I scream as I sit bolt upright on a bed, in a room that almost looks familiar. It takes me a moment while my heart races in a panic and my breath hitches in my chest, coming out in small gasping bursts. I throw back the white covers and leap from the bed. The room is awash in sunlight from the windows.
“White covers…Nem! I am in Nem’s cottage! The one in California! California…holy shit! Hypnos!”
Another wave of panic as I realize I am only in my undershirt and slacks.
“Where are my clothes?”
I almost scream again as something furry strokes between my ankles. I look down to see Ky’Elli nuzzling against me. She rumbles a greeting and, looking up, regards me with her blue eyes. I don’t hear her like Nem; I am not that connected to her. Ky’Elli mews at me again and I reach down to stroke her head.
“Where is your Mistress? Take me to her,” I say to her.
She purrs and goes to the door, giving me a sideways glance over her shoulder and another low vibration of sound, beckoning for me to follow. I do and find Nem on a laptop, with a cup of coffee in her hand. I looked past her to the screen, seeing four familiar faces. She is skyping with our mother Nyx, Ares, Mr. Hades, and Dinlas.
“How long, Nem?” I ask from behind her, as Ky’Elli rushes to be by her.
Nem turns slowly, putting the coffee mug down. She gives me a small pained smile.
“Three days,” she tells me.
“Three days!” I roar.
“We could not wake you, Thano,” Nem says.
“The souls! They weren’t reaped, they are wandering loose! Hyp is still at large!” I yell.
I don’t like yelling and Nem knows it, but this whole situation has rubbed me raw.
“And so are most of the Titans,” Nem counters.
I grow silent. She has a patient “I am teaching you, little brother” look on her face, one I know all too well from growing up. I lick my dry lips and look at the ground. She comes to me and takes my hand, squeezing it gently so that I look up into her dark blue eyes. She peers back into my obsidian ones.
“Thano, let us call the unreaped souls, loose ends to pick up later, but you need to come now,” she said, leading me to the computer. “It is time to tell your tale.”
I sit and stare into the faces of the four gods on the screen, clearing my throat. I tell them everything that had transpired between Hypnos and me, all those long decades ago.
Long story short: Mother is upset but understanding, I did what I had to. Mr. Hades will have a special coffin made for Hypnos, and will see if Hephaestus can rig up a machine to drain this mystical water that flows through my brother’s veins. Ares and Dinlas want us to call them once we apprehend or corner him, for reinforcement purposes. I get up and turn to see Nem in her hunting cloak and Ky’Elli at her feet. A cold smile spreads across her lips; it is the smile of a hunter that has her prey in sight. It is a glorious thing to see on her face. I nod and head back to my room to throw on my vestments.
On my way back, I step on a piece of fabric and I pick it up. It is a yellow swatch of cloth from a sweater. A little girl’s sweater, blonde hair, and blue eyes. I see her now, somersaulting in the air, tumbling head over heels. Her face placid, eyes calm, not a sound escapes her lips as she plummets to the Earth below.
“How old is she? She is twelve…”
I feel the fear that she was not allowed to show. I hear her screaming for her mother all the way down. The double impact when the body hits the ground, bounces, and hits it again. The coldness and the pleading as the life leaves the body. The fabric begins to age and deteriorates in my grip.
I snarl as I toss the aged fabric aside and I reach out for Hyp, putting all my will behind it. Hypnos touches me back. A ghostly image of him appears before me.
“You arrogant murdering bastard,” I snarl.
“Now, now, now, little brother, keep your temper because we all know what happens when you lose it. Of course, that might be the point; to see that rip current of death run free. That’s what I want for you, Thanner, to be as free as me and I want it for Nem-nem, too,” Hypnos says, smiling.
“I want nothing from you!” Nem growls over my shoulder.
I turn to look at her. Her wings are unfurled and her eyes are solid black with violet storms dancing inside of them. I can feel her power seeping out of every pore of her being. I know Hyp feels it too, and I can feel him flashing that toothy game-show-host smiles of his. I turn to see the smile on my twin’s face.
