The tentacles whipped me down the hallway hard. As I careened around a corner, my head made contact with the wall, and I blacked out to the sound of the little girl giggles. I hung, suspended in that darkness, as something warm and wet ran down my face. An all-too-familiar voice called my name from what seemed a long distance.
“Thannnner! Thannnner! Get up, Thanner,” the voice said.
It was Hypnos, my twin brother. What was he doing here? He couldn’t travel, not like me.
I opened my eyes, or rather, I tried to. They were sticky and tough to open. My left one watered badly. Black ichor had run down into my eye from a gash in my forehead when it smacked into the wall.
I sat up, head throbbing. I wiped my eyes and blinked several times in an attempt to clear them. Hypnos’ voice spoke to me again, cutting through the ache in my head.
“Thanner? You ok, little brother?” Hypnos asked.
“Hyp? Where are you?” I asked, looking around at what appeared to be a once lavish but now dilapidated dining room.
“To your right,” Hypnos answered.
I looked, but could only see a wall from where I was sitting on the floor. I chuckled and shook my head, he was having a game with me.
“That’s a wall, Hyp,” I told him.
“Look up, genius,” Hypnos said.
I looked up, and on the wall was a mirror. Inside the mirror was the face of my twin. There are two differences between us. He’d never had wings, which I found odd. Also, I wear a beard, and he has always kept his face clean shaven. Ever keen on his looks, my dear older brother is. I touched the glass, but my hand didn’t pass through. It was solid, and Hypnos’ gold-black eyes followed where my fingertips met the cold glass. I looked at him, full of confusion and wonderment, and he merely shrugged as response. I knocked on it, and he took a couple steps back.
“Hyp? How did you get in there?” I asked.
“Maybe I am not here. Maybe this is in your head. I mean, you did smack it pretty hard. The house could be messing with you. Maybe I found a way to travel too, and I am just waiting until you catch up, Thanner,” Hypnos said.
“That’s a lot of maybes, Hyp. My head hurts real bad. I can’t…can’t make sense of all that,” I told him.
The sound of a doorknob turning filled the empty room. Both of us looked towards the far wall. There was a door down there next to the fireplace and the knob was turning, but the door was not giving. Whatever was on the other side of that door began to pound on it, growling its displeasure at not gaining access to the room.
“Uh oh, that’s not good. They are coming back, Thanner,” Hypnos said, turning his attention back to me.
“Who is coming back, Hyp?” I asked.
“The gods of this world, Thanner. I gotta run and you should run, too. Come find me, little brother,” he said.
With that, he turned and fled from the mirror going out a door down the hallway. I stood there, mouth agape, unable to take my eyes off the mirror where my brother once stood.
“Son of a bi….” I stared at the door at the end of the room. It gave way and finally opened.
I turned my attention to them as they strolled in — those gods and goddesses with familiar faces. The fireplace lit up as they arrived, and I could see their offness. I understood as the smell of cooking human flesh filled my nose. I didn’t see it before, not until the fireplace lit up. There was a spit in there with a human torso on it. They had become cannibals.
I looked over their faces and saw that their teeth had grown large and sharp, no longer fitting completely in their mouths, leaving them with permanent toothy smiles as their cheeks and lips had eroded or ripped away to make room for the new teeth. They went to the center of the room where the long dining room table sat on a worn-out area rug. I saw them: Dinlas, Eros, Artemis, Nike, Urania, Hestia, Asteria, my mother Nyx and sister Nemesis, plus an almost-familiar redhead at the table…Moxie.
They spoke to one another in an unintelligible garbling dialect that not even my abilities as a god could make out. I began to wonder…
Where were the rest?
Then my eyes fell on the torso, and I sucked in a gasp as realization sank in. They were eating themselves. Then I heard the little girl’s voice speak up. The gods at the table froze in place, as if they were statues, at the mere sound of her voice.
“The gods of this world belong to me, coward. They are my favorite playthings. The gods make an excellent sacrifice to the goddesses,” she said from the walls.
“If that was the case, small one, where are the other goddesses?” I asked the voice.
“Oh, yes, them. I got bored with them and put them on a permanent timeout. Look above, cowardly god,” she instructed, giggling.
