“You will soon pay for your betrayal!”
The message resonates in my head. It must be from my father. Okay, maybe there are a few others who could have sent it: Zeus, Hera, Atlas, Menoetius, perhaps even my mother. But this has my father written all over it, which means that during his brief escape from Tartarus, he had one thing on his mind. Revenge.
Here are a few things you should know about my family, and be warned, it’s not pretty. My family makes the Manson Family look like the Von Trapps. Let’s start with my father, Iapetus. He’s a despicable man. People call him “the Piercer” because he likes to stab people with his spear if they cross him. Or if he’s feeling in the mood. Which is most of the time. Imagine a slimy toad, covered in warts, with a quick mouth and a short temper. That’s my father.
His favourite child was Atlas. Atlas the Bold. Atlas the Brave. My father would heap praise on his eldest, whilst looking at me with scorn and disgust through those cold, black eyes. Growing up, he would make us wrestle. He knew I was no match for Atlas in the wrestling ring. I would be thrown about like a rag doll whilst my father whooped with glee. Atlas never held back, and there was no such thing as a “tap out”. He would keep going until I begged him to stop. Even then, it usually required my mother to intervene, much to the disappointment of my father. “Let him walk it off,” he would say. How do you walk off a broken neck?
Then we have Menoetius, the second-born son. He was a liability. He wasn’t quite there, if you know what I mean. He would fly into fits of rage over nothing. A wrong note on a lute, or piece of shell in his egg. If you did anything to attack his pride, he would kick up a storm so fearful even my father wouldn’t know what to do. You mortals would probably have some sort of diagnosis for it; you love to give things a name. We just called him crazy. Everyone stayed clear of Menoetius. Especially me.
My younger brother is Epimetheus. Poor Epimetheus. He used to follow me around like a lost dog looking for scraps of food. He wasn’t strong like Atlas, and he didn’t have the intimidating spontaneity of Menoetius. In fact, he didn’t really have much at all. Most of the family ignored him, apart from me. I was never going to match my older brothers in strength or violence and so I quickly learnt how to use my most important muscle: my brain. If I could stay one step ahead, then I could avoid finding myself trapped in an unfortunate scenario. It became my greatest weapon. Epimetheus wasn’t blessed with quick thought though, and my victories were his defeats. More often than not it was Epimetheus who felt the repercussions of my trickery.
I took him under my wing. Tried to help him. Tried to teach him. But he was hopeless. Whatever he did, and however good his intentions, he always ended up making a mess of it. It was infuriating.
Then came the event which led to the betrayal my father refuses to forget. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, I betrayed my family. I have no regrets. I would do it again.
It was during a meal with the Titans. Kronos had a new cupbearer and there was something about him; he had a presence. An aura. The Titans were drunk or too stupid to notice, but I did, and so I watched him. He seemed nervous, on edge even, but there was confidence there. He poured Kronos a drink and then stood back, a disguised smile on his face. And when Kronos started retching uncontrollably and violently, the cupbearer was no longer hiding his smile, but no one was interested in him. Everyone’s attention was on Kronos.
I stayed back whilst everyone ran to Kronos’ side. Now I should point out that it was the world’s worst kept secret that Kronos had been devouring his newborns to prevent the fulfilment of a prophecy; a prophecy which decreed that Kronos would one day be overthrown by his son. So it was with little surprise that I watched as Kronos started to throw up his children one-by-one. Hestia. Demeter. Hera. Hades. Poseidon. A rock. A rock?
Then it made sense. I even chuckled to myself.
His latest newborn, the one called Zeus, had been replaced with a rock before Kronos threw it into his mouth. And so Zeus had escaped, and now he had come to fulfil the prophecy. It was bold. It was courageous. It was brilliant. I admired him then. The new kids were covered in slime, but they were defiant and determined. They lacked the numbers against the Titans – against us – but they would prevail. It was inevitable. The Titans were stunned into paralysis and the new kids quickly disappeared before anyone had the chance to act.
Eventually, Kronos recovered and demanded the Titans stand with him. Most stood.
I looked at my father, Atlas and Menoetius, and remembered how they had treated me. There was no respect there. No honour.
I looked at Kronos, who was weak, and remembered the prophecy.
