I exited the Olympus Administration Building, with Hate and Jealousy, into the crisp air and headed toward the clinic. I don’t know what it was, but I kept feeling drawn there. I visited multiple times now and each time talked to all the people, especially Colonel. Colonel was confined to a wheelchair and was dying of metastatic throat and lung cancer from smoking. I would just sit with him and bring him food or give him cigarettes. I mean, there was no sense in him quitting smoking now. It would do him no good. He was proud and would take some gifts from me, but would never take money.
This morning, I arrived and the clinic opened only a few minutes before I got there. Patients were crowding into the waiting room to be seen by the providers. I glanced around for Colonel, but didn’t see him.
I approached the desk and asked the girl, “Have you seen a man in a wheelchair? Wears an old military uniform and has a hole in his throat?”
The girl took one look at the she-wolves, Hate and Jealousy before replying, “No dogs in the clinic.”
I glanced down at them and said, “They’re support animals. The man, have you seen the man I asked you about?”
She pointed past me outside and said, “Isn’t that him there?”
I looked across the street and there he was, in his wheelchair, waiting to cross. The strangest feeling washed over me. A feeling of dread that I couldn’t recall experiencing before.
I stepped back outside, he saw me and waved to me. Despite his diagnosis, he came to the clinic each day to socialize as best he could and get his medications. He could no longer talk due to the hole in his throat, yet he still made every effort to live his life as best possible.
I watched Colonel as he looked both ways, then pushed himself out to cross the busy intersection. Several things happened at once: Thanatos appeared at my side, and seconds later, a speeding car ran the red light and struck the wheelchair. Colonel was hurtled down the street like a rag doll, his body skipping and bouncing across the pavement. I looked quick at Thanatos.
“Don’t even think about it, Thanatos,” I said right before I sprinted down the street after the injured man. When I reached Colonel, he was a mess. I dropped to my knees and began manipulating his wounds, just as Asclepius taught me all those years ago, in an attempt to heal him. He was gasping for air through the hole in his trachea and with every exhale a fine mist of blood sprayed all over me from his internal injuries.
“No, no, no, Colonel,” I said as I watched his eyes start to glaze over. I pressed my hands on his chest and could feel all the broken ribs as well as both punctured lungs. Through his ragged, bloody shirt, I began working his lungs to stop the bleeding with my healing touch.
It was too little, too late. Even the healing power of a deity could not overcome the crushing injuries inflicted on his mortal vessel. He gasped, then let out his long, slow, last breath. He was gone. I leaned back and wiped my face with my forearm, blood smeared everywhere. When I glanced up, doctors and nurses from the clinic were dashing across the street to assist. I stood up and stepped back as they examined him.
He was dead.
I threw a dark look to Thanatos where he was standing in the shadows of the building, then strode over to him. No one else could see him there.
“What are you doing?” I hissed at him, “Why did you do that?”
Thanatos replied, “Because it was his time.”
“It wasn’t his time. He still had several months to live yet,” I retorted.
Thanatos, as always, kept his cool demeanor and answered, “Who said that? Who said he had several months to live?”
“His doctors did, the cancer was killing him but they all said he had several more months to live.”
Thanatos shook his head. “I’m not here for a cancer fatality. I’m here for a trauma victim.”
I looked back over at the team of people working to get Colonel on a stretcher and out of the street. “They said he had several months left.”
This time, Thanatos frowned and replied, “Since when do mortals decide this sort of thing? His thread was apportioned and today, it was cut. I’m sorry, Dinlas, but you know that’s how it is.”
“It’s wrong. This can’t be right. Who decided this?”
Thanatos shrugged. He shrugged just like I’d seen him do thousands of times before, only this time it pissed me off right and proper.
“Dinlas,” he said, “I don’t decide who goes when. I’m just the guy who transports the soul to Hades. I’m the Uber of the Underworld. You know my sisters, the Moirai, spin, apportion, and cut the thread.
“Where are they?” I gritted out.
“Who? My sisters?”
Thanatos started to backtrack. “Look, Dinlas, they just do their job. Same as all the rest of us. Are you really angry at them or is this about something more than the mortal dying?”
I shot Thanatos a look and replied, “Who are you now? Dr Fiend?”
Thanatos sighed and replied, “I think you mean Dr. Freud, and no, I don’t think I am him. I’ve just never seen you this upset over a mortal dying.”
I paused at what he said. I wanted to heal, as I had been taught all those years ago. I was so tired of hate, anger, and jealousy. Now my first attempt was an abject failure.
