Snickers Bars are scary. I don't know how they knew, but they did. Somehow they dug into my very being and could tell what little word best describes me.
I'd been having a meh day. One of my monitors had died and I needed to get it replaced. I'm not a very rich person so I decided to try those second-hand apps. I found one, arranged to meet at a WaWa, and made the purchase.
I get home and go to plug it in, managing to knock a bottle of water off my desktop. I'd really thought the cap was solidly on it, but it wasn't. No biggie. Clean the water up off the desk and tile floor, and I'll be fine, right?
I knocked the glass I was going to pour the water into on the ground and watched as it shattered into a million tiny pieces. Sighing, I cleaned up the mess and finished plugging the monitor in.
To discover that it was busted worse than my previous monitor. There were lines all over it and I couldn't see anything. I contact the seller and he comes and refunds the money. We toss the monitor on the side of the road and I hop into my car to go monitor shopping at yard sales. As I hop in the car I manage to stub my finger against the door.
The same door which later caught the hem of the skirt I was wearing and tore it.
Then I cut myself on something...no clue what...in the car. I banged my finger against the door again as I put the new monitor, which I verified works, into the car and start on my way home.
That's when my stomach informed me that I needed food. I stop at the local Publix, pick up a Snickers bar, and head to the car where I go to unwrap it. That's when I see the word.
How did they know? What kind of VooDoo is in these Snickers bars that they know that I'm chronically clumsy? This is scary to me, but that's what happened.
I can't recall a time in my life when grace and I had a working relationship. I'm well informed at tripping over my own feet, banging into precious valuables, breaking mugs and glasses. I'm almost afraid to go into antique shops.
Of course, that's where I was heading when it happened. I am a freelance web designer and this gentleman had a new antique shop. He wanted to add an online presence with ecommerce and we were going to get the details down and sign the contract.
It was an adorable little place, not your typical antique shop. Most times when I've gone into these kinds of places they remind me of enclosed, slightly dark yard sales. There's very little rhyme or reason to the layout, everything is brown, and it's all so tightly packed you feel like you're on a treasure hunt.
This one was themed. While the antiques were still the same old Americana as other stores it had a predominantly Greco-Roman style. Faux columns were at each corner, the walls were made to look like cracking plaster, and there was even a large vineyard fresco on one wall. There was a door to a room where the most valuable items were kept, and even the way the door was painted made you feel like you were walking through Greece or Italy.
It was bright and airy, well-organized. Needless to say, I was impressed. I found my eyes darting over a beautiful cradle from the 1930s when the owner approached me.
The meeting was going well and we'd come to an agreement on price. I took a few photos for placement and was ready to leave when he invited me to see "the room."
I admit I was nervous and probably should have declined, but I figured it would be something interesting for the site. I checked my possessions...I'd put the keys and my wallet in my pocket so there was no handbag swinging around to hit something. I was wearing comfortable pants, no skirts to trip on or get caught on anything. I took a deep breath and followed him in to see the most glorious display of artifacts that should be in a museum.
There was one item in particular which caught my attention: a chess set. It wasn't an old piece, but the materials were, according to the owner, precious metals and stones. The mastery of the crafter was without match. It was a board of mythos: Greek mythology versus Roman mythology. I was hypnotized by the beauty and found myself picking up one of the pieces. It was one of the bishops, but it had little wings on its feet and hat. I knew enough about mythology to know I was holding Hermes in my hand.
The owner didn't stop me from my exploration of the piece. I turned it around in my hands and looked at its face. Every detail was thought of, even little laugh-lines near the eyes. I opened my mouth to comment about that to the owner when I saw it wink at me.
This is when the clumsy side of me took over. I stumbled back in shock, the piece soaring from my hand to knock over a few of the other pieces of the board and go skittering across the floor behind it. I fell against the vase behind me and heard it rock precariously before the owner screamed "NO!" and caught it.
I hope he caught it before it broke, but I truly don't know if it did or not. The scream triggered my "oh shit" reflex and I was frantically trying to think of how I was ever going to be able to afford to pay for the vase, or the chess set, if they broke. I admit I began to cry. I knew I'd lost the website, of course, but the tears were there. I didn't even register when strong arms helped lift me and guided me to sit on a stone.
