On that night, like most, Ana has a nightmare. A recollection of a moment she herself couldn’t have lived. An Armageddon that haunts her whenever she closes her eyes. It’s like the sky is on fire, with the way all hints of blue were replaced by flashing orange. The dying sun burns its brightest before falling dark. A blood moon casts a crimson glow upon the streets. Buildings struggle to keep themselves up as they fall apart. There are lifeless mortal bodies congesting every end of every road. Signs of battle ring out in the form desperate howls intermixed with clashing metal and tearing flesh.
Ana sees this torn apart world from a bird’s eye view. She hears the beating of wings behind her, but she can’t turn her head to look at them. Her gaze is a slave to the dream. It’s like she’s on a rail, forced to look in whatever direction the dream wants. The worst part about this is she can’t close her eyes and on occasion, her glance does flit over something so cruel she can’t stand to think about it. This recurring dream was often the same, but there were, on occasions, differences. Differences vary between little things like looking off in a different direction, or bigger changes, like landing and moving about the battlefield. No matter how often this dream repeats, her gaze always falls on the same person at the same point.
The winged queen who stands amidst the war-torn streets. She’s tall, beautiful, with hair like blood splattered against the sky. As dark plumage tousles around her neck the world goes a little crazier. People -what’s left of them- fill the streets just to fight; utter chaos with no discrimination. Siblings murder siblings. Parents drown their children. Friends, family, love; no bond can overcome the rage she induces.
The worst part of all is how proud the woman looks. Hands park on her waist, and her crimson eyes survey the area as though admiring her handiwork.
Unable to take it any longer, Ana cries out, but she doesn’t hear herself. Instead, she hears another voice. Unlike Ana’s own voice, this one’s confident, warm and mature.
“I can’t let you hurt anyone else,” the voice says, getting the attention of the red-haired woman below. That woman scowls up towards Ana’s point of view.s
“Oh, so you’re able to resist, are you,” says the queen. “Interesting. Looks like I’ll just have to dig a bit deeper and draw out the worst parts of you.”
Her voice is like a razor and threatens to cut clean through Ana, but somehow she feels resolute, even when up against someone so scary; someone she’d watched hurt so many people so many times.
“Even someone like you can care about others, you just need someone to show you how.”
Ana flys towards the queen. Prepared, the queen throws up her arm, sending a barrage of sharpened feathers firing at Ana.By no means of her own, Ana avoids the attacks and comes face to face with her harpy queen. There’s no hesitation between either of them as Ana embraces the queen. As their chests collide they’re consumed by a flash of red, white and pink. A whirlwind of black and white feathers build between the two and soon overtakes Ana’s vision completely.
She feels at peace, again.
Ana’s eyes flutter open and she looks around to see she’s back in her room. No streetlights or cars just unfinished drywall and cobwebbed corners. She pushes her blankets off and rolls out of bed, knocking several of her stuffed animals to the floor. Ana yawns and reaches for her favorite, a frog with cat ears sewn onto it.
“C’mere Rachel,” Ana whispers.
She stops just shy of Rachel’s ear when she notices that instead of hands she has wings. It wasn’t just her arms either, one look down reveals her legs were like talons, and her tail was much larger than before.
Natural as it feels, there aren’t as many benefits to being a harpy when living in such a cramped space.
“Silly me, I must’ve lost shape in my sleep. Let’s fix that.”
Ana shakes out her arms and legs. As she does so black feathers fly from her limbs. Instead of falling to the ground the feathers come together and form a plaid dress that falls over Ana’s form. With all the feathers repurposed into an outfit, her limbs have taken on a much more ‘normal’ look. Normal, as defined by her friends that is.
At last, Ana picks up Rachel, kisses her forehead then places her alongside the other plushes.
Next, Ana rushes over to the mirror situated atop her pink and white dresser.
“Ahh noooo,” Ana groans upon seeing herself.
Well, she certainly got the hands right. Four fingers and thumb. But the feet were all wrong. While Ana’s knees were no longer backward, her feet remained raptor-like in nature, ending in a sharp pair of talons. Not to mention she’s still got quite the sizeable tail.
“I guess this is my limit, huh Rachel?” Ana plucks a feather from her skirt and whips her wrist. The simple gesture changes the feather into a ribbon. “This magic stuff makes no sense. I dunno how they all do it on a daily basis.”
Ana takes handfuls of her unruly frizzy red hair and ties it back into a manageable ponytail. While Ana isn’t a fan of the large red horn protruding from the right side of her head, she does try to accessorize it with a feathered barrette.
“There,” she says, feeling her lips curl into a smile. Ana spins towards her bed and performs a curtsy for her plushies. “Well? What’d you guys think?”
Ana crosses her arms and frowns. “Oh, ever the critic aren’t we Fredrick? Well, I certainly wasn’t asking you. Katrina is much more suited for this kind of thing.”
Ana gasps. “OH, Rachel! But you’re the kindest of all! I do think the ponytail makes me look grown up!” She blushes. “W-what? Why would I expect him to notice something like this? It isn’t anything special. I guess maybe it’s a bit different. But I’m not exactly doing it for him so...”
Tiny footsteps carry Ana over to her window where she opens the curtains, causing sunlight to spill in. She blocks the intrusive light at first, but eventually, gives in and allows her eyes to acclimate to the brightness. There isn’t much beauty to be found outside her windows. Much like in the dream she sees a world ripped apart by battle. All manner of plantlife creeps out of dilapidated buildings painting a world unlike the one in Ana’s dream. A reality where whatever war she witnessed was over and the good guys had lost.
