The realm of reality. That’s what the tribal leader said as he presented the potion. Standing there waiting for him to finish, I had a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. Were we really going to drink a concoction of Gods knows what and trust that it wouldn’t kill us, or do any other manner of terrible things? Standing there holding the potion, the tribal leader looked from one of us to another. I knew that deep down, Artemis would try to do this alone if we let her. I, for one, was not about to let that happen. Stepping forward, I drew attention to myself.
“I will be the first to make the journey.”
“No!” Artemis grabbed my arm. Her eyes pleaded with me. Gently, I laid my hand on hers.
“It’s okay. I am strong, Arty. I can take it. This way you will know if it’s really a trick.”
“No, Theena.” Her eyes held so much emotion.
“If not me, then who? I will be okay, Arty. And hey, if it hurts me, you can always torture and kill them.” I smiled and winked at her. I could hear the men behind me gasp at my suggestion of torturing them to death. I had to stifle a laugh because I knew that they were finally scared. I knew that it was inappropriate to be making jokes when we faced the unknown, but life could be too easily snuffed out to be angry all the time.
Artemis stared into my eyes, searching for…something. I gave her a small smile and squeezed her hand. She nodded in agreement and let me go. I turned around to face the man holding the potion.
“I’m ready,” I told him as I retrieved the concoction. With all the herbs, it should have been a pleasant smell. It should have smelled sweet and earthy. It didn’t. I didn’t know what exactly gave it the pungent odor. Perhaps the magic used to create it. Whatever it was, it was not an inviting aroma.
I held my breath and took a drink. The leader gasped, and only after the liquid passed over my lips and down my throat did I remember him saying to SIP the liquid. Oh, hells! Well, go big or go home. And I wasn’t going home until we got that damned fire, and all my family could return safely home, too.
The world shifted. Everything changed and my reality melted away, leaving something else. Everything was black and white, except for the crimson red blood and fire that seemed to encase the world. It looked like the one that I expected Atë wanted.
A laugh behind me echoed through the air. I turned to face the familiar sound, but there was only more destruction behind me. What in Gods name was this place? How was this my true reality? Another laugh. It seemed to be echoing all around me. This person was really starting to piss me off. I felt the anger bubble up inside of me. The rage threatened to spill out and cover my surroundings. I swear if I…
“That’s it. Let out your wrath. Make everyone pay for their indiscretions. Together we will bathe in their blood.”
The voice was so familiar, and yet it sounded so wicked. Like all the wrong in the world trapped in a single voice. I turned quickly and was startled by the woman standing in front of me. Her blonde hair hung from beneath her golden helmet. She was covered in sticky, congealing blood. It is in her hair, on her face and arms, and all over her armor…my armor. My eyes widened. I realized that the woman standing in front of me was me. But she was wrong somehow.
All the love and compassion, everything that made me the Goddess of Wisdom, courage, inspiration, arts, crafts, and skill, was gone. All that remained was the Goddess of War. She was cold and uncaring. Pure vengeance and bloodlust in its truest form.
I stared at her, not sure what to say.
“You’re not real,” I whispered.
“Oh, but I am. I am you. The real you. What would your precious family say if they saw the real you? Do you think they would still love you? Would they love the Athena we both know you really are? Take a good look! This is who you really are. Who WE are.”
“NO!” I screamed.
“Deny all you want. I know how black your heart has become. You are tainted by the death that constantly surrounds you. By the death, pain, and destruction that you cause. Why not give in to it? We both know that you want to. It’s not like you have far to go, anyway.” The evil me laughed again, her joy at mocking me enraged me. Without thinking, I charged at her.
“NO!” I screamed.
“NO!NO!NO!” I continued to scream. I unleashed a fury of blows. I punched, jabbed, threw uppercuts, and kicked. She evaded every hit with ease. She mirrored my movements, leaving me to strike open air.
“You can’t win. You are just fighting yourself. Give in.” She laughed.
I punched again, and something shattered. I picked up a piece of the jagged glass and lunged at her with it. The jagged edge sliced my hand and sent sharp pains through it. This time she didn’t move. I dug the shard deep into her chest, and she fell to the ground. I followed her to my knees and looked at the piece of bloody glass in my hand. It’s a piece of a mirror.
My reflection in the mirror looked exactly like the other me. I was wearing my armor and covered in blood. My eyes widened, and I dropped the shard. Raising my hands, I could see that I was indeed wearing my battle armor and covered in blood. Dropping my arms to my sides, I noticed that the woman was gone. Was she ever truly here?
“I am always here. I am your wrath. You can’t get rid of me that easily.” The voice echoed. I fell back and sobbed wildly. This couldn’t be me. It just couldn’t. I sat there and cried for what seemed like an eternity. I cried until I could not cry anymore. I couldn’t let this be all that I was, all that I became.