I recalled Zeus and the intelligence behind those eyes. He was wise beyond his years.
And then I remembered something else, something I do not wish to share. Not yet, at least, but something which left me magnetised.
I stayed seated.
“Prometheus!” my father had hissed, embarrassed at being shown up. Epimetheus had remained seated as well. He started to stand, but so I put a hand on his leg.
“Father, do you really require the entire Titan force to take on a few children? I would have thought that Atlas alone could deal with the issue. Aren’t we all being a bit melodramatic?”
“Stand up!” He didn’t like being defied, and I was enjoying myself.
“Are you saying that you need me?” I had asked. I knew that it would kill my father to admit that he needed me for anything, and so it proved to be the case. He couldn’t say it, and so I had remained seated with Epimetheus. We were thrown out of the war cabinet, and I went to make peace with the newly named “Olympians”, thus completing the betrayal. I can still remember my father’s face as I left. It was a mixture of anger and confusion. That was the last time I saw him.
And now he wants revenge.
I won’t worry too much about that now. There’s not much he can do locked in Tartarus, is there? And anyway, I have a meeting with a mortal to discuss planning issues at The God Complex. You mortals have so many rules. Rules upon rules upon rules. And then more rules. It’s so unnecessary. It’s like you want to overcomplicate things to make yourselves seem more clever than you are. Truth is, you’ve forgotten more than you know.
I can remember when you were truly connected to your senses. You could direct yourselves by looking at the stars. Now you need a phone. You could tell which plants were poisonous through touch and smell. Now you need an app. Take away the machines and what are you? You’ve become lazy. Tied in knots by the chains you have forged through your own ignorance.
Having said that, my screen time on my phone is apparently four hours a day. They are addictive…I can see the issue.
We’re meeting at a coffee house. Another thing which you mortals seem obsessed with: coffee.
“What can I get you?” the barista asks as I enter.
“Um, a coffee?”
“What type of coffee?”
“Erm…what would you suggest?” That was a mistake. The barista proceeds to talk me through each and every coffee on the menu. I choose something called an espresso and am provided with a thimble full of the most vile tasting liquid I could imagine. I order a milk and turn to see a man walk in. He’s wearing a dark grey suit with a waistcoat despite the intense heat. His white shirt is open at the collar and he’s not wearing a tie. His dark hair is slicked back and full of product, and he’s wearing designer shades. I can’t see his eyes, but his youthful face is smirking like he’s farted in a lift and gotten away with it.
“You Pro?” he asks, shortening my name without permission. I’m the only other customer in the coffee house, but I don’t answer. Something isn’t right. He has no papers or files with him, and no-one who works for the government is that good looking or has that amount of money to spend on fashion.
The man extends his hand. His nails are neatly trimmed, but I can see marks on his knuckles. Small scars.
“Who’s asking?” I ask, ignoring his hand and taking a sip from my glass of milk. Soy milk: what sort of place is this? I nearly gag, but try to style it out.
“We have a meeting scheduled today,” he tells me. His voice breaks slightly. Unconvincing.
“I have a meeting with someone called Derek about some planning matters.”
“Yes, I’m…Derek,” the man answers before being interrupted by the barista who’s keen to get his order. The man who claims to be Derek orders something called a “macchiato”.
“And what name is it?” the barista asks.
“Ala…ahem…Derek,” replies the man and pretends to cough.
My mind has gone into overdrive. Who is this guy, and where is Derek? The Derek I’ve been dealing with finishes his emails with a “salutations” and is forever apologetic about causing an inconvenience. This man is far too young to be Derek, and has far too much swagger.
“Shall we?” He picks up his drink and gestures towards a table. I don’t like his tone.
I slide into a chair in front of him. What’s the worst that can happen? “Who are you?” I ask, but he just stares at me. At least I think he’s staring at me; he still has his shades on so I can’t see his eyes. He silently pulls something out of his pocket and holds it in his hand so that I can see it.
I recognise it immediately and fear grips me. I push the table back into the man who calls himself Derek until he is pinned against the wall. I hear the barista yell something, but I’m not hanging around to listen. I’m running out the door as fast as my legs will take me. I thought I would never see it again. I thought my nightmares were over.
Where did he get it?
The yellow, hooked beak of the eagle that tortured me.