Demeter sighed with relief and closed her eyes, the sunshine hitting her face as she walked outside of the God Complex. She could feel a cool breeze brush over her that raised the hairs on her arms. The goddess could sense it in her core that spring was finally just around the corner, and the thought brought a smile to her face. While she felt a tingle of guilt for leaving Aegis to deal with rescheduling her appointments so she could work remotely, she would have lost her mind if she stayed in the office another minute.
After taking a few deep breaths of an automobile’s exhaust that just passed by, Demeter frowned and opened her eyes. Oh, how she hated the smell of pollution. And then she caught a glance of her chipped nails.
Well, this will not do either, but perhaps a self-care day is in order.
With that thought, Demeter concentrated and heard the faint sound of her pop as she arrived at the doorsteps of her cottage.
Ahh, much better. She beamed as she took in the smell of fresh-cut grass. Perhaps I should teleport more often. My home away from home.
Her farmhouse-style cottage, surrounded by large sunflowers and rose bushes, was her retreat. It sat next to a small stream, overlooking a meadow. It was sheltered away from the city’s bustling sounds and had a very jagged dirt road leading up to it. Demeter smirked as she reached for a wilting rose, already feeling exhilarated just being surrounded by nature again. Her smile turned to a pout as she glanced down and saw the infestation of weeds.
I have been away too long.
In her spare time, Demeter loved to garden as it grounded her back to the earth. Thousands of years ago, she meticulously planned out a large patch along the backside of the cottage. It had a bountiful variety of flowers, herbs, and vegetables. She was extremely proud of it. With her nails already ruined, she was ready to get her hands dirty. She was ready to put the defeat of Bennington Triangle behind her. For now.
Stepping inside, she was greeted by the crisp coolness of the cottage. She opened up the windows to let the sunshine flood through and made her way to the coat closet. Demeter kicked off her heels, slipped on galoshes, grabbed her gardening tools, and put on a hat to protect her pale face.
Ready to battle…those weeds, she smirked.
She walked back outside, kneeled to the earth, and started pulling weeds and pruning the rose bushes. Gardening was a beautiful art—snipping away the dead leaves to bring it back to life. While she could have used her Lifegiver ability to speed up the growth of her garden years ago, Demeter was determined to do the hard physical work to see her inspiration come to life. In the beginning, it had been a struggle to wait for the soil to sprout the new seeds, but she felt accomplished with the results. This rose bush, in particular, was one of her dearest friends. As she gripped onto another deep-rooted weed, she channeled her Green Tongue ability, so that she was able to communicate with them.
“Oh Demeter, how wonderful to see you!” the rose bush exclaimed excitedly. “We have been so worried about you. The last frost was last week. How long has it been?”
“Too long, my friend, too long. I am sorry for worrying you and letting these weeds get so deep. I was trapped in some magical woods in another country for weeks. A very jarring experience. The trees refused to talk to me,” Demeter replied.
“Wouldn’t talk to you?! I couldn’t imagine not talking to you!”
Demeter blushed as she replied, “Well, I am glad you are not too upset with me for being gone for so long. It was rough out there. What did I miss?”
“Oh. You haven’t seen the garden yet…there has been some trouble.”
“Trouble?” She felt the color drain from her face, and a wave of adrenaline suddenly coursed through her body as she got to her feet.
“I think you should check it out for yourself, Miss Demeter. I don’t want to be the one to give you upsetting news just as you arrived.”
Demeter dropped her shears and sprinted through the cottage. Her hands were trembling as she reached for the backdoor. She paused and drew in a sharp, deep breath while turning the door handle.
Her jaw dropped. Gasp.
Her beautiful garden was in ruins. There were giant pits in places and small mounds of earth in others. Entire bushels were pulled out from their roots and laid far off in the field. Tomatoes were crushed, broken pieces of carrots and pottery were scattered among the soil, and exposed dried roots everywhere. The only plant thriving in the environment was the mint that had gotten loose from its pot and started to infiltrate the ground. Thousands of years of her hard work was destroyed.
“Who or what….would do this?!” Demeter angrily stumbled over her words. She stood flabbergasted on the porch, taking in the horror of the scene. After several moments, she rushed to the large pit in front of her and leaned in closer to inspect it. The circular impression on the ground resembled the footprint of an elephant.
One, two, three…toes? What has three toes?
She stepped back, taking in the scene again. It became clear that something very large stumbled around, possibly dragging and smashing their heavy weapon, and had enjoyed themselves in her garden.
Demeter was pissed. She walked towards the mint and knelt.
“You seem happy,” Demeter said, shaking her head. “What happened?”
“Oh, Demeter! I grew! Look at my roots! Look at me grow! I told you that I was ready for the real soil!” the mint proclaimed happily. “Aren’t you proud?”
“Yes, I see you have grown many, many yards worth, but where are your friends?” Demeter calmly replied, not wanting to diminish the mint’s victory. “What happened to them?”
“Ohh…uhh…that. I was really hoping you wouldn’t notice. I tried my best! I wanted to cover the ground before you arrived back home. I didn’t want to see you sad.”
“Well, thank you for trying,” Demeter solemnly shook her head as she delicately handled the mint’s leaves, “but I still need to know what happened.”
“If you really must know,” the plant paused, trying to gather its words, “it…it came during the night. It was oh so very large. Never seen anything like it! It went for the carrots and tomatoes first, mumbled a lot, and then it threw a tantrum! Oh, what a fit! The earth started to rumble under its feet. It tried to grab the blackberry bramble and pricked its hand. Then, it scooped the bramble up by its roots and threw it into the field.”
Demeter’s eyes widened in horror. She loved her blackberry bramble. It was one of her last additions to her garden.
“That’s when it smashed my pot with a large tool. Not like the tools you have, Demeter. Much bigger. Oh, what a fit it threw! I was afraid it would step on me with its big feet!”
“But what did it look like?” Demeter asked urgently.
“Oh, yes! It was a big piece of wood, much bigger than me! It had shiny metal spikes on it…like your shears!”
Demeter shook her head in dismay and started to grow impatient. “Not the tool, mint. The creature—what did it look like?”
“Oooh! Yes, it was a very large creature. Very large and very strong. But it was also very dark.”
This is not going anywhere. I will have to figure this out myself.
“Thank you, mint, for your recount of the events.” Demeter sighed and got to her feet.
She started to scour the garden to see if any more plants survived the attack. Her heart continued to sink. Nothing was salvageable. This mysterious creature had undone all of her work. All the soil was displaced, and the mint had taken over.
It won’t be happy when I have to replant it into a pot again.
As she was losing hope, her eyes were drawn to the creek. She could see that the creature left a trail of heavy footprints, leading from the other side of the stream into the meadow.
Perhaps there is hope yet to track this one down.
But as she realized this, she felt the spike of adrenaline leaving her body. She instead started to feel extremely exhausted and agitated.
“Oh, Demeter!” she could hear the mint call out to her. “I just remembered one more thing! The creature…it only had one eye!”
Demeter clapped her hands together. “A cyclops! Thank you, mint!”
What would a cyclops be doing around here…let alone in my garden?
“Oh, and Demeter!” the mint cried out again, “Welcome home!”
Welcome home, indeed.