Ninety-seven missed messages. It seems the godly world most wants me around only when I most don’t want to be. How ironic, and yet here I am. I wander aimlessly around our great mountain home, concealed in my immaterial state. I am joined by all of them in my solitude as they live their silly little lives. Their noises and sounds jumble together in a cacophony of indifference. I am punishing myself, not them. After all, I deserve it. I’m the one to blame.
These gods I’ve known and even loved in my time since my return. Atё, Clio, Eros, and Dikê fade into the background as my connections to them seemingly splinter under the weight of my own lie. Instead, phantoms of other gods, ones who just a short while ago I would have claimed were strangers to me, come to my mind and shadow my steps.
“You really messed up, eh?” Momus laughs, the cackling an ephemeral horror, the sound crashing around me like a storm of breaking glass.
Oizys’s sore, perpetually sobbing eyes look up, imploring me, rubbing my arm, silently encouraging me to lie down with her and just give up.
“You can still fix this,” Philotes says at my other side. “You can make this right.”
My sisters and brothers aren’t really here, though, are they? I’m alone, as I always have been and as I ever will be. Just as Moros is not there, just ahead of me, just out of reach, beckoning me to my doom.
Every moment of my life is churning in a great grinder. I can see it all at once and thus see none of it clearly. Knowledge is almost as much a burden as uncertainty.
The early days of my trick, spell, curse…whatever you want to call it, before I became the butt of my own joke, back when I was still aware of who I was and what I was doing…those moments haunt me most. Back when I enjoyed it, reveling in the confusion I sowed and the manipulation of those who would be my family. My own internal laugh track.
Momus’s imaginary laugh echoes these thoughts. I see his face sneering at me around every corner as I walk, and ever still, Moros is just beyond him, calling me. I press on.
My mind wanders to Atë, my daughter. One of my daughters, I should say. Not only do I have a child, I have children, plural. Those decades on the streets, I took care of me, myself, and I. I never fancied having children and, in fact, finding anyone under the age of twenty pretty much worthless at best, aggressively annoying at worst.
Now I remember feeling that way about my own children.
My mother, the great goddess, Nyx, gave birth to me and the majority of my siblings alone, without any father. Only my brothers, Charon and Aether, and my sister, Hemera, could claim that rake, Erebus, as their father.
Never one to balk at a challenge, I’d wanted to do the same, just to prove I could. Mother dear was very encouraging. She was always like that. Even when people thought the worst about me, she…cared. She believed in me. A tear falls down my face. I’ve let her down, too.
Anyway, she was very encouraging. She whispered the secret of solo birth to me, how to create life without the need of a partner, but she said she’d only tell me once. I remember laughing, saying that it didn’t seem like the kind of thing you forget, and yet…I couldn’t even remember a piece of it. It was like a burn on the map of my memory, a total blank spot.
Either way, I didn’t do a very good job. Some of them came out okay: Lethe, Horkos, and Dysnomia were more or less fine, but the rest? I must not have done it quite right because I had several that came out like the Hysminai, the Neikea, or the Androktasiai. They were half-formed, only complete in groups, with no sense of individuality or self-sustainability.
The one time I tried it the old-fashioned way, I’d gotten Atë and truly understood what creating something real and powerful felt like. It was almost worth taking Zeus’s cherry. I’d met the young would-be king somewhere after his dad’s attempt to chow him down and yet before he killed the bastard. One thing led to another, and soon I gave birth to the first of his many baby mama dramas, foreshadowing years of such for the Thunderer. Yet another trophy for my shelf of bad behaviour.
She was, she is, perfect. Atë is part Primordial, part Olympian, a true New God, and the firstborn of the current king. To me, she was a revelation. To him, she was a footnote, and he moved on faster than Hermes hiding cattle. I realize that had been at least part of my motivation for the two Eris trick. It wasn’t strictly my own stubborn pride. It was a little bit of you’ve had so many kids Z, and you don’t appreciate a single one of them comeuppance woven in with my trick based around not a single god blinking an eye at one more being added overnight.
The realization comes to me just as I arrive at my unknown destination at last. My own subconscious has led me to the same precipice where I had supposedly first met Atë. Back when we both thought I was someone else. She had come to counsel me, help me…take me under her wing. Again I hear Momus’s laugh on the wind. That should have been my job as her parent, not the other way around.
That may even have been the first moment I bought into my own illusion because I wanted to believe it. I’d finally had a version of our relationship that worked for me. One that I could navigate successfully. I was never what you’d call mother/father/non-gendered parent of the millennia, but a partner in crime? That I could do, and so I did, for many years. Now that’s all over.
Oizys sobs quietly next to me.
“The past has haunted you long enough, hasn’t it?” I imagine Philotes pleading with me. “Your life can start over now.”
Moros was still silent, calling to me, hovering just off the cliff’s edge. When I look down, I realize for the first time I have a dagger in my hand. The same dagger Moros gave to me. The adamant dagger I had once considered using on the pubescent Enyo. Adamant is one of the few substances in this great wide universe that can truly and definitively kill a god.
“Oh, Eris…” Philotes cries in time with Oizys own tears, and Momus is suddenly oddly silent.