“Last night’s dream was so different,” Ana whispers to herself, glancing down at her hand. “I actually tried fighting her. It’s a shame I woke up. I don’t even know if I won or not...”
Ana presses her hands against the dirty windows while gazing at the desolate cityscape.
“Could something like that have prevented all of this.”
These thoughts aren’t new to Ana as she muses this way whenever she dreams of the before times. It goes as quickly as it comes, however, because the present is far more precious than the past.
“Well, I can’t let this stuff get me down, especially not today. Not when she’s finally coming home.”
“Rise and shine!”
Ana shouts as she falls onto Jesus’ lap, waking him just as she does every morning. He reaches for a crown of thorns on his nightstand and slips it over his head, nestling it against his long white locks. Ana giggles as she watches him rub the sleep out of his eyes and yawn into his hand, his mouth clearly visible to her through his stigmata.
“So what’s on the schedule today, Annie?” Jesus inquires whilst clapping his hands and summoning a flock of doves into the room. “I feel like having a day of rest wouldn’t be so bad. It’s Sunday after all. That’s the one day of the week even dad didn’t wanna work..”
“Well...” Ana balls her hands into little fists atop her bare thighs. “-Actually, today is different. You see, Jay, today-”
Few words make it out of Ana. It wasn’t like she had a problem speaking, but she felt like maybe others had a hard time listening; at least to her. The way Jesus’ gaze breaks from her’s, it’s as though her words didn’t reach him. Though luckily for him, Ana doesn’t mind repeating herself.
“Jay? Well, you see, about today. Actually.”
Jesus helps Ana off of him and climbs out of bed. As he walks over to his windows the doves return and drape a red sash over his shoulders. With a single wave of his hands, the curtains open.
“Let there be light,” Jesus says, laughing as the morning shines down on him.
It’s impossible to catch Jesus with his guard down. He never has bed head, never has bags under his eyes, and always wakes up more perfect than the day before.
Jesus offers Ana his hand, sunlight hugging tight to his tan skin. He flashes that bright smile of his, the same smile she got up early every morning to see.
Even though deities don’t require it, Ana still sleeps every night. It’s the same with eating, bathing and things of that nature. Jesus has to because he’s a demigod, Ana has to because Jesus does. He’s a vegetarian so she is too. When he brushes his teeth she follows along, mimicking his every movement. Ana doesn’t think anything of it, and judging by the way Jesus smiles at her, he doesn’t either.
Ana beams as she takes his hand. When he pulls her she trips into his arms. A brief pause lingers between the two. There’s maybe the inclination of hesitation or perhaps longing intermixing with this aging pause. Ana pushes this moment, like many silly things, into the back of her mind in favor of more concrete facts, like the two of them being friends; just friends.
Ana looks up Jesus’ red sash to his hazel eyes. Those eyes are full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy; they shine down on her every day. He smiles a little and she smiles a lot.
She would have gotten lost in his eyes like usual if today weren’t so special.
“She’s coming back!” Ana jolts away from Jesus, pushing him over in the progress.
Ana climbs atop Jesus bed and whilst jumping exclaims, “Þrúðr(Throoth) is finally coming home!”
In her excitement, Ana begins jumps up and down on Jesus’ bed. After several hops she lets herself fall back, flat against his mattress. She looks over at him, her head hanging over the side of his bed. Ana feels her hair rake along the bedside as she sways.
“R-really, are you sure she’s coming back? This soon?” Jesus grimaces.
“Huh, is something the matter, Jay? Throoth’s been gone a long time. Don’t you miss her,” Ana asks. “I can barely contain myself. Aren’t you excited? Even a little?”
“Of course I am! Ecstatic even! Just hadn’t heard much from her on my end. It’s just surprising is all.”
“Well, she told me before she left that she saw three potential dates for her return. Not a day sooner, not a minute later.” Ana explains while rolling onto her forearms.
Ana rests her chin in her hands and absentmindedly kicks her legs. Being privy to such information made Ana feel special. So special in fact that she lets out the briefest of giggles over the notion that she knew something that Jesus Christ himself didn’t.
“She saw today’s date the clearest, which means today’s the day she’s most likely to return, right?”
“Yeah, I guess that is how it works, isn’t it? Well, color me impressed. She told you three dates all that time ago and you’ve been keeping track of them all. Look at you.” Jesus grins. “An immortal who actually still keeps track of time. You’re a really funny girl, Annie.”
“Really? You think so?”
A soft feeling blooms in Ana’s chest. It’s kind of embarrassing, but she feels this way whenever she’s complemented by any of her friends, Jesus especially.
“I really didn’t know I could be funny,” Ana says with a laugh. “Maybe I’m meant to be a goddess of laughter or scheduling. You know, something like that.”
“How’s about we focus on Throoth,” Jesus says. “You want to do something big for Throoth’s return, don’t you? You can’t say it’s a special day and not actually make it special.”
“That’s true,” Ana says. “But what should I do? I could throw a party. I could try and make her favorite food. Maybe wax Mjolnir for her...hm..”
