Title: Phe Gets a Puppy
Genre: Myth; short story
This is a stand alone piece for the most part. I do an online RP forum and I was running a story line that recently died. Instead of scrapping everything, I decided to write out the end of that arc for my character for today’s Story a Day post. And no, this is not based off of The Lightning Thief.
Limbs flailing, Phe tore one of the spiny creatures off of her shoulder as she crashed to the ground. A trashcan rattled, rolling on its side down the alley. She uttered several impressive curses as another one of the toothy creatures she didn’t have a name for latched onto her arm. They looked like a cat-shaped pin cushion with wings and a halberd for a tail. There were six of them and they seemed to have appeared from nowhere!
“Uly?” Phe yelled, scrambling to her feet and picking up the trashcan lid to bash another one of the prickly-cats away. They weren’t very fast but the spines were sharp. “Axel?” Phe pulled her sword from her backpack; she was just going to have to chance that a car wouldn’t come by. Whatever these things were they weren’t good news.
Phe stood her ground, using the trashcan lid as a shield and the short, Grecian sword against her slower moving attackers. “One moment it’s mini-sphinx the next it’s their cousins, what’s next?”
A lesson Phe had yet to learn, being only fourteen, was that one should never test fate. Slowly she stepped backwards, the path to the street blocked by more spines and teeth than she wanted to go up against. Glancing over her shoulder she could make out where the alley intersected another, giving her three options for escape; she could do this. She didn’t see any sign of Axel or Ulysses so she could only assume they were dealing with their own trouble; she’d circle around and find them. Confident in her ‘plan’, Phe pivoted and took a runners leap – just as the ground opened up under her, a hole wider than she could ever hope to cross.
She choked a scream as her jump arced and she started to plummet, past the pavement, past the layers of concrete and down into the earth. Sucking in a proper breath, event hrough she knew it was useless if she bothered to think about it, she screamed an impressive sound; very loud and resounding though it mostly dispersed into the darkness that became less real, less tangible and more something else. It was as if Phe were not falling to her death, but sliding down a staircase on a mattress.
No sooner had this less deathy thought entered her mind than she simply – passed out.
Something prodded Phe in a not-friendly manner. She groaned, and braced herself to hurt all over; she wasn’t completely sure why she should be hurting this time, but that was becoming normal. Except she didn’t hurt. In fact, she felt fine. Blinking, Phe looked up into an old, lined face. Eyes so brown they were black gazed back at her, a halo of white hair rising up like white fire surrounded the old, frail man’s head as he leaned over her, finger extended to prod her again experimentally.
“Where am I?” Phe levered herself up into a sitting position and looked around.
Around her a green carpet of grass stretched in all directions. It was dotted with small stone houses only big enough to hold a bed. Statues of graceful women in flowing robes and men in proud poses were set at almost regular intervals. Stone spires or blocks were interspersed with these and not far from where Phe had landed was a fountain the size of a swimming pool.
“Cemetery of the Gods.”
Phe’s skin went cold and the air suddenly seemed so frigid it burned her lungs. “What?” She sprang up and hugged her arms to her chest, looking around her wildly. There was no sky. It was as if someone forgot to hang it here, as if the sky just didn’t exist – yet there was light. She could see for a long distance more green and some trees and what was probably a Grieving Garden.
“Can you move?” The old man was clearly annoyed. “I’m trying to dig this grave but you’re in the way.”
She was in fact, standing in the middle of a pile of earth, a long rectangle a few feet deep yawned at her almost sleepily with the little grass roots waving at her. “Sorry,” Phe said and stepped out of the dirt. “How did I get here?”
For the moment the old man ignored her, climbing slowly down into the grave and picking up a shovel. He shoved it into the moist earth and then placing his foot on the top of the spade sunk the whole shovel into the earth before hauling a lump of dirt out of the hole.
“You got here because you were supposed to be here. It’s the only reason anyone ever comes here.”
Phe’s eyes were the size of saucers. “I’m supposed to be in the Cemetery of the Gods?” What she knew of this place equated to myth; it was where gods came to be laid to rest, to be remembered, to bury things, to say goodbye, and where they got rid of their problems. Problems, which could also be considered pesky half-human children. Technically, she didn’t know who her father was, it could be anyone, but all the indicators had been fairly clear her whole life.
The gravedigger stopped his digging and looked at her; clearly annoyed. “No one tells me nothing!” He picked the shovel back up and continued his digging.
