The rain had been coming down hard for at least an hour now. Poor Hemera, this had been a hard day for her. It’s not every day you watch your parents split up in front of your eyes. I had pushed the conversation with Nyx to the back of my mind for now.
I was on a mission to locate Melinoë. No one had seen her since she snuck out of the Underworld. My mind raced, then it dawned on me, Melinoë would have been below when she summoned me to her nightmare realm a little over three months ago. I felt like such a fool to have been trapped there for so long. The blonde with the spiky hair distracted me. I tried to rationalize so I wouldn’t feel so stupid. I still didn’t understand why Melinoë would go after me; it’s not like I had anything to do with her being trapped in the underworld. Something still wasn’t making sense. Even if it had no effect on changing Nyx’s mind about separating, I needed to know for my own sanity what the hell happened.
Hours passed and I still had no luck. The rain pounded against my head, soaking me down to my bones. I was determined to find Melinoë, even if it took me away from my mortal duties. Those had been neglected for three months now anyways, what was another day or two?
I was on the other side of Olympus from the OA building and needed a break from the driving rain. I thought I remembered seeing a cafe a few blocks back; I could cut through the alley and save myself some time. I loved back alleys, all dark and dingy—all sorts of trouble lurking in corners. My kind of place when I wanted to start trouble.
At the end of the dark alley a library appeared. The cozy allure of books and fireplaces beckoned me inside away from the rain, but before I had a chance to fully commit, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a dumpster, and a tarp draped around the backside of it. Homelessness is prevalent enough in the mortal world, that usually these man-made dwellings rarely stir my attention.
But there was something different about this tent. A dark energy about it that I couldn’t leave to mystery and speculation.
Intrigued, I approached. Gravel and broken bits of glass crunched beneath my feet, despite my light steps.
Shielding the rain from my eyes, I noticed something strange as I drew nearer. Just inside the tent, barely visible huddled at the edge of the tarp, were dozens, if not hundreds of creatures. Spiders, centipedes, beetles and worms—all of them congregated just within the tent’s shelter.
Suddenly, I realized I might’ve found who I’d been searching for.
“Melinoë?” I asked cautiously. The insects scattered beneath the dumpster at the sound of my voice and I heard something rustling inside. I spoke again, this time making sure to make my voice sound more demanding, not wanting to lose the fire that had been simmering inside me ever since I’d escaped that nightmare. “Face me, Melinoë!”
I winced as the downpour pelted me across my face, waiting for confirmation.
From the shadows came a voice, low and unfeeling, as if it had come straight from the Underworld itself. “You want to talk out there in the rain?”
She didn’t wait for a response. Instead, she held out her hand, propping the tarp open, and I grumbled as I crawled inside.
Our faces, lit by a single flame, were barely a foot apart. I couldn’t remember the last time our paths had crossed—centuries?—but Melinoë still looked exactly as she always did, down to the perfect symmetry between the black and white sides of her hair.
“Erebus,” she said, expressionless. “It’s been so long. How do you fare?”
“How do I fare? Well, let me see…you put me into your nightmare realm and left me there for three months. THREE MONTHS!”
Her brow furrowed, and I could sense she was about to interrupt me, but I gave her no room to do so. Not until I could ask my question, to demand the answers I deserved.
“What in Hades made you do such a thing?” I roared as loud as the rain itself.
For a moment, all Melinoë did was blink at me, her eyes still squinting, deep in thought.
Then they popped wide. “Ah, yes! Of course!” she giggled.
I felt the rage inside me growing. After all this time, she still thought this was a game, like I was her plaything to be toyed with. She clearly didn’t know what I was capable of.
When her giggling continued though, I realized she wasn’t laughing at me, but something that was tickling her neck. She reached a hand behind her ear, pulling free a black widow. With a gentle thumb, Melinoë petted the arachnid’s back and whispered sweetly to it.
Deranged as ever, that was Melinoë.
I felt as if I was intruding, but there was no way I was leaving without answers. I cleared my throat and addressed her again. “Why?” I asked simply. “Why did you submerge me in your nightmare realm?”
Her face fell flat in traditional Melinoë-style and the spider retreating somewhere down her arm, but I lost it in the shadows.
“I do as I’m asked,” she said. Her gaze fell though, and she corrected herself. “I did as I was asked.”
“Asked?” One breadcrumb always seemed to lead to another. Would it never end? Would I never find out who was responsible for the downfall of my marriage? “Who asked you?”
“Hmm, why it’s been so long now, I can hardly remember.”
“Who! I just—I need to know who ruined my life! Tell me, who asked you?”
“I don’t think you’ll appreciate my answer,” she said, pausing for a response that I never gave. She lowered her gaze. “Ate. Ate was the one.”
Ate? My mind reeled. “But why?”
Melinoë shrugged innocently. “She didn’t use my revenge nightmare services, so I don’t think it was personal.” Then she added with a wry smile, “But you know Ate, always one for a little mischief.”
“A little—” I exhaled sharply. I couldn’t even bring myself to speak. What was the point anyways? Melinoë was likely right. Ate took great enjoyment in messing with the Gods at her leisure, and since she had been missing for some time now, it’s not like I could even confront her about it. No, my quest for answers would end here.
But Ate wasn’t the only one who had tormented me. Without Melinoë’s help, I would’ve never been stripped from the mortal realm, stripped from Nyx’s side…
I stood abruptly, taking most of the tarp with me.
“Hey!” Melinoë hissed.
The hundreds of critters that had scurried beneath the dumpster started skittering and screeching at me as well, but I paid them no mind, just as I did her.
In one sweeping motion, I tore the tarp from my shoulders and chucked it at Melinoë’s lap. She gasped as the rain beat her dry, porcelain skin. Without another word, I stomped back down the alley from which I came, a scheme brewing about my sweet revenge.