“Well as her best friend I know you’ll think of something. And if you’re hard-pressed on ideas I’m sure the other girls can help. Whatever you decide on doing I’ll support you 100 percent. Just let me know when and where and I’ll be there.”
Jesus points with both hands and winks at Ana.
“For the time being, I’ve got some things to take care of. So how’s about you catch up with me in a few hours once you’ve got everything sorted out?”
“Of course,” Ana says before rushing out of Jesus’ room.
Having not waited for a response, she skids to a stop down the hall, then quickly rushes back. Once back in his room she gives him a tight hug.
“Thanks for everything, Jay! Promise to catch up with you later!”
And with that Ana’s off again.
Ana enters a dark room illuminated only by a single swaying light fixture. She walks past several shelves of canopic jars on her way to the back of the room. There she finds a sarcophagus, desperately hanging onto its golden sheen beneath cobwebs and dust
“Hey Keb, are you awake? Hm? Are you,” Ana whispers as she knocks on Kebechet’s sarcophagus.
Faint groans leak from the coffin. That’s typical this early, so Ana knocks again.
Ana drums on the coffin.
“Kebechet is dead,” murmurs a voice from within the sarcophagus. “But I will take a message.
“I’m dying,” Ana says.
The sarcophagus swigs open revealing the lanky mummified girl inside. Her deep violet eyes zero on Ana as she pats Ana’s face as though that’d somehow verify her claim.
“To see you,” Ana finishes, smugly.
“Oh,” Kebechet says whilst still playing with Ana’s face. “That’s not nearly as interesting.”
“There’s my mummy,” Ana exclaims as she tries to shake off Kebechet’s grip.
“I was having such a nice dream too,” Kebechet says in a voice Ana has come to describe as ‘impassively curious’.
“I was alive.” Kebechet forces two fingers into Ana’s nostrils. “You were there. As was Athena. Throoth too. I don’t know if Jesus was, I forgot to check.“Kebechet unplugs Ana’s nose. “I remember it being nice. Being alive must be nice. If I was alive I would-”
Kebechet reaches for Ana’s tongue next, but she pulls away.
“That’s nice, Keb,” Ana says, rubbing her nose.
One of the first things Ana learned when making friends with everyone was to ignore close to ninety percent of what Kebechet had to say. Listening to her ramblings could make a person go insane. So, like everyone, Ana sometimes ignores her. At first, she’d felt really bad about it, but it doesn’t seem to bother Kebechet much. Then again, it’s hard to tell if anything gets to Kebechet.
“You should come out. There’s something I wanted to talk about,” Ana says then steps away from Kebechet’s resting place.
In a flash the redhead is across the hall, in Athena’s room, climbing into her satin bed. Like everything else in Athena’s room, her bed sheets are of the highest quality. Looking around, Ana can’t help but take in all the remnants of high life kept alive by Athena’s sense of style. From a small perfectly symmetrical coffee table to the stylized lamp that curves up along beige walls. The walls are littered with weaponry, ranging from spears to swords and shields, all gloriously shown off in a very neat pattern. Of all of the rooms in the apartment, Athena’s is easily the most furnished. Whenever Ana visits it’s like she forgets what the world outside like. This must have been how mortals lived in the old world.
Even while asleep Athena is beautiful. Her plush lips part in soft breathes and her large bust rises and falls in kind. Long purple hair dances from atop Athena’s head and covers the entire length of her bed, tracing out a figure that belies her age. It’s almost a shame to have to wake her.
“Athena, hey, are you awake? You should wake up. Today’s the day I was talking about, remember?”
Ana whispers into Athena’s ear whilst gently shaking the older girl. The Olympian youth soon peers up at Ana and gives one defeated groan. Had it been anyone but Ana, Athena might’ve just stayed in bed.
Athena’s tired looking gray eyes soften while strands of violet are brushed away by her delicate touch. She doesn’t seem to protest, and with one final yawn and a whispered,“Yeah, alright,” she climbs out of bed.
“Meet you outside, Athena!”
Kebechet and Athena both shuffle out of their rooms and greet each other in their own groggy looking ways, with Athena raising and waving a hand, and Kebechet shrugging, as though she attempts to move her arms but gives up halfway.
“Oh, my.” Athena gasps at the sight of Kebechet. “Look who finally decided to join us in the world of the living.” Athena’s tone is as cool and casual as ever.
Kebechet stares at Athena and several seconds pass before she responds.
“You look rotund this morning, Athena.” Kebechet’s tone is as blank and impassive as ever.
“You’re inscrutable as always my dear. I believe the word you meant to use was ‘robust’.” Athena puts a dainty hand over her mouth to shush a laugh.
“No,” Kebechet says then glances over at Ana with inexpressive violet eyes.
“Like a married couple,” Ana mutters before clearing her throat. “So I know I kind of just barged into your rooms, but it’s actually for a really good reason!”
“Who’s idea was it to give Ana keys to our apartments,” Athena asks. “That was my first time sleeping in the last decade and I would have fancied a touch more time under.”
“How far down were you buried,” Kebehet asks. Her green dread-locked hair looks as though it slithers when she creepily shifts across the floor. Kebechet doesn’t raise her feet when she walks. She gets so close to Athena that their noses touch.
“Why are you like this,” Athena says, sighing.
“Anyway,” Ana says, “we can cover the topic of me breaking and entering later. I’ll apologize to Jesus and get that all squared away, but for the time being, I’ve got some really great news to announce!”
