I sit in the corner of the darkroom I have woken up in. Panic grips me tight. It shortens my breath and causes my heart to gallop. I have reverted to my childhood form. I draw my tiny knees to my chest and wrap my arms around them, rocking back and forth, attempting to self-soothe. Faint blue light emanates from a barred window in the door. Around me are the sounds of dripping water, running water, metal doors clinking and clanging. Footsteps echo on what sounds like stone, approaching my room. I close my eyes tightly in a vain attempt to wake from where Phobetor has sent me.
“Where in Tartarus am I?” I ask myself.
Then I hear it. Her voice sends chills up my spine, and the sing-song mocking quality to it as it echoes off the stone walls stops my breath. I know that voice is Nemesis’s, but there is something so disturbingly off about it.
“Thaaaaaany! Come out wherever you are! Olly Olly Oxen Free!” Nemesis sings.
My room’s door swings open with a metallic groan, and her silhouetted form stands in the doorway. I draw back against the wall slightly, hoping to disappear into it as her shadow falls on me. She enters the room with an abnormal wobbly gait as if her legs were made of gelatin. As she draws near me, I can see the wrongness.
Her skin is far too pale and looks as if it is made of rubber, like a cheap Halloween mask. She gives me a victorious smile, revealing that her mouth is full of black tar that runs down her chin and escapes her lips, dripping onto the floor. Her eyes are full of the same black fluid, but unlike her mouth, they don’t run over.
“There you are, you useless bastard,” she croons.
A small cry escapes my lips…
The phone rings next to my laptop, distracting me for the one-hundredth time that day.
“Fuck,” I mutter under my breath as I look at the screen.
“Fuck you!” I say, throwing the phone across the room.
I run my fingers through my hair and give it a little pull as I cry out my frustrations. This piece has been hard enough to write as is without distractions. I am having trouble connecting with Thanatos lately. Where the hell was he, anyway? Wasn’t I still his scribe? Didn’t he pick me to create his new-age mythology? I was going on a fucking walk to clear my head. Maybe that would help with this months-long writer’s block. I slipped on my coat, grabbed my house keys, opened the door, and fell into darkness.
The nightmare Nemesis held my child’s body in a vice-like grip, her fingers digging into my upper arms. She spins me around the small room, occasionally shaking me so hard my head rattles and my teeth clack together. She giggles gleefully as she flings my small, defenseless body through the open door.
The room I land in is pink. Everything is bright pink, from the bed and bedding to the walls, the pictures hanging there, and the shag carpeting. The light in the room has a faint blue glow. I stand in this bizarrely pink room, staring wide-eyed at the open doorway.
“This is too precious,” Phobetor says from the hallway’s darkness.
“Show yourself,” my child’s voice demands.
Phobetor bellows, his gargled laughter emitting from the darkness. Despite my minor setback, I am determined to hold my ground against my elder brother when he comes for me. I crouch low in a fighting stance.
“I finally know what you are afraid of, Thanatos. You are afraid no one will come looking for you because no one cares about you.” Phobetor chuckles.
“They will come!” I yell.
“Then why haven’t they come for you yet? Do they realize you are gone? You know you have run away before. Maybe they figured you have gone and done it again! Thanatos, the cowardly god,” Phobetor says.
I ball my fist and bare my teeth at the empty, dark doorway. Then the floor drops from under me, throwing me into darkness…
My body is wracked with pain, and my head throbs as water from the ceiling drips onto it. I open my eyes, allowing them to adjust to the dim blue light of the stone room I find myself in. I slowly rise to my feet, using the smooth stone wall to support me. The room spins around as I rub the back of my neck. Somewhere up ahead, a child screams for help, and for whatever reason, I am compelled to go and save him. I stagger slowly at first, but as my mind clears, I begin to sprint toward the voice crying for help.
“I am coming, whoever you are. I am coming. I haven’t forgotten. I am looking for you… Thanatos? Thanatos,” I say to the darkness as I go, hoping and praying he hears me.
When I open my eyes again, I am in my childhood room I shared with my twin brother Hypnos in our mother’s home in Tartarus. I never sleep, but my mother insisted I have a bed to lay down in because it would help Hypnos fall asleep. I slip quietly out of my bed and exit the room. I head toward my mother’s rooms, unsure what I will find there. As I pass down the blue-lighted hallways, I feel Phobetor’s eyes on me. Even though I can not see him, I know he is close by, watching me. I sense another soul, a mortal soul, unfamiliar to me but yet at the same time very familiar.
“How very peculiar. How…” I say to the empty hallway as a blue fog fills my mind, making things hazy as my hand goes to the bleeding wound in my stomach.
Mother was ahead behind the door, and Hyp would be with him. I can go sit in Mother’s lap. She will hold me close, kiss my face, and call me dear one. Tell her about this silly fantasy I came up with while lying in my bed and how she will laugh as she holds me to her breasts. I take my hand off my stomach. Strange, I thought it was bleeding a moment ago. My tiny hand reaches up and pushes her room door open, and I am awash in blue light.
My mother, Nyx, goddess of night, sits in a low back chair in front of the vanity as she runs a brush through her black hair. Her skin is as dark as the night sky, with small flecks of starlight-like freckles covering her body. Her black wings elegantly folded behind her. She is a vision of beauty. I run to her and pass through her like a specter. I land face-first on the carpeted ground of her room and gaze stupidly up at her. She smiles down at me with sparks of starlight in her black eyes. It is a toothy smile, sweet and at the same time unsettling. My hand instinctively goes to my stomach as I cower on the ground. I realize she is looking through me, not at me.