It didn't even cross my mind that there were no stones in "the room," nor was the owner a particularly strong man.
I was in such a dither I didn't even notice the song of the birds, the sweet breeze around me, or the fact that the man who'd helped me to the stone wasn't speaking in any language I knew.
When these little things did finally cross my mind I did what any sensible person would do: I fainted.
It wasn't long before my eyes fluttered open. At first I tried convincing myself that I had been dreaming and my meeting with the antique store owner hadn't even happened yet, but when focus finally settled in that feeble attempt at regaining my sanity fled.
I was in a large round room. I turned over on what turned out to be a very large, very soft bed. As I moved the sheets and blankets swished around as if dancing and alive. That startled me enough that I kicked them away. I told myself the little screams and scolding voices were all in my head. Blankets don't talk.
I was trembling slightly as I slid off the bed and looked at the room around me. The floors were white marble and cool beneath my bare feet. That's when I realized my feet were bare...I dashed around looking for my shoes. They were nowhere to be seen. I looked down at my feet and realized there was another thing that had performed a vanishing act - my clothes.
I was stark naked in a strange bedroom. Someone, probably that man, had brought me in this room, stripped me, and left me alone. I feared for what else he might have done. Then I remembered the extra fifty pounds I lugged around and shrugged. My self-image was low enough to believe nobody would be interested in me that way.
I grabbed one of the sheets and heard a word I understood... "Hey!"
Wrapping the sheet around me I turned around to find the voice but nobody was there. A muffled sound came from around my chest area and I blinked.
"Sheets don't talk." I said that out loud. My voice sounded shaky, even to me.
"Wanna bet?" the voice at my bust said.
I screamed, dropping the sheet, and ran away from it...right into a dresser. The small vase of flowers toppled and fell, sending blossoms scattering and water following. I looked around for something to wipe it dry with then an evil grin spread across my face. I grabbed the talking sheet and started mopping the water with it. The sheet did not go silently, but it made me chuckle.
"Sheets don't talk. And if they do, they shouldn't."
My wits were coming back to me, so I realized that if there's a dresser there might be clothes. I pulled open drawers and there were flowing dresses and golden cords. I grabbed one that looked close enough to my size and pulled it on. The soft material pooled down in a cascade of deep navy with golden accents. I tied one of the golden cords around my waist and pulled some of the cloth up to get the hem off the ground. I'm pretty short and clothes are often made for taller people than I.
My feet were still bare, but the coolness of the tiles felt good. I finally got my chance to look around in a more calm manner. There were tables and comfortable chairs, soft cloths covering the windows and an arch onto a balcony. The balcony was small and held two chairs and a little table. On the table was a small tray with a jug and a cup on it. I figured a little something to drink wouldn't harm me so I poured some of the liquid. A beautiful purple wine flowed into the glass. I'm not much of a drinker, but when I tasted this wine I found myself purring. I plopped down into one of the chairs to finish the glass and think.
The chair creaked as I sunk into it, then I found that I kept sinking. I realized that the bottom of the chair had broken and the cushion was sinking through the frame along with my body. I wriggled my way free, spilling the fantastic wine all over the chair and floor as I did so.
Sighing, I turned to get the trusty talking sheet for another round of liquid removing, but it wasn't where I'd left it. I frowned and muttered the same thing I do every time I put something down then can't find it two minutes later.
"It didn't just walk away." I started to look around the room, retrace my steps, and was heading to towards the bed, though not really looking at it. I turned my head forwards just in time to run into a very handsome and slender man with reddish curls that danced upon his bare shoulders. His face was cracked into a broad grin as he gently pushed me to arm's length. Blushing, I took a quick glance from his shoulders down then up - thankfully he had a skirt-like outfit wrapped around his waist - then stepped a little out of his reach.
"Who are you, where did you come from, and how long have you been here watching me?" I demanded. The man's head tilted and he spoke to me.
"Ποιος νομίζεις ότι είμαι?"
"I'm sorry, I don't understand..."
"I said, 'who do you think I am?'" His English was unaccented, and it made me wonder if he'd really spoken the foreign language before.
