The first thing I need to do is to find the device he is using to contain the souls that live inside the automatons. I close my eyes and focus my will. The sound of the souls is faint at first, like tiny whispers crying for help from a great distance. Then I feel that familiar pull, like invisible threads that draw me in. I make my way over to a device in the corner of the room.
It is a strange-looking machine. A console with miniature black boxes etched in gold runes, dials, buttons that light up in the colors of the doors we had passed through, gauges, all attached to a network of clear plastic tubes that run up the wall to the ceiling and over. It reminds me of a pneumatic mailing system like they had in New York and London decades ago.
I hear the souls louder now as if they are screaming at me. The screams are coming from the black boxes on the device. I reach out, my hand hovering over the machine. I can feel them trying to escape, their desperation at being trapped, and their need to move on. Reaping them will be an easy task.
“Don’t you dare touch it!” Daedalus roars.
Polus squeezes his neck to cut him off as Theseus points the tip of his sword to one of the inventor’s blue eyes. Daedalus scowls at all of us. I hoist my scythe, the blade lighting up as I prepare to strike this blasphemous device. I hear the souls in my head give a collective sigh of relief. They can sense what is to come and welcome it. The song of the blade resonates as it makes contact, smashing the tubes. The next blow cuts the console in half. The black boxes tumble to the ground, opening as they hit, freeing the souls. The white balls of light swarm and dance around the room.
It is a glorious sight to see, and even Polus and Theseus stand in awe, watching the souls spin in ecstasy at their freedom. From the other room, there is loud clattering and thudding. The automaton bodies collapse as the energy from the souls is cut off. The Ariadne 256 crumples to the floor in front of us as a white ball of light makes its way to Theseus. Daedalus struggles against Polus’s grip, rage emanating off of him in waves.
“How dare you! How dare you take them from me!” Daedalus yells.
I ignore his tirade. It makes him sound like a petulant child. The soul hangs above Theseus, who is staring up at in wide-eyed wonder. The soul takes the shape of Ariadne’s face, and she caresses his face with one hand. He holds her hand there, squeezing it. Tears streak the demigod’s cheeks as Ariadne smiles warmly at him.
The souls begin to swirl around the blade of my scythe as one lands in front of me and takes the form of Icarus. The young man wears a smile of relief on his face.
“Thank you, Thanatos,” he says.
“Icarus! Son, I love you! Don’t leave me, please!” Daedalus cries.
Icarus gives his father a pained look, says nothing, and reshapes into a ball to join the others. Ariadne joins the swirling spheres, and I tap the handle of my scythe on the ground three times, sending them to the Underworld and their afterlives. Daedalus cries out and begins to weep bitterly.
“So, what do we do with him?” Polus asks.
My gaze lingers on the boxes, one for each god. I turn to face my companions.
“Put him in a box, and then we destroy the rest,” I say.
Polus marches the frail inventor by the neck to the nearest black box and unceremoniously throws him in. Daedalus hits the back wall of the box with a thud and a slight roll forward. The chains descend, wrapping him up and lifting him to hang suspended.
“This will not hold me. When they find me, I will be free to do my—” Daedalus begins.
I shut the door and lock it with the key I found nearby. He continues to yell, but it is muffled, and I can’t make out a word of it. I nod to Polus, who simply nods back as his eyes turn white and the air bends and swirls around his fists. He pushes his immense powers toward the remaining boxes. The wood splinters and shatters as if they are made of glass, while fragments fly all over the room. Watching them explode is most satisfying.
“He is right, you know,” Theseus says. “Someone can come in and free him at any time.”
“Not if they can’t find it,” I say as an idea comes to me.
Theseus raises a questioning eyebrow at me as I slice open a rift with my scythe. I gesture to my companions, then to the box.
“This rift has no destination. We push the box in, and it will get lost and swallowed by the void that lies between the rifts. It will be almost impossible to find,” I say.
With a little effort, we push the box that contains the still raving Daedalus into the rift. The tear in this reality closes naturally, and the three of us are left in the vacant labyrinth.
“Now what?” Polus asks.