“There you are,” Mother says and reaches down and through me.
She picks up a sliver hairpin and then returns to preening herself in the vanity mirror. I run my hands up and down my chest where her hand passed through. I am solid.
“Mother! Mother!” I yell, but she does not respond.
Then there is a noise from the doorway as my brother Hypnos enters the room, running full tilt toward our Mother. She opens her arms and catches Hypnos as he throws himself at her. She is smiling and laughing as she pulls him close to her breast. That is supposed to be me. Hypnos hates being held. He always squirms and wiggles, fighting to get out.
“No, Mother! That is my spot!” I yell.
“No one is coming for you, Thanny. They forgot you. They don’t know you exist,” Phobator says from the darkness.
“It’s not true! It is not true!” I yell. “Mother! Please, it’s me! Look at me! It’s Thanatos!”
I kick open blue cell door after blue cell door, desperate to find that screaming child’s voice. He sounds so scared. I have never heard him like this before. I just want to pick him up, hold him, and tell him everything is going to be all right. I grit my teeth in frustration. The echo off the stone walls has thrown off my sense of time and direction.
All I find in the cells are ghosts of a blue color. Their eyes are wide and vacant as if they are watching something other than me standing in their doorway. They never exit their cells as they wander around them aimlessly. Sometimes they call out for people or things I believe are the lost or the missing ones Thanatos has told me about.
I exit the latest cell and close my eyes as I stand in the stone hallway. I feel something, sensing something lurking in the shadows, watching me. I get a weird oily feeling all over my body, and I shudder.
“Who are you? How did you come to be here? This isn’t your place to be! Why are you so very hard to see? Not man,” a garbled voice says from those shadows.
My body breaks out in a sweat, and my heart races at the sound of the voice. It is another god I know. Which one, I am not sure, but it’s dangerous like a stray dog in a dark alley.
“I am nobody, a humble mortal scribe who fell into this dark place,” I say.
“Nobody!? Nobody! All right, Mister Nobody, give me your nightmares, for I can’t see them,” the voice says, letting loose gargled laughter.
“Mother! Nem! Hyp! Please!” Thanatos’s voice echoes in the halls.
My eyes fly open, and I know which way to go now. The voice hisses from the dark as I turn in the direction of Thanatos’s cries. The voice lets loose a low growl as it understands why I am here.
“No! You can’t have my little brother! He’s mine,” he cries.
“Than, I am coming!” I yell and run down the hall.
The god flies from the shadows. It looks like a massive wave of dark ooze and oil, and it chases down the hall after me, screaming.
“Come back here, Mister Nobody!”
I make another running leap at both Mother and Hypnos, but I pass through them again and land face-first on the floor. I push myself up, my child’s mind racing with panic as I look over my shoulder with wide eyes at Mother and Hypnos. Mother is busy tickling him under his chin. He laughs hard and tries to push her away, which causes her to laugh with him.
I push myself back to my two feet and watch this display of affection. Jealousy fills my tiny heart because it was never Hypnos Mother would do this too. It was always me. It should be me, but they can’t see me. Something is wrong here, but what was it? My hands go to my stomach one more time. Why? Where am I? My child’s mind can’t hold on to these thoughts. All it knows is that I am supposed to be in my Mother’s lap and not Hypos. I am going to punch him in the ear, that dead bastard…dead. Was Hypnos dead?
My thoughts are broken by a teenaged Nemesis wandering into the room. She pads along the carpeted floor barefoot as she passes through me. I reach to grab for her in a desperate hope that even in this nightmare, she will be the one thing I can hold on to. My hand passes through her like the tiny specter I have become. Tears well in the corners of my eyes, blurring my vision as my body begins to tremble. I continue to reach out for Nem’s hand. I cry, black tears running down my face, while one hand holds my stomach and the other still desperately tries to grasp Nem’s hand.
“Now, Nemesis, I want you to watch Hypnos while I have to deal with Kronos,” Mother says.
“But, Matre,” Nem begins to protest.
“You can hang out with your friends later, young lady. Your father and I have dealt with the Titans to keep the peace and keep us in our places as gods,” Mother scolds.
Hypnos reaches out for Nemesis, who reluctantly takes him from Mother’s lap.
“Very well, Matre,” Nem says, holding Hypnos.
“Mother! Nem! Hyp! Please!” I choke out as I cry.
Then he rushes in. A mortal in an olive-green overcoat steps right in. Mother’s, Nem’s, and Hyp’s faces are open-mouth expressions of shock and awe. I stop crying and, through blurry eyes, look up at this mortal as if I know him. I am wiping snot and tears from my face as he sweeps me up into his arms as a father might do to one of his children. He pulls me in close.
“Put him down,” Mother hisses. “His torment isn’t up yet!”
The mortal let out a small gasp and took a step back. I turn my head to see as he pulls me closer, holding me tighter. The Nightmare Nemesis from before is standing in the room. Mother and Hypnos have turned into the nightmare version versions of themselves.
“Holy shit,” the mortal whispers.
“Mister Nobody! I found you!” Phobetor says from the doorway.
“Run!” I whisper in the mortal’s ear.
The mortal bolts back down the hallway with me in his arms.