I turned my gaze upward and saw them, the rest of the goddesses. Their heads mounted to the wall like hunter trophies. Their cannibalistic smiles forever etched upon their faces. I swallowed audibly in the room as the walls rang out with childish laughter. The cannibal gods at the table slowly, and in unison, turned their heads to look at me. I was in trouble now. Then I heard Hypnos’ voice through the walls.
“Should have ran when I told you, Thanner.”
They rose from their seats at the table in complete unison as I raised my empty hands…my scythe…I had dropped it in the drawing room when I got yanked down the hall. I reached out, trying to move them telekinetically. It had no effect. I balled up my fist and assumed the honor stance ready to fight as I unfurled my wings.
While my attention was on them, I did not notice the three black tentacles rise up from the floor behind me. Two shot out and hit the back of my knees, forcing me to them. The third slammed into my back, pounding me into the floor. They wrapped themselves around me, two for my wrists, one for my throat. They grew taut where they had seized me and the one around my throat lifted my face off the floor. Fresh ichor ran down my lips and nose.
The cannibal gods were on top of me with hot breath and long sticky strands of saliva falling from their mouths onto me. Their snarling cries filled my ears. I could feel their hungry desire for my flesh. I closed my eyes and everything in the world grew silent.
Why is it so silent?
I opened my eyes, and the tentacles still held me fast. I looked around and knew where I was. I let out a heavy sigh. The day was April 30, 1945. The sky was overcast and there was a spring chill in the air. I looked around at the rubble-strewn ground. The air smelled of things burning, and dead bodies were under the rubble. The sounds of planes and gunfire rumbled in the distance. Behind me was a bunker, and inside of it were two freshly-dead souls bound for Tartarus. In front of me, the cannibal gods played in the rubble.
The cannibal Artemis stood before me, and I knew this was the spot where I proposed. This was the spot where I was rejected by duty, honor and title. The ring that I was going to give her, still worn on a chain around my neck, felt as if it weighed a ton. She had a look of greed in her eyes and a string of drool hung from her mouth as she leaned in and reached down my cloak. She grabbed the chain and pulled it out. She stared at the ring and cried out to them, and they came with chunks of debris in hand. She pulled the chain off my neck, snapping it as she did so. She slipped it onto her finger to applauding approval from the gods.
White-hot rage seethed up in me, and I began to yell and scream at them.
“You give that back! That doesn’t belong to you! It’s not yours! It belongs to her! My Huntress, not you! You sick, malformed creature! Give me back what is mine!”
They all snarled and hissed. The Artemis leaned down and roared her hot breath into my face, leaving it covered in spittal. She wasn’t done either. She drew her arm back and slammed her fist into and through my chest, ripping out my heart. I gasped for air and continued to gasp as she held it out over her head in victory. The others howled and cried out into the overcast sky . The Moxie cannibal came down and caressed my cheek before she slapped a piece of rubble she held in her hand into the gash in my forehead, causing it to bleed again.
The Artemis took a huge bite from my heart and began to chew. As if it was a cue to the others, they all lifted a piece of rubble in their hands and aimed it at me. They drew their arms back, and I closed my eyes waiting for the impact of concrete. And then, nothing.
I breathed in and out normally. I felt my heart once again beat in my chest. In my ear was the sound of tittering, high-pitched laughter, the type reserved for the loony bin or Tartarus. I opened my eyes and found myself in a dusty, musty attic with a single circular window that provided the only light source. The sound of a rocking chair moving back and forth filled the room. I recognized a voice. It was mine. It was this other-world version of me. I looked at the other me in the chair. His cloak was covered in dust. A chain, secured around his neck, was fastened to the wall keeping him/me bound there. His beard was long, snow white and there was a crazed vacant look in his obsidian eyes.
“Hello, Thanatos,” he said in a high reedy voice. “Son of Nyx, father of none. Not surprising, really. We’ll never be a father, being sterile and what not. Brother of…”
He began to take count of my two hundred plus siblings. Between each name, the other Thanatos broke out into that high-pitched, tittering laughter.
Down at the other end of the attic, a new sound emerged and I looked to see the cannibal Moxie on a wooden swing. She was barefoot and swinging back and forth, back and forth. She had a strange look in her eyes that I couldn’t quite place. Then the walls filled with the little girl’s giggles, causing them to shake.
“Oh, I am in trouble now.”
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