“Awww, Nem-nem, are you and Thanner going to come to hunt me again? I am up for this game, and I have faith you guys will catch on to the grand scheme of things. I know your small brains can wrap around the larger picture. Maybe, you will even decide to join me, but for now, the game is afoot, so come and find me. I am at the pulse of the world and I will be waiting here for you. Oh, and Nem-nem, Thanner, mind the speed bumps in the road…they have families, after all,” Hypnos says and fades from our sight.
An image flashes across my mind, sent there by Hyp, of a warehouse off of the wharf; his location and likely a trap. I dress quickly and return. This time, it is my turn to port. Nem picks up Ky’Elli and steps in close to me. I think of the image of the warehouse that Hyp had sent me, and the blade of my back-up scythe lights with the colors of the Borealis. I slice the air in front of us, creating a rift, and stepping through. We, however, do not end up on the wharf, but on Market Street.
“Where in Tartarus is the wharf?” Nem asks.
“I don’t know, the scythe should have taken us there,” I say.
Nem sniffs the air and her face grows sour.
“Magick…he is using magick to deflect us, Thano. I told you two when you were little, that hanging out with Hekate was going to cause problems, and now look! He is using a trick you two learned from her to deflect us! Thano! Are you even listening?” Nem growls.
Nem’s words seem miles away. My attention has been captured by a radio news broadcast and a street vendor, who is smiling and dancing to no music. I feel Nem’s hand on my left shoulder, her focus now on the strange dancing man.
“Thano, there is something wrong here,” she begins and I turn my head to look at her. “Where are all the people?”
A cold lump of air develops in the pit of my stomach. She is right, of course she is. I look around to see there are no people out, no cars or trollies or planes, just the three of us somewhere on Market Street. I march over to the vendor as Nem and Ky’Elli go on guard, poised to attack anything that might come their way. He looks at me and chuckles nervously.
“What can I do you for…Mr. Death?” the vendor asks, still smiling.
“The radio,” I start.
“Yeah?” the vendor interrupts.
“Turn it up, please,” I instruct.
With that nervous chuckle, he does what I ask and I listen to the broadcast.
“Reports are coming in from across the globe,” the female reporter starts, “of several acts of terrorism from New York, to Chicago, to Rome, and Athens. Individuals are receiving strange emails and videos and then become compelled to commit horrible deeds in the name of an unknown master. Suicide bombings in major business and government installations around the world. Countless lives lost and thousands injured. This could not have come at a worse time as the Gods and Goddess battle the Titans, which in turn, have been causing their own brand of havoc on the world. On the mas…master…”
“Pamela?” a man’s voice asks.
Followed by a commotion, gunshots, and screaming. The vendor with his strange smile laughs nervously as he looks at me. I take a step back from his stand, my danger sense tingling.
“Do you love the master?” I ask him.
“I was depressed and he told me to smile. And now I can’t stop smiling,” the vendor says, laughing as he does so.
The vendor is fast, but Nem is faster. He leaps over the counter of his stand, knife in hand, screaming at the top of his lungs, and heading towards me. Nem steps between us, draws back her arm, and hits the vendor in the middle of his chest with her open palm. He goes sailing back and crashes through the stand. He lays there in the wreckage of the stand as Nem lowers her arm and looks at me.
“Is he?” Nem asks.
“He is alive,” I tell her.
I look to the horizon and I see them coming, the citizens of this city, under Hypnos’ control. They carry pitchforks and torches, like villagers in some old monster movies. They come from every direction and street until they have us surrounded. Nem and I stand shoulder to shoulder with Ky’Elli at our feet, growling deep in the back of her throat. A sleepwalker, a young sandy-haired blonde man in a suit approaches from the crowd, his eyes vacant and face slack. Hyp’s spokesperson I presume. As he approaches, I notice several people breaking away from the mob and entering businesses and buildings along Market Street.
“The Master likes the classics, Thanner and Nem-nem,” the sleepwalker says.
That seals it in my mind, I knew it, Frankenstein, 1931. It was Hyp’s favorite movie. He and I saw it on opening night. I sense Nem knows it, too.
“You have to be kidding me. Frankenstein!” Nem says under her breath.
“Afraid so, and it looks like we are the creature and bride in this scenario,” I respond.
“Thano?” Nem says.
“Hmm?” I say.
“Why did some of those people go into the buildings?” Nem asks.
The buildings on Market Street begin to explode.