Read Part III, Oh My Hera
I stepped onto my rug and looked the woman over, taking her in from the top of her dark brown head to the tips of her sexy black boots.
“Goddess of Ruin, huh?” I raised an eyebrow in mock disbelief. I didn’t care who she was, she had killer fashion sense, the confidence that came with survival, and some really kick-ass powers. She just crossed her arms and waited, her eyes boring into me as if my decision mattered.
“I suppose you can hang out with me. But you have to walk, I’m not sharing my rug.”
“I wouldn’t dream of asking.” She smirked and started walking beside my rug. “Did you have something in mind?”
I shrugged, feigning indifference. “Nope. I suppose one could get into trouble regardless of the location. What do you like to do?”
Glancing over at me, she said, “Taking down buildings is pretty satisfying.”
I looked around at all the buildings, smiling as I imagined bringing them down. How arrogant mortals were trying to build things that reach for the clouds. As if they could ever be a God. They needed someone to teach them a lesson, and I was the perfect Goddess to do it.
“How about that one?” I pointed to an exceptionally large eyesore that screamed of someone who was desperately overcompensating.
“It’s as good as any other.” She bowed slightly at the waist, her eyes never leaving mine. “After you, my lady.”
I preened at her deference and floated towards the building. Craning my neck back, I took in the building’s size. Would it be better to crash through several levels or should I just take it down with an implosion at its base? Decisions, decisions.
“I’ll take the top and meet you in the middle.” I grinned, my green eyes shining with unrestrained glee at the destruction we were about to cause.
Atë watched me carefully as if she doubted my ability, which just made me more determined. I guided my rug up the length of the building, laughing as the wind whipped locks of my hair out of the bun it was in.
Higher and higher I went, and I reveled in the elements that surrounded me. I pulled my hair free and tilted my face up to greet the sun. The wind buffeted around my body, pushing against it, trying to fling me from the rug. I threw my arms out in defiance and laughed at its feeble attempts to unseat me. By the time I reached the top of the building, my hair was a tangled mess, my cheeks were red from the cold, and my eyes were bright with mischief.
I maneuvered my rug around the top floor to get a look at the mortals going on about their day, blissfully unaware that their short lives were about to end. I don’t think my smile could have gotten bigger. Looking down, I saw Atë standing off to the side of the building entrance, waiting for me to begin. I closed my eyes and reached inward to my well of power. I felt the air crackle and the clouds moved to block the sun.
Time seemed to stand still as I called to the elements. I felt them rush into me, gathering at my center, waiting to be directed. When I opened my eyes, flames burned behind them. I grabbed ahold of one edge of my rug and flung my other hand towards the top floor, cackling as power rushed out of my fingers and violently pushed its way through the windows, walls, equipment, and people, and exploding out of the windows on the other side. Fragments of plaster, steel, wood, and body parts were spat out into the sky, tumbling end over end until they were forcefully stopped by the concrete below.
I saw Atë look up at me, and though I couldn’t see her face, I could feel her joy as bystanders were running amok, terrified but with nowhere to hide. I leaned forward and directed the rug downward ten floors, tossing my unoccupied hand at the building and repeating the process from before.
She was as good as her word and pushed her own power up the corners of the building, taking out support pillars, causing the building to collapse inward. When our powers met in the middle, there was an explosion that knocked my rug off-course. It was a chemical reaction, and it was marvelous.
I struggled to keep the rug underneath me and swooped down to the sidewalk, meeting Atë’s smiling face with my own.
“That was FUN!” My heart pounded in my chest as the adrenaline swept through me.
She laughed. “Yes. Yes, it was. You surprise me, my lady.”
“Then you underestimate me.”
“Perhaps. But it is a mistake that I won’t repeat.”
Our eyes met and held for a long moment. It was a silent struggle for dominance, and one I refused to lose. Abruptly, she looked away, and I preened.
“Atë, what mischief shall we do next? Destroy another building?”
She looked at the chaos around her. “No, I think we should move our party somewhere else.” Her eyes twinkled with an idea. “Have you ever played football?”
“No. What is that?”
“It’s similar to chess, my lady. I think you’d like it. There’s a lot of potential for violence.”
“Well then, lead on.”
Atë dissolved into a black mist and shot forward, racing off. I giggled and chased after her. I hadn’t had this much fun in…well, ever.
She reformed outside of a stadium of what looked like a school. Darkness had started to fall, and there were bright lights shining onto a field of human males running and tackling each other. The benches on either side of the field were full of mortals grouped by color. They were cheering.
“Are you ready to have fun?”
“I’m not into spectator sports, Atë.”
She winked and started to walk towards the field. “Neither am I.”
Intrigued, I followed. We stopped at the edge of the field between a set of bleachers, and Atë gave me a moment to take in the organized chaos of the game. I watched the mortals in the stands yelling and cheering and gorging on food and drink. I saw the waste at their feet from their discards. I saw the mortals that didn’t want to be there and those that had to be there. I saw painted faces and painted bodies.
Turning to the field, I saw the mortals running around with what seemed to be a certain purpose, though it took me a moment to figure out the pattern. I giggled as I watched one mortal, running with a ball, get crushed between two others from the side. The mortal with the ball was hit at the knees by one and at the shoulders by the other. The crunch of their impact was musical.
I clapped my hands together. “Oh, I want to play!”
Atë crossed her arms and looked pleased with herself. “Of course you do.”
I shot up on my rug and directed it to the center of the stadium, my appearance causing a bit of chaos on its own as the players stopped to watch me. There was a hush that went over the crowd, and I smiled knowing that they were looking at me, entranced by me, unable to see anything else but me. I reveled in it.
