What a difference a year makes. It’s 30th October, and exactly twelve months ago, I was fussing over a Halloween party. It was a huge event, designed to reward many of my contacts, but equally put plenty more people in my pocket. Now, I’m standing in a cold, wet field, mud seeping over my wellies. As a light drizzle dampens my hair, lightning flashes in the distance sending a shiver up my spine. Or maybe the twitch is a result of my excitement and anticipation.
This moment has been twelve months in the making. It was at my big bash that I first heard talk of the Rod of Asclepius. It was then that whispers slipped into my ear, telling me that the great artifact, crafted to cure any ailment, existed. And, as luck would have it, it was buried in my own backyard. It was an amazing coincidence. I had shunned the larger, more scenic areas of the world, mostly to avoid any of the other immortals. Then I discovered the exact item I needed to make my life complete was within spitting distance.
It hasn’t been easy. I had mortals working for weeks to decipher old texts, bringing together the various details. All to tell me that I needed to be in this exact spot to change my future and get exactly what I wanted. I never would have thought about pursuing Lily again if not for what I had learned. Before the stories proved real, I had thought our relationship was dead. I knew I couldn’t do what she wanted. I could never tell her how I really felt, and it killed me. She was the best thing to ever happen to me.
It sounds weird for someone so deceitful to want to be with the only person who ever wanted him to be honest, but I guess opposites attract. Not that she’ll ever know, but I’ve gone through plenty to try and show her what she means to me. That must be my final secret from Lily going forward. She must never know what I did, the lives I ruined, the people that died. It wouldn’t sit well with her. Well, not with most people, but especially Lily. She must never know about that or anything about me being a god.
“You won’t keep it from her!”
“She’ll discover the truth.”
“Just wait and see.”
“Your relationship is doomed!”
The multiple voices are almost deafening. They make it really hard to concentrate on the task at hand. It’s probably why I had those dreams when I brought my clay minions to life. The combined doubts and worries crashing together to disturb my sleep. They make me question everything I have done, and am doing. But no more. I have made my decision, and I am in control. To hell with them.
“What makes you think we are going to go away?”
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t. Even if you continue to plague me, I can live with it. I’m in control. Not you. I’ve learnt to rise above you.”
“Sure, it seems…
“…like you really…”
“…have a handle…”
“…on the situation.”
I’m being provoked, and it doesn’t feel good. That’s my job, not theirs, but it doesn’t matter. When I’m with Lily, nothing else will matter. I won’t care about the houses, cars, or tricks of my trade, and I might even turn my back on my old life. I snicker to myself.
“What do you think of that?”
The screams actually make me flinch.
“You are a waste of power!”
“A disgrace to all gods!”
“What are you doing with your life?”
I merely grin to myself, taking more pleasure than I care to admit in the fact that I’ve bothered them for a change. I’m not washed up at all. I’m in charge of me, and them. I slop my way across the soggy grass, shaking droplets from my forehead as I move. In the gloom, the enormous diggers look like they are ready to unearth the Underworld itself. Wouldn’t certain members of my family be pissed if I did that?
“They’d be angrier if they knew how you were squandering your gifts.”
“Why not make so much more of this opportunity?”
“Cash in on the power of the Rod.”
“Really make something of yourself.”
I’ve heard it already from the chorus, their ideas for world domination. Their offer of power, money, and fame. They want me to sell the Rod to the highest bidder, take over a country, or more. It just doesn’t interest me. It’s only Lily that I want, nothing else matters.
I snort, shaking my head in derision. They have no option other than to watch me dig up the Rod and cure myself of being tongue-tied before I destroy it. No one should wield the power that the artefact offers, and certainly not in the way they are proposing. Can you imagine if I sold it to the mortals? There would be riots, even wars, and none of that is what I’m about. If you want that sort of thing, go and see some of the other gods.
“Maybe we should.”
“They’d have a backbone.”
“Know how to wield real power.”
“They would embrace it. What will you do? End all your trickery?”
“Well, I have to put food on the table. That’s easy enough. There’s plenty of ways to trick money out of people. You know what the mortals say ‘a fool and his money are easily parted.’”
“And how many people have sung about being a fool in love?”
“Well, there was Tina Turner.”
“And look how that ended.”
That lands a little too close for my liking. I grind my teeth, resisting the urge to snap back. I must not go backwards. I have to maintain control and keep my composure. It’s the only way forward.
I move towards the foreman, Doug, who does not look happy to be here. However, that could well be for reasons other than the late hour and the miserable weather. The new top man at his company seemed rather odd when I spoke with him. His predecessor had obviously passed on a briefing about me. Where she had been annoyed, cross with owing me, he was very ready to accommodate my digging requirements. He practically bent over backwards.
I’ve no idea why Edith had stepped down a week ago. I know how relieved she’d been that I’d saved her job when I did. Yet, then she’d just walked away. Upped and left the nervous-sounding guy to it. I’d gone armed with dirt on him, yet I didn’t need it. He had just granted my requests, even affording me the extra team I hadn’t wanted. No negotiations, nothing.
“Can we get on with this?” Doug sourly grunts. He clearly isn’t a people person. I consider probing, but what’s the point? I’ve slipped him and his crew a little something extra to ensure their silence after the work is done. Not that they’ll know what they are digging up and that’s why I have my own muscle. My clay people, dressed in work clothes, hoods pulled up to keep their grey features hidden, lurk at the edge of the field. They aren’t needed just yet, and it’s easier to keep them away. They were created at my hand, so they look pretty authentic, but there’s no reason to seek extra scrutiny. “So, can we get the machines running before they seize up, boss?”
I nod at Doug, and he whistles at his team, his arms flapping. Engines roar to life, and quickly the mechanical monsters converge on the brown mess of earth situated smack bang in the centre of the land I own. You know, I suppose I could always make some money back after this by selling the space. I could buy Lily and me a nice house or maybe build one here. I would design it just for us with bookshelves stacked high, a proper office for her to work in, and plenty of desk space for all her mess. I grin slightly. I am so close to getting exactly what I want.
“Before this gets out of hand.”
“Why don’t you hear us out.”
“We are offering you one more chance.”
In that moment, I can’t resist, and ask, “To do what exactly?”
“…the right move.”
“The smart one.”
“Before you regret it.”
I move forward, keeping my attention focused on the first digger. I enjoy watching the easy movement of its limb as it scrunches into the soil, lifting up clods of grassless mud. Small chunks fall back but are scooped up by the next before the third machine carves out more of the ground. The hole grows and deepens.
“You seriously have to get over yourselves. Go and bother someone who wants to rule the world because I don’t.”
“If you don’t take this offer seriously, you will regret it!” The words tear across my mind, making me shudder.
“You could be so much.”
“Think what the mortals would offer us for this power.”
“We could have so much. Even Lily would grovel at your feet.” I throw my head back, the laugh more like a bark.
“That’s not what I want. Not now, not ever.”
“Then you leave…”
“…us no choice.”
I laugh heartily. There is no way my own mind can stand between me and my happiness. I’m about to get exactly what I want, and there’s nothing they can do about it!