There we were, still at lunch, and I was having the mother of all anxiety attacks.
Why was I suddenly feeling this way about Nyx?
“You sure you’re alright? You look like you’ve seen a demon, Dinlas.” It was Nyx who spoke, and I thought I was going to die. I didn’t trust myself to speak, so I just gave her a half-assed smile and a quick nod. Eros shook his head and turned to Nyx.
“Amata, I think Dinlas is ill,” she said as he looked at her. She had a touch of concern in her voice.
Silver keys in my hand, black marble beneath my feet. The taste of woodfire turning to cool sheets, constellations in her eyes as she kissed me.
“Dinlas!” Eros snapped his fingers in front of me, and I got up suddenly. “What the fuck is going on?”
I stared at Nyx, rubbing my chest yet again. Now the crushing pain was mine, no one else’s.
What is happening to me?
Eros said something, but I couldn’t hear it. There was a roaring in my ears that wouldn’t abate. There was no other way to describe it. I’m deeply in love with Nyx.
I felt sick, so I dropped back down in the booth. Eros turned and said something to Nyx, who then nodded.
I need Miteras, I thought.
Strange thoughts clouded my mind again. Like dreams and reality merged into an enchanting reverie.
Sweeping the lamp off the nightstand, looking down at her in bed, the feel of her skin against mine.
I could literally feel her fingers in my hair even though she was sitting across the table from me.
“Dinlas,” Nyx said. It brought me out of my spell. “Dinlas, are you okay? Do we need to call Athena or Demeter for you?”
“No, I’m fine,” I replied. I hoped I didn’t sound as shaky as I felt. My sense of being was off. Imagine that, me, the envy of mortals and gods alike.
Men want to be me, women want to be with me. Oh hell, that’s not right, men want to be with me, too.
But suddenly it didn’t feel right, it wasn’t me. It was that word, that damned word she said that really set me off…
That’s what she always called me.
Mortals talk of past lives. They speak of remembering things that happened in a previous existence. It’s a silly concept really, since Uncle Hades has all the souls corralled in the Underworld, but suddenly I felt the same.
This isn’t my life. This isn’t who I am.
I looked at Eros as he peered back at me. He was obviously concerned, but I didn’t care. I stared deep into his bright blue eyes with the black spider-web lines.
What the fuck happened? How did I get here, like this?
Nyx reached out and grabbed my hand laying useless on the table. It barely registered that she touched me. I just kept staring into Eros’ eyes and then it hit me.
I am he, he is me.
Needless to say, lunch didn’t last very long. I’d intended to pay, but was so out of sorts I just fled the restaurant, so Nyx covered us.
I just had the mother of all out of body experiences. Especially since I am currently in someone else’s body.
I teleported back to my apartment at once, leaving behind a very confused Eros and Nyx. Hopefully it wasn’t too bad, I mean, they know I can be a little flighty sometimes, maybe it was no big deal.
Who am I kidding? That was a total fucking disaster.
Why did I react that way?
I need only say the word and I could taste Nyx’s sweet velvet kisses on my mouth, like chocolate dipped in honey.
I’ve never kissed Nyx like that. Or have I?
I need answers. I aggressively ran my fingers through my hair several times to get the blood flowing back into my head.
Think, think, think, Dinlas. I need answers. Miteras? No. Zeus? No.
Hades. The one god who knows it all. If anyone was going to have an answer, he would.
I went and splashed some water on my face and ran a comb through my hair again in front of the mirror. I mean, I was going to the Underworld, but that didn’t mean I shouldn’t look good. Afterwards, I felt better. My mind was clearer and I wasn’t so shaky. If Nyx had this effect on me all of a sudden, then I needed to avoid her at all costs.
With a blink, I teleported to the Underworld. Well, not really into the Underworld. We could only teleport to the River Styx, from there we had to take the ferry just like everyone else.
The dock was empty, but Charon glided into view within a few minutes. The river always smelled of moss to me. It was weird, since I never saw moss growing in it. I watched as Charon pulled up to the dock. The only sound was the creak of the wood and the gentle lapping of waves around the hull.
“Charon,” I said, “I need to see Uncle Hades.”
Charon said nothing, but rather pointed with one hand into the palm of the other.
“Pay you? Seriously? I used to cover when you and Thanatos would sneak off to the Elysian Fields to smoke weed. Now you’re gonna make me pay?”
