“Who are you!?” I demand.
The mortal races down the darkened hallway, holding me close to his chest and cradling me in the crux of his arm like a father would their own child. I cling to the collar of his long coat, looking over his shoulder.
“I am your scribe!” He panted as we turned a corner.
“My scribe? Why would I need a scribe?” I ask.
“I don’t know! You chose me!” the scribe yells.
“Preposterous!” I say.
Yet, I still feel like I know this mortal. Could he be from some alternate? An alternate where the gods need mortal scribes. There are other worlds than these. The scribe slips and almost falls as he takes a corner too fast.
“Go slower, godsdamn it! You will be no good to either of us if you injure yourself!” I yell.
“I am trying here!” the scribe yells back.
A door swings open with a hard bang, causing the scribe to jump. The scribe doesn’t dare to look back, but I see Phobetor, Nemesis, Nyx, and Hypnos file out of the room.
“Mr. Nobody, I found you!” Phobetor calls out in a gargled, sing-song voice.
“Shit! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” the scribe curses as he increases his speed.
I grab the collar of his coat tighter as he brings his other arm up and around my back to hold me closer. The nightmare versions of my family drop to all fours like wild beasts, their knees cracking and popping as they bend backward. Long dangerous-looking claws grow from their fingertips as they give chase.
They let loose high-pitched screeches as they chase us down the hall. I cry out and turn my face to look at the scribe. He is pale as a sheet, sweat has broken out on his skin, and I can sense the goosebumps breaking out all over his flesh. How strange that this mortal exists here. What is this kinship I feel with him? I feel his racing heartbeat and his body trembling.
As we run hither and tither down this endless hallway of doors, I get a much closer look at this scribe. To my astonishment, he looks like me! A mortal version of me. How bizarre. I close my eyes and focus on his soul, seeing his thread. It is a bar of bright pulsing gold, and it stretches across worlds upon worlds, connecting to me, or a version of me, in each. When I open my eyes and look upon him, he is a being of golden light racing in the dark. Did the alternate version of me send him to me? So many unanswered questions, but maybe, just maybe, when this is done, I can question this scribe.
“He’s mine! Bring him back to me, Mr. Nobody!” Phobetor’s roar echoes down the hallway.
The nightmare creatures are at his heels now. My body is being jarred up and down, up and down, up and down. My stomach feels queasy from the constant motion. They screech, giving the scribe a burst of adrenaline. The nightmare Nemesis swipes at the back of his coat and just misses him, but I feel the wind of it. She lets out a growl of frustration.
“I think I am going to be sick,” I say.
“Don’t you do it! Don’t you dare,” the scribe growls.
I groan and swallow back the bile. I close my eyes, making the jarring motion much worse. I bury my face against the scribe’s shoulder. Gods, why can I not change back to my full stature? Two doors on either side of the scribe swing open violently. The crashing noise makes my eyes fly back open. From one door emerges the nightmare version of Demeter, and from the other the nightmare version of Persephone.
“Meet my future nightmare queen and stepdaughter, you bastards!” Phobetor roars.
I watch their bodies contort to match the others. As the pack passes them, they follow them along the walls of the hallways as Phobetor’s liquid form glides across the ceiling. They are gaining as the scribe’s speed wanes. I close my eyes tight, squinting my face as I attempt to will myself back to my true adult form. My efforts are to no avail. I am still trapped in the child’s body.
Their screeches grow louder, more fierce as they close the distance. Phobetor lets out a gale of garbled laughter from above.
“Relinquish my prize, Mr. Nobody!” Phobetor calls down.
The scribe lets out a cry of effort as he pushes himself harder around another corner to a dead end. He skids to a stop before running into the wall. He turns on his heels and puts his back to the cold stone, both arms protectively wrapped around me. Our hearts race in tandem. I close my eyes, willing myself to change back.
The nightmare creatures linger in the entryway as Phobetor drops from the ceiling and reforms. He stands in front of the snarling, growling nightmare creatures. Long strands of drool run through their sharp teeth, pooling on the ground before them. He reaches out and pets the Nemesis creature on the top of her head. He turns to face us and smiles. It is a chilling thing to look at, and both of us tremble at the sight of it.
“My babies are hungry. We just wanted him. Let him go, Mr. Nobody. Let him go, and you can walk away. Yes, you can walk away. No harm, no foul. Just let him go,” Phobetor pleads.
The scribe puts me down and pushes me against the wall as he stands protectively before me. I grab onto one of his pants legs and peer out at them. My body trembles with the fear that only a child can feel. The scribe gives the group an appraising glance, and his face is completely void of emotion.
“No, fuck you,” the scribe says.
I gasp from the shock of it all. Does he not see how small I am? Does he not see the snarling beast’s sharp teeth and pointy claws? Does he not realize that they will tear him to shreds? They can devour me with a single gulp, and I believe my brother would let them.
“What did you say to me!? What say you, Mr. Nobody!?” Phobetor asks in a shrill voice.
“I said fuck you,” the scribe repeats coldly.
“I am… I’m…the lord of nightmares!” Phobetor says petulantly.
The creatures are sensitive to their master’s emotions, and their growls deepen. The anxiety and dread that fill me are unbelievable as I clutch his pant leg tighter. With every breath, my vision loses and gains focus, and my heart feels like it wants to leap out of my chest. I believe I am going to pass out, yet I do not.
