Mario fell in love with the goddess of war. Of course, he knew her as Alice Lois, the green-eyed woman trapped at Lake View Sanatorium since the courts deemed her insane at aged seventeen. He had been sticking pills on her tongue for a decade. Two months ago, she had looked at him for the first time. It shook him to his core.
He snuck into her records, finding a yellowed spiral notebook with crude drawings and symbols etched in the cover. He stuffed it into the waistband of his scrubs and took it home, violating all the laws of his personal ethics. He had to drink three Lagers before he could bring himself to open it.
When he finally did, her words made him want to take up a sword and protect her, fight whatever demon was harassing her:
‘My fears are winter wolves charging through the snow, tongues wagging, murderous eyes locked onto me. I don’t know why she has chosen me to destroy but I am the damned. Bitten by a darkness so black, it has seeped into my soul like an oil spill.’
He flipped forward, sinking deeper into her story, his heart being kneaded like dough:
‘I can feel her possession of me. My body is now just a furnace with an angry goddess burning within. She wants revenge, freedom from the chains of anonymity, to not be lost, forgotten or laughed off as a myth. She is hungry for bloodshed.’
He read until stars replaced dusk, until his eyes tired and his heart softened.
Morning found him standing over her, eyeing the pale curve of her cheek, a colorless mouth, the impossibly thin frame, the wide straps holding down this ghost of a woman.
She did not belong here. As if she could read his mind, her eyes opened. The brilliant life within her almost blinded him.
“My name is Enyo.” The only words she would ever speak to him.
He carefully released her, lifted her, placed her waiflike body folded into a laundry carrier, stripped her sheets and lay them atop her, being mindful to leave an air pocket for breathing.
The basement door was not monitored.
It took twenty four hours for the Asenapine to wear off. He fed her oxtail soup, bathed her without removing her underwear, washed her hair on the couch from a bowl and wrapped her in his grandmother’s blanket. He played her an awkward song he was writing on a second hand guitar. He wondered what their kids would look like. Would they have her blinding green eyes?
Two days later, he awoke from his post on the living room floor and she was gone. He scoured the streets for hours then days then weeks. He forgot to shave and change his clothes. Sometimes he remembered to eat. Mostly he wept and tried to hold her image in his mind. It was slipping with his weight, his hygiene and his sanity.
“Breaking news from Washington. The President of the United States is dead.”
Mario froze in front of the portable radio, the centerpiece of people gathered on the apartment stairs. They shushed him when he approached. Shock twisted their mouths and eyes.
“Treaties have broken down in the past few weeks between the President’s special Peace for Progress Council and the terrorists who held four major US cities hostage just twelve months ago. Details are still coming in…” the voice paused. “We also have reports of coordinated attacks in Atlanta, Chicago and Austin. Thousands are believed perished.” More dead air and then an ear piercing siren.
“This is an emergency message from Homeland Security. Please stay calm and walk to nearest terrorist shelter for further instructions.”
As the message repeated itself–echoing from car radios, shops and bars—Mario sat down on the sidewalk curb and watched the scampering, the screaming, the panic. He began to chuckle, to laugh in loud, manic bursts until he was holding his stomach. What else was there to do but watch and listen?
It was a symphony. And his beautiful goddess was the conductor.
He should have stuck with Aphrodite.
I’m thinking you might want to have a look at this sentence:
He stuffed it into the waistband of his scrubs and took it home, violating all the laws of his personal ethics and had to drink three Lagers before he could bring himself to open it.
It seems like a run-on or the like. And there’s a superfluous “an” in the second to last paragraph: we have reports AN attack…
Barring those two thoughts: kudos.
You’re as resourceful as ever.
G. nails the two things I noticed. Regardless of them, this is staggeringly beautiful. You even take cliches like “pale” and describing something as a “curve” and make them feel authentically awestruck and tender. When you emerge into parallels about the world falling apart, it’s simply masterful. I hope you submit this somewhere fabulous that allows reprints. Thank you for writing it.