“You’re actually dying,” Kebechet asks.
“You’re morbid,” Athena remarks.
“Thank you,” Kebechet says.
Ana claps, getting both girls to look at her in time for her to exclaim, “Throoth is coming home!”
“Oh dear,” Athena says. ” By chance Could you have told us this any earlier, Ana? Must you always be so impulsive?”
“I mean...” Ana laughs and plays with her bangs. “...It’s not like I try to be.”
“Well, there’s no helping it now. I was hoping she’d be back soon, but this is a bit sudden. Whatever shall I do?
As Athena speaks she runs her fingers through her long purple hair. Her hair settles gorgeously over her shoulders and she looks to Ana with her gray eyes.
“I’m happy that you asked that Athena,” Ana says. “I was actually hoping we could all put our brains together and figure out the best way to welcome her back.”
“I’ll handle embalming,” Kebechet says. “Once our brains our together which body should they be returned to? I suggest Athena’s because she’s so robust.”
“Perhaps I’ll bring a game of some sort,” Athena says, ignoring Kebechet. “I hope my skills haven’t atrophied too much in her absence. I hope she’s kept sharp without me as well.”
“AH! That’s a really great idea, Athena! We could welcome Throoth back with the things she loved doing with each of us! It’ll help her feel right at home again.”
Ana looks to Kebechet who stares at a small crack in the wall with a vacant look in her eyes.
“Kebechet, you should think of something you and Throoth always did together too. So that way when she comes home it’ll feel like she never left.”
Kebechet reaches for that small crack in the wall but stops just shy of it. Her head is the only thing that turns, rotating 180 degrees to look at Ana. Ana pales, always forgetting Kebechet could do things like that. Kebechet shrugs bandaged shoulders.
“I ’unno. Throoth is an enigma,” Kebechet murmurs while raising her sleeved hands to her face. In a single motion, Kebechet grips her head and forces it forward. The sharp, bone cracking sound Kebechet’s body makes is enough to cause Ana to wince. “She’s the hardest of all of you to figure out. Further research is required. I’ll consult the brain in the jar. If you’d all excuse me.”
Kebechet lurks back into her room, closing the door behind her.
“It’s a tad ironic that Kebechet is calling anyone an enigma,” Athena says. “I swear I haven’t even begun to understand even the most rudimentary parts of Kebechet. She’s either the simplest godling here or the most advanced.”
“Yeaaaah,” Ana says. “Keb’s ah erm...silly.”
The girls share a laugh and Athena looks down at Ana, smiles and then looks off towards Throoth’s room.
“So she’s finally coming home I’m a bit surprised we managed. I hope she accomplished a lot in her time away. Definitely more than I’ve gotten done here, that’s for sure. I’m going to be a bit embarrassed when I see her to be honest. That Throoth, ever the overachiever.”
“It’ll be okay, Athena.” Ana puts a hand on Athena’s back. “It’s Throoth, she’s our friend. Even if we haven’t done much in her absence I’m sure she won’t mind. In fact, won’t she be happier knowing she hasn’t missed much? That just means we’ll have tons more to do together!”
“I understand you, but my relationship with Throoth is a tad more complicated than that.”
“What do you mean,” Ana asks as she tilts her head. “How so?”
“It’ll all make sense when you’re older.” Athena chuckles.
“Huh? But Throoth and I are the same age. Kind of. At most she’s like a century or two older, that’s practically nothing!”
With a haughty sounding laugh, Athena places a hand atop Ana’s head. Gentle Olympian fingers tussle Ana’s unruly hair.
“Oh, you’re just too cute.” Athena tucks several strands of violet hair behind her ear. “I’m sorry, I’m sure there are other things you want to get done in preparation for Throoth’s return. Don’t let me keep you.”
Athena doesn’t seem to want to wait around for Ana’s response and walks back to her room
Athena can be so cool but there are times when Ana gets the feeling Athena is messing with her but she wasn’t sure. Maybe it’s just her imagination? Or maybe Athena is right, Ana won’t understand her, Kebechet or even Throoth or Jesus until she’s older. Much older.
Ana knocks on several doors, hoping to convince other apartment dwellers to take part in the festivities.
She clears her throat, puts on the widest smile she can muster and tries her best to speak pleasantly with whomever she meets.
Ana knocks on the first door and waits.
Quetzalcoatl, a large winged serpent, opens the door and slithers out.
Beaming, Ana throws out her arms. “I know it’s sudden--”
He slams the door in her face, but Ana doesn’t give up and tries another person.
“-but maybe you can consider-”
Another door slams in front Ana.
Third time’s the charm, right?
“-coming to Throoth’s-”
Like so many doors before it, this one slams in Ana’s face too. Defeated, The golding makes her way down the hall. As she walks she takes note of things she was too excited to notice earlier. The broken windows, the stained walls, the tears in the carpeting. Signs that this place lacks the permanency of a home. No one cares enough about upkeep and there isn’t anyone managing it. Everyone just moved into the one standing structure that looked like it could hold them.
Ana stops by one of the many smudged windows. She peers out beyond the cracked glass and cobwebs to the dead world just outside, drowning in sand and ash.
“Who did all of this?” Ana wonders aloud. A question she ponders on only when an impossible to describe emptiness grows in the pit of her stomach. It only happens when she’s completely alone, which, admittedly, isn’t often. She’s sure everyone feels this way when alone, so she never tells anyone how she feels.
