The tentacles whipped me through the house. I careened around a corner, and my head made contact with the wall. I blacked out to the sound of the little girl’s laughter.
I hung suspended in that darkness as something warm and wet ran down my face. An all-too-familiar voice called my name from what seemed a long distance.
“Thannnner! Thannnner! Get up, Thanner,” the voice said.
It was Hypnos, my twin brother. What was he doing here? He couldn’t travel. Not like me.
I opened my eyes, or rather, I tried to. They were sticky and tough to open, and my left one watered badly. Black ichor ran down from the gash in my forehead, where it had smacked into the wall.
I sat up, head throbbing. I wiped my eyes and blinked several times to clear them. Hypnos’ voice spoke to me again, cutting through the ache in my head.
“Thanner? You ok, little brother?” Hypnos asked.
“Hyp? Where are you?” I asked, looking around at what appeared to be a once lavish but now dilapidated dining room.
“To your right,” Hypnos answered.
I looked, but could only see a wall from where I was sitting on the floor. I chuckled and shook my head. He was having a game with me.
“That’s a wall, Hyp,” I told him.
“Look up, genius,” Hypnos said.
I looked up, and on the wall was a mirror, and inside was the face of my twin. There were two differences between us. He’d never had wings, which I found odd. Also, I wore a beard, and he always kept his face clean-shaven. Ever keen on his looks, my dear older brother was. I touched the glass, but my hand didn’t pass through. It was solid, and Hypnos’ gold-black eyes followed where my fingertips met the silver surface. I looked at him, full of confusion and wonderment, and he merely shrugged in response. I knocked on it, and he took a couple of steps back.
“Hyp? How did you get in there?” I asked.
“Maybe I am not here. Maybe this is in your head. I mean, you did smack it pretty hard. The house could be messing with you. Maybe I found a way to travel, and I am just waiting until you catch up, Thanner,” Hypnos said.
“That’s a lot of maybes, Hyp. My head hurts real bad. I can’t…can’t make sense of all that,” I told him.
The sound of a doorknob turning filled the empty room. Both of us looked towards the far wall. There was a door down there next to the fireplace. The knob was turning, but the door was not giving. Whatever was on the other side began to pound on it. Growling its displeasure at not gaining access to the room.
“Uh oh, that’s not good. They are coming back, Thanner,” Hypnos said, turning his attention back to me.
“Who is coming back, Hyp?” I asked.
“The gods of this world. I gotta run, and you should run, too. Come find me, little brother,” he said.
He turned and fled from the mirror, going out a door down the hallway. I stood there, mouth agape, unable to take my eyes from where my brother once stood.
“Son of a bi….” I stared at the door at the end of the room. It gave way and finally opened.
I watched as they strolled in, a group of gods and goddesses with familiar faces. A fire ignited in the hearth as they arrived, and I could see their offness. The smell of cooking human flesh filled my nose. I hadn’t seen it before, not until the fireplace lit up. There was a spit in there with a human torso on it.
I looked over their faces and saw that their teeth had grown large and sharp, no longer fitting entirely in their mouths. It left them with permanent toothy smiles as their cheeks and lips had eroded or ripped away to make room. They went to the center of the room, where the long dining room table sat on a worn-out area rug. I recognized them. Dinlas, Eros, Artemis, Nike, Urania, Hestia, Asteria, my mother Nyx, and sister Nemesis, plus an almost-familiar redhead at the table…Moxie.
They spoke to one another in an unintelligible garbling dialect that not even my abilities as a god could make out. I began to wonder…
Where are the rest?
My eyes fell on the torso, and I sucked in a gasp as realization sank in. They were eating themselves. They had become cannibals. Then I heard the little girl’s voice. The gods at the table froze in place, as if they were statues.
“The gods of this world belong to me, coward. They are my favorite playthings,” she said, her voice emanating from the walls.
“If that was the case, small one, where are the other gods?” I asked.
“Oh, yes, them. I got bored with them and put them on a permanent timeout. Look above, cowardly god,” she instructed with a giggle.