Thanks, John. I’m glad you mentioned those particular words as I, too, looked hard at them but then couldn’t find ones more appropriate.
Ah, thanks. I’m being distracted by child who keeps getting up so I fixed the small error, will look at the sentence in the a.m.
Wow Shannon, what a first paragraph – blew me away totally, had me agog reading through the rest of it. The way you glide seamlessly between th ehuman scale to the apocalyptic was masterful (mistressful?). Wonderful, simply wonderful.
This one gave me fits, so glad you like it. That first paragraph was re-written at least twenty times. 😛
Can’t think of a better way to live, Shannon. This is artful. Beautiful imagery, stunning and tender story. I love it.
Awesome and also freaky!
Of course it would have to be a goddess of war – a goddess of love would have been so dull by comparison!
Nice take on mythology. Beuty and trouble in equal measure – that’s the problem with goddesses, isn’t it?
LOL, I imagine so.
Just beautiful-rich in description, imagery, symbolism. Interested in the aspect of dulling, muting the destructive force for years and consequences…on the individual level, group, symbolic…Amazing piece.
Beautiful, beautiful piece. I am in awe.
Another terrific story, Shannon! Poor Mario, entranced by the violent goddess. Maybe she will spare him. Loved the symbolism and very well written.
Wow, I love it. Shades of Neil Gaiman, which is a great thing, while also being totally original in its voice.
To fall in love with the goddess of war…sort of makes him Pandora. Beautiful writing, awesome first paragraph!
A fascinating story – the only thing standing between us and utter destruction at the hands of a vengeful god is prescription pharmaceuticals.
I had the read the story a couple of times before I was able to work out the timing. I got the impression that she’d been at large for weeks, but the world’s problems had been going on for 12 months at least.
haha, like your take on the medication! Yes, 12 months was the first round of terrorist attacks, but they were signing a peace treaty…until he let the goddess out of the bag and all hell broke loose again.
this is transfixing. the opening is fantastic, i love her words in the notebook. it felt a bit hurried at the end, this really could easily be turned into a novelette or at minimum a longer short. it has so many good things going on – their relationship could be expanded.. good stuff. shannon
Taking home files not only violates his personal ethics, but is illegal, especially if this is set in the times of HIPAA (only those of us in the medical field really know or care about HIPAA, I suspect). But I digress. This story had a really unexpected twist in that I thought she personally assasinated the president, but then to find out that Mario had unleashed something even more disasterous… I like the phrase “the pale curve of her cheek,” among others.
Great work, Shannon.
So glad to see you writing again… missed you last week. But your story was worth the wait. I’m with Michael… this easily could be a much longer story.. or a screenplay. Love to see it on the big screen. Nice work!
Oh, I see Clive Owen in the leading role.
Yeah, I’ll go with ya on that 🙂 Have you seen Law Abiding Citizen? Great movie.
Nice. I like “terrorist” shelter instead of bomb or some other bunker. Since Cathy mentioned it, I can see Clive Owen playing the part.
Fabulous piece, Shannon, so many layers. The first para – wow. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Peace, Linda
I loved the two distinct voices you created for this piece – both using gorgeous descriptive prose, but in oh so different ways. Top notch, as always Shannon.
really interesting – great opening.
Quite a neat story. I really enjoyed reading it. I guess there was a reason the goddess of war was knocked out on pills for so long…
Lovely prose. I have to wonder though how she got trapped in the sanatorium in the first place. How about a prequel?
Yeah, that Asenapine must be some potent stuff, should be shoved into rifles and cannons. I too liked the first paragraph.
I love your twist on the god of war being female. How fitting in an age of forgotten gods.
(Yes, I know several mythologies have goddesses of war, but all the major ons have always been men. I always found this to be chauvinistic in the same way the bible was chauvinistic to always refer tous as ‘man’.)
I love it – the language, the pacing, the concept … i like tony’s comment about prescription pharmaceuticals 😉 It seemed no good would come of taking her from the hospital but i didn’t quite envision that! well done! And i agree that it could easily be a longer piece – would be even more terrific when fleshed out a bit