“I am the lord of nightmares,” the scribe mocks.
The scribe breaks into laughter as if he has just told a very amusing joke. I look up at him, dumbfounded.
“What in Tartarus are you doing!?” I call up.
“Shhhh,” the scribe says, shushing me with his finger to his mouth.
Phobetor lets out a cry of outrage while the creatures move their feet up and down anxiously, all their eyes focused on their lord. The scribe mocks his cry and begins to laugh even harder as he repeats the process. The scribe is a jester, a joker. I don’t get most jokes normally. Who would make this laughing jackass my scribe? Doesn’t he know how much danger we are in?
“Stop! You stop laughing! You stop laughing right now, Mr. Nobody!” Phobetor shrieks.
The scribe repeats, laughing harder, “You stop laughing, Mr. Nobody!”
“How dare you! How dare you mock the lord of nightmares!” Phobetor cries.
“The lord of nightmares,” the scribe repeats and then begins to bray like a donkey.
“We are doomed, you jackass,” I whisper up to him.
He looks down at me and winks. The smile on the scribe’s face is madness incarnate. He is insane. I look over at Phobetor, who is pacing back and forth, making wild gestures with his arm, stuttering and sputtering as he rages. The beasts watch their master pacing and occasionally sending snarling glances in our direction. The scribe continues to laugh at his display.
Phobetor stops and turns on his heels to face us. The rage that fills his eyes is intense and sends my heart into palpitations. The scribe’s face is cool, calm, and collected. Phobetor bares his teeth and then lets loose a scream of unbridled rage. The creatures join in their master’s cry.
“I will show you, Mr. Nobody! I will show you what the lord of nightmares can do!” Phobetor screams.
He begins to grow, to morph, to take shape, and the scribe begins to laugh. Hard laughter pointing at this display. Phobetor is now a huge wall of black oil. He struggles to take shape and falls to the ground in a slick puddle. It is a sickening wet sound as he hits the ground and takes his normal shape. He lays in the fetal position trembling, looking at us. Fear has replaced the rage in his eyes. The scribe takes a large step forward and looks down at the quivering mass that is my brother.
“You are so tiny,” he says as he squats down.
“Stay back, Mr. Nobody,” Phobetor cries. He begins to shrink before my eyes.
“Look at tiny you,” the scribe laughs. “You couldn’t hurt anyone.”
I see the nightmare creatures shrinking with their master, but I stay cautiously against the wall. He looks over his shoulder and winks at me.
“Who are you, Mister Nobody?” Phobetor whines.
“Just that. I am nobody,” the scribe says.
“I am afraid,” Phobetor cries.
“I know,” the scribe says.
They are no bigger than the palm of one’s hand now. How could I have ever possibly been afraid of them? I lean back. The wall behind me has become a blue door which I fall through. The scribe’s shocked face, as he looks over his shoulder at me, is the last glimpse I have of him before the door closes.
Strong hands lift me, and my eyes open as the nightmare ends. I am blinded temporarily by the light of the sun. I look to see who has me. I half expect the scribe, but I stare into Nemesis’s face.
“Nem? Is that really you?” I say, beginning to cry.
“Yes, Thano! It’s the real me,” Nemesis says.
“You came for me,” I choke out.
“Of course we did. I will always come for you, Thano,” Nem says.
I look around, confused at first, but I soon realize we are still in the ether pit. I see a door before us, the entryway between our worlds. At the door stands my father, Erebus. He holds a shadow sword to the throat of the Lord of the Ether Pit, Lucifer. In the doorway, my mother, Nyx, stands glaring at Lucifer. I hear Phobetor screaming, and my head jerks in that direction.
I see Ky’Elli and Mrs. Demeter giving chase to the fiend. Mrs. Demeter wields her sickle, and she and Ky’Elli are taking chunks from Phobetor’s back as he flies off into the shadows and disappears. Mrs. Demeter comes to us with the small beast at her side and gives support to my other side while Ky’Elli rubs against me, her eyes swirling quickly with concern.
My mother races at me while my father throws Lucifer to the ground. Lucifer quickly flees from the scene. Mother begins to stroke my face and kisses my forehead. Father runs his fingers through my hair.
“Where is he? Where is my scribe? Did he make it out of the prison?” I ask.
“What scribe? We don’t have scribes, Thano. We correct our history ourselves,” Nem says.
I attempt to answer, but I pass out. When I wake, I am in my bed, in my cabin in the Underworld. My mother busies herself in my kitchen, Nem sits at the foot of my bed, and Ky’Elli, the small beast, lays across my legs asleep and snoring. Nem is holding a silver canister with Mrs. Hestia’s handwriting on it.
“What is the meaning of this?” I ask.
“Well, this is an ointment Hestia made for you to draw out the rest of the hind’s blood so you can heal properly and recuperate. While you are recovering, you are to stay in bed, and now you have three good nurses who love you and care about you, Thano,” Nemesis says.
I nod my understanding as I reach down and stroke the soft fur of the small beast. What am I supposed to do? Arguing with my mother and sister is impossible! When I am well, I will need to speak with Mrs. Demeter. I believe it is not the last of Phobetor. But right now, as I stroke Ky’Elli’s fur, I can’t help but wonder about the fate of the scribe.
I pull back with a smile, seeing my friend is all right and safe at home. Then I submitted his latest story to the editor.