Once there was a man who wanted to fly. No, that isn’t right. There were always men who wanted to fly. The first time humans looked to the birds, they longed to join them in flight. It’s in your nature to want everything. I know that some try to use that want to control you, but I love you for it. It’s given you the ambition to do what no other animal has ever done: fly higher than Olympus. Flight was one of the great unreachables, a metaphor for something that humanity wants, but can never have. Now you have planes.
Ever since Persephone told me about your mastery of the sky, I wanted to see it myself. Once freed, my priority was survival, but thanks to Atë, I don’t have to worry about the Gods finding me. Now I can breathe.
The last time I saw Nike, I promised her I’d go on a jet ride with her. When I called to make arrangements, Aphrodite and Moxie were in the lobby, so we brought them along. It sounded like Moxie didn’t want to go at first, but it’s hard to tell Nike “no”; she’s not used to the idea of losing.
The airfield looked plain from the outside. It was clean and walled off, nothing like the streets of London. There weren’t a lot of cars around, and public transit didn’t even go to that part of the city, so I had to walk for the better part of an hour to get there. I wiped the sweat off my brow, and wondered if Apollo was looking at me. Back in the day, he carried the Sun with His chariot, but now science shows has shown the sun moves around the sky because of the Earth’s rotation. Was he just putting on a show, or did the rules of the universe change?
“Excuse me, sir.”
It was a guard of some kind. He was wearing the armor of modern guards: a uniform. At his side, a walkie talkie served as his weapon. I didn’t belong there, he knew, but I was poking around the front, and this man needed to earn his paycheck. Looking at the man, I could tell it was a good job, that he was proud of what he did. He was a happy man who put on a tough face because he wanted things to go smooth.
“Hi, I’m sorry, I’m supposed to meet my friend here.” I showed him my phone. “There’s someone named Pierre, he’s a pilot or something. There’s a party, it might be under Aphrodite.”
His posture changed the second I dropped her name. He was all smiles and bows after that. “Oh, you’re with Aphrodite! Right this way. We were waiting for you at the gate.” He showed me an unmanned metal wall. There must’ve been some kind of technological device to show people in.
We went inside and I felt sweet air conditioner wrap over my clammy skin. I gave a long sigh and fanned myself.
“It’s hot as hell out there, isn’t it?”
I chuckled. “I wasn’t in that part of the underworld.”
He laughed, thinking it was a joke. It’s fine, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the afterlife was a complicated mess, handled by the most OCD of all the Gods. I was still mad at Him. Dwelling on his cavalier response to Atë, He acted like He didn’t care about Her or Persephone. Maybe He didn’t, but it hurt me for some reason.
The three Goddesses were out on the runway, or tarmac. They were sitting in one of those airport cars, sipping from stemmed glasses under umbrellas held by men whose job descriptions had nothing to do with keeping the sun off Aphrodite’s skin. They were all happy to do it. Blushed not from the heat, but the sight of Aphrodite’s lips and the rare gift of her pleased glance.
“PRO!” They called out. Well, Nike yelled my name and Aphrodite raised a drink in my honor. Moxie looked like I was saving her from torture. I assumed the Goddesses would get along pretty well if they all lived in Olympus, but that didn’t appear to be true.
Nike gave me a firm hug, easily lifting me off the ground. She was wearing very large sunglasses.
“Hey, Nike. What’s up with the get-up?”
“These are aviator’s glasses. They don’t have these in the pornos you watched?”
I was the one blushing then. “You read my blog post, huh?”
She laughed and lead me towards the group. “Of course! We all do. I thought you wouldn’t be posting anything since you were trying to tell everyone humanity is evil.”
I shook my head. “I made a promise to Hera.” And to you, but I didn’t tell the Goddess of Victory that.
“Pro, have a seat. You must try the Assyrtiko, it’s a choice reserve,” Aphrodite said, holding her own chilled glass up.
I did as she asked, trying to smell the glass like I’d seen. All I could smell was the jet fuel. It tasted like the first stream of spring melting off the pomegranate trees. I smiled in appreciation.
“These nice boys gave it to us from their personal stash.”
“We were saving it for something special,” one of the umbrella men beamed. “What’s more special than having you around?”
“Isn’t he a doll?” She put a hand on his chin and he was willing to go bankrupt to make her happy.
Moxie shot me a knowing look. She saw the way that Aphrodite used them as a second nature, that She was so used to humanity giving everything to be with Her, that She didn’t understand it was special treatment. How could she? In her mind, they were just being nice.
“I heard you were there when Atë left us,” Moxie said to cut through the high spirits.
Nike rubbed my back. “That must’ve sucked.”