“Nothing you need worry about, Thanatos. Now I will ask you again, where are your sisters?”
Thanatos hesitated; he didn’t want to say where they were. But he also knew that I knew he was aware of their location at all times.
“Whole Latte Love,” he said, then started to say more, but I teleported away at once. I arrived at the cafe with a pop right into a crowd of people. Many jumped back startled, cursing as they sloshed their artsy cups of foamy, over-sweetened, specialty blends onto themselves and the floor.
“Hey…” some guy started to say, then stopped at my bloody shirt and face as I glared and pushed him out of the way. Two of Nyx’s three daughters, the Fates, were sitting at a table in the corner, and I headed straight for them. Clothos was leaned back in her chair, reading a book with a cup of steaming chai tea in front of her. Next to her was Lachesis, warming her hands around a whipped hot chocolate while eyeing me curiously as I strode toward them.
“Where’s Atro?” I asked, referring to Atropos, their third sister.
Lachesis smiled and responded, “Look, Clothos, it’s Dinlas. What an unexpected surprise.”
Clothos nodded her head, grunted, turned a page, but never looked up from her book.
I cannot tell you how annoying it is to deal with these three sometimes.
I stopped, took a deep deep breath, and replied, “It’s nice to see you, Lachesis. Nice to see you also, Spider.”
Clothos sighed, dogeared her page, and set the book on the table before she responded. “We already know why you’re here, Dinlas. We already know you befriended, then tried to heal him. We also already know it’s lousy that he died anyway.” Her voice had such a peculiar lilt, normally relaxing and pleasing to the ear. Now it sounded cloying and condescending.
Lachesis nudged out a chair with her foot and said, “Please, Dinlas, sit down and talk to us, not at us.”
I looked at them for a second, then slid into the chair. Both sisters smiled and Clothos took a sip of her tea while Lachesis handed me a napkin to wipe my face.
After a moment of silence and wiping I asked again, “So, where is Atro?”
The three sisters weaved the fate of all mortals. Clothos, or Spider as I call her, spun a mortal’s thread at the time of their birth. Lachesis apportioned, or weaved, the thread of their life, and Atropos determined when to cut it short.
Clotho responded, “Atropos didn’t come with us today.”
“Because she already knew I would show up? She thought I’d make a scene? She didn’t want to be a part of it?”
Clotho casually took another sip of tea, leaned forward, and answered, “No. Because she really likes you and she didn’t want this to come between you and Mother.”
Clotho’s words hit me like a slap in the face. Nyx was fiercely protective of her children. I have no doubt about Nyx’s love for me, but she would be upset to find we’d been bickering.
Lachesis saw the stunned look on my face and jumped in to try and soothe me. “Dinlas, we love you. Mother loves you. You make her happy like she hasn’t been in a long time. You have the right to be upset this mortal died after you helped him. But you need to realize, crazy as this sounds, you don’t have the right to be upset at us.”
I looked at them both. I was still angry and I know it showed.
“You’ve made exceptions before…”
Clothos cut me off. “Never for something as trivial as personal emotions.” Her voice was suddenly husky and she choked up. Lachesis reached over, while never breaking her gaze with me, and squeezed Spider’s hand. It was an odd exchange that left me puzzled.
“In any event,” Lachesis continued for her sister, “please come talk to us again when you have cooled off.” The sisters grabbed their drinks and stood to leave. But first each one leaned and kissed me on the cheek. Clothos walked away with a rub of her eye, and Lachesis paused to whisper in my ear.
“You want to be a healer again? Then be a healer again. But you have to remember that not every patient makes it. That’s just the way it is.” She smiled, then kissed me on the cheek again, and hurried to catch up with her sister.
I watched them both leave. Far older than I they are, yet anyone on the street would assume them to be like any other twenty-something year olds. With a slight nod, I disappeared amidst a popping sound and reappeared at my apartment in the Olympus Administration Building. The she-wolves were already back, both of them lying on my bed when I went in to wash off in my master bathroom. They whined at me as I undressed and sensed I was upset. I sat down for a moment in my chair and they jumped off the bed to come get their ears rubbed. I then pulled out my pack of cigarettes and tapped one out to light. I paused, looked at it, then with little thought broke it in half and threw it in the trash can. I looked only for a moment at the pack in my other hand before I crumpled it and threw it away as well. I was done smoking. I was quitting cold-turkey.
I had no idea what was in store for me.