I was suddenly frozen in place, unable to speak. I knew I must look crazy to him. A dark, unbreakable dam holding squalls of emotion behind sharp blue eyes and pursed lips. I wondered if he could see the goddess behind the youthful face, feel the ancient power pulsating through me, begging for release.
Fortunately, the two natural paths that formed a cross in the forest were already pulling us, the energy palpable, pushing my heartbeat into my throat. I loved Earth, but there was something about the icy grip of the Underworld that called to me, serenading me with its cacophony of wailing souls and the promise of quiet corridors I could get lost in.
So, this is strange. There’s a tragedy mask sitting on my kitchen table. I don’t own a tragedy mask. I have no idea where it came from or how in Tartarus it got in my house. It’s giving me a weird vibe, too, like déjà vu. It’s so bizarre. I think I’ll keep it.
“No, I think my session is now. Don’t you? I mean, what’s the point in this? This was Persephone’s gig, right? And she gave up on me, too?” I tilt my head once before going back to my reading. “I mean, no hard feelings. It’s not you. It’s me. Also, I think this will be the last session I have.”
The world had been a different place, especially for the mortals. It was also incredibly different for the Gods of Olympus. There had been bigger and more intense fights with lives lost, lines drawn. Change. That was the nature of things, change. It just never seemed to happen this fast. He had always been ahead of the curve.
“I hope you have found your passage across the Styx, Mr. Steffens. If not, well…” I trail off, placing drachma in his palm. “Tell that greedy Charon I’ll pay your fare.” As my fingers graze his skin, I’m suddenly blinded by a flash of light as a vision takes over…
I let out a loud yelp, stumbling backwards. I’m sprayed with coffee grounds and water as my back slams into the island cabinet. Propped up against my coffee machine is my ancient Greek tragic mask. It stares back at me with its large void eyes and gaping mouth twisted into a permanent frown.
“If you leave, you terminate this program. If you fail with me, you terminate this program. If you refuse to engage, you fail this program. I have strict orders from your father, Zeus, yes? If you fail, you return to Tartarus,” she said with a smile that sent a chill up my spine. “Also, no mind games either.” She shrugged, still sitting and still smiling.
“Well, they don’t feed off the same things we do, but it is exhausting. Also, between us girls, I don’t think I’ll ever fit into what they want me to be. I’m not good or this cosmic being of perpetual bliss. And I don’t think I ever will be.”
I silently curse Eros because he knows what he is doing. He is playing with me, like a cat plays with a mouse. He says something to pull more information from another, and back and forth they go. Only I am not a house cat, much less a mouse.
“You are the reason I am what I am. You are the strength in my heart, the fire in my eyes. You are the most beautiful creature that has ever lived, and every day without you has been worse than death. Something I sadly have experience in,” Zeus said.