Mixed Messages

Another call, not yours. When I heard it, it came with all this nourishment for me. Chaos, tragedy, strife. Taking a bite of each one was like taking a step, like following a trail of breadcrumbs.

Some other feeling grips me tight as I make my way to his office. Zeus, the King of the Gods, the mightiest of the mighty and the man who is quite possibly, memory permitting, my father. I should be nervous, right?

That isn’t it, though. I am not nervous. I am excited. The tension in the air fills me like helium until my skin is taut with it, static anxiety bursting out of my fingertips.

Eros has planned for us to have a moment to meet, which means the others know I am back. At least some do, and that thought is enough to charge this place, to create a field of ozone between me and that great door that sends an à propos bolt of electricity up my spine with every step I take towards it.

A part of me wants to keep it going as long as possible, knowing the moment that waits after passing through this choking cloud of tension will be a disappointment. Maybe-dad was never one for letting on how he really felt or…that he felt at all.

It’s been what? Three centuries? And yet I’m sure I’ll walk through that door, and he’ll look up from some papers and be like, Oh you, been a bit. Whaddya want?

Well, only one way to find out.

A part of me would have sworn I knocked, but the look on his face as I swing the door open, tells me I, in fact, did not.

For a moment, we say nothing. I look at him, and he looks at me, and the silence hangs between us like a body in a noose.

“Hi,” I squeak out at last.

“Hello.” His voice is almost soft, not like the thunder of old but somehow just as intimidating.

“I don’t know if…do you know who I am? Do you remember me?” I cock my head to the side with a wry smile.

“Eris.”

“Oh, of course, I forgot,” a lot of things, my mind finishes silently. “Eros must have told you.” I continue out loud. People talking about me instead of to me, is a familiar phenomenon, something to lean on.

“I didn’t need a reminder. Please sit.” He gestures to the chair in front of his desk.

I smile bashfully and sink into the chair before he can change his mind.

Eros warned me not to bring up Atë, so of course, that’s all I want to do. I bite my lip to curb the impulse, my eyes going ever so slightly wider than they already are at any given moment.

“So, tell me…what took you so long to answer the call?”

“I never got it.” I shrug. “Hard to find me if even I don’t know where I am, I suppose.”

“If you don’t even know? Care to elaborate on that?”

“My mind was gone. Chaos wasn’t just all around me, I disappeared into it. I was lost,” I answer truthfully, openly, naked emotion in my voice. I’m not here to conceal anything and certainly not here to trick anyone…for once.

A look crosses his face. If I didn’t know any better, I’d call it paternal concern. It passes mere seconds after I take notice of it and my instincts are quick to assure me I am imagining things.

“Do you feel that you have, to borrow your analogy, found yourself again?”

“More or less. I was awakened by…” Her name doesn’t leave my lips, but a part of me knows he hears me say it, anyway. I trudge on, “Another call, not yours. When I heard it, it came with all this nourishment for me. Chaos, tragedy, strife. Taking a bite of each one was like taking a step, like following a trail of breadcrumbs. I found my way back to some semblance of awareness, but there are still gaps. For example, there is a part of me that believes you are my father and a part of me that remembers it differently.”

He cocks an eyebrow at this.

“But in truth,” I cut him off before he can respond, “I don’t wish for you to confirm or deny that. I would really like to find out for myself. To truly remember. That is a part of why I’m here.”

“I see.” He nods. “And you say that is a part of why you have returned to fold. What else do you feel your purpose is in being back?”

“I want,” I pause, “I want what I’ve always wanted: to be a part of a family, this family? Maybe? I want to try to find a way to make what I do work with the group. I don’t know if that’s even possible, but I’d like to try.”

He looks at me for a long moment.

“You know, Eris. When I called everyone home, I had hoped to achieve something. I had hoped we’d grown. Become more and improved upon ourselves given the limitless time we have on this earth to do so. We are not bound by the shortness of mortal lives in which they can only achieve such a limited amount of their potential.” He stands and glances away from me.