Ana tries to assuage her dreadful feeling by being around people as often as possible, but there are times, like now, when there just isn’t anyone to talk to. That’s why she wants Throoth back. Throoth never talks much, but that’s okay because even in her introversion Throoth never rejects Ana. Ana can spend as much time as she likes in Throoth’s company. Of all the people Ana knows, it always feels like Throoth wants her around. Throoth never lets Ana out of her sight and was even reluctant to leave her alone all this time.
Throoth must really love her. This thought alone is enough to warm Ana’s cheeks.
In a hesitant pan, Ana searches the debris of long gone architecture surrounding their apartment. She doesn’t look for anything in particular, her eyes just wander from one rusted car to another. Then she sees it, coming up slow, just beyond two large utility poles struggling to stay standing.
A series of carriages approach the apartment, a caravan led by a chariot pulled by two large goats. A hot feeling bubbles up in Ana’s chest when she sees Throoth riding front and center in that chariot. Her beautiful azure Aesir hair is tied into two long perfect braids that whip about behind her. Her crimson eyes narrow as she navigates through the difficult terrain in a series of precise turns.
“It’s her.” The ends of Ana’s lips twitch and fight their way up her cheeks, forming the largest smile she’d had all day. “It’s her!”
“Whoa,” Throoth says as she pulls back on both reins. Even from a few floors up, Ana can hear Throoth’s voice is still calm as a setting sun. “Easy Tanngrisnir, Tanngnjóstr.”
Ana doesn’t wait around any longer and bolts down the hallway. She spins and whips around several corners in increasingly dramatic sharp turns. Ana only skids to a stop when faced by the large boulder blocking her destination, Jesus’ room.
Ana spits in both hands the wraps her arms around the stone. It’s gotten easier with every attempt, so by now, Ana could move it with much less effort than one would expect from a girl her size. This time she hadn’t needed to use any divinity at all. A feat she’ll be sure to share with Throoth as soon as she can.
Ana opens Jesus’ door and shouts as she enters, “Jay! It’s too late, Throoth’s here already and I don’t have anything re-”
Ana’s words come to an abrupt end when she sees her friends. Jesus sits on the couch, sandwiched suggestively between Kebechet and Athena. Athena’s arms drape over his shoulders, while his head rests against her generous bust. All three of them look at Ana, each with increasingly different looks of surprise, ranging from Jesus shock and embarrassment, to complete apathy on Kebechet’s part.
“Alright, I know how this looks Annie, but if you give me just a minute, I can explain everything.” Jesus stammers as he pushes himself out of Athena’s grasp. “It isn’t what it looks like.”
What it looks like is Kebechet sprawled over the couch arm with her head nuzzled against Jesus’ crotch. It looks like Jesus tries to crawl away, but his attempt lands a hand on one of Athena’s thighs. A deep mewl erupts from Athena, and she turns her reddened face away.
“Doing this in front of Ana,” Athena says in a husky voice. “And here I thought you were supposed to be the one without sin. You really shouldn’t take advantage of us virgin goddesses, you know!”
It doesn’t help that one of Athena’s arms wrap around Jesus, forcing him back into her even more. So, technically, it is exactly what it looks like.
This isn’t the first time Ana has seen something like this. There are occasions, many in fact, where it seems like the other girls are vying for Jesus’ attention; Athena especially. It usually presents itself in the form of flirting, and awkward moments like this, but Jesus often insists it ‘isn’t what it looks like’.
A long time ago such a sight would have troubled Ana, made her feel like she could lose Jesus to someone else. But he isn’t her’s, so why should that matter?
Athena and Kebechet crowd Ana, leaving Jesus to fall off the couch. It wasn’t until then that Ana noticed she was sniffling and even tearing up.
“Oh no sweetie, don’t cry,” Athena coos, wiping Ana’s tears away as soon as they appear. “I was merely reacting to Jesus’ body language. It looked like he was making advances on me. I assure you I had no intention of going any further without marrying him first. I take being a virgin goddess very seriously.”
Jesus clarifies, “My intentions are a complete misunderstanding, and frankly a fabrication. Aren’t you some kinda genius? How can you mistake a guy falling over for flirting? And is that really the appropriate way to ‘return your feelings’?”
“I wanted to sleep,” Kebechet says. “His lap looked very comfortable. It seemed inviting today. In a way, he was asking for it.”
“That doesn’t mean you can just do that, Keb.” Jesus sighs. “You can’t just assume you have my consent because we’re friends.”
“Understood. I must seek consent before invading the crotches of others. I will try to remember that.”
Ana truly appreciates her friends trying to cheer her up, but the sight of Jesus and the girls isn’t what’s bothering her.
“N-no, it isn’t that,” Ana insists, stepping away. “It’s because Throoth is ba-”
Ana backs into something. She looks up and squeaks when she catches sight of who she bumped into. Warmth rises in Ana’s cheeks.
“So, you all gathered here to welcome me home,” Throoth asks, looking around.
Throoth glances down at Ana. She tilts her head, and those beautiful braids follow. “Did you do this, Ana?”
Ana rushes over to Athena and buries her face in the older girl’s white toga.
“Of course this is Ana’s doing,” Athena says in Ana’s place. “Do you really think anyone else could be this thoughtful?”
