I felt the moment his soul departed this plane.
The lights behind his eyes went out, and the universal balance shifted just a little. A pulse, surrounded by a cloak of pressure, trickled up my spine. It curled within my being before my head was filled with the low hum of a resounding…pop. Then, just like that, the imbalance and injustice he’d represented were gone.
The change was one I coveted. It was sweet and mildly consuming when I gave in to it, but I did not have that luxury this time. Within less than a breath, a different pressure was present. Full and heavy, it weighed down my mind. I had received the cost…my own imbalance.
Nausea bubbled in me. I felt it, doubly so, because I carried it within and held it for the world. The force with which it pressed down on my spirit took my breath away, almost allowing the nausea churning within to bubble free. I contemplated screaming, removing the sound of her screams from my mind. Instead, curling into the discomfort, I did the only thing I could. I went home.
Home, for the last year, had meant my gorgeous brownstone in Maryland, near Carla. As a backup, it could even be the beach house I’d purchased in Virginia. In those moments of acute darkness, I learned it had come to mean the God Complex.
I popped into my suite at the Olympus compound, amped, frustrated, and disgusted. It was one thing being unbalanced, but it was completely another thing feeling it so acutely.
I shouldn’t have killed him. There were other ways, better ways, I could have exacted judgment.
Thinking of Carla, I ignored the voice. What would she say if she ever found out? Anthony’s father had been justified, but even that had caused friction between us. The nameless, abusive asshole from the alley had not necessarily been justified by mortal standards.
He was imbalanced and deserved to die. He earned every bit of Balance’s blade, and you loved passing judgment. You can still feel it coiling inside you, can’t you, Justice?
I paced the empty space. I needed to fix this before I stopped being able to feel it. At a certain point, the imbalance would begin to feel natural. If I kept going this way, I would ruin—
Of course! She was the answer, though she hadn’t been helpful last time. I didn’t really need her help. I just needed her not to be an asshole. I rolled my eyes at the unlikely possibility that the Goddess of Mischief could exist without being an asshole.
Sometime during the rave, I’d realized exactly who I needed to call for help. It came as skin melded to skin, lips sucked lips, and I took in the vivid displays of dancing so frantic and chaotic it began to appear choreographed. There was beauty in chaos. The answer became clear, even without my brain consciously putting it together.
I just needed Atë to connect me. Maybe a direct question would help her be less of an ass…maybe.
I pulled out my phone, keying in Atë’s number.
Dikê: I just…fuck…I may need a smidge more help than I thought. I heard tell you were close to Eris. I think I may need some Chaos. I’m failing at this…big time. Can you get me in contact with them?
My high-pitched scream rattled around the empty walls of my GC suite as my phone went sailing across the room. The thumping crash resonated as the hand-held tech hit the tiles.
Welp, that probably wasn’t smart.
The phone survived another battering, but it didn’t matter. Atë didn’t answer.
Days went by. All I did was sit in my empty apartment at the God Complex. The simple truth was, my imbalance wouldn’t matter if there was no one around for me to judge. I contemplated leaving again. Virgo had once offered peace.
Yeah, that’s how the world got here in the first place, the voice taunted in a snide tone. So, sure, walk away again. I’m sure it’ll be better the next time you’re summoned back.
That voice was becoming louder, clearer, and more of a jerk. It was becoming harder to separate it from my internal voice and the haunting tease it had proven itself to be. Eventually, moping by myself became too much. I could still feel the scales of the world even if I wasn’t actively in it.
Plus, apparently, I was hungry.
I woke up one day with a strange craving for chocolate chip French toast. Without thinking, I popped outside Feed the Blues, the restaurant Carla had taken me to the day we’d met. I needed solitude and comfort food. The place also made me feel closer to Carla, even though I knew my recent actions meant she was further away from me than she’d ever been.
Pulling open the door, I slunk quickly to our back booth and sunk onto the plastic seat. I looked up as I heard a shuffling gait.
“Hey, dumplin.” Aunt Janet’s kind eyes took me in as she pulled her pad from her smock. “Whatcha having?”
“French toast with chocolate chips.” I took in her gentle smile, kind eyes, and slumped shoulders. I momentarily felt comforted and at peace, but also like I wanted to remove the strain from her life.
“On the way, dumplin.” She squeezed my shoulder gently before shuffling away.
I watched her go, wondering about the hassles of her life, which were obviously taking their toll.
