My eyes bore into the spot on the ceiling. It wasn’t large by any means, just a black spot on a white ceiling. It hadn’t moved in days, so I was pretty sure it wasn’t a bug. And yet it stared back at me, mocking me. I blinked, adjusting my stare. One spot became two, the alcohol playing with my mind. I groaned and rolled over on my side, grabbing the bottle of dark liquid. It stopped tasting bitter half a bottle ago. My insides were thoroughly numbed. I gulped down the last of the warm liquid and let the bottle drop from my hand. Surprisingly, it bounced around on the floor without shattering. I laid back, stretching out like a starfish on my empty bed.
My big, vast, empty bed.
“Dj’you know,” I slurred to the shadows that lurked in the room, “I’m n-nooot v-vvery good at this.”
It had been a week since I returned home to find Atë gone. She had vanished from my existence, not a single trace of her left in the house. I called around, but of course, no one would tell me where she was. Clio told me to give her space, Eris threatened me. I tried hard to keep a straight face then. Eros just laughed and called me an idiot.
I mumbled, “You’re an idjit.”
It wasn’t long before I passed out. This had been my daily routine since coming home. I didn’t want to leave. I knew I could head south, to my haven in Tartarus, or even down the beach to one of my secluded caves. But that would mean leaving here. What if she came back?
When I woke up, I stumbled to the bathroom, relieved myself, and headed to the kitchen where another bottle was waiting for me.
I sat at the kitchen island, my head in my hands. Not because it hurt, but because I was ashamed of myself and my actions, and yet I didn’t stop. I popped the cap off and took a swig. “Breakfast of champions.”
I had been fighting with my darker side since it first reappeared a week ago. It wanted to go out and wreak havoc. The alcohol was an old trick that I thought would keep it at bay. As the God of Darkness, I’ve always been dark, but there was an even darker side to me. One I had kept hidden for decades. After millennia of being the meanest, darkest bad of all bad, I grew tired of it and needed a break. So I locked it up deep inside of me. Whenever it threatened to resurface, I barricaded it with a bottle or two until it disappeared altogether. Those were the dark ages, probably one of the many reasons why my marriage failed, and people began to leave me alone. Occasionally I’d show up drunk to work, or the OA building and other gods would wonder what had crawled under my skin.
I’d never told a soul the real reasons behind my drinking. I alluded to my failing marriage, or more recently, my troubles trying to make Atë happy. Very few knew of my crusade to hunt down Melisseus, although I’m sure it was worldwide news now. But that was a celebration yet to be had. For now, I was struggling to keep the dark me quiet. My emotions were fresh, and the dark fed on it. Sometimes it was just easier to give in to it than to fight it. But whenever I did that, bad things happened. The world became a darker place as a result. Mortals grew restless, angered, radical and violent. The extreme thoughts of hatred I put in their heads left parts of the world devastated. And right now, the world did not need that.
Several minutes passed when I heard a scratching noise. My ears perked. Bottle in hand, I followed the noise to a wall in the front of the house. Something was trapped in it. I thought maybe there was a bird making a nest, but after some thought on the house’s architecture, that just wasn’t possible. Something was definitely inside the wall and digging aggressively at the plaster. I tapped on the wall, causing the noise to stop. I raised the bottle to my lips, becoming transfixed, waiting for the noise to return. When it did, the corners of my mouth twitched. I wasn’t alone. I could hear the squeaking and muffled chatter. I tapped on the wall again.
“Hey, who’s in there?”
Maybe it was a bat or some other weird creature from Olympus.
More indistinct chatter came from behind the wall. I tapped again.
“Hey! This is my house. Who invited you?”
But nothing replied. I sat down across from the wall and leaned against a credenza. Pulling the bottle up to my mouth, I took another large gulp. I watched the wall intently, as if there were some gripping thriller unraveling before my eyes. Whoever said watching paint dry was boring had never stared at a wall waiting for it to make noise. The wall scratched and squeaked, sometimes more aggressively than others. When my bottle was done, I crawled over to the noise, putting my ear against the wall. I could hear the creature behind the plaster moving about. It was probably making a home. I rubbed the spot on the wall.
“I wouldn’t do that if I wasss dj’you. You don’t want to stay here…I’m no good for you. She knew it.”
The chattering seemed to stop and listen. My thoughts went to the last conversation I had with Melisseus. He warned me about Atë, but I didn’t believe him. Now I knew better.
“But, I was just a pawn in her game. She used me.”
Minutes passed, my finger made small swirling circles on the wall. “Do you have someone?”
It chirped back as if in answer.
“Good. Everybody needs someone.” I tapped on the wall. “My friends…are her friends…” I sighed. “So, I don’t think they like me very much right now.” Forgetting for a moment that our relationship was a farce. “I was stupid. I was blinded. I did the very thing I told her to stop, and it ruined us. Revenge is the death of everything.”
I slumped down with my head against the wall, listening to the small chatter from the other side. “You ssh-ould go.”
My shadows slithered down the steps, slowly making their way over to me, making the morning sunshine disappear from the room. As if the creature behind the wall could sense the darkness, its sounds became frantic.
“Tol-dj’you,” I said, sneering at the wall. I stood from my spot on the floor and walked unsteadily to the kitchen, looking for another bottle. I was momentarily distracted by the decorative mirror hanging in the dining area. One glimpse of my reflection, and I barely recognized myself. My usual carefully manicured coiffe was disheveled. Bags were under my eyes that had never been there before, and my clothes were rumpled. I lifted my arm and smelled. I was vile and looked like shit. Who asked you? I rolled my eyes and staggered away.
My feet did the walking, and I followed wherever they took me in the large barren house. What a ridiculous thought that I could live with someone. We were just playing house and apparently not very well. I found a bottle of gin in a cupboard and cracked it open. I could hear the creature behind the wall all the way across the house. It was scratching and digging.
All of a sudden, the thought of something trying to get cozy with me began to infuriate me. My brain took over, making my feet carry me back towards the wall. The scratching stopped as I approached.
“There’s no point hiding!” I yelled. “It’s useless…what you’re doing. You don’t want to live here. I ruin everything.”
I pounded a fist on the wall. The creature squeaked back in mad chatter.
“Get out of there!” My anger grew. I pounded on the wall again, biting down hard on my lip. I could taste the blood in my mouth.
My shadows could feel the familiar energy inside me rise. They started to dance to my weakening.
The creature became frantic again, digging. Maybe it was stuck? Maybe it needs my help? The darkness inside me smirked mischievously.
I threw back the bottle, drinking from it, then put it down on the credenza as I stared at a spot on the wall. As if I could see through the wall to the exact spot the creature was. Taking a step forward, I slammed a fist through the plaster and grabbed hold of the fuzzy creature. I pulled it out, staring at it with my black eyes. I didn’t need a mirror to know that the whites of my eyes were swallowed up in darkness. The startled squirrel stared back with its frightened beady little eyes. I tightened my grip on it as it struggled to get out of my grasp, all the while chirping. I could feel its little heart pounding in my hand.
My face softened.
“I tol-dj’you,” My slurs were soft and slow. “You shh-ould have listened to me,” I said in a pout.
The evil within had awakened, and it was hungry. I was tired of holding it back, but it didn’t stop me from pleading with it. You don’t have to do it. But it was useless.
I squeezed down on the squirrel’s neck with minimal strength until the furry creature stopped struggling.
“I ruin everything.”