She sees Kebechet impassively steps forward, where she looks to Throoth, then to Ana, then back to Throoth once more. She nods.
Pushing himself up off the couch, Jesus chimes in.
“Yup, she got us all up extra early just so we could be your welcoming committee, princess.” Jesus glances down at Ana. “She’s a very thoughtful girl. We shouldn’t take her for granted.”
Ana pulls away from Athena to look at Throoth. Throoth looks unimpressed, but that’s how it always is. It’s like her face rests in an eternal sulk. To most, she comes off as cold or aloof, but Ana knows to watch for subtle twitches in her face and changes in body language. Right now, despite that cold stare, Throoth seems happy.
“Good job,” Throoth deadpans as she walks forward and embraces Ana.
Ana’s cheeks flush again, but she smiles, nuzzling into Throoth and returning the hug.
“I know it isn’t much, but I’m glad you like it. I just wanted to show you how much we all missed you, Throoth. I’ve been counting down the days until your return.”
“That’s weird,” Throoth says while flashing Ana a short-lived smile.
“Aha! T-that was a joke, was it funny?”
“Nope not even a little”
“Oh god no!” Ana falls to her knees. “I’ve died of embarrassment!”
“Alas, she was so young,” Athena says with a dramatic flick of her wrist. “She will truly be missed.”
Kebechet falls the ground beside Ana. She stares into the younger goddess’s eyes. “Really? You can die from embarrassment?”
“I’m retreating into the deepest parts of my mind. I’ll go to my happy place. That way no one can judge me.” Ana whines while rolling around on the floor.
Throoth crouches down over Ana and uses one of her long braids to tickle Ana’s nose.
“Before you do that, mind helping me,” Throoth asks. “I’ve got some luggage in the chariots downstairs and I spent a lot of my trip telling my new pet goats all about you. They’re neat. My dad left them for me. They can be eaten every night, but Mjolnir has the power to revive them. You should go say hi.”
“Aww,” Ana says. “you eat them? Every night? That sounds kind of mean.”
“No.” Throoth helps Ana to her feet. “They like it. Bludgeon their brains out with Mjolnir and then wave it over their corpses and watch them get back up, good as new. It’s totally refreshing to them.”
“Yeah, I’ll pass.” Ana inches towards the door. “I’ll bring your stuff up though, so save all the cool stories for when I get back!”
“No promises,” Throoth says with a wink. “Now hurry. The sooner you go, the sooner you get back.”
Ana leaves the room with a bright smile and a tingle in her chest. The further down the hall Ana gets the more distant her friends’ laughter becomes. The last thing she could still make out was Athena, loudest of the bunch, asking about the bridges, rainbows, dwarves, and construction.
About fifteen minutes later, Ana returns to Jesus’ floor with Throoth’s things in tow. It isn’t long before she can hear her friends’ voices again. They reach her, almost beckoning her and causing her to sprint towards the room. The closer she gets the clearer the voices become.
“So you two will be getting married.” Ana hears Athena. “I honestly never saw this coming. But I guess it’s fitting that someone with your kind of vision did. If the benefits you’re speaking of really do come true then you have my support.”
Ana’s steps become heavy, weighed down by something she can’t describe.
“You and I could never get married.” Ana hears Kebechet. “Death has already done us apart, unfortunately.”
“Have you found time to tell her?” Ana hears Throoth’s voice and she comes to a stop. “It isn’t fair, making Ana the last person to know.”
Ana stands by, patiently awaiting yet dreading Jesus’ response.
“I’m sorry.” She hears his voice and tenses up. “I want to tell her, but I’m still kind of unsure, you know? Like, I don’t know what’s going to happen to her if I become king. I won’t be able to take care of her, not directly at least. If she ever falls into the wrong hands, well...”
Ana trudges towards the door, listening in on the conversation the entire time.
“We’ll continue taking care of her, protecting her,” Throoth says. “This won’t change anything. Ana is our friend. As King and Queen, we’ll be able to give her a better life than she’d have otherwise.” Throoth’s voice is resolute, inspiring even, but Ana still feels uneasy. “Together we’re going to make a difference. Are you doubting my vision? Especially after everything that’s happened?”
“N-no, it isn’t that,” Jesus says in a low voice. “You’re right. If you saw it then it’s gotta be true. Us being together like this is gonna be the best thing for the nine realms.”
Ana stops in the doorway just in time to watch Throoth and Jesus embrace one another.
“Thank you for the opportunity. My sight will steer us towards the most prosperous kind of future.” Throoth pauses “One where I can preserve Ana’s smile for all time.”
Ana drops Throoth’s things on the floor, uprooting her friends’ attention and focusing it on her.
“Ana,” Throoth and Jesus say in unison.
Ana feels her tiny little fingers kneading at her skirt. She tries to smile but is sure her face must look dumb, because of how much it wants to frown. She wants to look at her friends, but couldn’t without her heart racing. So she ends up looking beyond them, out the window and to their destroyed world again.
“I’m happy for you,” Ana whispers. “R-really...let me...let me help in any way I c-can.” As soon as those words pass Ana’s lips she turns away. “Excuse me.” she hurries off down the hall.
