***This story, a continuance of adventures with an unlikely version of Atropos, is in response to The Chrysalis Experiment's week ten prompt, "stop reading these words befoer it's too late." As always, enjoy!
These Boots Were Made for Flyin’
Mount Olympus — the real Mount Olympus — looked quite different than the last time Atropos had wandered its summit.
Where once the gold and crystal had risen in glorious spindles and keeps held aglow by eternal fires, there was now tarnished rubble, mold and ash, piled haphazardly on top a crumbling hill in the ether. The crumble and tarnished rubble was bad enough, but mold and ash? Infuriating.
Atropos stomped up the narrow pathway — once it had been an inset crystal path polished to so high a sheen and so slick a surface that daring mortals who even tried to walk upon it would slip right down, fall off the mountain and shoot earthward through the clouds below. They’d all laughed, back then. All the damn time, they laughed. Well, she reminded herself, it was funny. But now it was covered in dirt that met its walled boundaries.
When she came to the columned throne room, she saw the only throne of the gods which had been preserved was Zeus’s. The other thrones on the crystal dais were as ruinous as those in their corresponding temples far below, dotting the Mediterranean with rock and cinder. No sign of the gods, save Zeus, met her eyes. No servants or palm fronds, no spirals of incense, or lain aside battle horns, just…Zeus, on his throne, with his sandalled feet cast upon a scratched crystal end table littered with various debris. She softened her step, lest she catch him in one of his bad moods.
But she needn’t worry. As she neared him, she realized he paid her no attention, his eyes focused solely on a glowing, rhythmically screaming box, hinged like that idiot Pandora’s, but thin and shallow on top and bottom. The rhythm of the feminine screams grew familiar as she came closer. Zeus’s hand was on his … lightning rod, she saw.
“My lord Zeus?”
“Hang on a minute, let me finish….” he grunted, focusing closely on the rutting picture emanating from the box. A few moments later, he released his grip, resituated himself, and leaned to the box and pushed at it. The box became dark and silent. Zeus shifted comfortably in his throne. Why, he wasn’t even clean. Bits of ash clung to his beard and bird doo crusted the white curls of his hair. Hera must have left him again.
“It’s called internet porn, that,” he said with a satisfied, lazy gesture to the box, “on what man calls a computer.” He shut the box — the computer — and looked at Atropos. “It’s handy. I get all the pleasure I could ever want for one low monthly fee, and I never have to worry about cleaning up my messes with those browbeaten mortal women.” Then he sighed, looked about the throne room with the air of one who didn’t really see what was before him. “So,” he said, continuing with the blank , satisfied face, “how have you been these long years, Atropos? Tell me all. What’s that phrase … it was such a good one ... oh, yes; ‘What’s crack-a-lackin’? Or, wait — how about this one: ‘What’s shakin’ bacon?’” And then he burst into laughter.
Atropos tried to hide her consternation.
“Lord Zeus,” she said, “I am well; those details we can discuss later. But as for this,” she said with a sweep of her hand, “where is everyone? What has happened here?”
“Huh?” Zeus replied, inelegantly wiping … something … from his toga. “Oh, you mean this?” he gestured to the rest of the throne room. “Well, not long after you left for your sabbatical, that prototype god we created, the Yahweh one, well, we agreed he’d done enough training, and we made a deal with him. A lot of the other gods and goddesses wanted a vacation too, you see.” He took a sip of ambrosia from a tarnished gold goblet. The slosh of it smelled slightly rancid. “I made the deal, actually. And the deal was that he’d take over, for the time being, so I— I mean , we — could all get a break.”
Zeus shrugged that wonderful noncommittal shrug that only a god of his caliber could make beautiful.
“Next thing I knew, Hera and Aphrodite’d ran off to Venus together, Hermes had decided to go down to Egypt and ‘labor,’ he said, ‘among real people,’ Poseidon left to study crystals and chaos theory in Atlantis, and, well,” he finished feebly, “one by one they all just … left.” He looked into the distance of murky clouds. “I thought we’d all at least have some fun at first,” he said, his voice growing softer, as if he were talking to himself, “and maybe go throw lightnings at some mortals or something … I know it wasn’t the most fun of games, but, you know,” he continued, now completely lost in thought, “I thought everyone enjoyed it at least a little bit … or maybe we could have started some more wars, or something, but … ”
Atropos stamped her foot. Zeus jumped out of his self-induced reverie.
“Well, what?” Zeus asked, looking surprised.
