One soul lies anxious, wide awake…cruel and cold, like winds from the sea…
The floor shook, and more water poured in around me. The sky was torn to shreds with lightning, and stones were falling from the ceilings and walls. They were coming, and I was the last one left.
Too pigheaded to leave, too terrified to stay, I sat with my brazier on my lap and sheltered the fire from the rain. I didn’t have a weapon, and even if I did, it wouldn’t have done any good.
I am so desperately tired. They don’t need me anymore. They’ve forgotten me.
Another chunk of the sky fell down, landing with a thunderous roar, its impact spiderwebbing the once-white marble floors into jagged shards. Orions’s bow skittered away across the floor, taking out a column, while the three stars of his belt fizzled down to nothingness. The Scales fell next, crashing to a halt and beginning to corrode, their brilliant gold melting under the rain, peeling away to crumbling clay.
I should just…go…to…sleep…
A peacock screamed, cut off mid-shriek. Bloody feathers blew in, plastering the crumbling walls with iridescent eyes weeping ruby tears. Bulls bellowed, then the wind carried the acrid stink of burning hair and smoldering fat. My boars, set free as the invaders came, roared challenges and died squealing, joining the sacred bulls on the roasting spit.
Golden horses whinnied and reared, kicking away their traces, biting and stomping, then subdued with iron bits that burned soft mouths used to the finest ambrosia, their gleaming coats turned dull brown in the mud and rain. Wolves tore at man-flesh, but for each invader killed, they lost a dozen or more. The hinds, harmless things of beauty and moonlight, crashed away down the mountain, only to die when grabbed by greedy hands, like a too-eager child that crushes the butterfly that lands on their palm.
I was the only one left, and their boots could be felt through the floor now, their torches undaunted by the wind and rain, making shadows cavort on the walls like the former residents of these halls. I clutched my brazier even tighter and closed my eyes.
Who does a goddess pray to, when she is faced with oblivion?
Don’t forget me. Someone, light a fire, say my name!
I felt a new sensation, one I had never felt before, and dropped my brazier, spilling the coals out into the swirling waters. They died in a hiss of steam as I looked at my fingers – for the first time, blisters rose from where my fingers and arms had touched the bronze that cradled the fire.
I pushed myself to my feet, the water swirling around my ankles cold as death. I turned my back on my hearth and home and began to run for my life. The hounds bayed as the storm rose further, and I ran faster. Artemis’ hounds never lost their quarry, even now in the hands of another – they were too well trained for that.
Olympus was falling, and I was the only one left. Everywhere there was cold and darkness and oblivion, stinking of fear and burning blood and the harsh metallic haze of ozone from the lightning that was striking all around me. The forge had fallen, the stables were being pillaged, sacred animals and beloved companions alike being fed to the fires that raged even in the rain.
“There’s one left! Quickly, get her! It’s that virgin bitch!”
“She won’t be virgin for long after we catch her!”
One of Hephaestus’ arrows slammed into my shoulder, the beautifully filigreed arrowhead protruding through my chest, the swirls and swooping curves dark with blood, the ivory shaft stained crimson in the stormlight, as my dress began to darken.
Blood? I don’t bleed…
I scrambled up to the heights behind the remains of the forge, not sure where I was going, but knowing that to go backwards was to hasten my demise.
A trail of torches followed my footsteps, the eternal braziers being knocked over or kicked aside as they came. Great plumes of steam rose, and as they cooled, I saw men pick them up, those beauties wrought by the skilled hands of Hephaestus’ automatons, more perfect than any man could create, and they were slung across backs, plunder from the halls of the gods.
I was running out of places to go, and my shoulder hurt so much. I staggered and fell, and my knees and palms were bloodied against the stone. My tears of pain and confusion mixed with the rain as I realized there was nowhere else to go.
I stood next to one of the obelisks that marked the borders of Olympus. Ahead of me was empty air, all the way to the stone thousands of feet below.
Behind me, the hunters grew closer. Paws scrambled on rocks, and I heard the snarling of dogs that I had fed from my table for centuries. A cat screamed, high and sharp over the rumbling thunder, and I knew Dionysus’ leopards had met their end. I took a step back, holding my bleeding hands out towards the beasts that I had petted and spoiled for millennia.
“Easy, easy,” I said, and my voice was shaking. “Good girls, easy…you know me.”
One of the big boarhounds lunged at me, ivory teeth slamming closed millimeters from my hand, and I yanked my hand back, taking another step backwards. I stumbled as my heel came down on a pebble, and I barely caught myself from going over the precipice.
The dogs surged forward, and I moved back as far as I could. My sandals were barely keeping a grip on the edge of the gaping abyss of nothingness behind me, and I had a choice to make.
Die here, being torn apart by animals, despoiled by humans, taking the risk of being left worse than dead, or take my life into my own hands, in a last act of defiance.
I had always wondered what it was like to fly. Time I found out.