It was quiet for a long time. Just the wind, his heavy breathing, the birds, mostly crows, cawing in the distance somewhere. I was eating this moment up, savoring it, if you will. It has been a long time since I’ve found myself here. I am pleased I remember how the game was played; like riding a bicycle, really.
This though, this moment of the reveal is the crème de la crème of the merry chase, the piece de la resistance. The big theatrical climax. I whisper softly into John’s ear, “There’s your car. Why don’t you go have a look in the driver’s seat?” He stood, his skin now completely pale, his clothing all black, the sweat is gone, and the blood dried, the dead man walked to his car. With a flick of my wrist, the blade of my scythe opened, the sound echoing in the forest like a gunshot, sending birds into flight with angry cawing noises.
The dead man froze at the door and in his mind, like a flash image, he was experiencing the gunshot that had ended his life. With unsteady hands, he opened the car door. He took one look in the driver’s seat, clapped his hands to his mouth and screamed. The smile I was wearing was from ear to ear as he staggered back and tripped, then back scooted away from the car. I had seen it upon the first inspection of the car, and now he was seeing it, his dead body, slumped over the steering wheel. None of it was real. It was his mind and soul working together to create one last illusion, one last escape and denial.
That’s right, denial in its purest form. I told you, mortal denial was powerful stuff. The look of bewilderment on the dead man’s face as he looked at me was priceless. I pointed my scythe at him; he lifted off the ground and flew back to me. Of course, he tried to grab onto things to prevent this and it ended up with his fingertips making small grooves in the ground. I raised him up and dropped him to his knees.
He faced the car again and I placed my hand back onto his shoulder. And now it was time for the theatrical, as I leaned down and in a growling whisper, spoke these words to him. “You have put on the merry chase, but your merry chase is at an end. I told you I was inevitable and you were right; it wasn’t real. It never was; just your mind playing a trick.”
“No,” the dead man gave one final cry.
“You now belong to the dead. You now belong to the damned. You now belong to Mr. Hades.” I unfurled my wings and wrapped both of us in them, and the dead man screamed in the darkness of them.
When my wings opened, we were on the shores of Lake Aveinos. There was a line by the shore of souls with money to pay Charon the ferryman, that old codger, and the shores were filled with the wandering dead. Walking around aimlessly, translucent skin, black bags under their eyes, speaking in that weird murmuring language, with hands outstretched grasping for coins that will never come. “Poor bastards,” I think. The dead man seems only capable of making high pitched keening noises in the back of his throat by this point.
I seize him by the collar of his jacket and drag him down to the shore, past the souls, and unceremoniously throw him onto the ferry. His body hitting the wood is a satisfying sound. Charon is full of contempt sneers at me. “Long time, son of Nyx. But tell me Than, who will pay his way?” he asks, offering out a gnarled hand.
“Lord Hades is expecting him; I will pay the way for passage,” I say, dropping two gold coins in his hand.
Charon bites them both until he is satisfied and then places them into his pouch on his belt. “You may not think so, Than, but is good to see you on the shores again,” he tells me as he shoves off. The dead man begins to howl; Charon begins to laugh. I turn and make my way to the black stone cottage on the shores, my home since I left the Oneiroi.
I stroke the familiar texture I built it from, the black stones that inhabit the beach. I enter and sit in my easy chair, thinking of the wandering dead out there. My iPad lights up with millions of notifications from my siblings, the other gods, my mother, all welcoming me home.
There is a personal one from Mr. Hades, inviting me to the palaces to dine with him, Ms. Persephone, Charon, and Ms. Demeter. Good, I can talk to him about a sweet shop on this beach for the wandering to pay for passage and maybe some other locations. I know one thing right now: more than anything else, that I, Thanatos, God of death, son of Nyx, is home.