited for him here.
Slowly, Erebus walked to his cave. He was finally on the outside, free to roam where he wanted, free to do as he pleased. With all the freedom in the world, one thing held him back. He felt the presence before he saw it. Spinning around, Erebus faced a hooded man in a dark cloak. Unable to get a clear view of the phantom’s face, Erebus thought of the only person he could that would wear such a get up. “Thanatos?”
A deep-throated chuckle escaped from the phantom in front of him. When Erebus stepped forward to get a better look, the phantom floated high and away from him, pointing in the direction in which they were to head.
Erebus could feel his own shadows crawling around him, trying to escape. The phantom remained eerily quiet, leading the way.
“You want me to follow you?” Erebus asked, already knowing the answer. “Where are we going, spirit? Will you not speak to me?” The only response he received was a nod from the spirit in the long black cloak; Erebus followed willingly.
When they reached a graveyard, Erebus was confused. He looked down upon an empty shallow grave, the earth still fresh in a mound beside him. Two men resting in the dark, whispering for fear of waking the dead.
“Did you know that he could die?” The first gravedigger wiped his brow.
“No clue.” The second gravedigger drank from a can of beer.
“Did you know of him? I heard he kept to himself.”
“His family all abandoned him long ago. Such a shame too, he was really popular once. Really knew his music.”
The two gravediggers shook their heads.
Erebus took a step back, not sure what it was he was seeing. “I can’t die. I’m immortal.”
The dark spirit loomed closely, towering over him. Erebus could feel the spirit’s breath on the back of his neck. Erebus stood unmoving, confused, and, for the first time, frightened by what was unraveling before him. He started to shake his head back and forth.
“No―no, no, no.” Erebus’s voice grew louder and panicked. “This is all wrong. You can’t kill me!” Erebus spun around to face Thanatos in the eye, only it wasn’t Thanatos. Instead, a red-faced Eros keeled over, laughing hysterically.
“Man ― you should see your face, dude!”
Erebus became enraged and swung at his friend only to have his fists swing right through him.
Eros cocked an eyebrow at him as he threw off the black cloak. “Still a spirit, man, you can’t hurt me.”
“Oh, but I can try!” Erebus’ chest was still heaving as he breathed in the cold air from the night.
“What kind of lesson is this?”
The spirit Eros leaned back on a headstone. “Just making sure you’re paying attention, buddy.”
“You have my attention, you nit-wit!” Erebus roared.
“Okay, follow me then.” Eros made way, but Erebus stood still in the middle of the cemetery.
“No? What do you mean no? You’re supposed to follow me so I can show you the shadows of your future. You know, all that Christmas Carol mumbo-jumbo.”
“I’m familiar with what I’ve been doing the last 72 hours, you idiot.”
“So let’s go.” Eros pointed over his shoulder.
Erebus still didn’t budge.
“You’re still stubborn as fuck. I thought you were learning a lesson here,” Eros said seriously.
“Tell me where we’re going first,” Erebus demanded.
“You know that’s not how it works.”
Erebus grumbled and stamped his feet on the ground like a little child throwing a tantrum.
“Listen, we can go now and get it over with, or you can stand here being a little pissant and miss Nyx’s Christmas party. It’s up to you.”
The two made off, leaving the cemetery, heading towards the OA building. When they got there, they went up to the 14th floor where Erebus After Dark was. There was a line trailing out of the office. They pushed effortlessly through the crowd. Erebus was impressed at how well business was. The phones were ringing off the hook and two receptionists he had never seen before sat behind the front desk, one helping the physical mortals in front of her, the other answering calls. Eros and Erebus listened in.
“I’m sorry, sir, yes I know you would like to book for your festival, but right now we are booking for 2030…yes, I know that’s still five years away, but Erebus is a very busy and popular request right now.”
Eros raised a brow. “Nice work.”
Erebus looked pleased.
The line rang again, “Erebus After Dark. Oh, hi, Hemera. Your father? No, he’s not here, he’s touring. I thought I sent you his schedule? Yes, I will let him know you’re looking for him.” The receptionist hung up the call only for the phone to ring again.
“Erebus After Dark. Lady Nyx,” The receptionist’s voice changed. “Hello. No, I’m sorry he isn’t here, but I can connect you if you like?” The receptionist put the call on hold and frantically pressed buttons. After a minute of silence, the receptionist looked defeated. “I’m sorry, Lady Nyx. He must still be working. Yes, I know ― I’ve passed along your previous messages…I understand, Miss…I know it’s been a few months, I do apologize.”
