Shakily, I stare at myself in the bathroom mirror. It’s early morning, and the sun’s rays are just kissing the edges of the large wash area. The light isn’t strong at this ungodly hour, yet somehow the dull glow makes the space seem even eerier. The dream still feels so vivid to me. I say dream, but really it was a nightmare.
Once more, I was in the warehouse. The darkness loomed around me as the lone bulb swung a lazy yellow arc over the body on the filthy floor. It was still face down, red oozing around the lifeless form. This time it wasn’t Trixie. There was no sign of the blonde locks nor the curvaceous figure that had served me so well. Instead, I could see the auburn hair I loved to smell. The soft aroma of the sustainably sourced soap she’d used mingled with the stench of spilt chemicals from days gone by. I didn’t need to, but still, I approached the body, knelt low, and brushed strands away from the features of the woman I loved. She stared blankly back at me, the word why scrawled across her forehead in a hideous shade of pink.
I yank at the tap and then splash water across my face, appreciating the cool relief it momentarily affords me.
“Why did you have to kill them?” the voice reverberates around the oversized room. It’s so loud I almost believe it’s in here with me, rather than in my head. Then the second joins in, disappointment clear in its tone.
“You had the power to spare them. You could even have improved the quality of their lives.”
After the horrible vision, I’m unsteady, and I really don’t need this.
“It has nothing to do with you,” I mentally retaliate. “Leave me alone!”
“Why should we?” the first voice picks up. “You had those women killed, by someone who owed you a debt, and for what?”
“Someone who’s below you. You are a god, just go and play with your kind!”
“She doesn’t even love you!”
I seethe at my reflection, my chest rising and falling in sharp, ragged movements. I grind my teeth together, knowing full well the voices are getting to me, and I’m only making it worse. I am in control. I am in control. I utter my supposedly soothing chant, trying to ignore the cackling it invokes from my unseen tormentors. Finally, I take a long breath in, hold it and let go. It helps a little, and I’m calmer when I respond.
“Lily does. We were happy together.”
The second voice pokes at me,
“Exactly. You were happy together. Past tense. It’s gone. She’s doesn’t feel anything more for you than she does for yesterday’s newspaper.”
“She loves me,” I insist, biting down on my lip. I know I shouldn’t be having this conversation, but I can’t seem to stop myself. The first voice thunders around the back of my skull,
“Are you sure she does? It didn’t look like it last night. She despises you.”
“No, she doesn’t.”
“Of course she does. She didn’t want you anywhere near her. And she was upset. Emotional. If you can’t get close to her when she’s like that, then what hope do you have of having anything else?”
I want to lash out, break something. I am in control. I am in control. I am in control. I tighten my grip on the sink, the feel of the smooth porcelain steadying me. I should go and do some pottery. Anything to distract me. Yet I just can’t help myself,
“When I can speak the truth, I can tell Lily exactly how I feel.”
It’s the newer voice that rings across my brain now,
“That’s it? All of this so you don’t have to lie to her? Where will that leave the so-called great Trickster? You won’t lie. Will you cheat or even scheme against others?”
“Or,” the other voice chimes in, “will you just spend your days tending pansies and sipping homemade lemonade.”
“You are so pathetic!”
“I will still be me.” My cheeks flush as my rage rises. “I will stand for everything that came before. What I am. I’ll just be able to be clearer. Tell the woman I love what she means to me. I won’t be so…exhausted!”
“Oh, boo hoo! You could have any mortal. Or an immortal, if you ever bothered with any of them! Why her, what’s so special about that girl?”
“I don’t need to justify myself to some figment of my imagination!”
“That’s rich,” intones the initial voice. “If we are just by-products of your neocortex, then what does that say about you?”
I move away from the mirror, hoping if I stop looking at myself, it might ease my suffering a little. In the enormous kitchen, I stop at the fridge. Its crisp light blinks into life as I open the door, and I can’t help but shudder at the yellow tinge. I sort the meagre contents into date order, hoping that the mundane task will centre me, reduce my stress.
“What are you hoping to achieve with all this?”
I groan loudly as the voice whispers, “Surely you have an angle?”
I wish the words belonged to something physical. Just so I could punch it.
“Or kill us! Because that’s all you are these days, Dolus, a murderer!”
I suck more air into me, but I do it too fast, and it doesn’t help.
“There was nothing subtle tonight. No plots. No cunning. You just brought people together and forced one of them to take the lives of the others.”
“What would your darling sweetheart think if she knew that?”
“It doesn’t matter!” I want to scream out the words, but they won’t come. I still can’t speak my mind, not even with them. In sheer frustration, I snatch a can of lager from the fridge’s door. I won’t drink it, but the icy metal feels good on my forehead. I sigh softly.
“Feeling civilised now, are we?”
“More open to a discussion?”
I try not to listen, but the first voice thunders again.
“What do you think you are really going to accomplish with all this Rod of Asclepius stuff? Fixing some perceived fault. You don’t speak the truth because of who you are, what you stand for. Why take away a part of you?”
“You will end up weak. Then your empire of contacts and favours will crumble around your ears. You will have nothing.”
“I don’t care. I only want Lily.”
“How pitiable! So unbecoming of a god.”
“What are you going to do, turn up with flowers and declare your undying love for her?”
I avoid looking at my reflection in the metallic surface of the fridge. The laughter wells up in my left ear. It’s piercing and cruel.
“That’s exactly what he’s planning! He’s even going to put on a tuxedo.”
“You really are ridiculous! If you think whisking her off to some fancy dinner is the way to woo her, you don’t know anything. She’ll hate it.”
I launch the can of drink across the room. The sound of something smashing makes me even angrier. I grit my teeth and grind out the next thought.
“It’s the words that will make it all fine.”
“And when she finds out what you did?”
I pause, my annoyance subsiding,
The second voice yells from my right temple, “Are you sure? After all, once you are an upstanding citizen, why wouldn’t you tell her the truth about everything?”
“Because she doesn’t need to know.” My brows knit together. “All she cares about is hearing me say the three words she longs to hear.”
“And once the floodgates are open? Can you guarantee what you’ll say? Or will you ruin everything, just like you always do?”
Slowly I shuffle back to my bed, not to sleep, but simply to listen to the doubts as they ping around my mind. I have a plan. I’ve come this far. I’m not going to stop now. Whatever my detractors say. However much doom they predict. Lily will be mine.