Tuesday, October 25, 2011

24: Pantheologia

Eris led Thoki through a natural rock tunnel. The wind picked up and buffeted Thoki against the wall.

“Wait here,” said Eris, looking serious for once.
Thoki nodded and hunched down to receive more warmth from his coat. He looked back to see if the others were following. Lor was keeping good pace, but Slepnir hung back, uneasily.

“Come on!” Thoki said beckoning to his brother.
The grey horse shook his head and champed nervously, his ears flat against his head.

‘”Don’t be such a baby, come on!” said Thoki. He began to walk back towards Slepnir when Slepnir reared and kicked the air. Thoki knew that if he got too close one kick would send his nose into his stomach.
“Alright! Alright! But stay here in the tunnel, okay?”

Slepnir gave a hesitant agreement and lay down on the soft snow in an area of tunnel that was the least gusty.

Eris poked her head back in. “We’re good. Come on!”
Thoki hesitated and Eris turned to regard him.

“It’s alright. C’mon!”
Thoki swallowed the nervous lump in his throat and followed her. He was getting a horrendous sense of déjà vu. The clattering of chains, the dark windy tunnel, the female voice beckoning to him. In a flash he was assaulted by his memory. It was just like when he was seventeen, and visiting his father’s prison for the first… And the last time. His heart gave a sickening shudder as he remembered that horrible day. As he approached the lip of the tunnel, he shook, expecting to see that wizened old bastard again, scarred and burned by the snake venom, with the keen cruel eyes of a sociopathic murderer.

Instead he saw Prometheus’ enormous form kneeling on a rock, worn smooth over the eons.  He was currently bleeding from a nasty gouge in his stomach, the edges were ragged and wrinkled with old scar tissue. The wound was staunching itself and, knowing Prometheus, the copious brown stains on his torso and lower legs were not all from today. Thoki knew his story; it was Trickster legend. Prometheus stole the sacred fire of the gods to give to his own creation, man, so that they could prosper. The gods would have let him off the hook, but then Prometheus got cocky again. He cheated the gods by burning fat and bones in offering to them and letting men keep the good cuts of meat, and for that Zeus chained him to a rock. Every day a giant eagle came to tear out his liver and eat it. Prometheus would heal and it would begin again the next day and every day for eternity. The Greeks didn’t have a Ragnarok so it only made sense that he was still here.

Jeez, thought Thoki. Loki didn’t get chained up even after he killed the sun god. He only got chained up after denying him the chance to come back. What an asshole.

                Thoki looked at the Titan deep in conversation with the giant avian. They seemed to be getting along great despite the fact that The Eagle’s job was to torture him every day.

Maybe it’s some kind of Stokholm Syndrome, thought Thoki with a shrug. Thoki wondered what sort of conversational companion The Eagle was. Did they discuss events on earth? Politics? Philosophy?

                The Eagle was waving his claw in the air, really getting into it, “So then Sheldon rents a karaoke machine and tries to invite other people to his house hoping that Leonard and everyone will come back from Raj’s house and hang out there again.”

                “And how did that work out?” asked Prometheus.

                Thoki listened in somewhat disappointed shock. He then leaned over to Eris, “Big Bang Theory? The Eagle’s relaying an episode of The Big Bang Theory to a millennia-old Titan?”

                “I know. Usually they just talk about how much they miss ‘Friends’. It’s nice to know the Eagle’s moved on.”

                Thoki didn’t get a chance to respond.

                “We’re back!” called Eris tentatively to the two titanic entities above her.

                “I see you brought him. He’s a bit short. Are you sure he’s Loki’s son?”

                “If you could call it that,” said Thoki with a shrug.

                Prometheus gave Eris a tiny (for him) nod.

                “So, you have some questions about the beginnings of days?” asked Prometheus.

                “I don’t suppose there’s any point in my beating about the bush, so I’ll just say that I’m looking for Isfat.”

                “The primordial chaos from which we were formed and which we will one day return to,” replied Prometheus. His voice was sonorous and deep, like a cheesy scifi narrator.

                “Sure, okay,” said Thoki with a shrug. “Know where I can find it?” he asked. “A stone at Heliopolis said it was at the Garden of Eden… I think. Where is that?”

                “What would you do with it if you found it?”

                Thoki scratched his head and rubbed his chapping hands. “I dunno. I don’t think I thought this out very well. I just think it’s important. It might not be the answer I’m looking for, but it might be AN answer, which is more than I got.”

                “What is the question, Thoki?” Asked Prometheus.

                “Why?” answered Thoki.

                “Because in order to receive an answer, you must have a question first.”

                “Are you kidding me with the bumper-sticker truisms here? Do I look like I need a lecture from Obi Wan Kenobi?”

                “Yeah, he’s Loki’s kid alright,” mumbled The Eagle. “He may look like a pussy but I’d know that smart-ass voice anywhere.”

 “Seriously though. I need a question,” said Prometheus, his voice instantly losing that mystical quality.

                “That was my question, stupid! ‘Why!’”

                Prometheus looked relatively interested in Thoki—the nervous smile on his face indicated that he hadn’t expected this much from him. “Why what, kid?”

                “Just WHY! Why was I born? Why was anyone born? Why was the world destined to become one big disappointment after another? Why were the gods just as disappointing? Why did the One God let the pantheons do whatever the hell they wanted while the world turned to crap? Why did it still turn into crap after they disappeared and He showed himself? WHY IS ANYTHING ANYTHING?”

Thoki’s face had been paper white with cold, and was now the color of raw beef as he vented his frustration, asking everything that his mind had been torturing him with. Sweat poured down his back as he ranted, and his face stung as the string of blasphemies against all things unearthly spewed forth like angry hornets. Prometheus felt the venom in those words, the despair, the anger as Thoki let the black rotten pit inside him speak.

                “Why was man made, why was heaven made? Why is everything mixed up? You know, don’t you? You were there when man was made!”

