The day was nothing short of beautiful and if one was to sit down, unfold a picnic blanket, uncork a bottle of wine and enjoy a midday snack whilst basking in the warm midday sun they would be far from out of place. Unfortunately this lovely little island was not populated by humble persons looking to soak in the ocean breeze and warm sun, but rather a strange man, hidden beneath a dark cloak moving at the pace of someone who had little time to waste, especially for something as trivial as a picnic. His boots did little to slow his pace and despite the large hood that fell well over his eyes he seemed to move with utter certainty, grace, and with calculated precision, jumping from rock to rock, stone to stone, traversing hills and stretches of land that had long since devoured the nearly forgotten path without losing his footing. Time had taken its inevitable toll on the rocky path, only small remnants of the stone walkway were visible.
Accompanied only by the rustle of the trees and the faint sound of waves crashing against the distant cliffs, the man was startled by the screech of a large black bird confidently perched on a nearby pine tree. The two traded gazes in a manner that if seen by others would seem oddly unsettling, as if they were communicating telepathically. One would wonder what a bird would have to say or even so what a man would ever have to say to a bird. Overtaken by the absurdity of the situation, the cloaked wanderer gave the bird a warranted scowl and brought his hood back down over his face. With an annoying squawk the bird gave his retort and flew off and out of eyesight.
The fear of singularity is not something uncommon to most but is really one of those subjects where most won’t admit to understanding or even knowing that they were afraid of it in the first place, but most, if prompted to consider the thought, would admit to being afraid of singularity. Singularity of course pertaining to the idea that if a man were to see a flock of birds passing overhead it would not have seemed strange, but to see one bird, after having seen no birds, creatures, or critters for the past 3 or 4 hours does seem not only strange but indeed frightful. Not shockingly frightful enough to end his expedition, but enough to raise the hairs on the back of his neck and put urgency in his pace. He pressed on and kept a watchful eye on the skies overhead, lest he be watched by a curious black bird.
The path that was visible led the man against a rocky cliff, set with jagged stones protruding from its face along with roots and loose bits of dirt that crumbled in his hand as he passed by with an outstretched arm. He followed the bend of the path and was pleased to find that he had reached the base of the hill in better time than he had expected. Following the last few feet of the path, the wanderer stopped at the foot of a narrow staircase. A small wooden sign stood planted firmly in the ground with one word written across its face, UP. It would seem that nothing would be left to the imagination as to what he was to do next, so he took in a deep breath and marched onward and upward, step by step.
A solid grey scar on an otherwise perfectly green hill, the ascending steps led upwards and disappeared somewhere just out of sight. Although his journey was far from over, the end was in sight. Like any arduous task the first step was the hardest, but despite the monotonous tribulation that lay before him he still found the nerve to put one foot in front of the other and work his way up the hideously ruthless staircase. Just over his shoulder was a beautiful vista of green roving hills that stretched for miles across a lush landscape in what could be described as heavenly only for those who had not yet seen heaven. But the man was uninterested in landscapes, and certainly was in no mood to appreciate beauty. Higher and higher he rose up the stone staircase, never stopping to smell the flowers, never permitting a moment to rest amongst the overgrown trees, ever determined to move forward and to get it over with.
Upon taking his first step up the staircase the Sun had only just begun peaking over the distant hills, but the warmth at his back told the man that the Sun was now nearly above him, thankfully his hood provided him some shade and the light fabric from his cloak fought back the heat and kept his body cool. Peering upward, the man could just make out the precipice of the staircase and finally took a moment to let out an exhausted groan of adulation for his own achievement. Completing the final stretch of jagged steps the man planted his feet firmly atop the hill and threw back his hood. A cool breeze passed over him and the sweat across his brow glistened in the sunlight. Narcissus ran the fingers of his right hand through his sandy hair and took in a deep well earned breath. Opening his eyes he looked to the structure that lay before him, a Cycladic throwback to a more ancient time, the house was painted solid white and reflected the Sun in such an arrogant way to demand attention whilst also blinding whoever was foolish enough to gaze upon it for more than a moment. Constructed in the shape of large white square, the building stood only so tall with its blue dome ceiling only just taller than the olive tree in the front yard. The shutters and front door were painted blue to match the obnoxious dome protruding from the top of the cube. Despite the calming breeze the wooden shutters were closed as well as the front door. The large olive tree to the man’s left stood firmly in the ground, its roots well woven into the earth, it had been here for some time, its trunk was thick and split down the middle as if it had been struck by lightning some time ago and was forced to heal in this grotesque form with its branches stretching out in every direction, uncoordinated and misguided.
