It happened again—the same damn dream. Well, I guess nightmare if that’s what you would call it. Funny, though. Nightmares are usually things you are scared may happen. This dream was something that did. It starts the same every time. I am thrust into the past, surrounded by family. No matter where I go or what I do, he finds me. He always finds me. And I fall.
The last few times, I have woken up on the ceiling of my cell. My body is thrust upwards by the pure adrenaline of my fall. I wake up screaming, always screaming right before my body hits the ground. Or I guess my body hits my cell floor. It doesn’t hurt like before. Granted, I am not descending several miles towards the earth, but mentally it all feels the same.
The scariest part to me now, though, is that I feel like I am losing it. Losing my grip on reality. There are times I can’t tell what is real and what is not. It’s been weeks? Months? I am not sure. I want to count, but I am afraid. Afraid once I start, it will only tell me how long I still have in this eternal prison.
I sit up, wiping away the tears that always form after that dream. I hear the sound of a pencil on paper scribbling behind me and turn to look. My other self is wearing what looks like a business suit and glasses. She has a newspaper in hand and is scribbling on it.
Shaking my head, my voice croaks, “What are you doing?”
She looks up, meeting my gaze before smiling and walking over. She flips the page around, showing me a crossword puzzle. My eyes adjust briefly before she snatches it back.
“Why, it’s a crossword puzzle about your miserable life.” She smiles widely before pacing around me. She stops once more, taping the pencil to her lip. “Let’s see, let’s see. What is a six-letter word for someone who feels sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity?”
Scoffing, I turn away from her, mumbling under my breath as I lay back down on the cold stone floor. I pull my arms under my head, as it’s the only source of comfort I have.
She walks over, bending down and looking at me. “What was that? Did you have an answer? I didn’t hear it.”
My eyes snap coldly to hers as I respond through gritted teeth, “I said. Regret.”
A malicious smile followed. “And what does the Goddess of Ruin have to regret?”
Shaking my head, I close my eyes once more. “Nothing. I regret nothing.”
The last words I hear before my sleep-deprived brain takes me under is her writing once more and saying. “Oh, look number nineteen down. Liar.”
Laughter and voices rose as the ballroom of Olympus hummed with guests. My heels echoed on the marble floor as I held the side of my dress and climbed the stairs. I was so excited to see everyone tonight. Parties on Olympus meant mischief, and mischief meant I would have a great time. As I reached the top, the room came into complete view. Tables were laid with every type of wine and food you could imagine. Columns wrapped loosely in silk drapes lined the massive room. A soft melody played, filtering through the air, drawing some of my family members to dance as others continued to mingle. They all wore what looked like their absolute best attire, from long ballroom dresses to overly styled tuxedos. It reminded me that Gods invented fashion, like many other things. And for the life of me, I couldn’t remember what we were celebrating.
I smiled at those I passed, murmuring about how beautiful everything was before walking on looking for…someone. Hmm, weird. Who was I looking for? Shaking my head, I continued further into the large expanse, greeting, and sneaking bites of food. I was so surprised to see so many of my family gathered in one place. It almost didn’t seem real. The music picked up, and more members decided they wanted to dance. I quickly made myself scarce, turning to head to the opposite end of the room.
The sound of a large crunch and the feel of it beneath my heel stopped me. Whatever I stepped on sounded expensive. I hoped no one had lost a diamond. Slowly moving my foot back, I kneeled, examining the crushed object beneath my fingers. What I thought might be gems beneath my heel, felt more like dust. Tilting my head, I looked upward toward the high-arched ceilings. What was once a beautiful, smooth marble ceiling now had a large crack in it. How strange. That wasn’t there before.
As I stood, I rubbed the dust off of my hands and noticed several more things. First, the music had stopped. Not stopped as if it wasn’t playing anymore, no, as in the ones who were playing were suddenly frozen in time. The second was that every guest who was here seemed frozen too. The third, not only were they frozen, but they were all staring at me. The fourth, and most terrifying, was that now that I had time to reflect, I realized they did not have faces. Bright amber orbs glowed where eyes should have been, and where their features should have rested, there was nothing but a blank canvas.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no…
My hands went straight to my head. I knew this scene and knew what happened next. I didn’t feel my knees hit the floor. I began to rock. It’s the same dream. The same damn dream. I heard and felt him approaching before he ever spoke. I always did. I had tried to hide in some dreams, but it never worked.