“You know the truth of your fate,” she whispered, and this time I did not try to fight. I sat there in defeat. Maybe she was right. Had all the killing left a dark hole inside of me? Had I really become wrath?
“Only by embracing your wrath can you truly be free.” The other me appeared again. This time she looked exactly like I would on a normal day. Completely free of armor and blood. She stood in front of me, neat and pristine. I focused on her, and the world melted away again. This time it changed, and all the death, destruction, and gore were gone. The world looked normal again. We were in my home. The other me walked past me and into my bedroom. I got to my feet and silently followed after her…after me.
As I entered my bedroom, I could see a figure in my bed fast asleep.
“If that’s a third me, I’m done,” I said sarcastically. All my sarcasm died, and the room fell silent. Sleeping in my bed was not another me. It was Medusa. She laid there sprawled across my bed, with only my silk sheets to cover her modesty. Even here, she was so beautiful.
“What would your Gorgie think of the real you? Do you think she could ever love the monster you are inside? Could she ever love all of you? Your wrath and vengeance? Somehow I doubt anyone would love you if they knew what we know. Do you really think Artemis, Morpheus, Persephone, Selene, Urania, and dear Medusa could love and accept the real you? You know they won’t. You will die miserable and alone, drowning in your wrath.”
The tears fell again, but I couldn’t seem to take my eyes from her. The other me turned to exit the room.
“Come now, we are not finished yet,” she called to me.
I just stood there, staring at my Gorgie. So peaceful and serene.
“Come, Athena, don’t keep your wrath waiting. Bad things happen when I must wait. We have more to do.”
I turned to face her, desperately trying to stifle my rage at her words.
“Come along. You don’t belong here. She isn’t here, anyway. You don’t deserve her.”
I looked back at my bed to get one last look at what I could never have. Happiness and love. My bed was empty. The bed was neatly made and void of any evidence that she had ever graced my sheets. A tear escaped my eyes as I turned to follow. She was never there anyway. The words cut deep into my heart and lingered there.
The other me walked out to my kitchen counter, retrieved my favorite mug, and poured herself a hot cup of coffee. She sipped it as she studied me. Time passed like the slow drip of molasses in the dead of winter. I just stood there as she studied me…waiting for something.
“Our time is almost up, Athena. You have seen what I have wanted you to see. You have seen the truth. Now I will let you see what you wanted to see.” She waved a hand, and a piece of the map appeared on the countertop. I had forgotten what I had come for, but she hadn’t. I suppose that meant that I really hadn’t either.
Walking over to the counter, I could see the piece of the map clearly. It looked like ground of some sort. It looked like there was water to the north and east. It must be on the northeastern part of the island. The map had some trees and vegetation below it to the southeast. There was something to the northwest of the area and something below it, but it was not visible.
“So, this is where I have to go?” I looked up at the other me.
“One more night of darkness
a fallen angel’s curse
darkness reveals secrets
of a broken lover’s heart
leaking riddles death
only truth will set you free.”
The words flashed across the paper and then disappeared.
“If it’s the eternal flame that you seek to the ground, you must keep. But beware where you go because the dead will rise from below.” She spoke the riddle, never taking her eyes from mine.
“How do I remember it? We were told that we would forget once we woke up. How do I not forget?” I asked as I broke eye contact and focused back on the piece of map. When she didn’t answer, I looked up, and she was gone.
“By embracing who you really are. Embrace your wrath.” The sound came from behind me. I whirled around to face her. She stood there and smiled a sinister smile.
“You are wrath!” she yelled as she kicked me in the chest. The world melted away again, and I fell into a deep and spiraling pit. At the bottom, I plunged into water. It filled my lungs, and I gasped for air that didn’t come. I felt myself drown as I fought to get to the surface.
Air filled my lungs and burned violently as I gulped in copious amounts. I opened my eyes and desperately fought to regain the ability to breathe. Focus Athena! Focus! You must fucking breathe, or you won’t be able to help.
My breathing slowed, and I fought to focus on the map. On what she said. No, on what I said. I must embrace my wrath. Perhaps all the others must do is embrace their reality to remember. The images flooded my mind, and I tried to make sense of them.
Opening my eyes, I searched for the others. I searched for her…my Gorgie. Everyone seemed to be unharmed and still under the influence of the potion. They all seemed okay. Even Gorgie. I took a deep breath and tried to relax as I waited for them to come out of their own realities. I only hoped that theirs were not as terrible as mine. I also hoped that I would not have to share too much of mine. What if the other me was right? What if they all hate me for my wrath? I closed my eyes and leaned back to steady myself.