The soles of his shoes made a click clack sound as he crossed over the stone walkway, sending echoes into the distance, listening to the clicks and clacks escape into the air and bounce back down the hill disturbed Narcissus deeply sending shivers down his spine. A nervous look over his shoulder did little to ease the tension. A small garden sat just along the walkway decorated with a variety of ornate flowers, each one completely different from the next, assorted in such a way that left one wondering how they cohabitated at all, but as Narcissus made his way up the path and closer to the door he was suddenly taken back as the flowers miraculously began to change shape and color. A once wild array of foliage was now a solid garden of the same, beautiful bright golden flower. If one were to compare this flower to that of a Sunrise they would not be mistaken, the flower bloomed with six dazzling yellow petals with a fiery orange bud erupting from its center. Unimpressed, Narcissus scoffed at the gesture. With a heavy hand, he knocked on the door with three hard thuds. Moments passed and the door remained closed. The idea that no one was home to answer the door was not possible, but if that were in fact the case, narcissus would waste not time ripping the retarded olive tree straight from the ground, breaking into splinters and use the kindling to burn this obnoxious sugar cube of a domicile down to the ground. Yes, this thought brought a rare smile to the man’s face, a smile that was cut short as the door swung open revealing a young woman with golden hair. As she opened the door she in turn leaned against it, as if ready to collapse if asked to stand without assistance. A drunken smile spread across her face like butter being spread over moldy bread. Resting her head against the door she looked Narcissus up and down and then back up without subtlety, finally matching his gaze, her hazel eyes fell into his green eyes like a sun stroked traveler crashing into a pool of icy water. Enamored by his strong figure and chiseled features, she made no motion to move, frozen in place and determined to absorb as much of his beauty as she could in these short moments she stood firm blocking the doorway with her frail, drunk figure. What was but a short moment for her, felt like an eternity to Narcissus. Her affections were not well received by the young hunter, nor were they reciprocated. His eyes looked her up and down, finding nothing but fault in every feature he chose not to allow for any more time to be wasted waiting for the foolish woman to step aside he took it upon himself to brush past her with ungentlemanly force. The brush of his body against hers sent a wave of passion through her body, reducing her legs to jelly. Her body’s stench made Narcissus cringe with disgust.
Inside the cube, Narcissus spotted numerous windows along the walls, all of which were closed blocking any natural light that may enter or any smell that might wish to leave. Only small slivers of light crept through the closed shutters accompanied by the dim glow of wasted candles, what may have once passed as romantic ambiance had long since withered away and degraded into inhospitable dankness. Like the eye of a storm, a circular pit resided in the center of the room adorned with pillows, cushions, and a very large man resting on his laurels. A behemoth of a man, his skin was dark as charcoal and was graciously decorated with crimson linens. What must have been a very firm pillow was lodged beneath his arm propping up his body into a very lazy position. His legs were outstretched in a pathetically cavalier manner that showed his lack of appreciation for his own vulnerability. With a fat hand the behemoth brought a large horn to his mouth and took down a gulp, droplets of purple wine fell from the edges of his cup trailing down his chins and splashing onto his ornate robes. Despite the fat man’s obvious ploy to attract attention, Narcissus was drawn to other things. He scanned the room instead, doing his best to avoid the gelatinous mongrel that lay before him. Unfortunately, the room had little else to offer. Clearly this host paid no mind to cleanliness as the house was littered with empty wine bottles and broken casks, smashed grapes were smeared into the carpets, a plate of moldy cheese rested nearby feeding a swarm of flies, the room gave off every indication that the party had long since ended. Worse than the empty wine bottles, women lay strewn about in mixed states of inebriation. Some naked with their bodies exposed in horribly unforgiving manners, while others retained their chastity only to expose their uglier inner personalities. Fighting for the last drop of wine, two women were in a fierce tug-o-war with a corked bottle, vigorously yanking the bottle back and forth they fought with pathetic strength, lazily throwing their bodies about to gain whatever advantage they could. As one lunged forward the other lost her grip and fell to her back. Victorious, the dark haired woman laughed like a shrill ignorant witch and ripped the cork out from the bottle with her teeth, spitting it out at the defeated wench who lay unconscious on the floor. She tilted the bottle back and proceeded to swallow the bottle in one go, she drank with a furry, a need, a compulsion. Tears welled in her eyes as she fought to swallow every last drop, small driblets spewed from beyond the bottle and splashed down her cheeks and trickling down to her olive skinned bosom. She gasped as the last drops were had, the bottle came crashing down to the floor she followed soon after, drunk and exhausted she passed out with her legs stretched apart in a vulgar unforgiving manner.