                “Yes and no. I was not in the Garden of Eden, Thoki.  I made man out of river mud. Also, if you recall Coyote made them from mud, or Quetzalcoatl made them from corn, or Odin from two trees. Others share that claim as well—Raven and Brahma and Atum—the list goes on! ”

                “Well yeah…” said Thoki but he could only trail off, uncertainly.

                “And then that’s just the creation of man. If you want the creation of the world, that goes back before my time…”

                “But then… you don’t know about Isfat? When the Chaos was made into Order?”

                “Well, some say it was made when God made the Heavens and Earth, or when Pangu separated the world egg, or when Ymir the giant and Adumla the cow were born from the poison and ice of Nifleheim, or when Erebus and Nix gave birth to Gaea, or when the waters of Nun—“

                “Enough! Enough! I get it! So which is the real creation story?”

                Prometheus gave him a pompous stare, tossing his golden hair over his shoulder in mild disdain.

                “Don’t you know anything, boy? They’re ALL real.”

                Thoki scowled at being called ‘boy’ like he was back in his father’s house. The anger made the answer all the harder to bear, although he’d already guessed the answer.

                “You couldn’t find the source of the true creation because there is no true creation story.”

                Thoki hadn’t thought of this and the idea hit him hard enough to make him sit down hard on the polished rock. “They were all lies?”

                “I didn’t say they were lies, I just said they weren’t true. They’re all a kind of half-truth that goes deeper than mere facts. That makes them real. The kind of solid myth that deep-down you believe. Have you never wondered why all creation stories start out the same? They all start with void. Then the heaven and earth are separated, and then the sun and moon. Always the same. Every history has a great flood. Every History explains the fall of man from grace. Every story explains how fire was stolen or granted from the divine. The same symbols always occur as well: a great tree, serpents, eagles, death, life…”

                “It’s all just nuance,” said Thoki bitterly. “It’s just racial memory of how man rose from slobbering ape to slobbering human. The gods were made by man to explain why water is wet, why fire is hot and why bad things happen to stupid people.”

                “For a god you have very little insight into the divine world, Thoki,” said Prometheus gently. “And there’s one more thing that every mythology has,”

                “The crap is that?”

                “Heroes. Heroes have endured throughout time, within and without pantheons. You don’t have to believe in gods to believe in Heroes. And that makes them just as real and powerful as the old gods.”

                “Phhff!” Thoki made a disgusted face. “It’s all crap. If there’s no true place of the creation, than there’s no true location of Isfat… which means I’ve been wasting my time since I began climbing up that tree from Nifleheim 1000 years ago.” The despair shook him and he held his head in his hands.

                Prometheus sighed.  It made a hot gust of air that fanned Thoki’s face and made water drip down his forehead. It quickly froze again into tiny icicles.

                “Thoki you’re denser than I gave you credit for. Don’t you understand that if there’s no right location of the creation, that there’s no wrong place? Everything is connected.”

                Thoki rose from his seated crouch, looking around him. His eyes fell on the Eagle… then on Prometheus’ chains. He began to pace frantically on the rock face as the wind buffeted his hood around. He no longer felt the cold as he marched in ragged elipses, muttering to himself.

                “Chained to the rock… chained to the rock… there’s a connection there….eagle…” Thoki’s head whipped around towards the eagle. The bird jumped a little and ruffled its wings, startled by the man’s intense stare.

“Eagle,” muttered Thoki. “Eagle at the top of the tree… snake at the bottom…chained to the rock with the snake…snake …snake… snake from the tree tempts Eve…trees…trees. It all comes back to it.”

“Thoki?” asked Eris, looking worried.

                “I know  it! I know where the garden of Eden is! I can’t find Eden or your muddy riverbank, or the waters of Nun or any of that, because it’s not part of my world, but now I know it’s all the same thing! The tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden is the very same tree that Odin hung himself from to gain wisdom!”

“Now you know where you have to look,” said Prometheus with a nod.

 Thoki jumped up and clapped his hand. “Because it’s right where I started from!”

“That’s right,” said Prometheus, a strange smile on his sunburnt lips.

                “EAGLE!” shouted Thoki spinning to face the massive bird again.

                The Eagle flinched. He had just been spreading his wings, and had hoped to take off before Thoki had remembered him.

                “Yes?” asked the raptor timidly. “I suppose you want me to lead you back to Yggdrassil?”

                “It would save us some time, thanks,” said Thoki with a wry smile.

                The eagle sighed and began preening his primary feathers. “Oh fine.”

                “Lor?” called Thoki.  Lor’s head poked out immediately.

                “Are we going home?” he asked brightly.

                “Oh, you bet,” said Thoki. “And this time, I got you a ride.”

                The Eagle looked up suddenly at the frost Giant and they exchanged beady-eyed stares.

                “Oh fuck,” spat the Eagle.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

23: The Fire Thief

“Do you know anything about Isfat, Eris?” asked Thoki, grabbing her by the shoulders and staring intently into her golden eyes.

“Ooh! I like it when you’re forceful,” she purred, and gave him a saucy look.

“In a minute,” he said, dismissively. “Let’s try to stay on the subject for a little, shall we? Where is ISFAT.”

“At the beginning of all things,” said Eris simply.

“What’s that mean?” asked Thoki.

“It’s not a WHERE, Thoki, it’s a WHEN.”

Thoki only made a choked sound of utter incomprehension.

You’re not thinking fourth dimensionally, Marty,” Eris quoted, making her voice gruff like Christopher Lloyd’s.

“So you’re saying that Isfat existed in the beginning… and that it stayed there?”

“That’s one way of putting it. I frankly don’t understand all of it myself you’ll have to talk to him if you want to get the whole long boring speech.”

“Him who?”

“Look, I’m trying to help you. Let’s just get you, your giant, and your horse—”

“Brother,” interjected Thoki.

“—your brother out of here first. Then I’ll take you to see him.”


“Who do you go see if you want to know about The Creation?”
“God?” asked Thoki paling. “I don’t want to see Him.”

“NO, stupid. You go see a creator god.”

“Okay. Now I’m really confused.”

“Just shut-up and hold my hand,” said Eris rolling her eyes.

