The darkness was calm. There were no dreams, there were no voices. Just a silence and a peace that Zeus had not felt in…possibly ever. He felt himself stirring, a return to consciousness. His eyes opened, and the colors of the sapphire and azure surroundings reminded him he was still in the Ethereal Realm.
“Oh, come the fuck on,” he groaned and blinked his eyes open.
Zeus found himself inside the remains of what was, prior to his passing out, a hotel room. It was now a gaping wound. Blue and black shards, of whatever the Ethereal Realm used for building materials, lay around him in a massive sphere of destruction. A bomb had gone off, Zeus was that bomb. He rolled over onto his knees and lifted himself up off of the floor, his body slow to respond to commands.
I am so tired, he thought to himself. A massive exhale brought him back to focus. There was someone standing in what was left of the doorway.
“You destroyed the whole floor. Do you have any idea how expensive etherstone is?” the man said while eating what looked like an apple. “At least I know you can afford it.”
“Phosphorus. It’s been a long time,” Zeus said, not turning to look him in the eye.
“Shhh, shh. Dude, secret identity,” the man said after one big bite of the apple. “Do you know how much work I’ve had to do to get people to call me Lucifer? You probably don’t understand, everyone trembles at King of the Gods.” Phosphorus walked closer to Zeus. “I should be angry, I really should. Trouble is, you’ve got bigger problems at the moment.”
Zeus raised an eyebrow, not sure what “Lucifer” was talking about. “Problems? Beyond being dead, what other problems could I possibly have?”
Phosphorus finished chewing and tossed the apple onto the pile of rubble at his feet. Just another piece of garbage on the heap.
“You’re not dead, dumbass,” Phosphorus said, earning himself a narrowed eyed glare from Zeus. “Whoa, whoa, don’t take that face with me, you’re not the boss up here. However, to answer some questions for you; first, you’re not dead. Pretty damn close, though. Orpheus? The poet?” he said with no small hint of mockery in his voice, “how the mighty have fallen.”
Zeus felt his level of irritation rising and cocked his head to the side, waiting for Phosphorus to get to the point. Phosphorus held his hands up to placate Zeus.
“Second, you’ve become disconnected from your physical vessel. It happens on a rare occasion. Normally, not to guys like you, but whatever Orpheus used to take you down, it’s strong. Incredibly strong. Frankly, the only reason you’re not dead is because you’re you. Now you’ve become an untethered spirit, lost in my station.”
Zeus couldn’t hide his confusion as Phosphorus continued, “We need to get you reconnected. Find something that your soul can use as an anchor to your body. Sorta like a magnet. Something to pull you back to the Prime Material Plane.” Phosphorus opened his hands towards the results of the blast. “Part of that you’ve already done” Phosphorus took a breath, resigned to the damage in front of him. “You found the bolt, and it’s part of you again. I would have wished for a less destructive discovery, but I digress. We need to get you in contact with the other side.”
Zeus nodded, finally understanding what was necessary. “What are my other problems?”
Phosphorus turned his head and whistled. “Not that you pay attention or care, but time here doesn’t really function like it does downstairs. Something like two or three weeks of regular time has passed. I’m sure Hades could tell you, honestly I’m surprised he hasn’t called me looking for you, but again, I digress.” Phosphorus shuffled uncomfortably then turned to look Zeus squarely in the eye.”
“The Titans are loose.”
The word triggered a visceral and immediate reaction in Zeus. His eyes flashed and sparked, causing Phosphorus to take a step back.
“Get me home, Lucifer,” The King of the Gods growled.
Phosphorus bolted out of the blast zone, and Zeus kept pace. They traversed the internal walkways of the Ethereal Transit Station. What was initially a hotel, led down into a massive open space filled with souls waiting for the call to their final destinations. Zeus was passing through so many people, or former people, who just stood still. These unmoving, unemotional, seemingly lost figures of blue energy were the remnants of living, mortal people. Free-floating souls. Zeus had lived for thousands of years, had ruled over millions of mortals, yet not once had he ever seen where they went when they died.
“Is this what it’s like all the time?” Zeus asked
Without stopping, paying no mind to the souls they passed by, Phosphorus spoke with the authority of a CEO that would rival Zeus doing business inside the God Complex.
“Business is booming. Numbers are up, transits are pushing record highs. Not since the mortal second World War have we seen the like.” They passed into a corridor beyond the central hub. “For some reason, the mortals keep killing themselves. Heard something about a virus, worse than the flu. Could be climate change. Don’t know, don’t care. We transport all of them. I’m sure Hades and Thanatos do their fair share, but all of you up in Olympus forget you’re not the only administration in the game.”
In the shadowy blue corridors and depths of the station, this transit hub to whatever eternal resting place the souls of the mortal realm went to, Zeus found himself presented with a plain and nondescript door.
“This is it, Zapados. The gateway to the material plane. Doesn’t look like much, does it? On this end, we have to disguise it to look like a boring freight door. We can’t have wandering souls thinking they can just cheat death,” Phosphorus coughs, “you know, like you guys let happen in Tartarus.” He moved forward to unlock the door, then turned to Zeus one last time.
“You can expect to have my repair bills sitting on your desk when you get back.” The man called ‘Lucifer’ by the transient souls of the Ethereal Realm, stared Zeus squarely in the eyes, a deadly serious look on his face. “Word to the wise, if I ever see you here again, I own your soul,” Phosphorus paused, letting the tension hang in the air, “Best you avoid guys like Orpheus, unless you want to spend eternity cleaning toilets in the Ether Pit.”
Phosphorus slapped Zeus on the shoulder, then made his way down the hall, leaving Zeus standing alone. “Open your mind and phone home, big boy. I’m sure someone’s around.”