By the time Luis and I made our way through the God Complex lobby, took the elevator to floor five, and walked through the main doors, I was exhausted. Even though it had been only a few days since my last deep slumber, I felt weary down to the bone. I was not sure if the tiredness was a side-effect from the physical changes I’d just gone through, the length of the trip, or both.
I knew some of the tiredness was attributed to the natural course my relationship with Amphitrite had taken during our return trip. I will not go into details, but you can bet there was no empty bedroom for Luis to nap in on the way back. When we made our detour to Nymphaeum, I was filled with dread that she might decide to stay, but she did come back to the GC with me. No one was happier than me for that.
I had dropped her off on her floor a few minutes ago, and I already missed her. We shared our stories, and we shared our tears. I was very happy my gift to her had helped in her dark times, and I showered her with kisses and caresses. Our mental bond was strong, but it was nothing compared to how it felt in the embrace of one another. And do not bother asking me to kiss and tell. I am still enjoying the kissing.
Surprisingly enough, I felt fine mentally, all Dionysos things considered. The voices were present and loud. And willing, too. They felt a lot more malleable to my command than usual. I was a bit worried that after letting them loose, they would get unruly and scream for their release even more. Instead, they were happy and satiated. That was a good thing.
For the duration of the trip, poor Luis had been trying very hard to keep me updated on all the changes in progress on my floor, but I had mentally swept all that aside. There had been too many things going on already. Design details were not high on my priority at that time. I was sure if I had listened, my shock would not have been as evident.
I walked through the double doors of the private half of the building, expecting to find the foyer and the huge living room I had seen before. Instead, I walked into a…jungle? Part of the foyer was still there, but now it led to a few steps, which led to a grassy plateau and a trail that forked ahead. One path led to an area full of lush greens, trees, rocks, singing birds, and everything else someone would find in a deep forest.
The other path cut in front of a waterfall that cascaded into a pond formed out of a rocky outcropping. A handful of stubborn trees and branches were sticking out of the rocky formation. Some were alive with leaves. Some were dead, looking more like petrified fingers jutting out of the stone. Perched on one of those dead branches, placed up high along the sides of the waterfall, lay Mourgo, sleeping.
I stood there, frozen in place for a few seconds, closing my eyes and re-opening them slowly. Then I cautiously backed out of the room and closed the door, still holding on to the handle. I was mulling over the idea of slapping myself in the face to wake myself when Luis’s voice chimed with a healthy dose of pleasure.
“I did have a feeling you were not paying attention to my daily floor updates all this time. I swear, master. Sometimes you have the attention span of a toddler.”
“Well, feed me mushy peas and grape juice then, Luis. Do toddlers sleep out in the forest? I’m not Tarzan, you know.”
“If you follow either path, it will converge again and lead into your quarters. Mourgo needed his own area. The workers started complaining about getting tripped up or pounced on every ten minutes.”
“I did not imagine the jungle?”
“No, sir. It took some doing, but we wanted Mourgo to feel comfortable. He sure is a grouchy one.”
“Do not even think it, Luis. I know where your thought process is taking you. Snap that insubordination out of your head before I do it for you.”
“Yes, sir. Will do, sir. Are you planning on standing here with your hand on the doorknob for much longer? I need to use the restroom.”
“That is fair, Luis. Make sure you take a nice slow walk past the waterfall as you go.”
With that, I opened the door and slowly walked through as Luis hurried past me, taking the path away from the trickling water. I closed the door behind me, hopped up the steps, and made my way toward the pond. I still could not believe all the work that was put into making this area. I looked up, half expecting to find the sun streaming through clouds. The ceiling was painted sky blue, and the spotlights were streaming a warm yellow light instead of the pale white of halogen bulbs. The illusion did break, though, and that was a good thing for me right then.