Thoki placed his clammy hand in hers and she briefly sighed, “Men!” before the room swirled around him like it had been dumped in a washing machine tumbler.

When Thoki’s eyes straightened out, he was blinded by a field of white. He shuddered suddenly and wrapped his arms around his shivering body. As far as the eye could see was rocks and snow.

“Where the hell are we?” cried Thoki. “Are we! Are we!” echoed the looming rock faces.

“We’re in Georgia,” said Eris nonchalantly. She didn’t seem to be bothered by the cold.

"What like the Appalachians?" cried Thoki.

“Georgia the country, stupid, not Georgia the American state.”


Lor rumbled throatily behind them and Thoki spun around. “Oh, God! Lor is still sick! We got to get him out of this!”

Eris shook her head. “You’re forgetting that Lor is a frost giant. He was getting overheated in Cairo, which was why his wounds wouldn’t heal. Trust me. This is the best thing for him.

In confirmation, Lor stood up and took in a deep bracing breath of freezing air. He then let it out in a jolly roar, grinning as the white flecks caught in his beard and tickled his face. He seemed totally at peace in himself. Slepnir’s ears flew backwards as Lor’s voice shattered the silent landscape, but he tramped in the snow and rolled in it, glad to be out in the open again.

Thoki managed a tiny grin. “I wish the cold was doing me that much good,” he said through purple lips.

“Here,” said Eris making a heavy black parka appear out of thin air. “I forget that you’re not divine anymore.”

“Nope. I’m one-hundred percent meat-puppet now,” Thoki stuttered through chattering teeth as Eris pulled the warm coat over him. He gazed up longingly at her impish face, but she simply kissed him on the nose and skipped through the snow, whistling.

“Come on!” She called after a few feet. Thoki shook his head and stamped the snow off his feet before following her. He struggled to keep his footing on the uneven terrain, slipping into hidden holes and falling face-face first into the snow. Lor trudged behind at his steady stride, and Slepnir had taken to the air to avoid tangling his legs in the rocks. Only Thoki was beleaguered as the snow attacked his legs and stung his face. The plus side was that the snow was too cold to soak into his jeans and socks. The down side of this was (of course) that it was fucking cold.

His only comfort was watching Eris’s skirt being buffeted in all directions by the chilly winds, revealing a taut round bottom in a teeny magenta thong. He wondered she knew what she was giving away for free.  Knowing Eris, she probably did. Thoki shivered and reasoned that it was a moot point since his testicles were currently trying to climb back inside his body for warmth. He hoped that was reversible.

“What mountains are these?” he shouted over a gust of wind.

“We’re in the Caucasus mountain range!”

“Why does that ring a bell?” Thoki asked rhetorically.

“You’ll see in a minute, we’re almost there!”

“If you have the power to zap us anywhere, why didn’t zap us there directly!”

“I like snow!” shouted Eris with a wide grin. “Besides, he doesn’t like people just dropping in on him!”

“Him who?” asked Thoki for what seemed like the millionth time. “Why are you dancing around this question?”

“What?” called Eris, putting a hand to her ear. She might have been toying with him, but the wind was making it hard to hear anything.

“WHO ARE WE SEEING?” cried Thoki.

As if in answer, the ground suddenly shook and the powdered snow jumped like water on a hot skillet. Thoki looked back at Lor to see if he were the cause of it. Lor only shrugged and, still a little weak, raised a hand to point skyward. Thoki followed the hand and looked up.

“Holy shit!” he cried out.

“Yeah, that’s him,” said Eris.

“A titan?” shouted Thoki. “You’re taking us to see a titan?”

His wide blue eyes took in the long golden hair, the massive shoulders, the powerful legs and the sculpted brow, all fifty times the size of a normal human. “Gee, no wonder Zeus feared these guys.”

“Shh! Ix-Nay on the Eus-Zay!” said Eris as loud as she dared. “He’s still a little touchy about it.”

“About what?” asked Thoki.

“Look closer,” said Eris, guiding his vision.

Squinting against the whirl of snow, Thoki saw that the man was naked, his hands bound behind his back with very tight manacles. The manacles were chained to the enormous rock face where they were driven in tightly. The chain was very short, making it necessary for the titan to kneel or sit. He was currently kneeling, his muscles pulsing with the pain of ages stuck in the same frozen pose. The titan was very handsome despite the lines carved in his face from constant torment. Constant exposure to the elements had left him bronzed and ruddy.  His hair, though long and unkempt fell like river of gold from his head. Thoki eyed the prisoner warily. He was getting an odd sense of déjà vu along with an annoying inability to remember who this was.

It was when he saw that the titan was deep in conversation with a gigantic eagle that Thoki remembered. He was in the presence of the very first trickster god — creator, deceiver, fire thief, protector — who sacrificed his freedom so that Man might live.

“Prometheus,” breathed Thoki.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

22: How 'Bout Them Apples?

Thoki’s inched towards Hermes until his hand was right under the Greek’s menacing shadow. From there on, Thoki shut his eyes tightly and held his breath. His hand made contact with warm flesh but something was wrong. This didn’t seem like Hermes’s hand. It was too… small. He also heard sounds of a struggle which made his eyes open again. Looking down at his hand he saw it clasped in a small slender woman’s hand. Not even Hermes could be that effeminate if he tried so Thoki decided it must belong to a woman.  He followed the hand up a white arm which was floating in midair.

Thoki screamed and let go of the hand, eyeing the floating arm in horror. Slowly the arm’s owner melted into sight amidst a chorus of laughter.

                “ERIS!” shouted Thoki in delight.

                “You should have seen the look on your face,” Eris screamed mirthfully. She was now dressed like private-school jailbait in a tiny pleated plaid skirt, white blouse and necktie.

                Thoki was relieved to see her but was holding his head as though it would explode. “I’m so sick of these deus ex machina! Can’t anyone show up sooner than ‘in the nick of time’? I’m going to have a heart attack.”

                “Aw, you’re so cute when you do the pouty face!” cooed Eris, grinning.

