Zeus

We’ll skip over how the baby got in his head—it’s a messy story of incest and cannibalism, you can probably fill in the gaps—and, you know, we’ll skip over the aftermath, too; the whole virgin warrior thing is rad, don’t get me wrong, but you get it. Olive trees, gorgon shields, tricky wagers, turning a woman who committed suicide into a spider, there’s some fun stuff there, but no.

No.

Instead, let’s talk about the moment of birth, the unendurable headache that went on for days and days as she drummed her heels against the inside of his vast celestial skull, let me out let me out let me out, and how he went from unconcerned to miserable to anxious to desperate. The cold iron of the anvil against his cheek, his wife and her son grinning down at him, the biter bit yet again, Dionysus solicitous, slightly tipsy, fluttering around trying to get him to drink something first to dull the pain but he can’t think, all he can do is—

And then the hammer descends.

Blessed relief as the sky leaks in and his daughter leaps out, armed and armored, tall, lovely, and wary, and ohhh, the shivery moment as he lies there, hair damp with sweat, blood, cerebral fluid; he presses electric palms against his temples to hold the bone closed against any afterbirth. He weeps with relief, static discharge lost in his beard, alive again in that moment stretching from heaven to ground.

Aegeus

Ten ships, each with ten youths, sails white and crisp against the sky, disappearing into the haze of the sea, the winedark sea. Aegeus stands on the shore, bare feet cold and bloodless against the sharp rocks of the beach, hands clasped against each other so tight they ache, heartsick with worry and guilt. When he turns his eyes toward town, hours later, he has lost the trick of perception and totters shaky as an infant down streets he cannot recognize.

Weeks pass, and months. He measures the distance in his mind, the dangers, curses himself for a coward, returns to the rocky shore again and again. Every ship that heaves itself out of the horizon’s uncertain line snaps a lash against his back until he can sort friend from stranger, hope from despair. Anxiety wears him smooth as a river stone.

When at last he spots the black sails, it is almost a relief. The waiting is over, and he has failed twice over. He shakes out his robe and walks out to meet the returning ships, eyes fixed still on the horizon until the waves drag him down to his father’s kingdom; let the hard duty of survival be taken up by others better suited to it.

Formica

She walks the endless halls, newly alone, but unafraid. Why should she fear? Her path trails behind her, bright as a beacon, unmistakable, unbreakable. She is warm, and fed, and it is quiet here.

Something sweet and familiar on the air, so she pushes forward, the clew tangled against one of her legs an alien weight, but not unpleasant. She rubs her teeth together, thinks about what she will tell her sister-sisters, if and when she returns. Something lived here once, vast as a city block; she can taste its labor in the walls and floor, bones of a strange and foreign body now absent, and it comforts her.

No corners here, no crosspaths, no doorways or chambers, no factories nor birthing rooms, just curve after gentle curve. A light grows ahead of her and she makes for it, turning through ever wider arcs until she breathes in deep the syrup-rich smell of the open air.

Serge and Bacchus

Suffice it to say, things hadn’t worked out the way you’d planned.

Oh, sure, it was all wine and roses at first, two swinging bachelors bound together by love and faith, with the ear of the emperor, living the high holy life in the big city. A word here, a recommendation there, and bang presto there’s a governorship for you, good sir, think of us kindly when we’re old and gray, you get the idea.

But then ohhhhh suddenly it’s not cool and edgy to be members of the apocalyptic new religion that’s making the rounds, it’s not enough to cough politely and say that boy you’re so stuffed from all the temple feasts you’ve been eating from the sacrifices you make all the time like the good Greek citizen that you are, people are handing you the knife and the lamb and making you demonstrate and just like that the jig is up.

Suddenly you’re nobodies, worse than nobodies, outcasts, and all your old fair-weather friends have been tasked with torturing you to death, and you’ve been made to wear women’s clothing (fun) and run six miles with nails through your feet (less so) and it’s hard not to feel a little ill-used, hard not to feel like you got a little o’erweening and brought this all on yourselves, somehow.

Well. They’ll see, they’ll all see. They can cut off your heads, but you’ll always have each other, and nothing’s sexier than a pair of martyrs. You’re gonna do fantastic up in heaven, you’re both gonna bang it out for centuries, dudes are gonna be hot for you for the next twelve hundred years.

Just you wait.

Landfall

“What, pray tell, is that?”

And like that I was free, as easy as releasing a held breath, as impossible as growing young again. I wept and embraced him who asked, much to his discomfort, but did not stay to share the story yet again. The night found me far toward the sea, and the morning farther still. I was weary of ashen faces and mountains, weary as I had been of the sea, of war before that, and home before even that. I was weary of myself, and ready to unshoulder my soul in some more familiar field.

This time I was expected and forewarned: the dawn ran before me up the rocky coast and into the stony fields, to warm my bed. In the armory, the ceaseless rattle of sword and shield fell still; in the kitchen the endless bustle paused, just for an instant. The stars themselves hung poised in the sky, then turned on.

The sea itself bore me up, wave to foot, from shore to shore, old grudges paid at last, all gods appeased, all immortals forgiven. Home: again and again, ever new, ever changing.