"I don't know! I don't even know where I am. You look a little like...like..." I glanced all the way down at his feet as I realized who, or rather what, he looked like. Little wings. I let my eyes travel slowly back upwards to meet his. This was how I realized the cloth around his waist looked like the same material as the sheet and seemed to have wet stains, as if it had been used to mop up some liquid. My brain was on overtime, otherwise I probably would have used more caution. "You took the sheet...it's the only thing you're wearing...you were NAKED in here?"
"No. I was the sheet."
"You. Were. The. Sheet." Fury bubbled over as I realized I had him wrapped around my body. My mind didn't even register how impossible it was for a person to be a sheet, probably because of every other thing that was beyond the norm. I took a few steps forward, reached up, and slapped the man I was sure was Hermes across the face. Hard.
He stumbled back and covered the red mark with his hand. "What was that for?" he demanded.
"You let me wear you? You let me put you around my naked body? You...you...PIG!"
"Don't let Circe hear that...it might give her ideas."
"You are scum! Why...get out!"
"Don't you want to know why you're here?" He plopped himself on the edge of the bed and waited while I yelled at him. I admit I was in fine form, but definitely not being overly wise considering I was yelling at what apparantly was a mythological god.
"I don't even believe in you! You're...mythology! I only believe in one God and it's. not. you." By now my face was beet red, I was panting hard, and tears burned the edge of my eyes. I'm lousy at throwing things which probably is why I didn't try to remove his head with any of the ceramics lying around, but I was tempted to try anyhow.
"Do I look like I'm mythology?"
"YES! You have wings on your feet!" I started to realize how insane I sounded and stopped yelling. I took another look at him, huffed, and stormed over to my fallen cup. I picked it up, poured more wine into it, ignored the spilled wine, and stalked out onto the balcony. I figured I'd put distance between Hermes and myself. I needed to calm down.
Of course Hermes wasn't going to let me be. He followed me, still acting as if I had nothing to be upset about. He placed his hand on my shoulder and I spun around to face him. I didn't mean to deck him in the process, but I turned so fast my arm swung around faster and my fist landed in a place no man wishes to be hit. He crumpled. I admit my reaction wasn't very nice.
"Some god. Crumpling like that."
He glared at me for a moment and I decided to press my luck. I stepped over him and went back into the room. When I heard him standing again I turned to watch, fixing him with my own evil eye stare. He didn't catch the hint. As he approached me I verbally told him to stop. Miraculously, he did.
"All right. Why am I here? And where is here, anyhow?" I was breathing calmly again. I was still on the edge of anger, which was probably why I wasn't completely freaking out. I didn't even bat an eye when he responded.
"You're on Mount Olympus."
"OK. I'm on Mount Olympus. In some sort of palace, temple, home, whatever. Even though there is none on Mount Olympus. You do know I'm not Greek, right?"
"Yes, of course I do."
"So, why am I here?" I was growing impatient, but his smile almost got me smiling. Despite being an inconsiderate idiot who took liberties I resented, he was kind of cute.
"I am playing a practical joke on Aphrodite."
"I see..." I let the words hang into silence for a bit while I sipped the wine. My eyes closed for a moment because the flavor was so good. When I felt he'd waited long enough, I finished the sentence. "So I'm a practical joke, am I?"
He obviously hadn't thought of it that way, so he started stammering like a foolish man who's gotten caught with his foot in his mouth. I let him suffer as he tried to find a nicer way to say it.
"No, just...the way to...I mean...you're the..."
"And what sort of 'practical joke' am I?"
"I didn't say you were the practical joke! Just a part of it!" He got defensive and I began to enjoy his discomfort. I can be mean when the situation calls for it.
"Oh, as if that's any better." I kept my voice even. "What is this practical joke you wanted to play? I like a good joke. I have a great sense of humor. Go on. Do tell." I was setting him up because I could not think of any practical joke a mythological god would need me for.
He bought the calm tone and believed I was ready to join in on the joke. His smile broadened again as he began to lay out the plan. The whole plan was elaborate, intricate, and silly. It involved trying to convince Aphrodite that I was her...that she looked like me. He wanted to cast my reflection in her mirrors, ponds, and lakes instead of hers. He wanted to even make her think that she wasn't really Aphrodite...that I was.
I smiled and nodded through the entire description, his whole explanation, as if I were enjoying it.