“You must know, being who you are, that the reckless abandon and general chaos we once relished hasn’t diminished as I had hoped and that regretfully much of who we were remains intact. I’m not looking for perfection, or perfect order. Chaos has its place in this world, but it must be as part of a larger whole. I appreciate,” the word almost sounded like it hurt him to say, and he turns and looks back at me as he continues, “that you recognize that repeating our patterns from bygone eras is a mistake and that you want to change. All of us have committed malicious acts against one another. If we stood here listing them all off, we’d lose even more time. That is one thing we can take from the call home, the chance for a new start. If you’re willing to do that, so are we.”

“Thank you.” I stand as well, meeting his eyes, “I know…I know things are murky between us and who I am, but as I said there’s a part of me that feels like your daughter, well your child might be more accurate, but we can talk about that later. That you’re giving me a chance, well it means something to me. I’d like to talk to Hera about it as well, is she around?”

“This is a start, Eris.” His voice becomes firmer, and I realize I’ve done something wrong. “But it doesn’t mean we don’t expect more of you. There’s a lot for you to catch up on. How things are run now and our MO as a group. You’re in luck, there will be a board meeting starting in a few hours, you’re welcome to attend.”

I nod, but say nothing, my eyes searching his for clues to get this interaction back on track. I find none.

“Hebe,” he says suddenly, and for a moment, I think he’s mistaking me for his other daughter, but he’s speaking into an intercom, “please show Eris out.”

****

I’m led up to the eighteenth floor. Hebe exchanges few pleasantries, but even in my fractured memories, I don’t recall us ever being close, so there is no love lost there.

“We’ll let you know when the meeting starts.” She looks me over. “If you want to get presentable.”

With a curt nod, she vanishes, and I am left alone once more.

I’m fairly sure I never liked that cutesy, chibi-esque wench anyway…

I gaze around this empty spare floor I’ve been sent to, to make myself presentable. It was like one of those extra rooms rich mortals have in their too-big houses where all their unused trash ends up. How fitting.

More presentable? It was only just then I realized I never changed out of my gown. I had met with Zeus in male form in a formal floor-length gown. Well, who was he to judge?

I pull the mirror from my Cornfield and lean it up against the wall.

I unzip the gown and let it fall to the floor, kicking it away with my feet, leaving me in just a set of black lace panties, I hadn’t worn a bra when I was first in female form.  I reach once more into my Cornfield and pull on a vinyl fuschia jacket, pulling it on over my scantily clad form.

Looking myself over, I get a little thrill imagining myself walking into the boardroom this way.

“I heard you were back,” a voice comes from behind me, and it’s been centuries, but I’d still recognize that serpentine tongue anywhere.

Hermes.

I turn to face the official trickster god of our pantheon, my half-brother, my mentor, my friend, my lover…

“Hermes,” I breathe, he looks as delicious as ever, his clothes are all business but not one of them is appropriately styled. His tie is undone, shirt unbuttoned, coat hanging loosely off his shoulders. He leans languidly in the doorframe. I can practically feel his gaze as his eyes wander over my form, once more acutely aware of how little I am wearing, not to mention the fact that I am currently in male form.

“I know I may look a little different, especially now.” I chuckle.

“You know me, kid. I don’t discriminate…In bed, at least.” He laughs, stalking towards me.

“I remember.”

“So do we really need to do the whole how you been/long time thing?” he asks, breath hot, and inches from my face.

I smirk, and I don’t even really know if I answer him properly because before I fully realize it, we’re kissing, his tongue is down my throat, and I am reminded that communicating is only one of the messenger god’s oral skills. One of many.

He moves his way down my neck, and for a moment, I allow myself to enjoy the friction of our bodies writhing together.

As it happens though images begin to rush back at me. “In bed, at least…” He had said, in public, however, he most definitely did discriminate. My mind drifts back as it often does to that fateful wedding. It was Hermes who had been the one to come out and meet me at the gates to tell me to go away, in so many words, at least.