“I am going to take the key to his box and store it in the Underworld. As for this place, I am unsure,” I say.
“I know what to do,” Theseus says. “I am going to call Hippolyta and Artemis and have them bring Nymphs and Amazons to stand guard at the entrance of this cursed place. I am going to find the power system and shut the motherfucker down. Then I am going to join the Nymphs and Amazons and wait to see if Gerard or one of the three daughters of Atlas Daedalus was married to show up. If they do, I am going to place them under arrest and take them to the God Complex to stand trial.”
“A solid plan,” I say.
Theseus nods as he pulls out his cellphone and begins to dial. A smile breaks out on his face as someone on the other end answers.
“Hipa, it’s me, babe. Get Arty and the girls. We got one hell of a job ahead of us,” Theseus says as he walks away from us.
“Well, this was a nice change of pace, but it’s time I get back to where I belong,” Polus says. “How about a lift home?”
I smile and open a rift for the Titan. He smiles back, gives me a small salute, and enters the rift, and it closes behind him. The next rift I open is for me, revealing my home on the shore of Lake Aveinos. I step through and onto the shoreline.
I take in the calm of the overcast sky, the small waves of the low tide lapping in and out. It is very peaceful compared to where I just was. I hold the key to Daedalus’s box in my hand, trying to decide the best course of action. Without thinking about it, I draw my arm back and chuck it into the lake. It splashes somewhere a little way out, and I watch as it sinks like a rock.
I freeze as the knife blade slides into my back and emerges from my stomach. My knees buckle as I start to tip forward, but a restraining hand catches my shoulder, keeping me upright. The tip of the blade is red, laced with a small amount of Hind’s blood. The rest of the knife drips a black ooze that only comes from one place. It is the substance that nightmares leave behind and comes from the land of dreams. I know only one god who produces it—Phobetor. I look up into Gerard’s smiling face. I want to say something, but my jaw locks in place.
“Hello, God of Death. I stabbed you from behind, just like you did to your brother. Don’t worry, it’s not enough Hind’s blood to kill you, just enough to weaken you for the god’s nightmare juice to take effect. You Primordials are notoriously immune to each other’s powers,” Gerard says.
I feel my body and joints stiffen and lock into place. I am paralyzed, unable to speak or move. What else was on that blade? Gerard smiles and pushes me backward. I go over without resistance and lay on my back in the sand as the tide rolls in. Gerard stands looking out at the water as three of Atlas’s daughters approach him. They are wearing gray robes, with their hoods up and faces veiled. I want to scream, to move, but it is a futile effort.
“Boy, this is a beautiful place. I can see why you chose to live here. Have to dredge the lake for that key you threw in there. That will be at the bottom of the to-do list. I have other priorities, you know,” Gerard says with a small sigh.
I manage a small grunt, and he looks down at me. He seems puzzled, but only for a moment, then he begins to chuckle.
“Oh, right, what a day. The nightmare juice acts as a paralytic. You can see and feel everything, but you can’t escape. You know, just like a real nightmare, and it is all for the pleasure of the one who made it,” Gerard says with a nod to the three daughters.
They advance on me and lift me, carrying me down the beach. We march along in silence. I roll my eyes upward to see where we are headed, and a small breath escapes me. Standing freely on the beach is a blue door that I know all too well. It is the one I smashed open to free the King of the Gods from the Ether Pit. We stop before the door, and Gerard fills my vision.
“I fixed it after you carelessly left it broken. Lucifer was furious and kept sending Zeus bills, which were tucked away and ignored. He hates all of you as much as I do, but you especially for the damage you caused by leaving the door open. But in fixing it, a sacrifice was demanded. Someone had to stay on the other side, so we both nominated you. Do you think any of these selfish gods would notice your absence? Maybe they will realize, maybe they won’t. Maybe your sister, the best tracker ever, will realize and find you. This is exciting. The game is afoot,” Gerard says.
He went and opened the door, and the blue world of the Ether Pit stood on the other side. Similar to how Polus threw Daedalus into his box, I am thrown into the Pit. I land on a grassy field.
“Goodbye, God of Death,” I hear Gerard say.
Then I hear the door shut.