Loss is important to you. It’s one of the few parts of humanity that you rarely talk about and you rarely sing about, and I think it’s because you hold it in such reverence. You see each other age, struggle, and ultimately die. There is no way to escape death. You are not Gods. Gods see the life of men in a way that you might see the life of grass. There’s no tales to be told about their journey, because their lives are over so fast. They do not care about you because they’ve witnessed tens of billions of you disappear. I haven’t had that luxury. I’ve been chained to a rock for all of your civilization.
When I came into Greece, there was a lot of talk about death. There was a string of murders that the press wanted solved, the latest of which was described as “a grotesque display of love.” It was my understanding that the press wasn’t allowed to talk about this kind of thing, but someone online leaked a photo of a disemboweled man accepting the gift of a woman’s heart. It wasn’t that hard to find. I even gave the phone back to the lady I swiped it from. She called me kind.
Greece seemed like the worst place to be, but Atë wanted me to meet her there. She said she had a place for me to stay that Zeus couldn’t find me. I was told to be at a cafe at a specific time. I went there and waited. I was wearing khaki shorts and a lime green shirt I swiped from a traveler’s bag at the airport; it smelled like rotten olives. Two men were arguing about the market staying stable in the next quarter. My trash bin latte tasted more like lip gloss than caramel. There was a beam of light reflected off the front windshield of a car.
It’s funny what things you remember when someone dies.
Everything was quiet, and then there was a smash. The crowd looked to each other to find where the noise came from, and within two seconds, everyone was staring at Atë’s dead body lying on the roof of a car. I met her for all of two minutes before I went off with Aphrodite to the club. She was the one who freed me, and she called me here to witness her end.
I had to act fast to get to Atë. I pushed forward, but the crowd gathered around with their phones out, photographing a real suicide from right out of a movie. I started shouting, “I know her,” and the crowd let me through. It was undeniably her. Her long wavy red hair, cascaded and mangled into her gray matter and blood. Her body was naked, so that she could meet Hades in her best. When I got closer, I could see a chunk of her hair missing. There was something in her hand, a crumpled up piece of paper with an address written in ancient Babylonian.
People were pointing upwards. I looked to the ledge of the roof, but there was nothing up there. What everyone was pointing at was a slowly falling lock of long red hair. She was thrown down to the ground, flung by her hair. I’d learned that the killer confessed to the crime. That he’d met this beautiful woman that wanted to be used and thrown off a tower by her hair. He said that it was an act of love, that She made him do it. The mortal police didn’t believe it. I felt sorry for that man, but I felt sorry for most that knew Atë.
I told the police that I didn’t know what the message was, or why she would get mixed up with a man like that. I explained that Atë was a close friend of mine, but I hadn’t seen her in years. The truth was harder to believe, but I was shaking bad enough to make any story believable. I wasn’t important to them, and neither was she. They’d fingerprint her corpse and learned that she was responsible for the death of some fifteen people. As for me, well, I found a place to live.
The address pointed me to a flat she was living out of in the Olympus area. It had some pocket cash, a new passport with my photo, and a key to my apartment in…an undisclosed location. I’ve learned enough about computers to hide my location electronically, and I trusted that Atë found a way to hide this place magically as well. Still, I didn’t have any answersm and she brought me to Olympus for a reason. Before I went to the flat, I went back to Olympus. There was someone I needed to talk to.
He made me wait in the lobby. He knew I was coming, I’m sure of it, but His assistant told me to wait. She didn’t have a nametag. She didn’t have a smile. I’m pretty sure that behind her cold-as-a-corpse sunglasses, she didn’t have eyes. The woman told me to sit and immediately went back to work. For all I knew, it was the Stygian Herself. I never met Hades’ support staff. I did as I was bid, and I waited.
I waited for nearly ten minutes. In that time, I wondered if it was a trap, but that wasn’t Hades’ style. If He was going to capture me, He’d have done it at the front door. He would make sure that my capture was quick and efficient. But of all the people in Tartarus, I was one of the few that Hades didn’t put there. I was his guest, and nothing more. Now I was…a visitor? It’s hard to say.
“Lord Hades will see you now.” The thing that looked like a woman told me.
I went inside. The woman never looked up from her monitor. She typed at 150 words per minute. I don’t think I saw her hit backspace a single time.
I showed myself in, making me wonder if I could’ve walked in at any time. There were two men inside. They were in opposite corners by the entrance, they both had expensive suits, matching sunglasses and pistols at their sides. Neither made any expressions when I came in. The room smelled like Tartarus. You want to know what Tartarus smells like? You’ll find out.
He didn’t look up from his work. He had a laptop on his desk, two tablets, a phone, and a computer screen that was built into his desk. Hades had adapted to the modern age well. He was writing on the screen on his desk, using one of those fancy black pens to write something. He kept glancing over to the laptop as he worked. “Yes?”
“I was told you were ready to see me.”
“And I am. You want me to stop and smile at you.” He tilted his head up. His cheeks plumped out. His lips curled upwards. It was, by every definition, a smile. He went back to his work. “Talk.”
There were no chairs for me to sit at. The message was clear; I wasn’t meant to stay there. No one was. This was Hades’ office and he was working with or without the rest of the Pantheon. I took a step forward, and immediately, I had two pistols aimed at me. I don’t know if I can die. I put my hands up and took a step back. All things considered, I wouldn’t have let the best thief in the Pantheon get too close, either.
I sighed. “Atë is dead. I want to talk to her.”
“Atë is immortal. Was that all?” Hades went back to writing.
“I saw her body,” I explained. “You have to know where she is and how I can find her.”
“I know what happens to the dead, something that requires a great deal of my time. Atë is a Goddess. She can’t die unless one of us strikes her down, or some Demi-God out there does her in. Atë disposed of one of her bodies. She’s been doing that for millennia, and I don’t have time for games, so if you don’t have anything important to say, get out.”
It was frustrating, but the God had a point. Why was I here? I didn’t know that Atë had a mortal body. There was a lot I didn’t know. There’s a lot I still don’t know.
“She was trying to impress you. She wanted…a relationship or something. She wanted to connect with you.” I told Him this, knowing that he probably didn’t care. I don’t know why, I just felt like I had to, that someone had to say something.
“As you can see, I don’t have time for ‘or something.’ This conversation is starting to annoy me.” He put his screen quill onto the table with great care. He put his hands together and placed them neatly on His desk. He looked at me expectantly.
I backed up to the front door. “You may have everyone fooled. You may even have yourself fooled, but I know that you don’t want to be alone. You know more souls than anyone in existence, and you know them by name. It’s summer now, but when fall returns, you will be with Persephone. We both know that you love her, even if she can’t love you back. Doesn’t she deserve true happiness? Don’t you?”
He made a motion with His hand and the two men in suits approached me.
I left the room.
The secretary didn’t say anything. She continued her work as if I’d never arrived. As I left Hades’ office, I couldn’t stop shaking. He’d held absolute control over me for the duration of my imprisonment. I was the first guest. We’ve always had a strange relationship, Hades and I. He doesn’t hate me, not like Zeus, but he’s never tried to get to know me. Sometimes He’d show up with Hephaestus to check on my chains, but that’s about it. He never talked to me. Not like Persephone. I missed Persephone. I wanted to find her, so I went to the main chambers.
She wasn’t there. Nike was there. She told me Persephone was missing and that Zeus was upset at Her. Zeus was upset at a lot of the Pantheon, so He’d gone on vacation. That explained the timing of Atë’s death, but not the motivation. There was so little I understood about the Pantheon, and Nike was there, smiling at me.
“Do you want to go on a jet ride?”
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