“Hermes,” I half say, half moan as his ministrations on my neck continues, “do you remember why I left?”

He laughs into the crook of my neck.

“What?” he says, lifting his head. “Uh…yeah, you threw that hissy at Thetis’ wedding, and then we kind of lost touch, right?” He scoffs, eyes skewed before shrugging and diving back at me, but this time my hand rises to land firmly on his chest, stopping him.

“Pulled a hissy?”

He looks at me, genuinely curious as to why we’re even talking about this, why we’re even using words at all. This isn’t what we do, we weren’t romantically involved, it was always just laughs and sex, friends with bennys long before such a term even existed.

“Look, not sure why you’re so cross, but,” he smolders, trying to get the vibe back on track, “I’ll make it up to you.” He removes his jacket and shirt, letting them fall to the floor and moves back toward me.

And for half a second, that feels longer, I let him.

But it’s different now, it feels like something happening to me rather than something I’m participating in.

“Hermes, you could have stuck up for me,” I say suddenly, surprising even myself.

“What?” Now he’s getting frustrated. He’s getting frustrated? I push him off again.

“We were friends. You were, in many ways, a mentor to me as I awoke as a trickster god. Yet I got hell for it while you towed the company line. You never put yourself out there, always playing it safe, and you sure as Tartarus made sure to pretend you barely knew me when the rest of the Big 12 were around…”

He looks at me like I have two heads.

“Eris. Don’t spoil it.” He laughs and pushes back down on me, his arm going under my jacket and winding around my bare waist.

“Wait…” I half mumble as he pushes me backward.

“Listen, are we gonna do this or what? Cuz, I used to be able to say I’ve explored every inch of that body, but… you’ve added some new inches since then…” he says suggestively as his hand wanders downwards.

The last bit of my patience snaps, and so does his wrist. I find I’ve grabbed him by the hand, and with a monstrous push, I bend his hand violently backward.

“What the fuck?” he howls.

“God of Communication, huh? Well, read the fucking room!” I snarl, lunging forward and shoving the palm of my right hand upwards into his throat, knocking him to the ground with a gasp.

I’m almost as shocked as he, I look down as he leans forward on one hand, starting to stand, gripping his throat protectively.

I start to say something, but instead I kick him face-first onto the floor once more.

“This is a new start, Hermes. I’m done being ‘nothing’ one minute and something when you need to get your dick wet. I’m no longer going to be just some footnote in our history. The troublesome imp who kicks off more significant events focused on everyone but me.”

My bare foot comes to rest on his throat.

“I’m a war god, remember? I am chaos and frenzy and destruction, and you are a mailman. You may not care much for the memories between us, but please, for your own continued existence…remember that.”

We lock eyes as I move my foot, and he slowly stands, scampering out without another word.

I exhale a breath I didn’t realize I was holding in, and in doing so, my form shifts from male to nonbinary to female. My hair now falls long over my exposed breasts, heaving as I work through my erratic breaths.

I wipe away a tear that I will henceforth pretend never fell.

I look down at my hands and remember how it felt to hurt him just now. Remember the sensations of his body bending and breaking under my hands and, for a moment, allow myself to enjoy it.

But then there is Zeus’ voice is in my ear, rambling about self-improvement and striving to be better. 

Up and down, happy, sad, angry…a swirling mass, and it seems I’ve remembered myself only to trade one chaos for another.

I remove the flashy jacket and toss it to to the floor with the many other discarded garments quickly collecting down there.

I let myself drift into my otherspace, my Cornfield, and sift through the many pieces of random clothing I’d hoarded there over the millennia, and my eyes fall upon something I haven’t seen in a long time. Something I came into possession of when I had once sought solace in the church…If I am to truly make a statement at this board meeting, truly show how different I was capable of being, then this just might be the ticket.

Look out, y’all: Eris is back.

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