Time. The ultimate commodity.
Every mortal has uttered the words at least once.
If I only had more time…
They spend their days frittering it away in pursuit of money, fame, sex, or any number of mind-numbing or ego-building pursuits.
In the end, it all comes down to time. After all, no one lies on their deathbed wishing for another car, more Twitter followers, or one last orgasm. No, they all wish for one thing.
Just a little more time.
But what of immortals? Time is cheap for us. It really has no value since we never die, and none of us would trade anything for time.
Except in one circumstance. What if we could trade what we have, to go back and erase our pains and our mistakes? Would we trade what we have for the possibility of what could have been? A tempting thought, to erase haunting or painful memories, even if those traumatic events shaped us into who we are today, good or bad.
Would you do it? It’s tempting, the thought of being devoid of unpleasant memories. But how would it change us? How would it make us into different people than we are now? Would the change be subtle? Or would it fundamentally change us and the people around us.
Follow along in Alternate Olympus to find out what happens when one deity is thrust into just such a situation.
I tossed and turned for what felt like the hundredth time. Sleep came, albeit slow and fitful. The dreams were vivid and disturbing. My eyes pulled awake again. Perhaps I should just get up. My tossing and turning had to be bothering Nyx. Still, I glanced over at her and she seemed to be dead asleep, as if under a spell.
“I wish it was a spell someone cast on me,” I thought as I sighed and crawled out of my bed. Perhaps some of the leftover ambrosia cheesecake in the kitchen would help.
I slipped out of the bedroom and down the hall as quiet as possible, Calli and Ao didn’t follow.
“Odd,” I thought, “they never let me leave their sight. They must be as tired as Nyx.”
I reached the large open living area and raised the lights.
An old man was standing in the middle of the living space. He leaned heavily on an iron-shod wooden staff.
“Zeus be damned,” I exclaimed. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
“I am but a traveler,” said the old man. His voice was grating and guttural, reminiscent of gravel being churned in a metal drum.
I glanced left and right, then started walking toward him.
“You’re gonna regret coming here,” I said as I clenched my fists.
The room seemed to spin and shimmer for a second and I was standing back where I started, in the doorway of the room.
“What was that?” I said as I shook my head then looked back at the old man.
“I am Chronos, Lord of Time.”
“Really? There’s a lot of people looking for you. Why are you here?”
“For you, of course.”
“For me? You better come up with a better reason than that.”
“Dinlas, I have watched you for many years through your suffering, your misery, all those years of neglect. What would you give to be rid of that?”
“What would I give? Nothing, what are you talking about?”
“I can take that pain away,” the old man replied. “I can make it all go away, even the memories of how you were treated.”
I paused and looked at him. Thousands of years of misery and perceived mistreatment welled up in my chest. Things were good now with Nyx. My parents and I were at least on speaking terms.
But the memories. The pain that came up sometimes of all the awful things I did. Mortals speak of PTSD; I’m sure it’s debilitating. Imagine two-thousand years of it. I thought about it. I could live this life I love, but without the memories of all the pain
“What’s the catch?”
“Catch?” he replied with a shrug. “No catch, my gift to you. You have suffered enough, so let me help you.”
I kept looking at him. My hackles stood up just like the wolves. My suffering runs deep, but my distrust of people claiming to help runs deeper.
“I don’t trust you. Everything has a catch. Get lost or I will make sure you never forget me.”
The old man hobbled toward me, leaning heavily on the staff. With each step, the iron-clad tip made a peculiar clicking noise on the hardwood floors. His essence permeated the room and overwhelmed my senses. A reek of parchment and dried ink that dredged up forgotten memories of my time in Alexandria, the ancient library now nothing more than a bygone memory.
“Back up, old man,” I said as I put my hand out.
The room shimmered and I felt the twist of manipulated time pulling at my body. I was on my back and the old man was standing over me. I turned my head slightly as I heard the unmistakable popping sound of a deity teleporting into the bedroom. Only for a moment, as Chronos spoke again and took my attention.
“I tried to do it the easy way, but you wouldn’t. So be it.”
I struggled to stand, but the old man was too fast. He spun the staff around and pressed the head of it to my chest. The pain was crippling and I felt like my body was on fire. As I looked down, I saw that the top of the staff was carved to resemble an hourglass.
“Get off me,” I gasped out. It took all my strength. There was no way I could move.
“Goodbye, Dinlas,” he hissed as he leaned over me. “Enjoy your new life.” With that the staff flashed a blinding light and I blacked out.
My mind spirals backward through time. Everything that happened to me flashes before my eyes, except in reverse. My mind roaring backward in time, thousands of years reeled off in a matter of seconds. I was taken all the way back to the moment of my birth.
I open my eyes. I am a newborn. I try to focus, but it is difficult. Someone is holding me in their arms. Delicate hands and arms; she smells wonderful. I struggle to see her face. Who is she? I’m wrapped in a blanket, but more than that, I am safe in her loving and protective arms. I snuggle down and drift asleep.
I wake. She is holding me in her arms again. She croons softly to me and it is soothing. Again I struggle to see her face. This time she leans over me to fuss with my blanket.
She is beautiful. Long strawberry hair, pulled back, serves only to frame and offset a face that is mesmerizing. I stare at her in wonder. She is my world, my protector, my fearless guardian.
“Mi-Mi-Mitera,” I try to say. She smiles broadly and brushes the back of her fingers along my face. Once again, she makes the soft cooing noise. I close my eyes and feel her warmth and love wash over me.
Then I hear another baby. It is crying and angry. A startling juxtaposition to her love and grace. The look of deepest devotion on Mitera’s face is replaced by one of exasperation. She sets me down in my crib and I hear a man speak.
“He just won’t settle down. His anger knows no bounds. I know not what to do with him.”
I hear Mitera sigh. Long, loud, and frustrated, she makes it clear she has no patience for that hateful and insolent child. It continues its shrill squeals and I can see why she is angered.
Mitera’s face appears above me again. She scoops me up in her arms and this time, I see the other child. His face is twisted and angry. His eyes are dark, almost completely black with blue centers. Disturbing to look at. The man holding him looks drawn and exasperated.
“Aph,” he says.
She continues to look down and coo at me.
The man says her name again, exasperated.
“Aphrodite? What are we going to do with him?”
Mitera pulls her gaze away from me to look at the man. I can only imagine how sweet her voice must sound before she opens her mouth to speak.
“Ares,” she says, and I’m startled by the steel in her voice. “I don’t care what you do with him. Take him to Hades as we discussed, and leave him there. I have twin sons. One represents all the love in the world and the other is his diametric opposite. I’m sorry. His anger and hate are simply too overwhelming for me.”
The man responds, “Are you sure, Aph?”
“Get rid of him. I don’t ever want to see Eros again.”
I look back at Mitera; I’m startled by her indifference.
“Now,” she giggles as she turns away from them and looks back at me. “Who’s my love? Who’s my Dinny? It’s you, isn’t it? It’s my little Dinlas.”