Standing on my rug in the middle of the stadium, I raised my arms to the skies and addressed the mortals.
“Your lives are meaningless and dull. Lucky for you, I am a Goddess! Let’s see how you can entertain me!” I laughed and pulled the clouds from the sky, bringing them down to the stadium and causing a thick fog around the bleachers. People screamed and ran, but without being able to see where they were going, they kept pushing each other over and stampeding like a herd of wild horses.
I kept the field clear of the fog. Atë walked through it, smiling at the confused mortals in their funny outfits. Electricity sparked loudly, and I flung my fingers towards a group of mortals that wasn’t moving fast enough. A body fell to the ground, and the rest ran screaming. There was a seared crack in the ground where the body had stood, and it gave me an idea.
“Atë, could you help me out here?” I motioned to the ground, and she understood right away. Atë closed her eyes and fists and took a deep breath. At the peak of her inhale, she slammed her heel on the ground and exhaled, causing the earth to split apart in a jagged circle all the way around the stadium. She looked at me and we laughed together.
I floated down to the field in front of the players and she joined me, clicking her tongue behind her teeth in disgust as they huddled together in fear.
“I’m afraid they won’t be any good to us like this, my lady. They are too scared to keep playing.” She looked at one player in the back. “They’re already soiling themselves.”
“So, let’s make them unscared.”
“How do you mean?”
“They don’t need to be in control of themselves to play for us.”
Atë’s smile got even bigger, and if possible, more evil. She turned around and hopped a bit on the balls of her feet. “You’re absolutely right!” She turned back to the players and tapped a finger to her lips. “Which group would you like to be?”
I lazily floated back and forth, pretending to take my time. “I’ll take the team that is in blue and gold.”
“Perfect! That means I get to be the black and red team.” She turned to the group of players and narrowed her eyes. “You heard the Queen. Blue and gold, over by her. Black and red, by me. It’s time for me to tell you a story.”
The players stood frozen in fear, and I was exhausted with people not doing what they were told so I wiggled my fingers at them.
“Come now, my boys. It’s time for you to play the only game that will ever matter.” I lifted them up and floated them through the air over to my side, dumping them unceremoniously into a heap on the ground. I looked over my shoulder at Atë, and she already had her group of players enthralled by her voice, so I turned back to mine and made quick work of putting them in my thrall.
“Are you ready, my lady?”
I turned back to Atë and saw she already had her team lined up on the field. “Just tell me the rules.”
“It’s simple. Do you see the ends of the field? Your team has to get that ball and run it into the end section opposite them. That is called a ‘touchdown.’ The Goddess with the most touchdowns at the end will win.”
“And what will I win?”
Atë snorted. “So confident. I love it.” She waved her hand as if winning were inconsequential. “Very well. If you win, I’ll do whatever you want for a year and a day.”
“Not that it will happen but, what if you win?”
“You simply have to follow me wherever I go tonight.”
I frowned. Surely there was a catch, but try as I might I couldn’t see the harm in following her tonight. We’d already had so much fun together. “I agree.”
“Swear it on the River Styx.”
“I so swear.”
“Wonderful! Set your team up.”
I turned to my team and moved them so that they mirrored Atë’s, and then floated to the side, joining her. She smiled at me and then let off a shrill whistle. The game was on.
I would like to say that I was a natural at playing, but that would be a lie. My team was horrible right from the beginning. At one point I noticed a large board with numbers on it and figured out that it was a scoring tablet of some sort. Apparently my team had been losing…badly. So I did what any self-respecting Goddess would do in this situation. I cheated.
I managed to tie up the score and we were running the last play. Atë’s team had the ball and were very close to my goal line. We had both infused our teams with a bit of our power so they played longer and harder and bloodier. Her quarterback threw the ball and I could see it happen as clear as day. I was going to lose. This was unacceptable. I growled and flicked a finger at the ball, causing it to go off its trajectory and flip backward towards my team. I used my other hand to raise a runner off the ground and propel him towards the ball and the goal line.
I should have been prepared with what happened next, but I was so wrapped up in winning I was blind to anything else. Atë stomped her foot and caused a large crack in the ground that zig-zagged across the width of the field and in front of the goal. This wouldn’t be a problem as my runner wasn’t actually on the ground. But then she pushed all but one of her players towards my runner. It was quite comical looking back on it. All those mortals flying through the air, arms and legs flapping against the wind.
The cluster of bodies overwhelmed my runner. Atë did two flicks of her hand: one to push the bodies down and into the crack, and another to rip the ball out of my runner’s grip, over the mass of bodies, and into her runner’s hands. He stood there in shock at what was happening in front of him and unsure of what to do.
Atë whispered into the wind. “Run, little mortal. Run.”
He turned and ran the relatively short distance to the goal causing her to win. Not one to miss an opportunity for freedom, he kept running out of the stadium. I was livid and lashed out. I reached up and grabbed at the air, wrenching my closed fist down in front of me. A shock of light flashed from the clouds and went directly through the mortal from his head to his heels. He jerked to a stop and froze before falling face-first onto the ground. Atë laughed and turned to me.
I crossed my arms and growled. “You cheated.”
She snorted. “As did you, my lady, and yet you still didn’t win.”
I stared at her, willing my power to flash behind my eyes, waiting for her to back down. She glanced to the side and bared her neck but didn’t back down. I was mildly impressed. I’m not used to anyone standing up to me like this.
I huffed a long sigh. “Fine. You won. What are we doing next?”
She smiled a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes and yet caused a shiver to creep up my spine. “Oh, my Queen. I have some friends that have been dying to meet you.”
What a weird phrasing of words. I watched Atë turn to her black mist and dash off into our next adventure. I shrugged and followed behind on my rug. At least she wasn’t boring.