“It’s done,” Zeus’ voice was barely a whisper above the pounding in my chest. “When the first drop of rain falls from the sky, you will be forgotten. My family will be safe from you, a forgotten memory. Best be gone from Olympus by then.”
“Please. Stop,” I begged. I always begged.
I didn’t look up as he approached. I hoped if I didn’t, I could somehow will him away. But like before, it didn’t work.
“You cannot change your nature, any more than I,” Zeus went on.
Like a script from a movie, it was always the same words. Over and over. The monologue to my end repeated to me. For eternity. I said nothing else. It wouldn’t matter. The Zeus that flooded my nightmares wasn’t how others saw him. No, he was and would always be my greatest fear. His once perfectly white hair danced as electricity literally curled off of him in bright gold and silver bands. The few inches he held over me doubled in my nightmares. He seemed seven feet tall now, intimidating, powerful, and everything I hated.
I felt his hands grab and lift me in one fluid motion. I finally met his eyes. They were the same burning gold as my faceless family.
“Please. I don’t want to do this anymore,” I begged, tears staining my vision.
I struggled, but it was useless in my nightmares. It felt like my body was suddenly submerged in quicksand, and every move or tug felt sluggish. He dragged me to the balcony that suddenly appeared as dark clouds, and the sky filled with lightning. My feet scraped the floor, as always. My cries didn’t slow the process, as always. My family that watched did nothing, as always.
Drapes billowed at the large opening of the balcony as the nightmarish Zeus suddenly stopped. He let go of my arm, and my body hit the floor next to him. I sat up on my elbows, looking at him, confused as he turned his head towards the ballroom. I followed his gaze, my faceless family’s eyes aglow, their gazes focused on something I couldn’t see at the back of the ballroom.
A deep howl pierced the ballroom, causing the entire infrastructure to shake. They all tossed their heads back, mimicking the screams and wails that filled this whole place. I slammed my hands over my ears and gritted my teeth. One by one, the lights on the outer side of the walls went out, popping as the glass they were encased in shattered into tiny pieces. Shadows resembling long tentacles crept along the walls. Every light the tendrils came into contact with burst, showering the floor with glass. A massive wall of darkness followed the shadows, reminding me of a hollow, cold void.
Am I dying?
More shadows crept onto the floor, as they touched members of my faceless family, they burst into a cloud of black smoke. Darkness swallowed up the entire ballroom until it stopped right in front of the nightmarish Zeus and me. He turned and looked at me once more, his amber eyes boring into mine before he burst into smoke. I closed my eyes, thinking I was next. I mean, this had to be the end, right? Maybe I had been in Tartarus so long, that I had finally died here. A part of me was sad that this was how I ended. And another part of me welcomed it. I would finally be free in every aspect. No more pain, sorrow, or…regret. I waited for what felt like forever before I opened my eyes. Wasn’t something supposed to happen?
The wall of darkness still greeted me in the once decorated ballroom, but nothing else. I always felt the breeze from the open balcony and turned to double-check if I was still there. Weird.
Turning back, I saw what looked like a tall silhouette of a man. The only difference was he was made of complete and absolute darkness. Shadows danced off of him like billowing smoke. He, or whatever it was, looked terrifying, except I wasn’t scared. No, a familiar feeling crawled over my skin, and I knew exactly who it was. Erebus.
A single hand outstretched, shadows wafting off of it as it laid palm up, waiting for me to take it. Swallowing, I reached forward and, without hesitating, took it. As soon as my hand touched his, my eyes shot open, and I was once again back in Tartarus. Uncurling myself from the ball I had formed myself into, I turned over from my sleeping position on the floor. I looked at the door of my cell as the same shadows I had seen encompass the ballroom slithered their way back into my seal at my only exit.
The sound of shuffling had my head snapping to the side. My other self was staring at the door of my prison, her amber eyes transfixed. They darted to me and back.
“Well, that’s going to be an inconvenience.”
She didn’t say another word as her eyes stayed transfixed on the door before slowly backing away and disappearing into the darkness.