As I do, my hand brushes against something. It tickles my skin and stops me in my tracks. I stare down, taking in the sight of a single, out-of-place weed. It is a hideous, useless wildflower, and it reminds me so much of myself.

I am in the gutter. A broken god. The trickster who cannot fool anyone. Not even the simplest of mortals!

I swig from the bottle of cheap, vile-tasting vodka, ease back against the hard wall of the alley, and once more lament how horribly wrong my life has gone. I have lost the love of my immortal life. No, that’s wrong. I killed her! I let the voices in my head overwhelm me and ruin my life. Poor, wonderful Lily was cut down in her prime. Her life was snatched from her because of me. By me! In one of the worst possible ways I can imagine. She must have been so confused, so scared. Gods, I don’t even know if I made her suffer. Did she know she was losing her life? Did she welcome it when the end came? I honestly have no clue. What has become of me?

Rage tries to push through my sorrow, but it can’t. Despair sits across my insides like a black cloth. My beautiful Lily is gone, and it’s all my fault. All my terrible, stupid fault. I lost control and was duped by myself. The voices turned me into a right sucker the way I do with the mortals. Well, did. Ever since Lily died, and I went a bit off the rails, I can’t do what I’ve always been able to. I can’t trick, and I have tried so hard.

I spent all of yesterday in a coffee shop, trying to summon up a plan to hoodwink someone, anyone. I drew a blank, and simply nothing came to me. Before I knew it, I was on my third cup of tea, wondering how I could get the friendly waitress to comp me my drinks. I scrabbled around, uncertain how to charm the simple blonde into what should have been something that was so easy. 

It wasn’t that I needed her to give the cup of tepid water and infused leaves to me for free. I had redistributed some of my wealth around, topped up my accounts, and I could afford it. I could have bought the whole café if I wanted to. But that wasn’t the point of the exercise. I needed to get back on the horse, con someone into doing something for me. Every time I opened my mouth, though, I had no clue what to say. I stuttered, lost as to what lie or question I could throw out to convince my server I was worthy of not paying. All I managed was small talk. About the fucking weather. How far have I fallen?

I gave up and decided I’d try to scam someone into wanting my phone number. I quickly abandoned that idea, though. It seemed like I might go into seduction to achieve that, and that felt a little raw.

So, instead, I tried to think of a reason someone might want my number. I attempted to concoct some flimflam I could use to pass over made-up digits. Then when my mark tried to call, well, they couldn’t. They’d have believed whatever tripe I spun them, hook, line, and sinker. But knowing where I wanted to go and getting there were two very different things. I still didn’t know where to start, what to say. Every so often, I would look up, catch someone’s attention, and start a conversation. But still, I couldn’t steer my way into a scheme. I was lost in a hellscape of hesitation.

Eventually, I paid my bill, in full, with a tip, and moved on. The sun was low in the sky, so I headed to a bar. I assumed that being surrounded by a crowd of intoxicated mortals would spur me into action. Surely there must be some rube I could fool, even if it was just to convince them to slip me a few coins for the wrong reasons. By that stage, I was starting to get desperate. Yet, still, nothing came. I could not dredge up a con, swindle, or even a hoodwink. I couldn’t drum up so much as a free shot or hustle a game of pool. Then I tried a nightclub, and even there I drew a blank. They were off their faces, riled up by hormones, and still, I couldn’t work out how to deceive them. I left empty-handed, despondent, and broken.

I slug back another mouthful of cheap booze, shuddering as the liquid burns my throat. I wheeze, cough, then splutter. When I finally recover, I try to re-roll the problem of my failures around my aching skull. I’m at a loss. If the voices were still in my head, they’d tell me what I was doing wrong, and then some. But, of course, I’ve lost them as well. Okay, when I destroyed the Rod of Asclepius, and they disappeared in the process, I thought it was a blessing. But now, I’m more alone than I’ve ever been.

I take another gulp of the foul liquid and shudder. Then I start. My mind ticks over. Could that be what’s wrong? I wonder as I lower the near-empty bottle from my lips. Did the rod not only cure me of the vocal doubts I have suffered for so long but also rob me of my power? My ability to do what I did better than any mortal or god. But that can’t be right. The rod cured the sick. Scamming people wasn’t an illness. It was who I am. Who I have been all my life. It’s what I do. Did. Past tense, now. The voices were right. I am pathetic. I wasted my ability, and now I am paying for it. I feel like I have no future and nothing to live for. 

As if sensing her cue, Lily’s pale face appears before my eyes. The flecks of red, where her blood-splattered her features, were so bright. I’m not sure if the surprise in those beautiful eyes was there when I discovered her head in my apartment or if my subconscious has added the expression. Or is it a look of disdain? Loathing? The question of why she got involved with me is definitely perched on her unmoving lips. I try to shake off the vision, but her face looms closer. Every line deepens, filling with anguish. I can feel the pure hatred her dead features have for me, and I now know that whatever happened the fateful day I murdered her, Lily would never have forgiven me. As I won’t forgive myself. I will live with Lily’s blood on my hands and the guilt forever. It will always be a part of who I am.

Not that I fully understand what I am now. An immortal with no power. A trickster without the ability to even sneak sweets from a baby. I don’t know what to do about it or how to fix myself. All my contacts, money, and hideouts won’t help. I sigh heavily. There’s no place I can go. No one I can turn to.

I doubt my family or their many friends would want me anywhere near them. Not after what happened last time I was there. The way I behaved, what was said, mainly by me, partly by them. Things got a bit heated and then some. I didn’t handle the situation very well. But hey, it was just another failure in a long string of screw-ups by me, wasn’t it? None of them would welcome me with open arms.

I suck at the vodka before my hand falls away. My grip weakens, and the bottle falls, a soft tinkle following it. For a moment, I sit and just watch as it settles on the ground. Then I give in and reach out to retrieve it. As I do, my hand brushes against something. It tickles my skin and stops me in my tracks. I stare down, taking in the sight of a single, out-of-place weed. It is a hideous, useless wildflower, and it reminds me so much of myself.

Yet, there’s something in that piece of plant life that makes me think. It reminds me of someone who helped me once before when I was low. It was before I came to Earth, back when I was confused and hurting.

She’s done it once, and I wonder if she’d be willing to do it again?

Dolus (Andrew Harrowell)
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