Charon said nothing, but kept pointing into one palm with his finger.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” I finally replied as I dug into my pants for a handful of change. I dropped it into his hand.
Charon looked at it, then up at me.
“It’s all I got, you fucking skinflint.”
Charon shrugged, pocketed the coins, then stepped aside to allow me to board.
We crossed Styx in no time. Charon dropped me off, then disappeared again into the mist to ferry others across.
Once across The Styx, there were no restrictions on teleporting so I bounced right to Uncle Hades’ outer office.
I looked around, expecting to see Uncle Hades or an assistant, but nothing except two imps. Sitting on the desk was Misery, and on the back of a leather chair was Horror.
“Hey,” said Misery. “Whaddya you doing here, Pretty Boy?”
“Yeah,” echoed Horror, “Whaddya doing here?”
I rolled my eyes, these two were pure toxicity.
“Is Uncle Hades in?”
“Not at the moment. Can we help you with something?”
“I doubt it,” I replied.
“Come on, give us a chance,” they said in unison.
I hesitated. These two were full-fledged idiots, but I needed answers.
I decided to take a chance.
“What do you know about the mortal phenomenon called out of body experiences?”
Misery shrugged and looked at Horror.
“Alright, how about deja vu? Ever heard of that one?”
Misery nodded. “Yeah but that doesn’t happen anymore.”
“What do you mean it doesn’t happen anymore?”
“Not since Chronos has been locked up and his staff taken from him.”
“Yeah, you know, Lord of Time. All that stuff mortals believe in like past lives, deja vu, heck, sometimes even visions. It was all Chronos messing with people’s timelines.”
“Well, he might move some stuff around, zap your time cycle out of whack, and something you did in the future may come back as a vision in your past.”
Horror nodded in agreement with Misery.
“The other thing he did was change your timeline. He’d set you on a different course, but you would start having memories of the other timeline. Make you think you were having out of body experiences.”
I just stood looking at them.
“Where is Chronos now?” I asked.
Misery replied, “Below the Pit. Same as all the other really bad guys and gals.”
“I need to see him,” I replied.”
“Yeah, sorry, Pretty Boy. Some other time, that’s above your pay grade.”
I snarled at Misery, “Take me to him now, or I’ll pull your arm off and beat Horror to death with it.”
Hera in a handbasket – that sounded just like something Eros would say.
The imps looked at each, shrugged, then reached out for a group teleport. With a pop, we arrived in The Pit.
There is nothing else in existence quite like The Pit. It is the lowest level of the lowest level of Hell. There is no escaping for prisoners of The Pit and the torment is eternal. I could hear pained wailing coming from all around me. It seemed to emanate from the very bedrock itself, as if the thousands of years of misery was now oozing and reflecting back from the very foundation of this place. A row of heavy iron doors ranged out in front of me.
“Which one is his? Which one is Chronos?” I asked. I couldn’t help but put my hand over my mouth and nose when I spoke. The whole place reeked of putrid sweat and sulfur. It paired beautifully with the tortured screams and muffled cries for help.
The imps pointed to a door just down from us.
“He’s in there,” Horror said, “but you didn’t hear it from us.”
“Yeah, later,” added Misery as they both teleported away.
I walked to the door and stood listening for a minute or two. I could hear ticking in the room. Not just from one source, but from many, many sources. I fiddled with the door for a moment, then slid open the observation window in the middle of the door. I wasn’t sure what I would see, but I wasn’t ready for what I saw.
The room was small. In it, chained from multiple locations, was a giant serpent. It was three-headed with a serpent, man, and bull’s heads all present. Chains covered and looped around the creature’s body to hold it in place. Its wings drooped behind it. They were dirty, tattered, and frayed from thousands of years of being pressed and rubbed against the rough stone walls of the cell.
The Lord of Time.
His torture? Covering every square inch of his cell were wall clocks hanging and running. Every clock showed a different time. Some were only a few minutes off, while others were hours off. The synchronized, meticulous Lord of Time spent eternity looking at the wrong time. All the clocks were in working order, so there was no chance of any of them ever showing the right time.
“Chronos,” I yelled over the incessant, out-of-rhythm ticking and tocking.
Chronos opened his eyes and peered intently at me. When he recognized my face he smiled a broad smile.
“Well, well,” his gravelly voice croaked. “It only took you three-thousand years to get here.”