                “What’s going on with ‘the Spanakopita Brothers’ over there?” asked Thoki grinning.

                “They’re fighting over another of my golden lovelies. Even the gods themselves can’t resist ‘em,” said Eris. She waved her golden ipod at Thoki and he watched Hermes and Apollo wrestling on the floor like teenagers.  Currently Apollo had a hold of an identical golden MP3 player and Hermes was trying to pry his fingers off it.

                “Cow theif!” shouted Apollo, clocking Hermes on the head.

                “Ass-grabber!” Hermes retaliated, jumping on his brother’s chest.





                “Wow, they really want that iPod,” said Thoki watching them with the clinical air of an interested gambler.

                “Well not everyone sees my golden iPods as iPods. It usually shows up as whatever the person really wants,” said Eris.

                “What do Apollo and Hermes see?”

                “iPods. When I say ‘not everyone’ I meant, ‘almost everyone’. It’s funny. People really like iPods.”

                “So, shall we go?” asked Thoki with a Grin.

                “Yeah, get your giant and your horse and let’s go.”


                “Huh?” asked Eris.

                “The horse— he’s my brother.”

                “The snake or the wolf?” asked Eris eyeing the octopedal grey stallion nervously.

                “No he’s my younger brother, the one we weren’t allowed to talk about. He was the black sheep, well white sheep, more like.”

                “He’s a horse.”


                “He’s not a sheep.”

                Thoki shook his head like he was trying to get water out of his ears. Apparently Eris was on another hyper up-swing. Since the Greek brothers were now in a slapping match a sudden thought occurred to him.

                “I don’t suppose we could… uh…” his eyes shifted towards the empty kitchen. “Y’know. Just a quick one before we leave?”

                “What, NOW? Boy, you really know how to sweet-talk a lady, dontcha half-pint,” said Eris with a hard stare.

                Thoki looked at his shoes.  “Yeah, I guess we’re in a rush.”

                “Uh, YA THINK?” said Eris, slapping her head and rolling her eyes.  Men!” she grunted

                Thoki tried to fight the blush attacking his face as he ran to the couch and tried to rouse Lor.

                “Hey, buddy. We got to get out of here. I need you to get up, ‘kay?”

                Lor’s crusted eyes slowly opened and he turned a yellow eye towards Thoki. “I think I’ll stay here just the same, thank you.”

                Thoki fought the roiling pit opening up in his stomach. “C’mon, this is serious. I really need you to try, alright?”

                Lor’s baleful stare didn’t flicker as he pondered this. “I understand, Thoki. You should go while you still can. I’ll manage well enough.”

                Lor had never lied to Thoki— he didn’t have the imagination for it— but something about his last sentence made Thoki think Lor wasn’t being entirely honest with him.

                “Thoki! Hey Thoki!” came Eris’s voice behind him, sounding amused. Thoki ignored her.

                “Lor, you’ve got to try, buddy,” said Thoki with a shaking voice. “It’s just until we get downstairs and then we’ll hail a cab or something… alright?”

                “Hey, Thoki! Thoki!” came Eris again.

                “No thanks, Thoki. You have fun looking for that chaos thing. I hope you find whatever it was,” said Lor with a half a smile.

                “Thoki! Look! Look, Thoki! Thoki!” Eris persisted cheerfully.

                “Lor, you can’t give up on me! Why do you think I had to rescue you and take care of you? I can’t do this without you, buddy. Please. Don’t give up yet.”

                “Thoki! Thoki! Thoki! Look, Thoki! Look!”

                “You really want me to come?” asked Lor.

                Thoki! Hey! Look! Look, Thoki! Thoki!”

                “Yes— WOULD YOU SHUT UP ALREADY, ERIS? WHAT IS IT???” shouted Thoki, whipping around to face her.

                Eris was using her magic to appear like a sprite made of pixels on the dead Television screen in the corner.

                “Look! I’m a Deus Ex Machina! Get it? I’m a god and I’m in a Machine!” she chirped.

                “Hilarious,” said Thoki icily.

                “So you guys done with your little sissy drama yet, or should I come back later?” said Eris.

                “He can’t move, Eris,” sighed Thoki. We can’t get him downstairs.

                “Who said we were going downstairs?” said Eris. “I can take us with my powers.”

                “You can?” shouted Thoki.

                “Hellooooo? Goddess?”

                “Why didn’t you just say so— and don’t say because I never asked because I feel like hitting something!”

                Eris stared at him without moving.


                “You said not to say it,” said Eris.

                Thoki’s eyes suddenly widened to the size of ping-pong balls as a thought occurred to him. “You’re the goddess of dischord!”

                “Yes. How d’you do,” said Eris, bemused.

                “YOU’RE AN AGENT OF CHAOS!!” screamed Thoki.

                “Took you long enough,” said Eris with a wry smile. She snapped her fingers and there was a flash of light with the smell of burning ozone. Hermes and Apollo, were knocked out of their frenzied tussle to see the room suddenly devoid of one former demi-god, one giant, and one 8-legged horse.

                “What just happened?” asked Hermes rubbing his head. There were a few large lumps on it, and his nose felt broken again. He looked over at his brother who was rubbing his jaw and blinking through a black eye.

                “I dunno,” said Apollo using his rod to heal a broken finger.

                Hermes’s eyes darted around the room and landed on the golden iPod near Apollo’s knee.

                He spat out a tooth before spitting out the name, “ERIS!”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Part 21: Snakes and Staffs

Thoki cursed and threw the King James Bible against the wall where it dented the plaster and slithered to the floor like a brained bird. He’d read it from Genesis to Revelations; he’d also read the Koran and the Torah, and even the Morman book of Moses, but he was no closer to finding what he was looking for.

“I’ll never find it!” he moaned banging his head on the table in despair.

There was a nicker from Slepnir’s direction and Thoki looked at his brother. Slepnir was looking haggard these days from lack of sleep and his current diet of decaying plywood and the living room sofa. Thoki reached out a hand and pet Slepnir’s velvety nose. The horse seemed to calm a little and his ears relaxed for the first time in ages.

