I had a pulsating headache. The darkness I had suppressed for so long had finally pushed its way out. I stood in the middle of my business, Erebus After Dark, staring at myself in the mirror. I barely recognized myself. It had been a long time since those black eyes looked back at me. I rubbed at my jaw, tilting my head from side to side, admiring the true darkness within me.
I know you’re confused. You’re thinking, But, Erebus, you’re the God of Darkness and Shadows. Aren’t you always like this? To answer your question, yes. But being corrupt and evil one hundred percent of the time can get under one’s skin. Do you think I didn’t notice my family backing away from me? Or the dwindling invitations to dinner? My friends had distanced themselves long before any world pandemic had called for social distancing. No one liked a Donnie Downer.
I’d tried pinpointing when I became the god everyone knew then, but I couldn’t be certain when it had happened. I just knew one day I’d woken up and said enough was enough. I pushed that evil side down, tucking him away. I could be dark without all the evil, or at least I could dim the switch. I started using my dark and evil side to do good. Chasing after demons and thieves allowed me to flex the dark evil inside of me. Every now and again, I needed a release. Instead of taking it out on some poor innocent, I focused on ridding the world of sick fucks. Maybe I was projecting? I felt guilty for all the bad I had caused in the world. Maybe that was how I could give back.
So, what had happened to make me turn back to that dark side? Maybe I was tired of trying to prove I was capable of being good. Being used and made a fool of can set a person off, you know. I was tired of being walked all over. The quiet, nagging voice in the back of my head had just become louder and louder until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Melisseus’ final words had gotten to me. The empty house had just proven what an idiot I was. Nobody messed with the God of Darkness and expected to live. Maybe Atë and I hadn’t been compatible because I was trying to change her. Maybe it wasn’t her that needed changing? Maybe I just needed to accept what I really was—a dark, twisted fuck.
I was surrounded by familiar faces, asking me questions I didn’t feel like answering. Why are you in a bad mood, E? What happened? Are you and Atë okay? Why wouldn’t people leave me alone? I was fine, for fuck’s sake. I had work to do, but clearly, nothing would get done just then. I pushed through the people and stalked toward the door. If these people knew what was good for them, they’d leave me alone. I pressed my palm against the glass door, pushing it open and stepping out into the cold, dreary day. I tugged at the collar of my jacket as the wind whipped at my face. I left Olympus and headed for a reality where I wouldn’t be surrounded by the constant reminder of failure.
Mortals jumped out of my way as I put space between me and the building. I didn’t want to leave the beach house, but darkness couldn’t spread across the world if I were holed up feeling sorry for myself. If she wanted me, she could follow my path of destruction.
In the meantime, I’d stopped restraining my shadows. They’d been wreaking havoc. Imagine kids loose in a candy store. Now you know what my shadows could do. The news had been riddled with mysterious power outages and car lights having mechanical failure, all of which led to car accidents on the highways. But that was just child’s play.
I walked by a young couple, a man and woman, who appeared to be having a disagreement. I reached out, brushing my hand against the woman’s back as I passed by. You know that shiver you sometimes feel crawling down your back, some think it’s death, but I like to take credit for it. Immediately, her back arched into my gentle touch, the backbone she so desperately needed appearing. Her voice raised about three octaves. She reached out, slapping the man across the face. I continued on, no one the wiser. Atë would have laughed at that. Oh, shut up.
The sun was setting when I finally found exactly what I was looking for—the bar district, where music and laughter filled the air. Tourist after tourist walked by. Or should I say victim after victim? It was perfect for what I had planned. People went missing while traveling abroad all the time. A woman trying to find herself or a man who had reached a plateau in his life and was looking for more. I would be there to show them exactly what they were looking for…at first. I walked toward a tapas bar. The exterior screamed You’re in Greece, with its white walls, blue roof, and pink flowers growing from baskets hanging from the eaves. A group of young men stumbled out, bumping my shoulder. Clearly, they had enjoyed more than their share of ouzo. I was about to snarl at their carelessness but decided it was exactly what I needed. I turned on the charm, my smile dripping with friendliness.
“Whoa there.” I took hold of him by his elbow, my other hand steadying his shoulder. We hovered in the doorway while his friends trickled into the street. I looked him in the eye. He had trouble focusing. I loved a challenge. I started speaking to him softly. “Having a bit of fun tonight, are we?” my smile stretched from ear to ear. He was at ease. It wouldn’t be as hard as I thought. He was drawn in by my magnetism, and before he realized it, he was in a trance.
His friends called him, but he couldn’t hear them. I had locked into the part of his mind that controlled his vision. He could only see what was in front of him. I was the only one that mattered. We had a wordless conversation as I implanted seeds deep within his mind. You will keep drinking. You won’t stop. The alcohol tastes so good. It is the only thing you desire. You will walk to the coast. When your feet hit the sand, you will keep walking. The water will feel soothing. It will be like a warm blanket wrapping around you. You will long to stay in this warm blanket forever. Walk until the water is a foot above your head, then let go. I gave him two pats on his back, breaking the trance.
“Enjoy your night,” I said.
He looked at me strangely, but agreed. He stumbled over to his friends, who were all laughing and none the wiser. They continued with their evening. The next day it would be reported that after consuming too much alcohol, a young man drowned after going for a late-night swim.
