Hi there! So glad you came to see me! Come in, come in. Sit down there. How do you take your coffee? It’s Mr. Hades’ blend, Dark Sparks. Me, I take it with heavy sweet creams and ten scoops of sugar, and ohhhh, ohh, ohh, it’s so good. I’m the reaper, the god of gentle death, I’m Thanatos, call me Than.
I attempt to answer, but I pass out. When I wake, I am in my bed, in my cabin in the Underworld. My mother busies herself in my kitchen, Nem sits at the foot of my bed, and Ky’Elli, the small beast, lays across my legs asleep and snoring. Nem is holding a silver canister with Mrs. Hestia’s handwriting on it.
I run my fingers through my hair and give it a little pull as I cry out my frustrations. This piece has been hard enough to write as is without distractions. I am having trouble connecting with Thanatos lately. Where the hell was he, anyway? Wasn’t I still his scribe? Didn’t he pick me to create his new-age mythology?
He reaches out with lightning speed, grabbing the side of my head and squeezing. Black ooze rains down on my face, then springs to life, crawling like worms pulled from the dirt as it moves over my face. It leaves cold slimy trails on my skin as it forces its way into my eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. I let out a gargled scream to the blue sky as the blackness of the ooze pulls me down into new nightmares.
In the center of the room, under a brilliantly white spot of light, is the inventor himself. Behind him is a massive circular stained glass window. He sits inside a metal box with two oxygen-pumping apparatuses on either side, forming some sort of iron lung. A tube leads from the pumps into his nostrils. His faded blue eyes are full of life and intelligence. They focus on us, filling with contempt as a sneer breaks out on his ancient face.
I look back at the water and see the skeletal remains of other merpeople, sea creatures, fish, turtles, sharks, and humans, all floating lazily around in the tank. Then there is movement from the bottom of the tank, something huge and black. Large bubbles rise from the depths as we all take an instinctive step back.
“I believe this is what I would have called a remnant world during my traveling years. It is a world whose time has ended and is void of life, so the only thing we see is the shell of that world. I believe the levels of the labyrinth are pieces of those remnants that Daedalus must have stayed in to hide from the gods. Somehow, he managed to stitch them together here to fill his labyrinth.”
I grip its handle as the song of the cosmos sings to me, the blade taking on its many colors. I raise it and begin to cut the mirrors down like foes on a battlefield. The sounds of exploding and shattering glass echo in the empty warehouse, clinking as it hits the floor and scatters. The heavy frames reverberate loudly as they hit the ground, cracking the concrete when it impacts, sending small fragments up into the air.
We shoot off like a rocket as the water rises and propels us forward at the combined will of the sea gods. Dion is thrown back and lands on top of me. Charon lurches forward, loses his balance, and lands on top of Dionysos. I groan from the bottom of the dogpile. We sail through the mist at top speed, not even feeling the cold on this trip.
Then the ferry finally comes through, and we all see the source of the merriment. Dionysos stands next to Charon, laughing and clapping him on the back. Charon looks positively irate as he brings the ferry into the shallows so we may board. The sea god laughs, and the Amphitrite jumps for joy, splashing the water as she giggles.
The doppelganger nods, moving behind me and merging with my shadow. I shake from the severe cold I feel, but it is only temporary. I look down at my shadow and see his wings flare behind me/us. I catch my reflection in a mirror behind the counter and blink. My right eye has gone pure black. I leave the store and step out into bright sunlight.