When the receptionist hung up with Nyx, she was frazzled.
“I feel so awful,” she said turning to the other girl.
“Well, he’s been busy. What did Nyx say?”
“‘Nothing ever changes with him,’” the receptionist whispered.
The two girls sat for a second before turning their attention back to the customers. Erebus winced. “I can’t even pick up the phone for my own receptionists.”
Eros’ jaw dropped. “I think you missed the fact you haven’t spoken to your own family.”
Erebus looked around the office. “I guess business is good.”
“That’s it? ‘Business is good.’” Eros scoffed. “What about your family? If you continue on the path you’ve been leading, this is what will happen. You won’t even have time for your own family.”
They headed back to Erebus’ private quarters, all the pictures of Erebus with his family had disappeared and were replaced with awards and pictures of Erebus with celebrities. This shocked even him.
Spirit Eros looked around and gave a low whistle.
“What happened?” Erebus asked.
“You chose yourself over family ― over love. You decided you didn’t want to deal with the changes in the family dynamic, so instead of moving on in your life, you’ve buried yourself in your work. I mean, Zeus couldn’t be happier; Erebus After Dark rakes in a ton of money. You have your own brand, clothing line, vodka…but all that came at a price.”
The OA flat disappeared, Erebus and the spirit of what was yet to come had left the busy office and were now back in Erebus’ cave. Sitting in a chair was a tired (and what appeared to be drunk) Erebus, a glass still in his hand. He was looking down at a frame in his lap. It was one of the pictures that used to hang on the walls of his flat in the OA building. He looked miserable.
“What’s wrong with me― I mean him?”
Eros circled the shadow Erebus leaning in before quickly stepping back.
“From the smell of it, you’ve been bathing in that liquor for one thing…”
Erebus stood in front of himself. He wasn’t sure which version he felt more sorry for. The man in front of him was clearly not happy.
“I guess it doesn’t matter how much success you have, if you don’t have someone to share it with it, it won’t matter,” Eros concluded.
“Says the God who shoots people with arrows to make relationships.”
“No, Erebus. It doesn’t have to be a lover. Your family, your friends, they are all people who love you and want to be there for you. You’ve built a successful business and pushed everything that matters to the side. You can put on the facade of Big E, “the DJ”, live in your high society life, have your riches, but the truth is everything leads you back here. You are Erebus, the God of Darkness and Shadows. Your family and friends were the light in your life. Without them, you truly are a miserable bastard.”
Erebus backed away from the smelly drunk that was before him. I don’t want to be like this, I can’t become this. He ran to Eros. “Take me back. Let me fix my wrongs. I want to be with my family and friends. I will learn how to deal with it. Anything is better than becoming a shell of myself.”
Erebus went to his bed and pulled the covers up to his chin. “Take me back. Take me back.” He closed his eyes tight, grabbing onto his pillow and squeezing it against his body. “Take me back.”
When Erebus woke, he was still clasping onto his pillow. Unsure of what day it was or even what time it was, he only knew he needed to get out of this cave. Testing his shadows, they released into every corner of the cavern. A huge smile spread across Erebus’ face. Immediately, he unfurled his wings, giving them a few flaps, stretching them out. It felt like forever since he was last able to do so. Slipping into fresh clothes, Erebus could not wait to get the hell out of there.
Pushing back the big slab door, he welcomed the morning sky. It was more than just a brand new day, today meant the beginning of a new start. He would learn from his past mistakes, but live in the present while accepting the changes in his life. He dug his toes deep into the sand and let the ocean spray his face. Feeling more clear than he had in a long time, Erebus knew what he had to do, what he wanted to do.
After a long and very cold trip, Erebus arrived in the North Pole. Brushing snow from his wings, he reigned them back in, fitting them under his coat. He hoped he wasn’t too late. Entering the dinner party, he saw everyone that mattered in his life, all in one room. Immediately he felt a strange warm feeling inside his chest. Eros came over to him, slapping him on the back as a greeting.
“Glad to see you could make it. We were just sitting down to dinner.” Eros pointed to an empty seat at the table.
Erebus looked around at everyone, smiling to himself. His gaze bouncing from one family member to the next, he would make sure to speak with everyone. Before sitting, he made eyes with Nyx, giving her a nod of acknowledgment.
She mouthed, “Thank you.”
Eros leaned into Erebus, offering him a platter of food. “What made you change your mind?”
“You know what they say about people who are stuck living in the past?”
“They’re afraid of the future…well, I decided not to be afraid anymore.”