“What are you doing? Waiting for him to come back?” the other me asked before making an exasperated sound. “You know he won’t, right? Like ever.”
I didn’t lash out this time, my exhaustion getting the best of me. I eventually ended up lying on the cold stone ground, still staring at the door. I hadn’t slept in months. Or was it years now? I was afraid I would close my eyes, and I would miss him coming back. But then again, why would he? She was right. Well, I mean, I was right. I had been cruel. I knew what hurt him, and I threw those words into his face like venom.
My eyes stung once more at the memory. The hollow ache in my chest that had formed was still present. I mean, I had to do it, right? What chance of any kind of future would we have? It would just sound like one of those bad reality tv shows that melted mortal brains. I would be stuck in here for eternity, and he…
“He would waste his life on you.” She moved into my view, checking her nails. “Which, I mean, you could have just told him the truth. At least you’d have one permanent visitor. And so what if he wasted everything on you? Don’t tell me you have a heart now, Atë. You’ve done terrible things. What’s one more?”
I shook my head, turning to look at her. “I couldn’t because I—”
I swallowed, stopping my sentence and looking back at myself. She didn’t speak this time and just stared at me as if we both recognized the emotion and didn’t want to comprehend it. Her head bent to the side in an ungodly manner as her eyes glowed before she slowly smiled an overly toothy grin.
“You know what time I think it is? Time for something fun,” she replied before correcting her posture and heading to the door.
I watched her, the black mist that I usually used to change my form, spilled off her in a cascade of smoke. It overtook her, changing her outfit from the leather pants ensemble to something resembling that of a circus performer. She wore knee-high gold boots, with a pair of black shorts, and a white undershirt tucked in with a red and gold blazer top. A black bow tie circled her neck, and a top hat perched upon her head. She cracked a bullwhip at her side, making me jump up. She placed her hand on my cell door and pushed it open as a happy carousel type song filled the halls of Tartarus. I stepped forward, keeping my eyes on her as I came to the edge of my cell. My feet stopped, knowing I couldn’t leave.
“Go on.” She gestured, cracking the whip again. “We have a tea party to make, and you don’t want to keep them waiting.”
Looking at her once more, I lifted my hand, placing it at the barrier, and for the first time in years, there was no block. I didn’t hesitate and ran straight out of my cell, hitting the wall on the other side as I touched it, making sure this was real. I turned back as the other me stepped out behind me, the same smile on her face. She pointed down the hall as a bright blue and purple light lit up the hallway.
Smoke coated the other end, and I could not see beyond it, but the sounds of laughter and games filtered through. She sauntered down the long hall, stopping to beckon me forward. I followed and as I passed through the smoke; I was transported to a large outdoor fair. Rides and attractions littered all sides as people laughed and screamed from excitement.
I was outside under a bright blue sky and sunshine. Actual sunshine. I opened my arms, closing my eyes as I spun in a small circle, breathing in the smell of popcorn, freshly cut grass, and the warm damp earth. Opening my eyes, I spotted the other me pointing to a large fenced area. Jogging, I quickly caught up as she pushed the gate open and walked down a large, hedged garden path. I rubbed my hands along the side of the brush, the leaves softly biting into my flesh. Distracted, I almost ran into her as she stopped. She moved out of my way, her hand extended towards a massive tea party set.
A large table greeted me, set with a variety of beautiful foods, ranging from sandwiches to candy, and cakes. Decorations lined the table, so bright that they were almost blinding. Then I saw them. They turned to look at me one by one. At the right side of the table sat Eros, Eris in her female and male form, and on the left sat Hades, Clio, and Erebus. They were dressed in an array of bright pink outfits, but that’s not what startled me the most. No, it’s that their eyes were not theirs, instead they were made of candy.
Thanatos cleared his throat and slowly stood from the head of the table. He wore the same outfit, right down to the candy eyes.
“Ahhhh-tayyyy, just in time!” The large, pink Than said in his deep voice. He held up his trademark pocket watch before smashing it against the table. It broke into pieces that went everywhere—to the amusement and delight of all those sitting.
I flinched, startled at the sound. The chair closest to me moved backwards on its own. I took the edge of my dress, tucking it under me as I sat, and the chair slammed back into the table.
I couldn’t seem to keep from joining in when everyone applauded and laughed. Then the other me disappeared, and my stomach rumbled from hunger at the sight of all the food.
“Oh, dear,” Than started, “where are my manners? Dear Ahhhh-taaaaay your cup, it’s empty.” He raised a finger in the air and yelled, “Fill it!”
A shadow fell on my right. I looked up, shocked to see Erebus was filling my cup and sitting at the table at the same time…strange!