                “Your brother’s a clueless moron, you know that,” said Thoki.

                Slepnir’s gave a non-committal toss of his head as if to say, “Yes you are, but there’s no point in getting depressed.”

                Thoki gave a hopeless hollow laugh and glanced at Lor sleeping peacefully on the sofa. He’d been lying there for six days now and while his wounds seemed to have cleared up, the giant was listless and pale. He’d wake up for a few hours, eat and then go to sleep again. It was beginning to worry Thoki, and he was powerless to do anything. Lor was far too big to move, even with Slepnir’s help. Lor had expended the last of his energy just getting here. Now in this fetid, vermin-infested, poisonous apartment, he was slowly losing whatever battle raged inside his massive body.

                Thoki sighed and got to his feet. After trying to rouse Lor from his sleep with little success, he began to fall back into his recent habit of pacing. He prowled through the living room, kicking up dust and insects from the rotting carpet. Slepnir watched him with the mild interest of someone whose only source of entertainment had been counting his legs.  

                “What am I doing?” Thoki muttered. “I’m busy trying to find some stupid place that might not even be on Earth and it doesn’t matter because if I could even figure out where the hell it is I can’t go because my giant can’t move.”

                “Well that does put you in an awkward position, doesn’t it?” said the familiar drawl of a continental gentleman.

                “Hello, Hermes,” said Thoki without even looking around.

                “I’ve brought a friend today,” said Hermes.

                With a heavy sigh, and a depressed acceptance of the death that was to come Thoki looked up.

                Hermes was grinning wickedly. He didn’t have the battle scars on him from his last encounter with Thoki. The last time Thoki had seen him, he was sporting broken ribs, a hurt leg and a crushed nose. Now he looked as fit and dapper as ever in his designer jeans, silk blouse and navy military jacket. Next to him was another olive-skinned aquiline-nosed god. Thoki gazed into a handsome face that was gorgeous almost to the point of freakishness. His full lips, golden eyes, curly blond hair, strong chin— they seemed to be cartoonish on a real face. Thoki felt a hot flush rise to his face which made him furious. He knew exactly who he was looking at. The staff in the god’s hand, a golden scepter with a snake wrapped around it explained everything, including Hermes’s miraculous recovery.

                “Apollo, I presume.”

                “Yes,” said the god in a deep soap-opera voice.

                Good grief; he sounds like an old Superman cartoon, thought Thoki with a frown.

                “To what do I owe this pleasure… and with such an item as that?” Thoki asked, eyeing the staff hungrily.

                “You know what this is?” asked Hermes lightly, his smile widening.

                Thoki nodded. It was the magical Rod of Asclepius—once belonging to Apollo’s son Asclepius, the world’s greatest doctor. It was said to cure all wounds, and in Asclepius’s hands it could bring the dead to life. For that hubris Apollo’s son was sentenced to death by Zeus himself.

                “And you know what it’s capable of?” asked Hermes.

                Again Thoki nodded and his eyes swiveled to look at Lor again. “What do you want?” he asked, his throat suddenly dry.

                “We couldn’t help but notice that your hairy friend over there isn’t doing so well,” said Hermes.

                “He’s just a bit under the weather,” said Thoki beginning to sweat, he had an inkling of what was coming next.

                “Don’t bother lying to me. Apollo is a God of medicine himself, aren’t you brother?”

                Apollo nodded his golden head but said nothing.

                “He’s dying, Thoki,” said Hermes simply.

                Thoki nodded dumbly as he fought the bile in his throat and tried to stay upright.

                “So now he’s out of the way, you can win?” gasped Thoki. “Lor’s down for the count so you come here with your big brother and his magic stick to even the odds.”

                Hermes blinked before regarding Thoki in disappointed bemusement.

                “Are you being deliberately obtuse or are you really just thick?”

                “If I say it’s the latter will you promise not to break my nose again?” moaned Thoki. “Seriously. Why are you here? I guess if you were going to kick my ass you’d have done it by now, but… you know… the trickster tendency to go off on ADD tangents is hard to override.”

                “Fair enough,” said Hermes. “Yes, I fully intend to get my revenge on you… but I’ve been instructed to do otherwise… for the moment…by my associates.  I’m here to offer you a bargain.”

Slepnir’s ears cocked upwards and he raised his head to look at the three of them.

“Go on,” said Thoki. He was nervous. Hermes was the god of diplomats and compromise as well. The bastard could turn on the charm if he had to, and also knew when to press his advantage.

“Apollo here will heal your giant if you swear a solemn oath not to seek Isfat.”

“And if I don’t?” asked Thoki, a cold sweat attacking his neck and the backs of his knees.

“Then your Jotun friend dies… and you’ll be much easier to pick off by yourself,” said Hermes calmly. He fingered his own staff, the caduceus, the double-snake staff of negotiation.

Thoki looked back at his friend. Lor hadn’t stirred through the entire exchange; his shallow breathing and pasty face told Thoki that Hermes spoke the truth.

It’s over, he told himself. There’s nothing left.

The realization came as somewhat of a relief after all this internal conflict. He would never find Isfat now, but now he had other things in front of him. He might even get to get a real life after this. Maybe this promise would silence all those delusions of grandeur and malcontent that screamed at him in the night. He could just be Thoki Lokison, a boring uninteresting short man who dreamed of nothing more ambitious than pancakes with bacon.

“Alright,” he said quietly nodding.

Apollo began his manly stride towards the sofa where Lor lay when Thoki shouted out to him.

“On one condition!” he shouted.

“I make the conditions, brat,” sniffed Hermes.

“It’s just a little thing,” he said.

“This means you don’t try to snuff me out later, got it?”

Hermes tried to look bored, but Thoki saw a flicker of relief behind his olive face. With Lor back in the pink Hermes didn’t relish getting his ass handed to him again by the behemoth.

“It’s a deal. Shake on it,” he added in a low stern voice.

Thoki took a deep gulp of breath and walked towards the outstretched hand smelling of cologne and espresso.