The revels to which this festivity was called have long since been extinguished and only the wretches that knew no decency were left over, sucking down the last drops of wine like rabid dogs frenzied for blood. One could argue that these women were once attractive, prior to their descent into drunken stupor, but those arguments would amount to nothing now as they lay thrown about like overworked whores too long kept in the field of play. The smell alone was enough to rob a man of his natural desires. A foul odor came from somewhere in this room that was either human excrement or rotten food. Narcissus would have normally removed his cloak but given the sorry state of things and the lack of clean surfaces he chose to keep the cloak as it were, draped over his back.
A fat smile came over the hedonistic man’s face, undeterred by the catastrophe that surrounded him; he chuckled with a grin that exposed a mouth full of obnoxiously white teeth. His eyes were reading Narcissus in a way that made him feel uncomfortable, naked, exposed. His gaze was returned, but it was obvious that he was less affected by the judging eyes of his guest. With a swollen hand the man beckoned Narcissus into the pit. His arms were like dragon’s wings, a massive flab of fat flapping back and forth with every motion. Reluctant at first, common decency took over and the invitation was received, much to Narcissus’ pleasure, as he stepped down into the pit the smell of human waste seemed to vanish, replaced by the smell of ambrosia and rich wine. Descending the small steps that led into the comfort circle only reminded the weary guest of his aching feet. Without further invitation he knelt down and took comfort in a large red pillow directly across from his host.
“Welcome, old friend.” The fat man’s voice was booming and confident. Every inflection brought a slight jiggle to the man’s chins and belly. “Please, drink with me. You must be famished from your long journey. I think you will appreciate the vintage, reminiscent of better times, old friend. Please, drink, don’t make me beg.” With another swing of his arm he motioned to a crate filled with bottles of wine.
The crate had not gone unnoticed by Narcissus nor was the fat man wrong, his long journey had left him quite thirsty, but better judgement told him that to do so would only be an invitation to stay longer in a place that he had every intention of leaving as soon as he could. “No. Thank you.”
“Never one to have any fun, you were always as serious as Death. How have you been keeping these days?” Another chug of wine was brought to the man’s purple lips. The horn was rimmed with solid gold and ornate carvings covered its surface detailing some story that Narcissus could not make out.
“How do you get all of these women up here?”
“I’m sure you are wondering why you were asked to come here today.”
“I mean I didn’t any other way up, was there an elevator or something like that?”
“Yeah, I think I would like to take that way down instead. Much easier than having to go back down that stupid hill.”
“Please, Narcissus, can we not talk of other things? How are you keeping? Please, regale me with stories of your hunts.”
“Pass! What the hell am I doing here?”
“Where are your manners, old friend? I invite you to my home and this is how you treat me, with great disrespect.”
“Yep, we were never friends, you were always a douchebag and you still are, so I you have 5 seconds to tell me what I’m doing here or else I’m walking right back out that door and you can go back to whatever the Hell this party/orgy/grunge thing you got going on.”
“To business then, suit yourself.” Unveiling a new bottle of wine the man refilled his rhyton. The smell of grapes filled the air as the wine splashed down into the horn. “That is not a question for me to answer, old friend. You are here, and that is pleasing, but why you came here is for you to decide, not me.” With every inflection the man hesitated for just an extra moment in a surprisingly unsettling manner and ended each statement with a flick of his eyebrow.
“How did your man find me?”
“Not an easy task but I need only listen to the whisper of the wind, old friend. I hear all things and these days it seems that no man or woman can take a step without sending off echoes of their journey. Were you in a bad place?”
“I was in a busy place. Hunting.”
“Yes, I assumed so. To the North, my courier nearly gave up hope. You hadn’t been amongst people for months. He almost lost your trail.
“Almost. I was tracking a pack of wolves. I nearly had them when your man came to find me.”
“A reliable man, yes, but not as good a hunter as you.”
“You could have called, sent an email, hit me up Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, sending a courier is a little too old world, don’t you think?”
“Oh please, if I remember anything it is that you love all things old world, I thought a courier would be better received and more appreciated. As well the message was of great urgency and need not fall into spying hands.”
“Yes, he said nothing of why you needed me to come here, only that it was urgent.”
“Urgent, yes it was, it is, it will be, we are in urgent times, old friend. However urgent the message may have been, there was still doubt in my heart that you would come at all, given our last encounter. How long ago was that?”
“Ages ago, I can’t say exactly how long. Enough time had passed and I dare not dwell on such things. It is done.”
“You speak nothing but the god’s truth, old friend, but I still feel compelled to apologize if you would permit. I thought the pieces were authentic.”
