Halloween, this time of year in general, is usually one of my favourite times of the year. Mischief Night, Devil’s Night, Samhain, Tartarus, even Guy Fawkes’ day, all that. It’s so very me.
But this year was a bit of a letdown. I feel off like some great weight is shackled around my neck. I wander through the streets of Cork as the little boys and girls skitter back home after a long night of tricks and treats.
And when they are gone, it is just me and the night.
The darkness and messy remnants of the frolic of the holiday are all around me. It is discarded candy wrappers, decorations askew, utter chaos, and still, it doesn’t seem to click for me until I spy one particular confection seemingly overlooked by the ravenous youths of Eire.
Instead of the shimmering red sheen of sugar, the candied apple is a sparkling gold. It sits upon the palm of what at first appears to be a hunched, crone-like witch decoration by a stoop. I step closer and reach out for the sticky sweet temptation. The black-cloaked hag proves herself to be very alive as her hand leaps up like a coiled viper and clutches my wrist.
“Uh, huh, huh.” She clicks her tongue in disapproval. “You have to say it first. You know the rules.”
I sneer. What wretch dares admonish the great god Eris? And yet, I find myself complying nonetheless.
“Trick or treat.”
“You were always so good at both, my dear.” She smiles beneath her hood as she releases the apple into my grip.
“Who are you?” I ask, my gold eyes narrowing.
“Oh, I have many names, but you used to call me something very personal.” She riddles at me.
“If you’re a god, you’re hiding rather well…I don’t sense any divinity off of you.”
“Oh, I can hide with the best of them.” She laughs. It is that laugh only confident older women have near the end of their lives where it’s part cackle and part yell. “Hiding was the best way to find you, you know. It takes one to know one.”
Suddenly something occurs to me. A name, a face, whatever you want to call it, appears in my mind, and I take a half step back before stopping myself.
“Is it you?”
“Who?” she asks playfully. “Use your words.”
“Stop that. Don’t play with me. Take off this costume. Show yourself.”
“I’ll wait till you can see me clearly.” She smirks.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I scowl at her.
“Don’t give me that face.” She laughs. “Every good parent knows when to tell their kids it’s time to stop relying on their security blanket. It’s time to let it go, my sweet,” she chides maternally.
“The fog, Eris. The fog of confusion you wove around the other immortals. Despite you regaining your awareness, you have yet to take it down. Is there a reason for that?”
“I’ll get around to it.” I narrow my eyes at the crone.
“Don’t be lazy. You were raised better than that.” She winks.
I stop for a moment. Why haven’t I taken it down? I’ve had it up so long that I don’t even need to think about it to keep powering the damn thing. The effort would be in the demolishing.
I reach out with my power, and I feel the fog. It hangs there in every corner of my existence like an invisible trail at my back, and I feel the ability to take it down if I so wish. So why don’t I?
“It’s time to let it go, Eris. It’s served as your security blanket long enough.”
A spiteful, childlike rage bubbled up in me.
“My security blanket?” I snap, “How fucking dare you? I’ve never needed protection in my life! I am strife! I am destruction! I am the first to start the battle and the last to leave the field!”
“Are you done?” She looks at me unimpressed, pressing on before I can interject. “Starting battles, causing strife, creating confusion. All these things require others, specifically crowds of others. With this fog of yours, you’ve basically just found a way to assure yourself they’ll always be others to feel connected to, surrounded by, etc.”
I started to reply but found words failing.
“Exactly.” She nods at me, one of her gnarled ancient fingers pointing at me accusingly. “You were born in a void, Eris. You’ve spent your whole life trying to fill it up. Partially my fault. I’ve protected you too often. But I can’t do that now. If you’re not comfortable being alone, then you need to think about why that is.”
Despite myself, I feel a single tear fall down my face before I can stop it. It just serves to make me all the angrier. My eyes must be like flashlights at this point with how fiery hot their golden glow has grown.
“You’ve protected me? Typhon…when I sided with Typhon in his battle with Zeus. The thunderer didn’t spare me because I was his child. He spared me because I’m yours. Just like Hypnos.” I say as I imagine it in my mind. I stood snickering by my kaiju-esque friend’s side as he battled the King of Olympus. Then I watched as he was horrifically punished while I was completely absolved, no muss, no fuss. I could see Zeus’s rage dissipate as he faced the prospect of antagonizing the endless night.
“You’re right, though,” she says, breaking my reverie. “You are a force of nature. You’ve made yourself into a storm that rages all the more as it feeds upon itself.” She lets her warm hands rest on my cool ones as she continues. “You don’t need the fog anymore. Think of who you could be without it. You expend so much of your energies, keeping it firmly in place. You’ve gotten so used to operating at half power you don’t even remember what it is like to truly unleash.”
“Unleash…” I mumble.
She winks at me and continues, “So good at getting others out of control and out of their comfort zones… you didn’t even realize you were doing the opposite to yourself.”
I take another step back as her words wash over me. Has it happened again? Why do my tricks always turn back on me in a myriad of ways? I peel back one layer and just find one more.
I turn away from her, but I can still feel her eyes on my back. I’m not doing this for her, though. I’m doing it for me. I reach out and finally relax my hold, like unclenching a fist I hadn’t known I was holding. The immense wave of relief I feel is powerful. A sweet soreness took over my being, that strange mix of pain and pleasure that I so often seek out.
My grip on the fog is gone, and I feel the fog rush back into me. I feel it being pulled from all the corners of this earth, from Titan and Olympian-born alike.
I breathe in and out slowly, letting my body adjust to operating at full power without that constant tether to the fog. I let my wings loose, and for the first time in a long time, it’s not just some shadow but full wings of darkness unfurling in all their grandeur.
“There they are at last. My beautiful discord,” Nyx whispers behind me. I turn back, another tear in my eye threatening to fall.
“Mother, I…” But my words fade as I find her gone, the stoop empty. No, not empty, not alone, I always have me. I take a bite of the candy apple with a sinful smirk. She is gone, yes, but nevertheless, the night is all around me and…it is going to be a great one.