Polus, formerly Paul Blake, walks towards me, followed by the pregnant woman. He stops just a few feet away, and the air stands still. Our eyes meet, recognition passing between us. He opens his mouth, but before he can say anything, we hear it. The flapping of mighty wings pounding at the air has both of us looking up. Polus pales, his jaw drops, and his eyes widen. A massive, ear-splitting shriek shakes the ground as a shadow looms over the town. I turn on my heel to track the large green-scaled, winged beast as it blots out the sun.
There is an unnatural hush in the moments before the town breaks into pandemonium, the enormous creature bearing down on all of us. The mortals scream and scatter in every direction. All sounds are drowned out by the beasts’ screeches. Polus’s paralysis breaks, and he spins to grab the pregnant woman, rushing her back towards safety. I follow as the dragon roars an angry challenge overhead. The reality of the current threat overshadows the issue of him being an escaped prisoner from Tartarus. Polus shouts orders towards a big man standing nearby, snapping him out of his shocked stupor. He turns to the burly men around him, and they spring into action, grabbing townfolk and organizing them into buildings.
Polus, the pregnant woman, and I make it into the office. We stare out the window as the creature makes a couple more passes over the town and then disappears back into the surrounding forest with a massive whooshing of wings and a final bellow. Polus’s arms are wrapped around the woman, and she is sheltering against his chest.
“That was a dragon,” Polus says, holding the trembling woman.
“Indeed,” I respond, still looking out the window in the direction it had gone.
“Paul, baby, what the fuck is going on!” the pregnant one screams.
Polus turns to face me, subtly shifting the pregnant woman behind him, his body language protective. He says nothing, waiting for me to begin.
“Well, this seems like a fine time to talk, prisoner. You, woman…” I start.
“Pat, umm, it’s Pat, short for Patricia,” she says, looking around Polus’s shoulder.
“Leave us,” I growl.
She is hesitant to take leave of the titan. She shoots unsure glances at him and then at me, as if trying to make sense of what is happening. Polus leans in and kisses her on the lips. It is a tender kiss. I wasn’t aware that titan’s new such tenderness, with the exception of possibly Selene, but I really don’t know her. He pulls away and nods, a gesture she returns before leaving. She glances one last time at both of us as she goes out the door, closing it behind her.
We stare at each other in what feels like a weighty and prolonged silence. He moves to his chair behind the desk, pulls it out, and sits. He gestures for me to take the chair across from his on the other side of the desk. I sit.
“So where to begin? I thought I hid my trail well enough. Pretty sure I wasn’t the reason you came up this way, my Lord Death,” Polus says.
“You are correct. You were not the reason I was drawn here but an unsuspected happening. You, Titan, can begin at the beginning, after your escape from your prison,” I say.
He nods and slowly opens a drawer next to him. My hands tighten on my scythe handle, ready to move on him if he means to do some sort of trickery. He pulls out a bottle of whiskey, and I relax a little as he puts two glasses on the desk, unscrews the cap of the bottle, and pours us each a drink. He slides the glass to me as he takes his and lifts it to his lips, taking a sip
“I quit being a titan to put it in the easiest of terms,” he begins.
“One does not quit being what it is, no more than a tiger may remove its stripes. Explain yourself better, titan,” I say.
“Be at ease. I will get there,” Polus takes another drink. “We were all listening to Kronos lay out the master plan, revenge on the gods and their allies and blah, blah, blah. I couldn’t stop looking at that blue sky, smelling the fresh air, and marveling at what the humans had accomplished under Zeus’s rule. So, when no one was paying attention, I snuck off.”
“That easy?!” I ask in disbelief.
“Obviously. No one came looking for me, did they?” Polus says.
It was true. He was one of several unaccounted for after the jailbreak. I grab the other glass on the table and take a sip as he refills his. I wait for the rest of his tale.
“Keep going, Titan. Who is Paul Blake and the pregnant one? The one called Pat?” I ask.
“Paul Blake is a figment of my imagination and the use of some godly influences to create a false identity. Pat was a blessing, an unexpected blessing,” Polus says, taking another drink.
“But why here in this place? You could have gone anywhere in the world, and what of the child Pat is carrying?” I ask.