I walked to the bar, ordering a shot of ouzo and a bottle of wine. Turning around, I scanned the crowd looking for an open table. My gaze stopped short on an older woman in her late fifties. I turned back, asking the bartender for two glasses, then made my way over to her table. I was not at all intimidated or worried she would reject my advance. I knew I would have been her best offer in decades.
“May I join you?” I held up my expensive bottle of wine and two glasses. Her cheeks turned crimson. I took that as acceptance of my offer. I sat down in the booth beside her. She wasn’t from around there. She screamed tourist and reeked of desperation. I could still smell her sunbathing oil on her skin. She’d tried hard to dress like the local women, but her jewelry was cheap, as was her knock-off designer purse. I poured us some wine and flashed my pearly whites. “Cheers.” I held up my glass, waiting for her to raise hers.
“I don’t even know your name,” she said shyly.
I didn’t wait for her. I tapped my glass against hers. Mortals scared pretty easily, so I didn’t admit to my name. “Scott,” I said before taking a sip of my wine. “And you are?” Sometimes my confidence came across as arrogance, but I knew it wouldn’t matter with her.
It took every bit of my energy not to snort the wine out of my nose. Instead, I nodded my head. “And what brings you to Greece?”
“It’s my retirement present to myself.”
“Retirement?” I faked a gasp. “Nah, you’re too young to be retired.”
She giggled like a teenager. “I took an early retirement.” She looked down in her lap.
“How long will you be in Greece?” I asked.
She was a bit hesitant to answer. I understood. She didn’t know me. I was a stranger. Little known fact: it takes women three times longer to warm up to me than it does for men. For whatever reason, men were more trusting. Maybe it was the lack of inhibitions? Men, usually, haven’t been hurt the same way women have been. I didn’t immediately try any of my regular tricks on her. That wouldn’t have been very sporting.
I raised my hand, letting her know that it was okay. I drank slowly from my glass and began looking around the little dive like she’s not interesting. I could see she was conflicted, She didn’t want to tell me more than I should know, yet she couldn’t bear me leaving her side.
“I’m just visiting a friend for a week.”
She didn’t want me to know she was there alone. Smart. I nodded, letting her think I believed her little lie.
“Have you gone to any of the islands yet? You must. Don’t just stick to the mainland.” I kept talking, making small talk. I was getting more familiar with her because if I opened up, so would she. I told her I was a model working for an Italian agency, but I was currently on holiday. The waiter came over and took our order. Joy leaned forward, reaching for her glass and starting to relax a little.
“I-I’ve been to see the ruins.” She smiled.
Of course she had. That’s what everyone did when they came to Greece. But no one ever remembered the gods that towered and ruled over the mortals. We’d been forgotten.
“I know a place you should see.” I sipped from my glass. “You won’t find it on any tourist map.”
Joy’s brow arched in interest.
“But…the locals don’t like tourists. So maybe I shouldn’t tell you,” I teased.
She leaned into me, trying her best to flirt. “I wouldn’t mind seeing some of the local sights, but I’d need a tour guide.” She ran a long red fingernail up the center of my chest. I looked down, taking her hand in mine, holding it gently. I stared at it. It looked foreign. Wrong. The last woman’s hand I’d held was Atë’s. I gave my head a shake. Don’t go there.
“I don’t know,” I pretend to waver.
The waiter returned with our food. I let her hand go and dug into the food, distracting her by biting into some calamari. I pretended I’d forgotten what we were discussing. “Sure was hot out today, wasn’t it?”
Joy licked her lips as she watched me eat.
Every move I made was calculated. Everything I said was thought out. It was all to entice her. I could’ve just waved my hand or looked into her mind the way I had with the boy before her, but where was the fun in that? Her mind was telling her to listen to me, to trust me, to follow me wherever I may take her. The fact of the matter was, I wouldn’t be taking her anywhere. Not really. I pushed the plate towards her, urging her to try some of the seafood. She listened. All of her reluctance had washed away. I smiled at her as she shoved a fork full of baby squid into her mouth. The tzatziki sauce sat on the edge of her lip. I raise my hand to wipe it away with my napkin. I seductively stared at her lips, making her think it was all I could do to hold myself back from her. When in reality, it was the furthest thing from my mind.
“Let’s go somewhere?” I suggested.
She nodded innocently.
I placed some bills on the table, taking her hand to lead the way out. We strolled down the cobbled streets. I could hear the tiny bats flying above our heads, screeching. I steered her to a section of town that was questionable in daylight, never mind in the middle of the night. But Joy was so oblivious to her surroundings that she didn’t even notice I’d taken her to a drug den. My shadows had fallen into step, knowing my old routine. No one bothered us. I led her into a corner, where she sat still, waiting patiently for me to make the first move. My shadows crept closer until they had begun wrapping themselves around her. First her wrists, then her legs. By the time she noticed she couldn’t move, I had entered her head, and she didn’t struggle.
You are lost. You came to Greece looking for a good time. You followed a young man here, thinking he was just what you needed. But Scott is not real. You are a sad, lonely woman. No one will ever be interested in you. You want to be left alone. The darkness is your only happiness. Your beauty has withered away, leaving you a wrinkled old hag. Everyone you love has forgotten about you. The only thing that makes you happy is being here.
She looked at me. Her smile faded from her face as a tear rolled down her cheek.
Some days were better than others, but one thing was for certain, I was tired of repressing my darker side. No more Mister Nice Guy.