“You old hag!” The abusive statement was so out of the element for Feed the Blues I momentarily thought it was the voice taunting me.
It wasn’t. I watched as two men, their race and age fairly ambiguous, berated Aunt Janet and the counter girl over their order.
Apparently, they’d ordered the grilled cheese with collard greens. Instead, they’d received a pimento grilled cheese with bacon.
“We’re vegetarian, you old cow!” one screamed.
“This could be considered assault. Were you trying to assault us? Where’s your—” added the other.
The roaring in my head was loud and fierce. My body was stiff and stuck to my seat. All I could do was blink. I could no longer process any of their words, but I also couldn’t stop them. I just blinked and watched. Eventually, they were rewarded for their horribleness with the ability to watch the manager dress down aunt Janet. They were then handed a monetary refund before being sent away with fresh food.
The customer is always right, unless they’re not…because they’re dead, the voice snickered.
Afterward, they spit out an old bitch as they slowly strolled out the door.
I was up and moving before the door closed. Even though I intended to walk, the fire building within forced me to vanish, reappearing in front of them.
“What the hell?” they yelled almost in unison.
My eyes flashed deep silver as I grabbed them both by their collars and popped away. The brownstone next to mine had lain empty for six months. It was the perfect place to exact judgment.
I didn’t bother to speak. For all the harshness they’d thrown at Aunt Janet, they did not deserve my voice. My judgment would be harsh and swift.
Maybe pull their truth, Justice, the voice taunted snarkily.
Fuck their truth, I growled mentally.
I did not, as they say, play with my food this time. Truth cut easily into one of the douchebags. His blood splashed over me before he crumpled at my feet. The sound of Truth hitting the ground sparked a roar of terror from the other. He ran, but within two strides, I caught him and embedded Balance into his back. He fell, Balance rattling against the floor as his dying moans filled the room.
Well, and don’t shoot the messenger here, but that seemed a bit excessive.
I shrugged as if there was someone there to see it. Suddenly exhausted, I fell to the floor, my legs curling under me. I was still starving. I hadn’t gotten my French toast. I grinned slightly. But I did have grilled cheese. The first sandwich was good, if a little soggy. My phone vibrated against my thigh as I bit into the second sandwich.
I pulled it out, finding myself shocked to see a response from Atë finally.
Atë: Sure, but it will cost you.
A cackle bubbled up, forcing its way out as I wiped the newly added cheeses and blood from the phone screen, accidentally slicing my finger on one of the cracks in the process.
I typed out a fast reply as ichor dripped to the floor.
Dikê: What’s the price, Ruin?
Atë: Let’s just say when I need a favor. Just one. You answer.
No, I did not want to owe Atë a favor. I contemplated throwing the cracked phone again but decided against it. Before I could change my mind, I texted back.
Dikê: Whatever, just know I can not lie or sit in judgment on a falsehood. Otherwise…make it happen.
Hitting send, I sighed, rolling my eyes and gritting my teeth. I realized I needed to add a closer.
That apparently did the trick as Atë appeared, moments later, in a cloud of black smoke. She was dressed in black leather pants with a matching lace top. She leaned against the wall, her hand extended, a smile plastered on her red lips. “Say it’s a deal, and we have a deal.”
I just needed a blasted introduction. My annoyance was increasing. My eyes flitted between Truth and Balance before I looked up at her. “Forcing the words part of your kink, Ruin?” I paused, breathing deeply. “Fine. Deal.”
Atë tilted her head slightly, smiling. “I have a lot of kinks. That just became my new one.” She paused, sticking her hand out. “Shake on it.”
A frown curved my lips. “You’re just fucking with me now. How many more hoops? I’m not in a jumping mood if you can’t tell.” I waved my hand around, highlighting the two bodies laid out with Truth and Balance sticking out of them.
Rolling her eyes, she barely looked at the bodies. “You are so dramatic. Fine. You want to summon the chaos of my life? It’s simple.” A slow, mischievous smile tugged at her lips. “Create the thing they crave most.” She moved closer, way too close, whispering the last part in my ear, “Chaos.”
My frown deepened as I ignored her proximity. “I’m unbalanced justice, how much more chaotic can I…” My voice trailed off as an idea bloomed wild and bright. “Thanks, Ruin.” I stood, grabbing Truth and Balance from their fleshy sheaths. “Clean this up, will you?” I asked before popping away in a dusting of stars.