"So, basically, I'm the ugly reflection...the one that would scare her to death. I'm so disgusting that it would horrify her. That's so much better than just being a practical joke, hm?" My voice was cold. I found I was slowly walking to him. Anger was flashing in my eyes.
I know my body image isn't great, but I don't think I'm ugly. And even if I did, I still resented him playing on it.
"You inconsiderate, rude, nasty, cruel BABOON! Wait, no. I like baboons! Cockroach!" I jabbed my finger at his chest with each word, my voice growing louder as my anger rose again. When I finished calling him a cockroach, he had fallen backwards over the chair, which broke, and was crabwalking backwards away from me. He finally had the grace to apologize, but I wasn't sure he understood what he had done wrong.
I waited and the silence dragged on. Finally, I stormed to the door, opened it, and said, "Get out. Come back later with pants, a shirt, and decent shoes for me...and be ready to send me home."
He, surprisingly, left without hesitating at all.
Hermes didn't come back with my clothes. The coward sent servants, but at least he sent them with more than just clothes. They came with everything needed for a nice hot bath right there in the room: soaps, tub, jugs of hot water, scented oils, sponges...it promised to be a luxurious bath. I love baths, so I didn't complain.
There was a pair of jeans and a pretty turquoise blouse to go with it. I figured he had access to modern clothes, as he had access to me, so I took it in stride. Amazingly, it all looked like it would fit. They even looked pretty.
Other servants had golden platters laden with food: fruits, meats, cheeses, pastries. I couldn't eat it all if I had ten years, but I was a little peckish, so I decided to enjoy some of it.
I took my time with the food and even more time with the bath. Servants offered to stay to bathe me, but I politely declined them. I told them they could have one person outside the room and I'd let them know when I was done.
Before stripping I took a long tour of the room and poked and prodded everything in it. If anything had spoken, gasped, or given any signs of being alive I would have completely exploded. I even considered tossing it into the fireplace, but nothing peeped.
I slipped when I got into the bathtub and my head banged against the back of the tub, but it wasn't bad so I didn't call out for help. I leaned back and closed my eyes.
I didn't quite drift off to sleep, but it was a close call. The water had gotten chilly before I slipped out of the tub and dried myself off with the softest towels I'd ever touched. I was torn between being touched at the pampering I was receiving and being annoyed that he thought he could buy off my goodwill.
Once I dressed, I sat down and ate a modest breakfast. The food was amazing, but I stopped before becoming too much of a glutton. I then went to the door to let the servant know I was ready for them to come clean things up.
"Hey, um. What's your name?" The servant blinked, then smiled.
"Agathe. Yours?" It amazed me that she spoke perfect, unaccented English as well. If this were Mount Olympus, we were in Greece. Wouldn't she speak Greek, or at least have a Greek accent? This question promised to become an obsession, but I wasn't ready to ask anyone about it yet.
"Thanks. I'm Leah. You're not one of them, are you...I mean, gods or something?"
"Oh, no. I'm from the village."
"Do they pay you well?" Agathe stared at me. I re-phrased. "You get a lot of money to work here?"
She shook her head. "I'm not really here, Miss Leah. I'm asleep at home."
"But you are solid." I touched her. "And you and I are talking and..."
"We wouldn't be useful to them if we were mute and couldn't carry things." Agathe giggled.
"But...don't you wake up tired?"
"Oh, no! Not at all, miss. They make sure we are well-rested."
"But...why?" I didn't understand why she'd be so happy to be doing forced labor in her sleep instead of having dreams of fun things.
"It's an honor, miss."
"But..."Agathe shook her head and smiled. She seemed happy, so I let it drop. "Well, thank you for the bath and food. It was wonderful! Now, do you know how I can get home?"
"Lord Hermes will send you home. I'll fetch him right away." She started to walk and I called her back.
"No, please. Can you bring me to him? I'm tired of that room." She seemed to think about it then decided it was all right.
We walked down several large, bright corridors and down massive stairs until we came to a beautiful atrium. Beautiful flowers surrounded me and almost distracted me from my purpose until I saw Hermes sitting on a white marble bench underneath an olive tree. I strode up to him.