I turned my gaze upward and saw them, the rest of the gods. Their heads mounted to the wall like hunter trophies. Their cannibalistic smiles forever etched upon their faces. I swallowed audibly as the walls rang out with childish laughter. The cannibal gods at the table slowly, and in unison, turned their heads to look at me. I was in trouble now. Then I heard Hypnos’ voice through the walls.
“Should have run when I told you, Thanner.”
They rose from their seats at the table in complete unison as I raised my empty hands. My scythe. I dropped it in the drawing room when I got yanked down the hall. I reached out, trying to move them telekinetically. It had no effect. I balled up my fist and assumed the honor stance, ready to fight as I unfurled my wings.
While my attention was on them, I did not notice the three black tentacles rise from the floor behind me. Two shot out and hit the back of my knees, forcing me to them. The third slammed into my back, pounding me into the floor. They wrapped themselves around me, two for my wrists, one for my throat. They grew taut where they had seized me, and the one around my throat lifted my face off the floor. Fresh ichor ran from my lips and nose.
The cannibal gods were on top of me with hot breath and long sticky strands of saliva falling from their mouths. Their snarling cries filled my ears. I could feel their hungry desire for my flesh. I closed my eyes, and everything in the world grew silent.
Why is it so quiet?
I opened my eyes, and the tentacles still held me fast. I looked around and knew where I was. I let out a heavy sigh. The day was April 30th, 1945. The sky was overcast, and there was a spring chill in the air. I looked around at the rubble-strewn ground. The air smelled of things burning, and dead bodies were buried under the debris. The sounds of planes and gunfire rumbled in the distance. Behind me was a bunker, and inside of it were two freshly dead souls bound for Tartarus. In front of me, the cannibal gods played in the rubble.
The cannibal Artemis stood before me, and I knew this was the spot where I proposed. This was the spot where I was rejected by duty, honor, and title. The ring I was going to give her, still worn on a chain around my neck, felt as if it weighed a ton. She had a look of greed in her eyes. A string of drool hung from her mouth as she leaned in and reached into my cloak. She grabbed the necklace and pulled it out. She stared at the ring and cried out to them, and they came with chunks of debris in hand. She pulled the chain off my neck, snapping it as she did so. She slipped it onto her finger to the applauding approval from the gods.
White-hot rage seethed up in me, and I yelled and screamed at them, “You give that back! That doesn’t belong to you! It’s not yours! It belongs to her! My Huntress, not you! You sick, malformed creature! Give me back what is mine!”
They all snarled and hissed. The Artemis leaned down and roared her hot breath into my face, leaving it covered in spittle. She wasn’t done either. She drew her arm back and slammed her fist into and through my chest, ripping out my heart. I gasped for air and continued to pant as she held it over her head in victory. The others howled and cried out to the overcast sky. The Moxie cannibal came down and caressed my cheek before slapping a piece of rubble into the gash in my forehead, causing it to bleed again.
The Artemis took a huge bite from my heart and chewed. As if it was a cue to the others, they all lifted a piece of stone and aimed it at me. They drew their arms back, and I closed my eyes, waiting for the impact of concrete. And then, nothing.
I breathed in and out normally. I felt my heart once again beat in my chest. In my ear was the sound of tittering, high-pitched laughter. The type reserved for the loony bin or Tartarus. I opened my eyes and found myself in a dusty, musty attic with a single circular window that provided the only light source. The sound of a rocking chair moving back and forth filled the room. I recognized the voice. It was mine. It was this other-world version of me. I looked at the other me in the chair. Dust covered his cloak. A chain wrapped around his neck, the other end fastened to the wall, keeping him/me bound there. His beard was long and snow white. He had a crazed, vacant look in his obsidian eyes.
“Hello, Thanatos,” he said in a high, reedy voice. “Son of Nyx, father of none. Not surprising, really. We’ll never be a father, being sterile and whatnot. Brother of…”
He began to take count of my two thousand plus siblings. Between each name, the Other Thanatos broke out into that high-pitched, tittering laughter.
Down at the other end of the attic a new sound emerged, and I looked to see the cannibal Moxie on a wooden swing. She was barefoot and swinging back and forth, back and forth. She had a strange look in her eyes that I couldn’t quite place. Then the walls filled with the little girl’s giggles, causing them to shake.
“Oh, I am in trouble now.”