Monday, May 2, 2011
Ep. 13 Gods in the Marketplace
Feeling much better, Thoki began to walk towards the obelisk. As his stride drew him closer and closer to his target, his pace quickened. He debated briefly whether he should go back and wait outside the toilets for Lor, but his impatience gnawed at him. Lor was always so slow. Anyways, it’s not like the big ox would be able to decipher the worn glyphs on the obelisk anyway. He had trouble with “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” for crap’s sake. Then again — and this made Thoki pause midstride — Lor did have those rare moments of perspicacity at the oddest of moments.
Thoki shrugged and kept walking. It was only a short jog to the obelisk; Lor would catch up. And this way Thoki could spend his time reading the obelisk instead of reading the graffiti on the bathroom walls.
As the red sandstone column loomed ahead, Thoki’s heart beat faster and faster. He could hear his own pulse whooshing in his ears and making his head throb as his fingers twitched and his body perspired. The anticipation and emotional tide was similar to his recent encounter with Eris and the memory brought a grim smirk to his face, but he pressed on, his feet pounding the sidewalk with more vigor.
He was running at a full tilt now, knocking aside civilians, tourists and vendors as he jogged towards his goal. Against the blue sky, the pink rock looked like a red tower of blood, and his pace slowed as he drew within arm’s length. There he was forced to pause.
The monument’s primordial decoration was protected from the slack-jawed looky-lous by barriers and a park ranger. An actual park-freaking-ranger, like people came around every day to touch the stone that was older than the first Pharaoh.
The nerve of some people, thought Thoki as he stood weighing his options as to how best to get closer. He rubbed his bare chin until it irritated his sunburn and he winced at the fiery, prickly sensation.
“You could use some aloe on that,” came a voice over his shoulder.
Thoki, lost in thought, turned absently to see who it was. It was a familiar ham-faced man with a shaved head. Robin Goodfellow was standing behind him in jeans and a Pink Floyd “The Wall” shirt with the arms torn off. He gave Thoki a broad grin, showing off his chipped tooth and in a congenial voice said:
The blood drained from Thoki’s blistered face as he backed away into a pair of cologne-scented but very strong arms. Hermes had crept up from behind and he grabbed Thoki in a headlock. Thoki only got a brief glimpse of the Greek, but the messenger god’s sculpted nose was looking a little bent and his lip was swollen. Instead of Hermes’s shiny silks he had traded down to a polo shirt and white pants. There was dirty work to do, obviously, and Versache had no place here.
“HELP!” cried Thoki — or he tried to anyway, but nothing was coming out. He was too scared to shout — the two tricksters had him by the short hairs. Instead his mouth flapped open and closed a few times like a mute ventriloquist’s dummy.
“You left our little party before we finished it,” said Hermes’s velvet voice in his ear. “That wasn’t very nice, considering that you were the guest of honor.”
“-----!” said Thoki, still gasping for words.
“Sorry, Thoki,” said Goodfellow in his less-than-melodious East-Ender tones. “But we can’t let you do this, see?”
“You might seek the destruction of the world, but some of us are living quite happily in it,” said Hermes.
“ So’s we figure that if’n we lock you up, you can’t find the Chaos, right? Problem solved. Happy ending,” said Goodfellow. He gave Thoki a sympathetic grin.
“How’s it a happy ending if I’m locked up?” Thoki finally managed.
Puck’s grin faded a little into a pitying expression. “Werlll, I din’ say it’d be happy for everyone did I?”
And with that, Hermes began to frog-march Thoki out of the park and into the high-street.
Thoki tried to look around, as much as the half-nelson he was in would let him. No one seemed to notice the young Nordic man being carried off by two thugs. In fact, it seemed that no one saw them at all.
“Hello! Guy being kidnapped!” shouted Thoki. Hermes kneed him in the kidneys for that attempt. One or two civillians blinked and looked confused, but otherwise let them pass unnoticed.
“What’s going on? Why don’t they see us?” asked Thoki.
There was a pause as Goodfellow glanced at Hermes in uncertainty before looking back at Thoki.
“They don’t see us because they don’t want to,” said Goodfellow.
“To them we don’t exist,” said Hermes bitterly. “Hermes is the name of a scarf company or that little man on the FTD florist’s logo. Puck is a beloved character in a Shakespeare play or a small black coin flicked around a hockey arena.”
“I don’t think that last example is right,” said Goodfellow weakly but Hermes paid him no notice.
“To them the gods are dead, even as their memory floats around this city like clouds of incense. Look at that souvenir table,” spat Hermes as they passed a merchant’s table full of Cairo-themed memorabilia.
“You have Anubis T-shirts, and wallets, and coffee mugs, but who among these God-fearing Muslims, Jews and Christians would ever think that a Jackal-headed God walks among them.
“Does he?” asked Thoki in awe.
“Don’t be stupid,” hissed Hermes in irritation. Thoki breathed a little.
“Anubis hates crowds,” said Goodfellow, jumping in. “He waits until nightfall.”
“The POINT is…” snapped Hermes in irritation, “… that even if he was walking down this very street with a tennis ball in his mouth, none of these people would see him. To them, he is a dead god of an ancient race.”
“But why don’t they see me? I’m not a god,” asked Thoki quietly.
“Because you’re appallingly average and forgettable,” said Hermes coldly.
“Oh,” said Thoki feeling ill.
Hermes then felt a tap on his shoulder. Keeping a firm grip on Thoki’s neck, Hermes turned his sculpted head. The god’s face was promptly enveloped in a bushy ginger beard.
Thoki caught sight of Goodfellow going pale before he felt the grip on his neck lessen. Looking around, he saw Lor standing idly and dangling a struggling Hermes by his neck.
“I should very much like my friend back,” said Lor to Goodfellow. His voice was mild enough, but there was a fire in his piggy eyes that made even Thoki nervous.
“Oh bugger,” gasped Goodfellow before a fist the size of a butt roast came roaring at him with the force of a freight train. The blow hit him squarely on the jaw and sent Goodfellow flying into the table of “Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra”-themed merchandise. He tried righting himself, only to have Hermes’s body land on top of him, collapsing the flimsy card table.
If there was any question of whether people could see them now, it was rescinded. What the stand owner saw was a punk kid with a lot of tattoos and his rich boyfriend sitting on his ruined stock.
“I guess people can see gods, when they make themselves known,” laughed Thoki as the vendor cursed at the groaning tricksters. “Those stupid blowhards. People don’t see kidnappers and beatings because people are assholes. It’s not because of godly powers,” he scoffed.
“I think there was another god of legend who made a lot of fuss in a marketplace once. Turned a lot of tables over and shouted.”
“Yeah, that was you… just now” said Thoki, who wasn’t a biblical scholar.
“Oh yeah,” said Lor, who had forgotten what they were talking about. In those situations it was always best to agree with Thoki. Thoki knew what was going on.
“C’mon,” said Thoki in agitation. “Before they get to their feet, we need to hide and figure out a plan to get at that Obelisk.” He pulled Lor through the crowd until they melted into it again.
The sky was turning a charcoal grey, and the oven-like air was now a cold biting wind that smelled of tin, and, to the well-trained nose… like impending snowfall.