Ulysses plucked a single rose from the full bush before him. He regarded his garden as the ultimate place of peace and tranquility. His quantum of solace. The garden smelled of fresh roses and morning dew. Birds sang and made their nests in high redwood trees. Between the array of roses and birds, the garden didn’t lack any paints. The rays of fresh sun hit his face as he embraced its warmth. He welcomed the sun as an old friend in the morning and bid it adieu every evening as he had for centuries.
He sat against a bench and replaced the withered rose in his pocket for a fresher one. He coughed and reached for a rag within his velvet robes. As he smothered his cough with a rag, he noticed a bright patch of blood. The sores lining his mouth bled onto his lips like fresh lipstick. A sour, coppery-like taste furnished his mouth.
The sound of contemporary oxfords pounded against the garden’s marble floors. Ulysses looked around the pillar to his right as a man appeared. A handsome man with curly hair the color of gold and warm cinnamon eyes. He ducked beneath a limb hanging across the walkway and smiled. His smile was like the warmest sunrise.
“Hello, Ulysses. They said I might find you here,” the man said amiably.
Ulysses scoffed as he stuffed the bloodied rag in his robe. He propped himself up on his cane and faced Sullivan. His gray eyes probed the man rigorously.
“Tell me. How did the excavations go? And the four horsemen?”
Sullivan crossed his arms behind his back and took a deep breath. “We successfully revived the four horsemen and tested their powers thoroughly. Although-” Sullivan made a face. “-although, we haven’t been able to locate her tomb yet…”
Sullivan lowered his head, expecting some kind of respite from Ulysses. Instead, the old man continued to pick roses from his bushes. He held a blue rose in his hands like it was a newborn. White and red roses flourished along the bushes across from him with a few green ones. A cardinal landed on the bush, pecked the air a few times and flew away. More birds gathered at the clay water fountains, where they drank and bathed.
“Do you miss her, Sullivan?”
Sullivan furrowed his brow. “She is my mother…”
Ulysses choked on air, making loud wheezes as he coughed. Sullivan knelt by his side and gingerly sat him on the bench. He gestured to a servant.
The woman nodded and left the garden without a second thought. She disappeared around a bush. He took a seat by Ulysses as the old man caught his breath.
“Sullivan, let me tell you a story, lad. It might be one you’re familiar with.”
They shared a glance.
Ulysses continued. “Have you ever heard of the Odyssey?”
“We all know all about Odysseus’ adventure with the Sirens. The harpies. Scylla and Charybdis and so on. But the history books never mention the cocoons.”
Sullivan leaned closer. “Cocoons?”
Ulysses nodded. “Yes. You see towards the end of his journey, Odysseus stumbled upon an island in the mist. Crewless and on the brink of starvation; he scavenged for food. That was when he stumbled upon a cave where he found a mummified creature…”
Ulysses thought of the mummy he kept in his office. An inhuman creature with sharp talons and wings that had a thin membrane between them. Its head resembled a cross between a bat and an ape, with a tall frame and long limbs. Nothing in the world came close to it in any class, phylum, or species. Not even humans. Or so Ulysses thought.
“He discovered that the creature was pregnant with two cocoons,” the old man continued, “and took them back with him to Greece. After he reclaimed his home and slaughtered his wife’s suitors, they tried to open the cocoons. Nothing would work until his wife cut her finger on one by accident-”
“Did that make it hatch?” Sullivan asked, his voice lashed like a whip.
“It did,” Ulysses replied. Sullivan’s enthusiasm made him smile. “In those cocoons were two twins. A boy and a girl. One with remarkable blue eyes; the other with rich red eyes.”
“What happened to them?”
“It’s under speculation, but according to an Athenian named Themistocles… The boy was taken away to be raised as a warrior. Odysseus took the girl and raised her as his daughter…”
Ulysses was winded. His mind wandered into oblivion. A young woman with deep red eyes and tangled raven hair that ran down her back filled his thoughts. She laughed as he ran through a field of wheat in her summer white dress. He watched her from afar atop the pillars that had once supported a magnificent temple. With a transcendent wind that rocked the blades of wheat back and forth; he thought he was in Elysium.
Farmers harvested the wheat with sharp sickles and loaded them into carts. Children laughed and played in the fields, leaving behind narrow trails of smashed wheat. But it didn’t matter. The fields stretched as far as to the Aegean sea on one side and the mountains on the other. It seemed so distant, but Ulysses remembered it vividly.
“And these twins? Do you know who they were?” Sullivan asked.
The maid returned with a full glass of water. She handed the glass to Ulysses and bowed, not daring to take her eyes off the ground. He dismissed her with a wave and drank. However, the water did little to satisfy his unquenchable thirst.
The series of knocks against the door continued as Drake beat the bedroom door. Lyn stood on the other side, putting her weight against it. Drake turned and pulled the knob unable to enter. He repeated her name, not excessively clarion but firm. Though she knew if he really wanted in, he would have simply torn down the door. But the knocking ceased and for a moment, there was silence.
Lyn’s heart jumped from her chest. She struggled to catch her breath. She clenched the pearls wrapped around her neck and closed her eyes. Drake’s defeated sigh could be heard from outside.
“Lyn…” his voice was soft. “Please don’t do this to me. I love you. I love you more than anything.”
From Lyn’s side, his voice sounded as if he were at the end of a tunnel. She slid her back down the door and sat against it. Then she cradled her knees to her chest and wept. She held her porcelain mask in one hand. It was the last piece she needed before going on the hunt.
“Lyn, baby...” Drake said. “I need you. I can’t do this without you. You jump; I jump. Remember?”
Her face became dark with anger. “JUST SHUT UP! LEAVE ME ALONE!” she boomed, venom dripping from her words.
Drake released another exasperated sigh. “Well, alright…”
She lingered at the door until his footsteps receded down the stairs. She peeped through the door and he was gone.