Monday, September 12, 2011

20: Under My Skin

The afternoon sun shone greyly through the grimy window panes of the dilapidated apartment. The other windows were left open to create a mouldy-smelling cross breeze. Thoki was sitting cross-legged on the stained rug examining the seven postcards of the obelisk that Slepnir had given him. The hieroglyphs were faint, the real obelisk being of sedimentary rock and several millennia old. Additionally, the postcards weren’t printed at a resolution where he could read the faded glyphs. Thoki wished he had a powerful magnifying glass to examine them but had to make do with a cracked pair of reading glasses he’d found in a dumpster.

Through squinting eyes, he tried to see through the dots composing the image to the symbols of birds, running water, and plants. He’d then copy the phonetic translation as best as he could onto a sheet of paper and checked them against the other pictures. The multiple images weren’t as helpful as he had hoped. One was shot in such poor lighting that the glyphs were invisible. Of the other postcards, four of them showed the west side. There was one shot of the north side, and the last showed the east and south sides at an angle. It was not ideal, and while he had a very good transcript of the most popular side, the other three were causing him all manner of frustration.

“ARGH!” Thoki cried, flinging the glasses onto the table and jumping to his feet. He massaged his neck and blinked his eyes to get the after-image of print matrix out of his vision.

“This is so stupid!” he shouted, kicking the wall. His foot went completely through the old drywall and left a gaping hole. Out of sheer destructive anger Thoki kicked a few more holes in the wall, a wicked smile creeping across his face as he sent clouds of white plaster into the air and watched the mice and cockroaches scurry to safety. He laughed at their terror and fueled by their terror, he started really laying into the wall, laughing and hooting. He was stopped by the ceiling lamp dropping onto his head. It’s mooring in the flimsy plaster had become cracked and dislodged by Thoki’s rampage.

Thoki picked himself off the floor shaking the broken glass out of his hair and cursing a blue streak.

“Feel better?” asked Lor weakly from his prone position on the couch.

Thoki shot him a dirty look. “Shut up,” he snapped.

“Sorry,” mumbled Lor before drifting off to sleep again.

Thoki felt a stab of guilt as he saw just how badly the giant was doing. Lor hadn’t moved from the couch in over two days. He could barely lift his head to eat the stale food Thoki had scavenged that day. Thoki ran to the 2-gallon jug of sterile water he’d stolen and carefully poured a measure of it into a cracked souvenir mug. He rushed back to Lor and shaking the giant until he stirred, he helped Lor drink.

Slepnir was curled up in a leggy heap on the far side of the living room.

It was obvious to Thoki that Slepnir was only putting up with Lor for Thoki’s sake. The horse had fought enough Jotun to be terrified around the frost giant and try as Thoki might, he couldn’t convince Slepnir that Lor was harmless. Slepnir had instead decided to stay in the corner in a constant state of terror. It had been wearing on the horse for the last few days and he looked exhausted and worn to a frazzle.

Thoki stood on the rotten carpet and surveyed the sleeping giant and his recalcitrant brother. A sudden wave of depression hit him and he ran to the bathroom to spit out the vomit rising in his throat. He caught sight of his haggard face in the mirror. Infrequent meals and sleep had made it lose some of its childish roundness. There were now harsh angles, jutting cheekbones and hollow circles around his eyes. His fair hair was filthy and greasy, making it look more reddish brown than its usual blonde. His cool grey eyes were red-rimmed, making the irises look almost white. Most shockingly, Thoki recognized a different face behind his. It looked like a haggard tired face that been constantly tortured by slow-working poison. He was beginning to see his father Loki lurking under his skin. He backed away from the mirror in shock and the not-Loki in the mirror did the same. He watched as the familiar face broke down in the unfamiliar expression of despair. Large tears rolled down the hollow cheeks, leaving white tracks in the grime and splashing into the sink.

“What the fuck am I doing?” Thoki asked himself. “We’re trapped in this pit while I try to figure out what the key is to an entity that may or may not destroy the universe… I don’t even know why I’m doing this anymore. I was so sure a few months ago… and now… I don’t know.”

The face in the mirror frowned and looked more Loki-ish than ever. It spoke to him in a low whisper. “It’s because you’re trapped in this pit. It’s for all the hardship you’ve suffered and been made to suffer. It’s to show the world that you’re not a doormat anymore. That you’re capable of greater things.”

“Maybe I don’t want that anymore,” Thoki argued. “Maybe what I want is to get a job and a house and a wife and just live my life.”

“In this economy? You got to be joking! Besides that shit is for people with papers and numbers and credit scores — something you’ll never have. Face it. You don’t belong here. You’re just a prisoner here.”

“I don’t have to be. There are people who forge those things. I could get some fake papers and … and then…”

“And then what? You think Eris would want you then? You think she’d be content with a 3 bedroom, 1 ½ bath townhouse? You think she’d be impressed if you had a 9-to-6 job in data entry. You think she’d want… KIDS?”

“Maybe,” said Thoki, but both his warring halves knew it was bullshit. He then brightened up, “Maybe Hnoss—?”

“After you ditched her? I doubt it. Besides, she’s dead now.”

“Is she?”

“Does it matter? You’re never getting Hnoss back, stupid, and Eris doesn’t settle down. Face it. Your only chance of ever getting laid again is if you’re the top dog.”

“It’s not just about getting laid, asshole,” he told himself.
The face in the mirror agreed. “It’s about getting everything else too. Respect, fear, money, power… even love.”

“It won’t get me love,” he sighed.

“It might. Who’s to say?”

“Who’s to say I won’t find it anyway if I were to just forget the whole thing. Maybe Hnoss and Eris aren’t an option, but maybe there’s a nice mortal girl…”

“Who loves tiny men with tiny dicks? Keep dreaming, shorty. Face it. You’re basically fucked in that department. Now if you were rich and powerful….”
“Shut up! Shut up and stop thinking with your penis, dumbass!”

“You’re right. We should be thinking about Isfat instead.”

