He reaches out with lightning speed, grabbing the side of my head and squeezing. Black ooze rains down on my face, then springs to life, crawling like worms pulled from the dirt as it moves over my face. It leaves cold slimy trails on my skin as it forces its way into my eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. I let out a gargled scream to the blue sky as the blackness of the ooze pulls me down into new nightmares.
My hand shakes as I reveal how much I wanted Lily, and my horror when I realized that my own subconscious tricked me into killing her. I relive the shame as I write about how I behaved immediately after, dishonouring her memory, and what I then couldn’t do. I explained how I’m now a shadow of the god I used to be, how I feel so weak and powerless. When I place the final full stop on the page, I feel spent and exhausted. I suck in a few lungfuls of air and present my scribblings.
“I wanted to change her perception of me. I wasn’t evil, and I wasn’t a beast or monster. Although, I acted the part and was bloody good at it. It came naturally to me. My dark half was reserved for the Underworld and its occupants, but the rest of me was for her. The good side of me.
The scent of the mint patch overwhelmed me as I entered the grove. It was growing wild, untamed and uncared for, spreading even onto the neighboring trees. In the midst of the brilliant green was a single, dead tree. A face with flowing hair was carved into the dark trunk. At the base was a small tombstone, with the words Here rests Minthe engraved upon it.
Thanatos sat on the other side of his desk smoking his pipe in his office at Mr. T’s in Chicago. I recognized the location after a few moments, but only because Thanatos had described his office to me in the past. I smiled, hoping I hadn’t surprised him, and bowed my head slightly.
“Hello, Thanatos, I hope this isn’t a bad time.”
I reached out to touch her, but stopped myself at the last moment. My hands hovered inches away from her, desperate to heal the pain with my touch, but I was terrified. I didn’t want to taint her perfect skin with my unworthy hands. ”
I sensed Hades’ hands hovering inches away from me, waiting for a sign that it was okay. That he could touch me. I hadn’t let him in a long, long time. It used to be the only way I could punish him. I would deny him the love he craved.
The stables were oddly empty of the usual staff, but it afforded me some much-desired privacy with the twins. I had time to introduce them to each of the horses, name by name, giving tidbits about their history and heroic deeds.
The water droplets fell free from my nose and chin, and I opened my eyes slowly to stare down at my reflection. I looked paler than usual. A black tear dripped from the corner of my eye. I blinked. Perhaps my eyes were blurry? I rubbed them, then continued to stare. But my reflection only worsened.
Take me to Arion. I willed the portal to open, and the bark began to peel away, revealing a small, glowing gateway. Taking one last hasty glance around me to make sure I wasn’t being watched, I stepped through. I re-entered the Grieving Gardens. Only now, they were deathly quiet. The children were gone. A soft nicker interrupted the stillness, and I turned to see Arion approach me. He set his muzzle against my hand, and I was glad for the kind greeting.
Giving of my time and efforts came so naturally to me. I’d seen no harm in it. At least, that’s how I used to be. I had eventually learned how my generosity could be used against me. And there was never enough that I could do to satisfy the needs of the mortals. Nor the immortals.
I can’t remember the last time he’s wanted to run like this, I thought, slightly worried. But I saw no point in trying to slow the stallion down. His legs pounded away at the ground, and I could do little more than hope he would stay on the road until we cleared the Dead City. His desire for speed was absolutely ferocious. Luckily, I’d always liked to ride fast, and we had a lot of ground to cover.
I wanted her to give herself to me willingly, to love me. Did I feel guilty then? Yes, and no. I was a very different god in the old days. I was arrogant and angry a lot of the time. I was no longer that god. As time drifted by, I became more open-minded about life. As I watched from the shadows of the Underworld, I began to enjoy the changing world above me.
Fortunately, the two natural paths that formed a cross in the forest were already pulling us, the energy palpable, pushing my heartbeat into my throat. I loved Earth, but there was something about the icy grip of the Underworld that called to me, serenading me with its cacophony of wailing souls and the promise of quiet corridors I could get lost in.
So here I am. I will do the rehab like I am supposed to. Shit, I will do anything just as long as they don’t send me back. The room flickers in the next second, her office changing in a blink to the darkened cell of Tartarus and then back.