He scrambled to his feet, more like a teen caught sneaking a drink than a god, and waved to the bench, offering me the seat.
"Such a gentleman." I tried to keep the sarcasm from my voice. Instead of taking the seat I strolled around and looked at the plants. Some were potted, some were planted in sections of the floor where tiles had been artfully left out. There were several different trees, to include one pomegranate one in the center. There was a short fence around the base of the tree and a little plaque which marked it as "Persephone's Tree."
That interested me. I got a little closer to the tree and looked upwards. Some buds were showing promise of fruit, and I found myself touching the trunk of the tree. Somehow I managed not to trip on the fence, and I was feeling pleased with myself because of that when I turned back to face Hermes.
"Well. You going to send me home now?" I took a step towards him and heard a loud ripping sound. Groaning, I looked down to see my beautiful blouse was caught in one of the tree's branches. I was bare-topped as no bra had been provided to me. Shrieking, I clasped my arms across my chest and ran from the atrium, back through the corridor, and up to the room. Laughter followed me as I ran. "You'd better not be following me!" I called as I ran. Then I stopped in the doorway. "Get me a new shirt!" I started fumbling through the dresser but only found more dresses. I was in no mood to have all that cloth flowing around me. There were too many breakable things around.
Frustrated, I pulled one of the drawers a bit too hard and it came soaring out, sending me tumbling backwards. Luckily, I landed on the bed, the drawer, splintered and destroyed, lying on the floor in front of me. Fighting the burning tears I felt dancing in my eyes I bent to pick up the pieces and put them in a pile near the dresser when my fingers brushed over a shirt that wasn't there before.
I felt foolish, but I squeezed the shirt hard and lifted it to my face. "You'd best not be Hermes," I snarled at it. When it didn't respond I wrung it in a twist a few times, unwound it, and put it on.
I allowed myself a deep breath before I made my way back to the atrium where Hermes sat. As I walked in I noticed his lips twitch. I assumed he hadn't finished his giggling fit so I turned around to walk out again.
"No, no...I'm sorry. Please, come back." He sounded almost polite, so I did. I didn't let the look of caution and distrust slip from my face, which caused him to give me a hurt expression.
"So. Send me back." I was to the point. I'd had it to the brim with him and I had to get home and do damage control to try to retain my antique shop owner as a client.
"Sure thing." I waited.
Nothing happened. I waited some more. Hermes gave a weak "give me a moment" smile and I continued to wait. I saw a flicker of doubt cross his blue eyes and raised my eyebrow at him.
Hermes stood and took a pose. He looked comical, legs shoulder-length apart, arms out and fingers towards me. All I could think of is one of those tiny pewter figurines people paint for wargames. Fantasy wizard Hermes. I snickered a little.
"This isn't funny!" Hermes snapped at me. "It's not working!"
That stopped me cold. If he couldn't send me back I was stuck on Mount Olympus, surrounded by gods I didn't believe in, servants who were really dreaming citizens, and who knows what other impossible things. Granted, I was being pampered with an amazing bedroom, great food and wine, and luxurious baths, but how long would that last?
Panic began to bubble. I felt the tightening in my chest, a slight difficulty breathing. I sat on the bench and practiced my "deep breathing" exercises, but they barely had an effect.
"This isn't happening." I muttered. "It's a dream, just a vivid one. Even thinking it's a dream is a dream. This isn't happening."
"I must have gone into shock because the next thing I knew Hermes was crouched by me with a brown paper bag over my mouth. I'd been hyperventilating. I am not a fainter. I'm not a hyperventilator. And yet, in the past 24 hours, I had done both. I had to regain control of myself.
"I have been! And..." Hermes looked practically frantic himself. "My wings aren't flapping!" He looked down at his feet where the wings lay flat against his ankles. I recalled, at that moment, that they were always in motion.
"Can you fly?"
"I'm afraid to try."
"Are you a god or aren't you? Buck up! Try!" I snapped at him and then watched him jump...and land on the ground. And jump again.
I realized then that the most pathetic thing to see is a mythological deity cry.
I left Hermes bawling like a little baby and began to search for Agathe. I stumbled down various hallways, peeking in different rooms, and eventually found her in what appeared to be a large kitchen area. She was chopping some vegetables when I approached her.