He laughs as he answers, “I saw a picture of this place at a bus stop. Plus, have you not seen the beauty of it? And let me tell you, it sure beats the darkness of Tartarus. I see mountains, forests, and blue sky every day. What more can one ask for? Yes, my lord, the baby is mine. I will bring a whole new generation of demigod,” Polus finishes.
His final statement unsettles me. These demigods will need watching. I also find his story dubious. I have no way of verifying his claims, but we do have bigger issues, as I have said before. We will have to, what is that human term, put a pin in this for now. I down my glass and put it on the table. We stare at each other as we go into one of those long silences. It is he who breaks it.
“So, now what? Do you and I battle it out, and you drag me back to my cell? And what of the dragon out there? It is terrorizing the people of this town and killing them. I feel responsible for them…” he trails off and turns his chair to face the window.
“The strange deaths are why I am here, Titan. And there is more,” I start.
It is my turn to share, and he nods his head to let me know he is listening.
“A djinn is controlling the beast, and that magickal being is collecting the souls of the dead,” I say.
“The djinn has gone dark? Not something I usually associate with the djinn,” Polus says, still looking out the window.
“There are other worlds than these, and there are other classes of djinn in those other worlds. Djinn magick is easy to learn for certain types,” I say.
“Certain types like us, and so you suspect me,” Polus says.
“Indeed, we will put dealing of you and Tartus on the shelf, but you are under my suspicious eye. For now, the dragon and whoever is controlling it is a bigger threat than you,” I answer.
Polus turns to face me. He reaches for the bottle and refills his glass. The door behind me bursts open, and the burly man I had seen earlier and the local sheriff barge in, almost tripping over each other trying to be the first one in the door. Polus rises from his seat as do I. I slowly turn to face both men. They freeze as their eyes fall upon me and take an instinctive step back. The sheriff draws his sidearm and points it at me with an unsteady hand.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” the sheriff says, steadying his hand as he levels the gun at me.
I raise an eyebrow, assessing these two mortals. Whatever steel that is inside the sheriff has reasserted itself. I think it is the comfort of the firearm that does it. Burly looks like he is about to start crying and is on the verge of fleeing.
“Don! Don, put the gun away. It’s not going to work,” Polus says. “Roger, come in and close the door.”
Burly, now Roger, complies with Polus’ wishes and closes the door. Don, the sheriff, does not. Don’s eyes never leave me.
“Paul, there was a dragon, a real-life goddamn dragon in the sky. And now you have a man dressed as the Grim Reaper in your office. One I was told just appeared in the middle of Main Street. So no, I don’t think I will put it away just yet,” Don says.
“Grim Reaper!! I take high offense to that mortal. I am a God!” I say.
I unfurl my wings and allow my aura to seep out as I step towards the one they call Don. Don steps back in fright. As he hits the wall, he lets out a small scream and the gun clatters to the ground. He trembles as I look directly into his eyes, getting a glimpse of his soul. It is the soul of a man who has served his entire life as a soldier, a detective in a large city, and finally, sheriff of this small town.
“So-so-so cold,” Don stammers.
I nod and step away from him, folding my wings closed. The one they call Roger leans against the door, weeping silently, and praying under his breath in a small voice. Polus drinks another glass as I return to stand by the desk. Don and Roger begin to relax and compose themselves.
“Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Thanatos, God of Death and the Lord of Souls,” Polus says flatly. “And I am not really Paul, but Polus, Titan of the Axis.”
“Of what?” Roger asks.
“I will explain later,” Polus says. “Now what is it? What is the emergency that caused you two to barge in while my old friend and I were catching up?”
“We got reports coming in that we are cut off,” Don says.
“Cut off? Cut off how?” I ask.
“Some sort of blue shimmering wall. I wouldn’t have believed it, but Roger, the other officers, and I drove out to all points of this town to see it for ourselves,” Don said.
“The djinn,” I say.
“A what? Oh, nevermind,” Don says.
“Whoever it is has trapped us here, and I fear my arrival may have something to do with it,” I say calmly.
“We need to get out there and see if you and I can put a dent in that wall as well as hunt a dragon,” Polus said.
“Indeed, but first, you two gentlemen, please sit down we have a great deal to discuss,” I say.
Roger and Don took their seats, and our palaver began.