“WHY? WHY does it matter??” he screamed. “Why do I have to risk my life and the lives of my brother and my friend for something that I don’t even know what it is?!?”

“Because you have to,” he said. “You HAVE to. It’s part of you… it calls to you when you sleep at night. It won’t let you rest. It won’t give you peace until you’ve exhausted every fiber of your being to find it. That’s why.”

The mirror spoke in tandem with him as he said it (as mirrors always do). Both he and the Loki under his skin were in absolute agreement as he said the words. And he knew it was true. It was something beyond his dim comprehension. It sought him. He was powerless against it.

Defeated and twice as depressed as before, he slumped back into the living room and plopped down on the floor before the coffee table. He glanced at the hieroglyphs he’d penciled out and then snatched up the page in a feverish rush. It was like the optical illusion of the old lady. He kept trying to see the young lady’s face but instead kept seeing the old woman. Now at second glance he could see her. The saucy curve of her neck, her eyelashes, her dark hair, she was looking away from him coquettishly laughing at him for not being able to see her before. Everything was clear now. He had been trying to read the glyphs in ancient Egyptian, but it had seemed like gibberish. It was only when he glanced at the phonetic words written in roman letters that he realized the truth. It was a poorly written attempt to mimic words in Ancient Hebrew.

Pulse pounding, he wrote the words again in Hebrew, and came up with this poorly worded phrase,

בראשית היה תוהו.

Thoki reassembled the words properly in his head and heard them again in Anansi’s dark penetrating voice:

“In the beginning, there was void”

Thoki stared at the words. “That bastard, Anansi was giving me a clue… Hebrew text…” Thoki felt an icy pit in his stomach. He was dimly aware of the Hebrew deity that was somehow different from all the other Father gods. He had once thought him akin to Zeus, and Odin and Osiris and all those other big beards in the sky but for some reason He escaped definition. He made Thoki nervous.

“Hey, Lor?” he said.

Lor stirred and mumbled questioningly.

“Where would I find a copy of the Torah?”

“I don’t know,” said Lor.

“Where does one normally keep holy books?” asked Thoki.

“In a place that’s holy… or a place full of books.”

Thoki shuddered at the idea of going into a synagogue. There was only one option left.

“Looks like I’m going to the Library,” he said.

“Just like old times,” said Lor with a smile.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tragedy In Norway

A lot of my readers are from Norway so I'd like to post that my heart goes out to your country and your people after this terrible tragedy. I fell in love with your country when I was a little girl and it seems unthinkable that such evil could befall a beautiful harmonious land like Norway.

You will be in my prayers.

~Monica Marier

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

19: Fetch

“I got him,” said Thoki jogging up to Slepnir.  Lor was standing silently behind Thoki. It was hard to tell if he was lost in thought or just lost.

Slepnir shied away from the giant, snorting.

“Of course I don’t expect you to carry him,” said Thoki. He tried to sound reassuring, but really Thoki was disappointed. He had thought that maybe Slepnir had some sort of super-strength that would have solved this problem. Looking at the horse again, however, Thoki realized that there was no way that Lor would even have fit on Slepnir’s back.

“We can just… um… fly… on… er… broomsticks,” he finished lamely.

“Like Harry Potter,” gasped Lor.

Thoki sighed at Lor’s failure to grasp sarcasm.

“Damn it. Looks like we’re walking,” muttered Thoki.  

A bone-splintering howl penetrated the eerie silence and his head shot up in alarm. There was a loud blast and a blistering wind as something exploded and burst into flames knocking Thoki to the pavement.

Standing silhouetted against the light of a burning car was Fenrir.

“…or running. Running is good,” said Thoki, scrambling to get his feet under him.

“I gotcha now, runt!” roared Fenrir.

Slepnir screamed and reared; the whites of his eyes shone in the flames. In one fluid movement, Lor scooped Thoki up and tossed him onto the horse. As soon as his backside hit Slepnir’s flanks the horse’s eight legs became a blur. Thoki looked around to see Lor standing stalk-still against the billowing clouds of illuminated smoke.

“Lor! C’mon!” he shouted.

“I’ll hold him off!” Lor shouted back.

“NO, you moron! I came back to GET you!” Thoki screamed over his shoulder, but Slepnir had gone too far away.  Thoki grunted in frustration before grabbing Slepir’s mane and trying to make him turn 180°. Three of Slepnir’s legs followed suit but the other five wanted to keep going forwards. Thoki hit the pavement, jarring his injured arm and knocking his head on the concrete.

 Slepnir untangled himself and, ears flat against his head, he screamed at Thoki.

“We have to go back!” said Thoki from the ground.

Slepnir pawed the ground menacingly.

“I mean it! Every time Lor and I split up, everything goes wrong! We’re going back!”

The horse snorted and tossed his head.

“Look, you can of dog-meat! I know I can’t fight Fenrir, but I can’t leave Lor to face him alone.”

Slepnir’s head lowered. He looked ready to charge.

“Go ahead! I don’t care! Don’t you get it? I don’t care what anyone does to me anymore! I’ve already been tortured, humiliated and killed. There’s NOTHING anyone can throw at me that will make any difference now.”

Slepnir stepped back a little, his head cocked to the side.

“I dunno about that. Maybe I just don’t know when I’m beat. But I’m not afraid of Fenrir anymore. The worst he can do is kill me… and I’ve been there already.”

 Slepnir shifted between looking forward and looking back, torn in indecision.

“Do what you got to do,” said Thoki.

 Slepnir gave Thoki a sheepish stare before galloping away at full clip.

 “Can’t say I blame you,” sighed Thoki as he picked himself off the ground and started loping back towards Lor. A sudden idea came to him and he changed course towards the police station’s back door.

 “Fenrir might be able to tie me into a pretzel knot… but he’s dumber than a sack of hammers,” Thoki muttered to himself with a thin grin. His heart wasn’t in it. For all his bravado about not being afraid of Fenrir, Thoki knew something he hadn’t told Slepnir — it was all bullshit.