Ana runs as fast as her little legs will take her. Her gaze can’t stay up, and melts to the ground, watching as that terrible, patchy floor rushes by. As she turns, her eyes flit to those cracked windows, where outside the dark begins to eat the sky’s light. She shakes her head and grits her teeth. In one motion, she leaps and transforms from a girl into a crow. She flies up the stairs and doesn’t transform back until she reaches her room. Her hand falls on her doorknob and she stops long enough to choke back tears. The worst part is she can’t tell why she’s crying. Shouldn’t she be happier? Her two favorite people are going to be together, and from the sound of it, they are going to do a lot of good for the world.
Ana trusts Throoth and her visions more than anything, so why did it make her feel this way all of a sudden?
“I’m not envious or anything. N-no...I’m happy Throoth is back, and I’m happy for the two of them. They’re my best friends, so...I am definitely okay with this.” Ana brushes her free hand over her chest. “Even so, it still stinks...”
Ana enters her room to find it’s a complete wreck. Tables are flipped over, pillows and blankets are scattered or in shreds, and her fridge had been rummaged through and left open. Her gaze travels from her fridge over to the nearest window, where she finds the culprit.
With a foot propped on the windowsill and hands tight around a pillowcase, presumably filled with food, the intruder rears back and sees Ana. The lithe figure alone suggests that she’s a girl of similar age and build to Ana. She wears a mask that’s fashioned to look like a crow, or maybe a raven. There are Gaelic red markings etched throughout the black, feathered mask. Dark plumage feeds from the back of the mask into a fur cloak hood that rides down her back.
“A changeling,” asks the thief. “You managed to copy me without even getting a look at my face. Impressive. But ya got the hair all wrong.”
She takes off the mask to reveal a face Ana is oh too familiar with. The intruder’s eyes are sky blue and her hair is a crimson mess. She’s got a tiny nose, and a face peppered with freckles. She smirks wide as though she’s proud of her snaggled fangs. This is undoubtedly Ana’s own face, albeit a touch dirtier and meaner looking.
“Having to do the next part to myself is gonna be strange,” says the intruder. “Though I’ve heard an out of body experience can be good for ya. So, You caught me...now we can do this the easy way or the hard way. Please say you wanna do this the hard way.”
Maybe Ana should’ve been more afraid than she was, but it’s kind of hard to be intimidated by a face she’s looked at time and time again. So Ana huffs and she stands her ground, glaring at her uninvited guest.
I’m not a mimic, y-you...copy cat! Criminal! You haven’t just stolen my food, which I’d be happy to share if you just asked, you’ve also stolen my face!”
“Me? Steal your face,?”
The intruder climbs down from the windowsill and approaches Ana. The closer she gets the more apparent their similarities become. The only differences being the intruder was a tad bit shorter and her horn was on the left side instead of the right. Ana finds herself inching towards the intruder in kind, which is odd as Ana hadn’t thought to move. The closer the girl draws the more Ana wishes to touch her.
The girl drops the sack of goodies at her side and circles Ana, prodding at her as she does so. With every touch, Ana lets out a small sigh as though she’s applying a salve to something inflamed inside Ana. Just being around this girl, despite the circumstances, is calming. The emptiness that Ana felt earlier, when she was all alone, at this moment she feels the exact opposite.
“So this is what you really look like, huh? I was sure you were a doppelganger, maybe a changeling or mimic or somethin’. But you’re the real deal. Another me.” The other Ana smirks, barring her little fangs once more. “You can feel it too, can’t cha? It’s like we’re drawn to one another.”
“Another...me...” Ana repeats, almost wistfully.
“I guess it wasn’t a coincidence, comin’ to this apartment. I knew somethin’ was drawin’ me in.” The intruder claps.“So, I might as well ask since I’m here, and you’re another me, so you’ll be more than willing to cooperate.”
The intruder walks over and flips one of the overturned tables so that she can climb onto it. Black plumage sways across the girl’s collar as she moves. She crosses her arms and looks down at Ana with a haughty smirk.
“From this moment forth you will give yourself to me. The divinity coursing through you, the magic brimming amidst your ichor will be as though it’s my own. You will swear your fealty to me, Morrigan: The Phantom Queen!"
Ana’s eyes widen, her lips part, and she feels a foreboding sense in the pit of her stomach.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Ana whispers. “Because I’m Morrigan. I’m The Phantom Queen.”
There’s a brief bit of silence before the other Morrigan hops off the table.
“Of course,” she spits. “If yer callin’ yerself Morrigan than yer even more like me than I thought.”
The intruder grabs the pillowcase of stolen goodies and walks to the window. Once she’s got one leg through the window she glances back and offers a hand to Ana.
“Well, come on then. With a name and face like that yer not gonna wanna be alone here for much longer.”
“I’m not alone,” Ana says. “I have friends here. This is my home. Why would I go anywhere with someone I don’t know?”
“Ya don’t get it,” her twin says. “The Morrigan is always alone.”
“What are you talking about?”
“If you were Morrigan you’d understand. But Morrigan or not yer in for a rude awakening. This domain is too good to pass up, so best believe I’ll be back for it. By then, maybe you’ll have figured out the weight of that name.”
Ana runs up and grabs a hold of the girl, preventing her from jumping out of the window.
“Pathetic,” the trespasser coughs. “Let go of me you lookalike poser!”
By now Ana’s face is brushing up against the black feathers around her other self’s collar. The texture and color of the feathers is a perfect match for the ones that made up her skirt. Those feathers start ruffling, tickling Ana’s cheeks.
“What the hell,” her twin growls, “It isn’t workin’?”