"Hey, can I steal you for a moment?" Agathe's eyes went wide and I realized she might not understand what I meant, so I rephrased. "Can we talk? I need a little help."
"Oh! Of course." She wiped her hands on a little towel by her and walked me over to a couple of chairs at a large wooden table. "What do you need?"
"Well. A couple of things. First thing is that I'm stuck here. Second thing...it looks like Hermes is having a little crisis. I think he needs one of his own kind to help him out."
"Yep. Seems he can't send me back home and he can't fly. His wings are still." Agathe gasped and jumped up. She signaled me to wait where I was and ran off, I presumed to get help.
I got bored waiting so I wandered around the kitchen. There were still vegetables to be cut so I figured I'd help out while I waited. I was doing pretty well, didn't slice into my fingers or anything, when Agathe returned with another woman. I stopped cutting the vegetables and put the knife down, but when I moved towards the two women a bit of my shirt knocked against the knife and sent it swirling across the table and on to the floor. I sighed, picked it up, and put it in the wash basin.
Agathe dipped a curtsy to the woman with her then went back to the vegetables, beaming at me when she saw the work I'd done on them. She busied herself with her cooking as the other woman watched her, then me.
"Leah," the woman said, "welcome." Her hair was a light brown with tinges of the same sort of reds Hermes had, and she was stunning. The flowing dress she wore was tied in empire fashion, which emphasized her amble bosom, but didn't make her look pregnant. She reached one hand out to me, palm up.
I took her hand, too busy soaking in this woman's presence to really think about what I was doing, and let her lead me out of the kitchen into a sitting room. Soft cushions and chairs were everywhere and there was a crackling fire in the fireplace. It felt cozy and welcoming and helped settle my nerves slightly. We each sat in a chair and she said, "My name is Tyche."
"Are you one of the villagers?" Tyche laughed and shook her head.
"No, I'm the daughter of Hermes and Aphrodite." Her smile was gentle but I had the sensation it could change at a moment.
"I didn't know they had children together. I guess I'd only read about the more common myths."
"Do I look like a myth to you?"
"Well, to be honest, I don't worship you guys. To me, you were always stories from ancient times."
Tyche chuckled at that, which surprised me. In a way I thought she might be annoyed at being referred to as a story. At least I didn't call her a "goddess wannabe," though. I wasn't willing to acknowledge them as true gods, though I suppose they were...they just weren't anywhere near as powerful as the Lord I worship.
She spoke again. "Well, I'm kind of not very well known, I suppose, though many cities are careful about me. They pray to me to keep their city prosperous."
"So, you're in charge of cities?"
"Not quite. I'm all about luck, fortune, and destiny. I've been known to provide bad times as well as good." She paused, letting me think a moment. I was grateful for that, and a thought began to form in my mind. "So I take a lot of blame for when bad things happen."
"Kind of like Murphy?"
"Who?" She looked at me with confusion.
"Well, we have something called 'Murphy's Law.' It says, 'If something can go wrong, it will.'"
She stared, "Not always! I give good, as well."
"But when the bad happens, you're Murphy." Tyche grumbled at that and almost made me laugh. "So, speaking of bad luck, Hermes can't seem to send me home and his wings have stopped."
"I know. Agathe told me."
"Can you help?" I watched her think about it.
"Yes, but I'm not going to yet." A small smile creeped across her face."
"Murphy, I want to go home. I don't belong here." I intentionally called her the nickname hoping to get her to want to prove me wrong, but she didn't take the bait.
"You'll get home in time. Just be patient."
"Why are you doing this to me? And why isn't he able to...did you know..." I was beginning to get upset again and was going to launch into a tirade when Hermes came trudging in. His shoulders were drooped and he looked miserable.
I was merciless. "Hey there, God Wannabe. Come join us. I'm just chatting with your daughter here about how you're too incompetent to get me home." I gave him a glare but the fun went out when he sank into a chair and sighed without an argument.
My resolve to be angry with him completely left when he said, "you're right."
Tyche and I stared at each other for a moment, then she caved. "Fine. Let me see what I can do. I'll be back in an hour. Keep an eye on him," she commanded me.
I was going to protest that I'm not his babysitter, but she was already gone.