As I slowly made my way toward the waterfall, I noticed Mourgo’s ears twitch as he opened one eye to analyze the change in his surroundings. Apparently, I was not deemed a threat because his eye closed, and he snorted after a big tongue-curling yawn. That changed within two breath’s worth of time. Incidentally, that is how long it took me to find a seat on one of the rocks that created the boundary of the pond.
Realizing I was not just another passerby, Mourgo raised his head, regarding me with a scowl, a low throaty growl, then a blink, and a slight crook of the neck. Recognition dawned for a moment, replaced with even more confusion. Mourgo lifted himself up and, with a quick bound, cleared the pond, landing on the rocky ledge next to me.
His shiny emerald eyes met mine, and neither of us blinked for an eternity. I was sure he could see the maelstrom of feelings churning right beneath my calm veneer. Happiness, sadness, exultation, suffering, confusion, exuberance, and enervation, all open for his viewing pleasure. Eventually, one of us blinked, and time started flowing again. With that, the big cat leaned forward, pushing his head into my chest under my chin.
I put my hands around the panther’s neck, my fingers curling through his sleek fur. He let out a sound that started as a growl but slowly morphed into a whine and then into a high-pitched meowing. I knew there was endless love and understanding there. It was all I could do to keep from crying.
Having finally swallowed the lump in my throat, I cleared my throat and whispered, “Do not worry, Mourgo mou. It will take a lot more than all that happened for me to break. That does not mean I am not cracked, though. But you already knew that.” With another soft whine, Mourgo reached with a massive paw and patted me on my arm. That is when I heard it. The sound of someone clearing their throat in the distance. I opened my eyes to see Luis standing just off the outcropping, staring at me while shifting his diminutive weight from foot to foot.
“Is everything okay here, sir? I was waiting to show you to your quarters. Figured you might have gotten lost in the…woods?”
“Luis, you old sneak! Do you not ever knock? I swear you are more intrusive than a mother-in-law.”
“Knock, sir? Did you want me to knock on a tree?”
“I do not care where you knock! Just quit sneaking up on— Hey!!!”
Mourgo, apparently done being sensitive, used his head and massive paw to push me into the shallow pond, soaking me completely. I just sat there, mouth open, looking up at the panther as he nodded at me slightly before hopping off the rocks and bounding toward the trees. I grumbled, pulled myself up, and climbed out of the pond.
“Go ahead of me, Luis, and stay there. I will make my way in a short while, promise.”
“Yes, sir. I will have a change of clothes ready for you.”
As Luis turned and left, I also turned, looking down at the reflection of my face. Even though it was wavering and dancing in the water, the changes were still evident. My mostly white hair was now jet black again. My more salt than pepper, long beard was shorter, more trimmed, and also black, but with a healthy mix of auburn. Even the ink on my body was clearer and more colorful.
“Damn, Dion…what were you dreaming of while you were laying there in your slumber?”
“Trust me, Dion,” I answered myself. “If I knew what I was thinking, I would have told me.”
I sighed and just sat there, reflecting on my reflection and trying to reconnect. Not only with the recent events, but with my own self. The decision to incorporate the Two-Threes into this trip came because I had not reached out as a means of progress. I wanted to share in my good fortunes and keep the balance. And then it all turned upside down. Only to be turned upside down again when I was on the beach in Guam, with Amphitrite in my arms.
What started off as a trip I called the Master Plan, intended as a way to reconnect with my extended family, and inform them of my move back home to Olympus, turned out to be so much more. When Luis told me some people in the family had coined this gathering, The Calling, I laughed it off. The joke was on me. It looked like my family included a bunch of Nostradamusses.
Whatever the name, I could not have chosen a more fitting title for it all. Everything that happened, good or evil, sweet or bitter, was a calling. A calling for change. As an immortal roaming the earth for thousands of years, I have to say, I had gotten a bit…complacent. Not in the sense that I am lazy. It had more to do with taking life, and how it can surprise you, for granted.
So….yes. Even after thousands of years, life can still surprise you.