“Um…it was shocking. She didn’t tell me what was going on, or why she did what she did. I still don’t understand how she could do that to her body.”
“What’s not to understand?” Aphrodite finished the glass. Without asking, without even looking in the direction of the men that refilled her glass, she finished off the wine reserved for a “special occasion.”
“You’re all immortal, like Zeus and the other Olympians. How can your body get hurt?” I asked the Goddesses.
“Atë is like me,” Moxie explained. “We don’t have a mortal form. We exist in the minds of humanity. I’ve lived inside a million humans, influencing them through the millennia. I love the experiences I share with my mortals. I love who they are and who we become. Atë, she…” Moxie looked away. “She doesn’t love them.”
There was a lull in the conversation that didn’t end until we reached the plane. I’d tried to research what I could about aviation before coming on this trip, but I hadn’t learned much. I couldn’t tell you what kind of plane it was then, and I can’t tell you now. It wasn’t a commercial airliner, or one of those models with a propeller, but the sleek narrow kind of jet owned by millionaires. The pilot, Pierre, told us all about the model and listed enough stats for Hephaestus to perk his ears up, but I can’t remember it.
We got inside the plane and poked about. It was my first time in a luxury plane, so I was like a ten-year-old boy in his first limo ride. I touched everything, pressed every button that I could, and I even licked the leather seats when no one was looking. Pierre said something like, “we’re going to be taking off in a few minutes, so strap in. Once we’re airborne, I’ll let everyone take turns flying.”
“Thank you, Pierre! This is the best!” Aphrodite squealed and pressed her chest into his side as she kissed his cheek.
The pilot blushed and left us to buckle up. I was having trouble with the lock, so Nike leaned in and helped me. I tried to be appreciative, but it made me feel like a child.
“You’re disgusting,” Moxie said aloud. She was looking right at Aphrodite.
She kept her head forward and replied, “You’re jealous.”
“The way you’re using Pierre, the way you’re using all of these men!” she growled. “You’re supposed to be the Goddess of Love, but you don’t love any of them! You’re just like your husband, except your tools are people.”
“That’s rich coming from you,” Aphrodite said with a spiteful chuckle. Something about how she talked made me nod along with her. “You steal the lives of mortals and use them to accomplish your goals, and you talk to me about manipulation!”
“I don’t steal them!”
“Okay,” Nike tried.
“I inspire them!” Moxie continued. “I help them become a better version of themselves before I move on to the next person.”
“Is that why you’re bringing that body along for this trip, to help her?” Aphrodite snapped.
“HEY!” Nike shouted. “We’re not here for this. This is supposed to be fun.”
Aphrodite and Moxie looked at Nike, and she made this pouty face.
“Fine by me.” Aphrodite crossed her arms. Something about her tone made it clear that Moxie was in the wrong.
Moxie shook her head, but before she could continue, Nike leered at her. I chuckled a little bit, because she looked funny trying to be threatening, but I think she was serious. I put a hand on Nike’s shoulder.
“It’s okay,” I told Nike.
“I haven’t seen you in…in so long!” She hugged my shoulders. “I don’t want to ruin it with all of the fighting. That’s all they do in Olympus. They fight all the time about everything.”
I patted her back. “I’m not here to fight. I’m here to be your friend.” I looked to Aphrodite and Moxie. “All of you. The humans found a way to fly, and now we’re going to fly, too. It’s going to be an experience I’ll never forget.”
“Yeah!” Nike agreed with enthusiasm.
“I’m not a manipulator,” Moxie said before she settled into her seat.
Aphrodite said nothing.
The engines revved up and Pierre called back to make sure we were buckled in. The man brought the plane onto the runway and we accelerated. The jet pushed me back in the chair, it shook my jaw, and rattled my bones. It was scary. I didn’t know if I could die. I started laughing. I just laughed and shouted as we got faster and faster. Nike joined in and even Aphrodite let out a “whoop!”
I was laughing until Pierre told us we could walk around. I got up and looked down below from the window. We were above the world, looking down on the great cities of your society. Individually, none of you can compete with the towers of Olympus, but together…together, you are a single God with a power unrivaled.
“Why are you really here?” Moxie asked me. She was beside me. Aphrodite and Nike had gone into the cockpit to check out the buttons and levers.
“I told you, to have fun.”
“Why are you on Earth? You made a promise to humanity, that you’d change things somehow,” Moxie reminded me.
“What’s your plan? What game are you trying to play?”
I smiled at Moxie. “Zeus has his plans, but we both know who’s in control.” I glanced over at the cockpit. “There’s a value in friendship, even among the Gods.”
“Pro, we’re going to fly!” Nike called out to us. “Come on!”
I put an emaciated hand on Moxie’s shoulder. “Let’s make some friends.”
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