When he came out of the station again, he saw them — two titans locked in mortal combat. Fenrir had let his wolf-side take over and was now biting and clawing at the Jotun in a frenzied fury. Lor’s arms were straining against the wolf’s power, sinews standing out like writhing snakes. Sweat glistened off his ruddy face in the orange light as he withstood Fenrir’s onslaught of blows. He didn’t give one inch of ground, he didn’t cry out, and he didn’t budge, but he wasn’t fighting back either. To do that would have given Fenrir a chance to claw at his stomach or throat, which would have finished him.

He was losing.

Thoki realized it instantly and knew he had only a second to act. He clutched the item he’d fetched from the police station in his sweaty hand.

“HEY, STUPID!” shouted Thoki.

Both Lor and Fenrir stopped fighting for a fraction of a second to look at him, and with an inward groan, Thoki realized that he should have probably been more specific.

 “FENRIR!” he shouted and the wolf’s head grinned at him.

 “Rrrrunt!” he growled through canine incisors. Fenrir couldn’t talk very well in this form. “I’m frough playin’ wif dis Gian’,” he spat. His jaws snapped closed around Lor’s head and with a violent shake, let him sink to the ground. Thoki froze, suddenly unsure of his plan.

“NOW ITF YUR TURN!” he shouted crouching to get a powerful start to his charge at Thoki.

Thoki gulped and held the item aloft as high as he dared.

Fenrir paused ever so slightly.

Thoki squeezed it.

It went, “SQUEAK.”

Fenrir skidded to a halt, starring at the fluffy pink, slightly bedraggled Mr. Babbington in Thoki’s hand.

“You want the toy?” asked Thoki in a bright excited voice.

Fenrir gave an excited whine, while hanging back a little, as if to say, “I would not be averse to having this toy, yes.” His tail betrayed him as it thumped the sidewalk causing large cracks to spread through the concrete.

“You want the toy?” Thoki asked again, waving the pig invitingly.

 Fenrir whined again and lifted a forepaw. The concrete under his wagging tail now had a crater the size of a punch bowl.
“Who’s a good wolf?” said Thoki squeezing the pig again.

 A large pink tongue, like a giant hagfish, lolled out of Fenrir’s mouth as he rolled on his back in a show of good will.

“You want it!”

 “Yeah!” shouted Fenrir.

“You want it?”


 “GO GET IT!!!”  shouted Thoki, and reaching his arm as far back as it would go, threw as hard as he could.

Thoki’s stomach sank as Fenrir launched himself in the air and caught the pig in mid-arc. To his surprise, however, Fenrir trotted back to Thoki and dropped the very wet pig in his hand. He bounced in anticipation.

“AGAIN!” barked Fenrir.

“Kay,” said Thoki wishing he could throw harder. Another idea struck him and he reached his arm back for a second time.

“GO GET IT, FEN!” he shouted. Fenrir followed the projected arc and took off, his claws sending chunks of cement flying as he sped away.

As soon as he was out of sight, Thoki ran to Lor’s side. It didn’t look good. Lor’s face was covered in blood and his breathing was shallow and labored.

“You okay, buddy?” asked Thoki, more out of blind optimism than any real hope.

“I been better,” Lor managed weakly.

“Shit. We have to get out of here before Fenrir gets back. Can you walk?”

“No,” said Lor. Thoki briefly reflected that Lor was the type to say, “I’ll try” or “I can manage.” The fact that he cut through niceties to the bald truth scared him.

Just as Thoki was about to dissolve into hysterics at his hopeless situation, he felt a tug at his sleeve.  He turned in time to get a wet, snotty nuzzle from Slepnir.

“Came back, did you?” he asked sourly.  

Slepnir implied nothing, as he leaned down to let Lor grab his mane. In a few painful movements, they managed to drape Lor over Slepnir’s back and were now making awkward progress down the pavement. They moved as quickly as they dared and their impeded speed drove Thoki nearly insane as he expected any minute for Fenrir to come barreling at them, teeth bared.

“Fenrir gon’ com’ back?” mumbled Lor.

“I hope not.”

“S’been a while. Did you throw farther then?” asked Lor.

Thoki reached behind him and pulled out the plush pig that had been crammed into his belt.

“The only lesson my Dad ever taught me: If you can’t win, don’t play.”

After what seemed like hours (but was in fact 24 minutes), they arrived back at the flat they’d been squatting in. Lor dropped onto the couch that was moldering against the wall. Thoki looked around for something to clean his wounds with. Slepnir stood out of the way began eating a rattan basket.

Lor was already looking better, his Jotun blood made him damn-near impossible to kill, much to Thoki’s relief. It was just as well since there was nothing to treat wounds with around the flat but filthy carpet and a toxic-looking bottle of ancient furniture polish

“Goin’ take a nap for a while,” mumbled Lor.

“That’s fine. Go ahead,” said Thoki with a sigh.

“Sorry everythin’s gone wron’.”

“It… it’s okay. I’m beginning to think this Isfat thing isn’t worth the trouble,” said Thoki with a catch in his voice.  “I just wish… I wish I could have gotten a look at that obelisk.”

As Thoki angrily wiped away an escaped tear he felt warm breath snuffle on his neck. He looked up to see Slepnir with something in his mouth.

“Whatcha got there?” he asked his brother, taking the scrap of paper from him. It was a damp postcard. The address and text blocks were blank, indicating it’d never been used, but turning it over, Thoki stopped dead. On the picture side was a crisp clear photograph of a phallic tower hewn from ancient red sandstone.

“It’s a postcard of the obelisk?” Thoki gasped, laughing in hysterics. “I-I-I can read it! It’s right here!” he stammered. “But it’s just one side of it.”

Six more cards fluttered down from Slepnir’s mouth. They showed the Tower at various other angles and light.

“You did it!” shouted Thoki. He jumped to his feet in feverish excitement and hugged Slepnir’s neck. “YOU DID IT!! You are the BEST freaking brother EVER!!”
Slepnir nuzzled his cheek happily.
“Where the hell were you keeping those?” Thoki asked in amazement.