A man, a woman and a mother with her child stepped into the skyscraper elevator.
Silently they stood next to each other after each had pressed the button for their exit level and the elevator doors closed with a soft sound and it slowly rose up from the ground floor. The man got out on the fifth floor, the mother and her child on the seventh. The woman, who had pressed the button for the top floor, now quietly waited in solitude, a cold, apathetic expression on her face. She only moved when the elevator skipped her floor. Her eyes wandered to the buttons of the elevator, the number for the top floor still blinking, but the elevator somehow just kept going further up. The woman barely acknowledged this supernatural occurrence with an enervated sigh and went back to facing the elevator doors in her previous unfazed manner. Then after a few minutes, the elevator finally came to a sudden halt and the doors swung open with a lighthearted ring.
Outside of the elevator doors, was, inexplicably, the most lavish garden one could possibly imagine. Magnificent flowers in all the colors of the rainbow, ravishing shrubs and trees and exotic birds singing in the distance. The woman, still inadequately impressed, stepped out of the elevator. She heard the doors close behind her but when she turned her head to look back, there was nothing but endless meadows and trees. She started walking deeper into the garden, a seemingly untouched paradise with the sun shining above it all in a clear blue sky. After a while, she heard a melodic voice singing nearby and followed it past luscious apple trees until she reached a small, sunlit glade. In the middle of this glade, sat a plump little woman plaiting flower crowns. When she noticed the visitor, she put her work aside and leapt to her feet, her angelic blonde curls bouncing, arms spread for an embrace.
“Welcome back, my dear.“, she exclaimed with a wide smile spreading on her rosy cheeks.
Her guest, seeming awfully out of place in her impeccable black suit, didn’t say a word but suspiciously squinted at her counterpart.
“What do you want from me this time?“, she inquired, crossing her arms in front of her chest impatiently.
The mysterious woman smiled a little wider, smoothing her long white toga and clearing her throat.
“Some people would give their lives for an audience with their maker.“, she replied sweetly.
“And I am not one of them.“, retorted her visitor.
Her answer was nothing but a smile.
“So why did you bring me here?“, asked the woman again, a little more acerbic this time.
“Because”, said her host. “I have a surprise for you, Freyja, my child.”
The woman now frowned skeptically.
“I think I’ve had more than my fair share of surprises from you.“, she said.
“Now, now. Who would turn down a gift from God.”
And then she spun around and led Freyja to a little wooden bench under one of the apple trees that most certainly hadn’t been there just a moment ago, sat down and patted on the spot next to her. Freyja only sat down reluctantly.
The woman turned to her, examining her face intently.
“Are both of you listening to me right now?“, she asked Freyja, closely scrutinizing her face.
Freyja seemed visibly unsettled by that question but she nodded slowly.
“Good.“, said the woman. “I want both of you to witness this.”
Then she leaned back on the bench and dreamfully looked out in her garden while Freyja kept eyeing her distrustfully as they sat in silence for a while.
“Tell me, child, do you remember when you were born?“, asked the woman.
Freyja raised an eyebrow at this peculiar question but shook her head after a while.
The woman slightly tilted her head as if she were lost in thought and twisted one of her blonde curls.
“I remember.” she said dreamily as if seeing it in front of her right now.
Then she looked back at her guest.
“Do you remember what came after?”
Now Freyja crossed her arms again and dodged the woman’s glance when she looked at her.
“What exactly do you remember?”
Freyja slowly turned to the woman, her face a stone-cold mask but her eyes gleaming furiously.
“Did you bring me here to torment me, is that it?“, she asked through gritted teeth.
The smile faded from the woman’s face and she suddenly looked very serious.
“Not at all, my dear.“, she said calmly. “I didn’t mean to hit a nerve.”
Freyja quickly pulled herself together and locked eyes with her again.
“Then what do you want?”
The woman started smiling again with barely hidden excitement.
“I already told you. I have a surprise for you.”
And with those words, she rose up from the bench and started wandering deeper into the forest of apple trees. Freyja followed her grudgingly.
While they walked, the woman turned her head back to Freyja.
“Do you remember who saved you?“, she asked.
Freyja suddenly stopped, crossing her arms in front of her chest again and the woman too stopped and looked at her waiting for an answer.
“Don’t you know everything?“, Freyja replied with a cold smile, evidently annoyed.
“Of course I do. But I want to hear it from you.“, she said.
“I remember.“, said Freyja.
They continued walking.
Finally, they reached another, even smaller glade with a huge basket just standing in the grass, covered with a silk blanket. The woman waved at Freyja to come closer.
“Look inside.“, she said with a smile on her face.
Freyja, now utterly suspicious, slowly approached the basket and knelt down before it.
“Take off the blanket.“, said her host from behind.
Freyja carefully took off the blanket. Inside were two infants, peacefully sleeping. Freyja turned around and looked at the woman with raised eyebrows.
“Is this supposed to be a joke?”
The woman chuckled.
“They’re not for you. I’ll have them delivered to Mythos soon.”
Freyja nodded knowingly.
“The new monarchs I presume.”
The woman nodded eagerly, however a little too excited given the mundane circumstances.
“And why should I care?“, inquired Freyja, already bored again.
Now the mother suddenly smirked mysteriously and pointed back at the basket.
And Freyja watched as one of the children suddenly shivered as if it were disturbed by an unpleasant noise and slowly opened its eyes, curiously looking at her and she suddenly froze in shock.
“What the hell did you do?!“, she said, unable to turn away from the basket.
“Miraculous, isn’t it.“, whispered the woman, gloating over this tragic rendition.
“Is it really her?“, pleaded Freyja, aghast.
“It is.“, said the mother. “I had to punish her for what she did for you, really a fateful transgression. But she begged me for a second chance. And here it is.”
Freyja took off one of her white gloves and gently stroked the babies cheek.
“This is my fault.”
The woman approached Freyja to gently patted her shoulder.
“Now, now. Who can say they got a second chance at life?”
Freyja suddenly turned around slapping her hand away with a lethal expression on her face.
“You call that a second chance? Sending her to Mythos as the next monarch? Slitting her throat right here and now would be kinder.“, she snapped.
The woman simply kept smiling her serene smile and Freyja wished with all her heart that she could just wipe it off her face.
“I know you owe her.“, the woman said softly.
“Everything I have I owe to her.“, Freyja whispered. For a moment longer, she lingered over the basket, petting the infant’s head while it continued to examine her with childish curiosity. Then she got back on her feet and turned to the woman.
“Please let someone else take her place. I’ll take care of her.”
The woman only gave her an apologetic smile.
“You think you can give her a better life than the myth nobles?“, she reproved Freyja.
“I know I can.“, she said determinedly. “I’ll raise her as one of my apprentices. Give her work. Give her a proper life. I owe her at least that much.”
But the woman did not listen to her pleas.
“Maybe she would be happier if I just sent her off with you...“, she meant.
Freyja sighed in relief.
“But I can’t.“, she added.
Freyja laughed disbelievingly.
“You can’t? Who is going to stop you?“, she taunted.
“I don’t favour anyone.″, said the woman sternly.
Freyja sighed, closing her eyes for a brief moment. Then she got up, wiping grass off her suit and with a last gaze at the infant started walking away from the glade, the woman and the basket. She wouldn’t give up that easily. But today wasn’t the day. This matter had to be approached and thought through carefully. And so she would retreat, for now. She had already wasted enough time.
“We both know that’s not true.”