“Is it time, brother mine, sister dear?” Moros speaks at last.
I raise the dagger and turn the blade toward my chest, slowly but firmly pressing it to my heart.
“Eris, stop!” Not sure which imagined sibling said that.
“I wonder,” I ask aloud, to no one in particular, “Will Thanatos show up before I do it, or just after?”
“Eris, you’re just being stupid.” Momus almost sounds concerned.
“Eris, don’t do this.” Philotes cries, where Oizys just sobs all the harder, clinging to my side.
“Why not? I’ve achieved the most I could ever achieve. I’ve pulled off a trick so big that I even messed up my own life, not just everyone else’s. Quit while you’re ahead, I say,” I say with a broken, empty laugh. Leave them wanting more. Leave while they want me at all before they know what I’ve done.
“Eris…” The make-believe Oizys at my side speaks for the first time.
“I wonder what will actually happen? What happens when gods die?” I wonder aloud.
Moros nods approvingly at me.
“Think this through. Do you really want to find out?” Momus scoffs.
“Oh, I have. I believe Thanatos will come and take me to Uncle Tartarus to be with Mother, and from there, I will find my way back to our grandparent,” I say matter of factly.
“Chaos?!” Philotes and Momus cry in unison.
“Chaos is so like me in its temperament and freedom from the gender binary. Yes, I will petition it to free me from existence and cast me into oblivion rather than leave me languishing in some afterlife.”
“You’re being a coward.” Surprisingly, this came from Philotes.
“Excuse me?” I turn, blade still digging into my chest.
“You’re just gonna quit. Boohoo, I made a mess, and rather than fix it and fight for what I want…all these things I say mean so much to me… I’m gonna chuck it all off the mountainside like my dead corpse and just as worthless.”
“Wow, some charming figment of my imagination you turned out to be. You’re not real, so neither is your opinion.” I smirk as if bragging out loud to my delusion that they are, in fact, a delusion is somehow a win.
“Fine.” She cocks her head at me with admirable sass. “Put down that fucking dagger and go find the real me and let her tell you the exact same thing.”
I roll my eyes, turning back to Moros, still calling to me from off the cliff, my head slumping.
“Eris, you can move past this.” Her tone softens. “You have so much to live for…so much to fight for. Isn’t that what you love best? Fighting?”
“Yeah, but you can only hit yourself so many times before it loses its entertainment value.” I wink.
“You’re not the only one to blame here. What about Lethe?”
Suddenly, in a wave, a memory returns to me. It feels like the last little cog of my clogged mind shaking loose.
“Relax, I’m not gonna kill her. I thought of something much better.” I flip the knife and let it slip into my pocket of the Void. My hands flourish as if I’m performing a magician’s trick.
“Then what are you two doing here?” Philotes looks at my daughter, Lethe, and me suspiciously.
“Why are you following us?” I counter.
Lethe was with me when I first erected the fog of confusion. The memory continues. I try to focus on her face. There’s something about it.
“I haven’t been good!” I laugh uproariously at Philote’s ridiculousness, “I’ve been saving it up.”
The Goddess of Friendship is suddenly all serious, her eyes widening.
“Saving it up for what?”
“Nothing you need to worry yourself about,” Lethe says quietly, staring her down.
“Stay out of this, please,” Philitoes says sternly, looking over my shoulder at her niece.
As I stare at her myself in my mind’s eye, I see her in a million facets, like a stained glass window. At first in ancient Greek dress, then in ancient Greek dress in a delusion I experience in the Mirror world, a delusion of Audrey. Audrey Wilkes…my therapist.
I think back to how she acted in our last session when I brought up my new memories.
“Wanting more. That is what you said.” Audrey picks through her notes. “Now, that is a very clear sign of looking forward, something you have struggled to do in the past. I think you should be wary of falling back on old habits.”
“So you think I should ignore this memory just to get laid? This memory that felt more real to me than so many others that have returned since I left the streets?”
“That’s not what I said. I merely think you shouldn’t let one supposed memory cast such a shadow on all the others. You should not ignore that sense of certainty you regained with them. Wasn’t that the point of this dream world you say you were trapped in?” Audrey asks, tapping her temple like she had a headache.
My mind goes back to the hopeful young senator whose world crashed around them. Audrey was there… Wasn’t she?
“Do you remember that world?” I ask suddenly, an unfamiliar tone of coyness in my voice.
“Why would I?” she stutters but regains her composure quickly.
That same face as she tried to get me to ignore my history, to forget.
Audrey is Lethe.
Audrey/Lethe has been keeping this spell going far longer than I ever intended. She’s been making me more susceptible to getting caught up in my own delusion.
A determined look transforms my face, and just beyond Moros, I see a golden light erupt. Elpis, the personification of hope, is an old thorn in my side. Yet another sibling of mine appears behind him with a wry smile on her face.
I hold the dagger out in front of me.
“Eris,” Philotes says with concern.
“Relax, I’m not going anywhere.”
I open up my cornfield, which I now recognize as a pocket of the Void in which I was birthed, and hurl the dagger in with all my strength, hopefully lodging it somewhere in the darkened folds of nothingness.
“I have something to live for now,” I say with confidence. “Spite.”