I sat in my office. Selene had just left. She was more than pissed at me for my actions, but I didn’t care. I was free. The smile plastered across my face had been there since Melisseus had succumbed to my wrath. I was free from the whispers that called to me late in the night. Free from the dull ache that had crawled deep inside my heart, making it black all those many years ago. I had scoured this plane and the next. I had hunted for peace, millennia after millennia, and had finally received it. Everything was about to be perfect.
I sighed, taking a deep breath. The weight that had attached itself to my shoulders for as long as I could remember, slowly released, slinking away to a dark corner. I stood with a bit of jubilation. Could it be I was actually happy? Excited for a future filled with possibilities? A life I hadn’t dreamed about in decades.
Two months had gone by since Christmas when I had admitted to Atë she had my heart. It had been a month since we went on our first awkward date. There had also been the failed attempt of her death, by my hand, through no fault of my own but because of her enemies. I still had to deal with that. I had come and gone in the night, always when she was busy, staying away in the Underworld as I dealt with my past. I made secret calls and had endless business meetings occupying my time.
If I were honest, I was embarrassed to admit I didn’t know how to date. I didn’t know if I could live up to the fairytale she deserved or the promises I’d made her. I was afraid I would fail. It had happened before, with Nyx. It was bound to happen again with Atë. I was ashamed, and the longer it took me to deal with the past, the harder it was to go home. Sure, I knew she was pissed. She had every right to be, but now I could focus on her, on us, and on our future. I knew I couldn’t be with her until I made things right. I couldn’t be a hypocrite. I hated asking her to give it all up for me when I couldn’t do it for her. I knew killing Melisseus wasn’t exactly giving up revenge, but it wasn’t my fault he’d antagonized me. I’d had a plan, and it had gone askew. It wasn’t my problem anymore, despite what Selene may have thought of me.
My only problem then was fixing my relationship with Atë. I had a lot of making up to do. I could only hope I wasn’t too late.
I stopped at a few shops on my way back to the beach house. I grabbed a few designer outfits I thought she might like, as well as some shoes and jewelry. I knew buying her affection wouldn’t solve anything, but it could soften her up or at least remove the frosty cover she would have draped herself in. I ordered dinner for two and had a fantastic bottle of Chateau Lafite I had been saving for this occasion. Well, maybe not that exact occasion, but for the day Melisseus no longer walked the earth. I had something to celebrate, and there was only one person I wanted to share that with. My person. My goddess, my love.
I prepared myself for the shit storm ahead and took a deep breath before walking into the house. Opening the door, I could see all the lights were off. It looked like no one was home.
“Atë?” I called out. Maybe she was up in her room sleeping? “Atë, I’ve got great news!”
I walked through the halls as the motion sensor lights activated, slowly turning themselves on. That meant she hadn’t been home for a while. I looked back at the front entry. The front closet was empty of any female jackets or shoes. A glance to the spotless kitchen gave me a moment’s pause. A lump the size of a golf ball lodged itself in my throat. Shit.
“Atë!” I called a little more frantically.
Taking the stairs two at a time, I went to her bedroom. It was empty. She had left nothing behind, not even a note. The ground shook under my feet. Every lightbulb in the house shattered, surrounding me in darkness. A guttural noise escaped from deep inside. No! I stalked through the house, searching for anything…anything to suggest she might be coming back. But all traces of her ever living there had been erased. No! I’d fucked up.
Or she never loved you to begin with. I could hear his voice nagging me.
She used you. It mocked me.
You were her pawn.
I paced the hallway from the kitchen to the front door. His voice vibrated in all corners of my mind. Shut up. I killed you.
Did you really think you were going to be rid of me? You hunted me for so long. You ate, drank, and breathed me. You and I are one.
“You’re not here. You’re dead!” I screamed.
Face it, Erebus, you are as desperate and alone today as you were all those years searching for me. Revenge got you nothing.
The beast inside me came to life. I roared as I tore the house apart in a rampage. My shadows swirled in black streaks across each room, blowing out every window. Glass scattered everywhere. Behind me, I left a path of destruction so big it looked like a small bomb had gone off. When I was finished, I went to her room and lay down on her bed, which was devoid of any bedding. I didn’t know how long she had been gone, but I could still smell her. I stretched across the mattress, staring up at the ceiling. We had only just begun. The pain I felt was tenfold. My shadows swirled around the room, careful not to disturb anything in the tiny shrine of nothingness. She was gone.
You are what people fear in the dark? Give me a break.
Born out of the primeval void. Chaos would be so disappointed.
My head was filled with pressure as the voice goaded me. I needed him to go away. I needed it to stop. My shadows wrapped around me like protective armour, but it was no use.
She was never yours to begin with.
You are nothing. Always have been, always will be.
My insides filled with rage as the voice went on and on. I listened to it, fed on it. The hate I felt toward the voice inside my head became all-consuming. After listening to it for hours…days, something finally clicked. The lies it spewed like garbage became melodious. As it droned on, my memories of Atë slowly changed. Our first fight in Italy, where I’d felt her break through my tough exterior with one kiss, had been part of her ruse. She hadn’t been on that mountainside befriending me all those months ago. She’d been busy letting out all the Titans. The guilt I felt for backstabbing my only friend. The torture I’d put myself through as she lived a thousand years in Tartarus. All of it had been a figment of my imagination. The game show and her jealousy making her take out anything she thought I wanted, that hadn’t been her. It had all been a part of her big end game. Our constant squabbling, the imp, all of it was being erased. Reality changed into something else. Everything I thought I knew, was no longer. She had never loved me. She had used me. It had all been a lie. She’d wanted to ruin the biggest, baddest, darkest god. She’d wanted to make him fall in love with her…for what? A game of mischief?
Dark clouds rolled in. The wind blew its way in through the newly shattered windows. A storm was coming. My shadows dug their claws in deep. No one uses me. The voice had made me see the truth for what it was. It had been there this entire time, and I had been too stupid to realize it. I sat up, feeling refreshed, the voice quiet. We had come to an agreement. I accepted my new reality, and it would stop its incessant nagging. Love wasn’t for the god of darkness. Darkness consumed love, ate it for breakfast, and spit it out.
I stood, walking to the vanity I’d seen her sit at so many times during the months we’d lived together. Now, looking into it, an old familiar face stared back. My skin was pale, my expression was that of stone. Malevolent black eyes replaced the warm brown ones I had worn for decades. My mouth twisted into a sinful, calculating grin.
Hello old friend.
Shall we play a game?