“H-hey, stop struggling. Talk to me for a second. What do you mean lookalike? You said you felt it too, didn’t you? Our closeness. I am Morrigan. Jesus told me never to use that name, so I don’t. He says it makes people really sad. W-why would anyone want to use a name that upsets other people!?”
“You can’t be The Phantom Queen, just listen to the way you talk!” The little girl claws at Ana’s head. Eventually, she resorts to biting Ana’s wrist. Ana screams before biting intruder’s shoulder, causing her to belt out a shriek of her own.
“You’re a real idiot, ya know that? The world is ripe for the pickin’. Everyone thinks The Phantom Queen is dead but more importantly, everyone still fears her. This is the best opportunity to stage a comeback!”
“Why do you think people are afraid of me,” Ana asks, as though there was truth to be gleaned from this familiar stranger.
“Not you! The Phantom Queen. The one who destroyed the world!”
Ana’s grip on the girl loosens, giving her just the wiggle room she needs to escape. The news leaves Ana floored. So her namesake was responsible for the world that surrounded her? Was she involved in such a thing, or did she just share her name with a complete monster? Is the monster who haunts her dreams The Phantom Queen? Is that her? Is that who she really is?
There’s a knock at the door.
“Annie, we need to talk.”
Ana hears Jesus’ voice. The door opens and their eyes meet.
“I need to make things right. I know there’s a lot I haven’t told you, but-” Jesus’ words ease pass his lips as he comes to a complete stop.
She’s sure it’s the look in her eyes that shackle him. Though they hold each other’s gaze for some time, his sight soon tilts towards the lookalike. A veil of uncertainty washes over Jesus’ face. Christ wearing that expression leaves Ana with an uncanny feeling.
“Jesus,” Ana whispers.
“Annie,” Jesus asks.
“What the hell is going on? Who the hell is he,” the intruder asks. “Is he the guy who owns this domain? Cause if so, I’ve got business with him.”
Ana’s wide, confused eyes watch Jesus and search him for answers. Her attention only falters when the wall to Jesus’ right ripples. Such an impossible sight pales Ana’s face. She points and tries to speak when that wavelet becomes a tear. Through that split she sees stardust. Dark, murky looking water oozes from the crease, staining the floor in a transparent black sludge.
The little girl’s body language changes, she climbs down from the window and takes a defensive stance in front Ana, her plumage standing on end. Of course, Ana notices the act but wonders ‘why’.
From the hole in space-time comes a woman made of white. With cold eyes, she casts her sight on Jesus. A scythe appears in her skeletal hands. One long bony finger reaches up from beneath the woman’s white robes and presses against her pursed pale lips. Jesus doesn’t seem to notice the woman looming over him.
“Shhh. Children are to be seen, not heard.” The woman’s voice is awful, cold, dead, and crawls from her mouth like something reaching out of a grave.
Ana wants to scream, but her voice can’t reach him. In fact, in this being’s presence, she can’t even hear herself. It’s clear from the girl at her side’s inaudible protests, that she can’t be heard either. Jesus taught her things about magic and she figures that this must be some sort of silencing spell. Even so, Ana still attempts to get Jesus attention and motions for him to turn around. When Jesus doesn’t immediately look away, Ana steps forward, pushing her twin aside, and lunges towards Jesus.
In one simple, clean, careless motion, the woman’s scythe pierces his chest.
Red fills the air, but not a bit of it touches the chilling white nor stains her perfect blade. The first sound to pierce the magical silence is a soft gasp passing Jesus’ lips.
The woman of white sinks back into her little ripple, as though she were never there, to begin with.
Red soaks through his white robes until they match his sash. Jesus reaches up, touches the red then pulls his hand back to examine his bloodied fingers. His glance slowly, painfully slowly, eases in Ana’s direction whilst he falls to his knees. Before he can fall any further, Ana is there to catch him. Words are bubbling over in her chest. A froth of feeling is thick in her throat. There’s bile and sadness and love and all these unsaid things that want to erupt forth in that moment, but something else beats them down. Some undeniable, unexplainable feeling that says ‘this can’t be it’ that ‘this can’t happen’. Blood eagerly escapes the sides of his lips and drips down along his twitching chin.
“What the hell,” The other girl shrieks. Sound returns to the room the moment the woman in white disappears. “Shit, just who the hell was that!?” Ana feels a small hand grip her arm. “Come on, get up, we gotta go before that crazy bitch comes back and tries to do us in next.”
Like dead weight, Ana doesn’t move. She sits there beside Jesus, cradling him.
Despite the blood filling his mouth and the life leaving his form, Jesus musters a word. Shaking, one of his hands reach up towards her, and she’s quick to grab a hold of it.
She should tell him not to speak, that’s what you say to someone in this moment, right? Where’s Athena? Where’s Kebechet? Where’s Throoth? Didn’t she know this was going to happen? Didn’t she see this coming? Did she let it happen? Why would she let Jesus... What do you say to someone who’s dying? How do you keep them from dying? What should she do?
That last word hits Ana and she gives up. Her body, limp and weak like his, is pulled up by the other girl. Final fleeting looks are paid to her savior as she parts with his passing body.
Ana can’t scream. Her eyes remain fixated on Jesus’. Her tearful gaze gets lost in his dying hazel hues. Those eyes that were full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy that shined down on her every day dim. He cries a little and she cries a lot.