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 slipped by him and entered first, going preternaturally still as I stepped into the entryway. Where golden light usually filled the castle, today there was a putrid green cast to the air. Dust motes swirled past, seeming to glow in the murky light.
I look back at the water and see the skeletal remains of other merpeople, sea creatures, fish, turtles, sharks, and humans, all floating lazily around in the tank. Then there is movement from the bottom of the tank, something huge and black. Large bubbles rise from the depths as we all take an instinctive step back.
“I believe this is what I would have called a remnant world during my traveling years. It is a world whose time has ended and is void of life, so the only thing we see is the shell of that world. I believe the levels of the labyrinth are pieces of those remnants that Daedalus must have stayed in to hide from the gods. Somehow, he managed to stitch them together here to fill his labyrinth.”
I grip its handle as the song of the cosmos sings to me, the blade taking on its many colors. I raise it and begin to cut the mirrors down like foes on a battlefield. The sounds of exploding and shattering glass echo in the empty warehouse, clinking as it hits the floor and scatters. The heavy frames reverberate loudly as they hit the ground, cracking the concrete when it impacts, sending small fragments up into the air.
We shoot off like a rocket as the water rises and propels us forward at the combined will of the sea gods. Dion is thrown back and lands on top of me. Charon lurches forward, loses his balance, and lands on top of Dionysos. I groan from the bottom of the dogpile. We sail through the mist at top speed, not even feeling the cold on this trip.
Then the ferry finally comes through, and we all see the source of the merriment. Dionysos stands next to Charon, laughing and clapping him on the back. Charon looks positively irate as he brings the ferry into the shallows so we may board. The sea god laughs, and the Amphitrite jumps for joy, splashing the water as she giggles.
The doppelganger nods, moving behind me and merging with my shadow. I shake from the severe cold I feel, but it is only temporary. I look down at my shadow and see his wings flare behind me/us. I catch my reflection in a mirror behind the counter and blink. My right eye has gone pure black. I leave the store and step out into bright sunlight.
I dive over the counter to escape whatever these things are. My medication must be failing. The prescription amount must not be right. I am having another break from reality. I land on my face as the room begins to fill with more and more of these phantoms. All of them yell things at me, their voices overlapping. I look under the counter to find a gaunt-faced boy staring at me.
“Look, I’ve been your doctor for a good number of years, and I know it wasn’t easy finding your twin brother’s body. The way that Henry took his own life was such a shame. I am really sorry, Tom, but you have got to stay on your meds. Any problems you call me day or night, understand?”
“Really?” I asked him, completely shocked. “Now?” I motioned around at the shadow that was so close we could smell it—if you could smell shadows, of course. “My taste in decor can wait. Besides, this is the Underworld where dead people live. What do you expect?
I heard the echo of childish laughter on the wind. Tensing, I scanned my surroundings, but relaxed when I realized it was just the remnants of a memory triggered by the sight of my blood. I was unique among the gods until that day long passed. It was a memory that filled me with warmth and ultimately revealed the answers to an eons-old mystery.