“What are you going to do about it, nincompoop?” Oh, the blatant laziness of this god; sometimes she couldn’t stand it. Hera was the only one able to nag him into the constancy a god such as himself should convey.
“Nincompoop? Watch it, young one,” Zeus said, the beginnings of his temper beginning to show as the clouds darkened.
“You heard me, lazy! Lazy, man-like nincompoop! Look at yourself ! Look at this place! Look at what you’ve let happen here! You! How could you? Where are my shears,” she cried, digging through the folds of her gown. “Oh, where are my shears?!”
“Easy; easy! What do you think you’re going to cut?” Zeus demanded incredulously, standing now.
“What do you think?” Atropos hissed wickedly as she yank the shears from her folds of cloth and thumped them against her free hand.
“You can’t,” he said simply, lightning flashing in the clouds. “You haven’t got the power.”
“So help me, Zeus,” she said, striding towards him as she pointed the jointed blades at him, enunciating her syllables, “if you don’t get your act together, I may not do you in with these, but I tell what I will do: I shall go get your wife.”
Zeus blanched, sputtered. It began to rain. The drizzle had a frantic sense to it when this high above the clouds. The droplets had to fall up just to get to Mount Olympus, and as such they fell very determinedly.
“I’ve got everything under control, honest!” He had to yell this at her, as he was causing thunder now, and bit by bit she watched as the drizzle strengthen to a good shower—a shower which power-cleaned millennia of dirt and ash and grime from the crystal and gold. Atropos hid her smile; this was exactly what she wanted. Instead, she brandished her shears and her meanest smile, and advanced upon him.
“I’ll go get her, I will; I swear I will. You’d better believe I have the power to do that! What will you tell your wife? How will you explain yourself?! How will your prove that you are worthy of being king of us all?”
A flash of rage crossed the great god’s eyes; he positively roared. An instant of thunder and lightning both illuminated and blackened the wide throne room of the court of Olympus. Atropos shielded her eyes.
With a suddenness quite like him, the raging storm ceased. Atropos looked up; the throne room was aglow with dignity once more; the fires lit, the gold gleaming, the crystal refracting light to every corner of the earth. Zeus outstretched his arms, which now held a pair of winged gold boots. He was calm now, and grim.
“You are right. I have been slack for far too long. Go; go get Hermes,” he intoned, “we’re going to need him.” Atropos took the boots. “Tell him I require his speed to gather the gods. All the gods. Have him send out summons to each. We shall meet in one turn of the moon.” Atropos noticed his imperious tone had returned in full … but who knew how long this godly attitude would last. She must find Hera, and fast.
“Go now,” he said, “for I have made my decree.”
Atropos turned on heel as Zeus zapped her earthbound.
That afternoon she walked the bustling streets of Corinth, again adopting the guise of an old crone, searching for passage to Egypt since she’d only salvaged a small part of the magic dust from the Brennus mans’ bottle; it had barely gotten her to Mount Olympus. Things were definitely changed. Like Brennus, nobody knew her, let alone allowed her free passage. As for burnt offerings, she realized right away she could forget that. She was instead directed to a “passport office,” for whatever reason, but the long line of henpecking women and haughty looking men seemed so distasteful that Atropos decided to go to the docks, and hide herself among towers of boxes being loaded onto a mighty ship.
Three hours later, she’d set sail for the coast of Africa.
There, in the darkness of the ship’s hold, Atropos inspected Hermes’ backup pair of boots. They must not have been used in an age … perhaps two. Too bad they wouldn’t fit her; it would make all this so much quicker. She turned over one, smoothing the gold feathers, straightening the gold leathern laces. As she did, a tiny piece of parchment fell from the boot. She caught it as it fluttered through the air.
Both the parchment and the narrow script across it were dim with age. She made out “Olympics,’ near the top of the parchment, and then something about an Emperor Theodosius, and then at the bottom and very clear, as if it were written with the quill was pressed tight against the parchment, “stop reading these words before it’s too late.”
Atropos stashed the parchment in her haggard dress. What had happened to Hermes? Was this a message to him or by him? Had she now embarked on a rescue mission? Oh, this could be bad. She must get to Hermes right away. Dourly, she looked at the boots.
“Well,” Atropos muttered to them as they began flapping with fright, “you were made to fly, and that’s just what you shall do,” and hurriedly started stuffing herself into the boots. She felt the bones of her old, wrinkled feet break as she strapped them on. Wincing, she limped quickly out the storage room, onto the deck, and then with a heave, lifted into the salty air.