“No more authentic than the women that sold them to us.”
The two men shared a deep laugh, their voices filling the room with merry and rousing up even the drunkest of whores that lay about. “To be fair, old friend, we both were fooled, do you not remember?”
“Only slightly, as it has been said it was ages ago.” Narcissus let out a chuckle and finally rested in his pillow, stretching his tired legs out he let his body sink into the deep pillow.
“You are correct, old friend. Wine?” Dionysus reached inside a crate next to him and revealed a large bottle of wine. As his arm rose from the crate, the eyes of the women in the room shot to heir master with eager eyes. Slowly, some began to crawl forth from the shadows, like begging dogs hoping for scraps to fall from a table. “Away with you! Pathetic creatures.” The drunken women scurried back to the outer edges of the room. “I apologize for the sorry state of these things, I expected you so much sooner, but your tardiness is not on your fault, but rather of mine. These flowers have long since wilted, I must call for more.”
“Again, how the hell do you get these poor women up here? Are they airlifted in? I know they didn’t walk up that hill!”
“It is of no importance.”
“It is a sorry state, if I may be so bold. Keep your wine. I feel like we should try and move things along.”
“Always so forward, old friend, never one to enjoy a bandy of words. Come join me in a drink, we are toasting something very special today my friend.” Without question, Dionysus poured from his bottle into a silver goblet and extended the cup to his guest.
With reluctance the cup was received, “And to what are we toasting to?”
“To a fruitful hunt I hope.”
“Speak clearly, fat man, I tire of these games.”
“As you wish. As you know I am a lover of knowledge and I have followed all stories and prophecies as close as one can. Some might say that within my mind lie the last of our history, stories that have long since been forgotten are now locked within my memories. Lost in translations that have long since been abandoned, but some still ring clear as day to those who can read them. Come now, listen close. The ravens have been spotted gathering to the west and the tides are rising to the north. The day of Man’s rule is coming to a close as the prophecies state, as well as our time, old friend.”
“You are certain of this?”
“On your eyes, I am certain.”
Narcissus tilted the cup and watched the purple wine splash back and forth, unmotivated to take drink. “What can we do? More importantly why should I care? Only one of us here carries the blood of gods. Why should a simple mortal dwell in the business of foolish gods.
“You could not be more mistaken, old friend. Your part to play is more essential than others and it calls for your nearly mortal sensibilities. There is not much we can do, but what can be done must be. That is where you come in, old friend.”
“You need a hunter?”
“A hunter of your talents should be well enough to get the job done, yes. You need only be pointed in the right direction.”
“I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Even if I did, why would I want to help you? Why should I even trust you?”
“I can sense your hesitation, but fear not, old friend this is a time for liquid courage.”
Narcissus let out a reluctant chuckle and sipped from his cup, admiring the fruitiness and the fragrant smell. The wine splashed down his throat, soaking his dry tongue with sweet flavors. One gulp turned into two, then three and then his goblet was emptied. Satisfied, Narcissus set the cup down and used his cloak to wipe the droplets from his chin. Dionysus sat back into his cushion and smiled with sweet satisfaction as his guest refilled his cup. The goblet was refilled but before it could be brought back to his lips it slipped from his grip and fell to the ground, its contents splashed across the red carpet. It seemed only like a dull pain at first, Narcissus blinked repeatedly trying to moisten his pupils, the pain continued and grew worse. With frustrated hands, he rubbed his eyes with fierce vigor. The fat man watched as Narcissus clutched his face with urgency, clawing at his pupils as if they were on fire. Blood curdling screams echoed throughout the room and Narcissus fell to the floor, writhing on his back he dropped his bloody hands to his side revealing the horror that had befallen his eyes. His once beautiful green eyes were now on fire, hot red sparks sizzled in his sockets and red blood oozed down his cheeks.
With great effort, Dionysus rose to his feet and crossed the small pit with unsympathetic urgency. He looked down at the terrified hunter that lay on his carpet writhing in pain, still clutching his eyes hoping desperately for relief. Still next to his guest’s red pillow was the bottle containing the poisoned wine. With a fat hand the host picked up the bottle from the ground and removed the cork with his teeth. Shifting his massive weight, he placed a heavy foot on the hunter’s chest holding him firmly in place. Dionysus tilted the bottle and let its contents drizzle down and splash slowly onto the mangled face of Narcissus. The wine sizzled as it landed on the fiery sockets that were once Narcissus’ eyes, smoke billowed from his wounds and the screaming eventually stopped. Spitting the cork from his mouth, he looked down to Narcissus with his yellow eyes and whispered, “Old friend, what you lack is motivation. Soon you will see.”
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