I accepted the glass and watched as the once delicious-looking food display slowly started to decay. The others seemed almost giddy at the sight as they grabbed at the rotten food and shoved it into their mouths like wild animals. I swallowed back bile as I turned back to the now sitting Thanatos. He smiled in glee and using his scythe, pried out one candy eye and popped it into his mouth
He chewed with his mouth open, as does everyone at the table, showing off the decaying food. My stomach began to turn. Than raised his teacup and slurped loudly. Everyone at the table cackled, and pieces of food flew out of their mouths. They sounded like the damned in Tartarus.
I tried to get up, but I was stuck in the chair…trapped. Than slurped loudly again and smacked his lips. He offered me a toothy grin.
“Aren’t you going to drink your tea, ruinous one? It’s a special blend. It’s called the blood of Atë’s victims,” Than said, the tea dribbling out of his mouth. It slowly turned a viscous crimson as it ran down his chin and dripped on the table.
The drops echoed like explosions as they hit. Everyone drank, slurping loudly in unison as they smiled at me. The blood stained their teeth and bubbled from their lips, running down their chins to drip onto the table.
The once bright and blue sky deepened to dark and overcast as the wind picked up. Smoke billowed from behind where Thanatos sat, the sound of laughter turning to screams and wails. I struggled once more to get out of the chair, but I was stuck and only dug my bonds deeper.
Thanatos slowly stood and walked over to Eros. Thanatos raised his scythe as Eros looked at him, grinning like a child. In one fatal swoop, Thanatos swung, separating Eros’ head from his body.
“NO!” I screamed and writhed against my bonds.
Than said nothing as he watched me with his remaining brightly colored, candy eye and continued on his path. Eris was next, and it tortured my soul to see them die twice.
Than came around the table, blood dripping from his scythe as he headed for Hades next. I begged as I rocked in my chair for him to stop, but he didn’t listen. My head jerked to the side as he took him next. Clio’s tiny face lit with glee as Than walked closer. It felt like I broke several bones in my arms as I struggled to reach her, but it didn’t help, and I watched him separate her head from her body.
One by one, he decapitated them. Tears burned my eyes and cheeks, racing down my face. Regardless of my cries, my pleas, he didn’t stop. He watched me, drawing the tip of the scythe along the neck of the last person. Erebus.
And I knew my heart couldn’t take it. My breathing came out in pants as I begged him not to take Erebus. After watching my friends slaughtered, my body was shaking as I sobbed, yelled, and cursed, but the only answer I got was the sound of metal cutting through flesh. My eyes couldn’t shut as the spray of blood coated my face. My mouth agape, it felt like my heart was ripped from my chest. Than slung the extra blood from his scythe and made his way towards me.
“Tick-tock, Ahhh-tay, tick-tock goes the Than clock,” he said, with a manic grin on his face, swinging the scythe at my neck.
My eyes shot open, and I was once again back in my darkened cell. My hands immediately went to my throat, checking for a mark or laceration telling me he had decapitated me, too.
“You dreamt ruinous child,” Than’s voice came from the darkness.
I turned my gaze in his direction. Thanatos sat on a stool in the corner, his hood up, and his scythe in his hand. I could hear a wet smacking sound nearby. He coughed. I looked down, and by his boot was a small puddle of puss. He made a moist, sucking noise before he spoke again.
“Mr. Hades sent me to check on you. To see how the wall throwing was going. You stupid girl. Haven’t you figured it out by now?”
I shook my head frantically as I saw what the dripping was. Maggots were falling out from under his hood, and as they hit the floor, they exploded into puss. I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t. It’s not Than.
“How accurate he was, Ahhhh-tay,” Than laughed, throwing back his hood, revealing the one candy eye and the black space of the one he ate. Inside the hole, maggots swirled around and ran down his cheek like perverted tears. They dropped to the ground, adding to the puss pile.
“Yes, the shadow trap keeps you in here, but that’s part of Tartarus’ beauty. As C. S. Lewis said, ‘All the doors in Hell are locked from the inside.’ Just how outstanding was his acumen? It’s your guilt that helps keep your sorry ass in here.”
His face changed, the black mist dancing once more beneath the cloak before I was staring back into my own face. She was smiling that same damned smile as she went on about something. I sat there frozen, my breathing coming in pants once more—only this time from pure rage and anger. Between Erebus leaving and watching the ones I care for slaughtered, something inside me snapped. Call it a loss of control, whatever you want, but I felt feral.
A power I hadn’t felt before echoed against my subconscious as a cloud of black mist slowly swirled, encasing my body. My hands turned into large black paws, and my body elongated. Whiskers protruded from my cheeks as fangs replaced my teeth. A tail, long and sleek, whipped out as a deep growl filled the cell. The other me turned around in mid-conversation, her eyes growing large. I gave her no time to react as I launched forward, tackling her and ripping her to pieces. Her screams died and when there was nothing left, I changed shape, returning to myself.
I shook out my tangled mess of hair before running my hands over my tattered outfit and sighed. The only noises I heard were the screams of Tartarus.