Part of Phe wanted to stay right where she was; the gravedigger, grouchy as he might be, was a real person. The other part of her, the part that usually got her into trouble, wanted to look around. Her feet were in cahoots with the latter and before Phe had even made the decision consciously her feet crunched on the gravel walkway. Despite the ominous fact of where she was, Phe found herself admiring the statues and artwork used to commemorate those who were laid to rest. She made her way to the fountain and sat down on the edge and twisted her upper body around so she could look at her reflection. A shock of red hair fell over her brow, sheltering her eyes until she pushed it to the side.
“You look nothing like your mother. I had hoped you would take after her more.”
Her head snapped up. Gazing at her from across the fountain was a hulking man wearing overalls. His bare skin glistened with sweat and there was dirt all over him. He had a shovel over one shoulder and an old fashioned metal lunchbox in the other. He gazed back at her with eyes just as black as her own and a thick head of black hair.
“I have no idea where you got that hair though. My hair has never been red.”
Phe’s heart raced. She had gone through the lists of gods, both major and minor, daydreaming about which could be her missing parent, but it wasn’t the kind of activity one took seriously. They were gods. They didn’t take interest in peoples lives and he qualified as people; she was still half human. The sensible part of her had always won out in that respect, but when she was staring down the face of someone who had practically already said everything but, ‘Phe, I am your father,’ that other part of her brain that thought in dragons and satyrs and unicorns took over.
“You’re – you’re my – “
“Don’t say it,” he said, suddenly stern. The black eyes flickered, as if something else lived inside of them.
Phe bit her lip, and wondered if she should kneel or bow. She was sitting in the presence of a god. She was sitting… Phe lept up and dusted bits of dirt and grass off of her in a tardy attempt to appear presentable for her father. Her father. He was her father.
Two large, dirty boots crunched on gravel in front of her. Slowly her eyes went up, and up, and up. Phe was short, which only made him look even taller. She gulped audibly and fidgeted with her fingernails.
“I’m sorry, but saying it gives it power,” he said cryptically. His face screwed up as if he’d tasted something sour. “I don’t like talking like this. I’ve never been good at not saying what I want to say.”
Still in awe, Phe only nodded. She felt suddenly very small and insignificant.
“Come on, lets have some lunch.”
“Lunch?” She parroted.
“Yeah, food you put in your mouth and swallow.”
“But – don’t you eat ambrosia and drink nectar?”
He nodded, “Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like a good BBQ sandwich every now and then.” He grinned and rattled his lunchbox. “I brought an extra just in case you wanted one.”
An audible rumble in Phes stomach answered the question for her. With a shared laugh, father and daughter walked off between the graves, the former leading the latter to some place special. Neither spoke, but it was not an uncomfortable silence. He led her to a stone bench on top of a hill. A tall hedge separated the cemetery and the lonely hill that looked down on empty grassland dotted with a few trees and flowers but was otherwise peaceful.
“I like to sit here and imagine the horizon,” he explained as he settled his bulk down onto the bench.
“Oh?” Phe perched on the bench and looked up quizzically at him, not understanding.
The gravedigger quirked an eyebrow at her and gestured as his chest, “I live underground – “
“Oh!” Her cheeks went red and hot and she wished that once again the ground would swallow her up. Why did she have an affinity for saying stupid things?
He didn’t seem to mind and laughed heartily. Of all the things Phe had speculated about the God of the Underworld, it was not that he would have a sense of humor.
“Here.” He handed her a wrapped sandwich, BBQ staining the cloth from the inside out already.
“Thanks,” she said sheepishly and took it.
“So how is school going?”
Phe looked up suspiciously. Did one have such mundane conversations with a deity? “Um, good. I mean, I’ve been there for what? A week? Not much to go wrong yet.”
“Oh I’m sure you’ll shake things up.” He grinned and took a bite from his sandwich. “Have you made any friends yet?”
She had to think about that one. There were people she’d met, but really no one she would consider an outright friend. “Not really.” She shrugged and peeled back the cloth and took a bite of her own sandwich. It had to be the best BBQ she had ever tasted. Neither said much as they ate except for an occasional comment. “That was amazing!”
“Isn’t it? Hestia can really take care of a good sandwich.” His grin was infectious and daughter grinned at father.
Phe couldn’t believe she was really sitting here on a bench with her father; even if she couldn’t say it. “Um, can I ask a question?”
“I think you just did.”
“Oh – “
“Go ahead.” He chuckled and turned to give her his full attention.
“Why am I here? Did you bring me here? And why do that if you can’t – you know?”
He sighed and rubbed his palms over his knees, eyes gazing out at the invisible horizon. “It’s complicated,” he said sadly. “I brought you here because I thought we both needed it. It’s like when you break something of glass and glue it back together; if you don’t have all the pieces it’s not complete. Think of yourself as that missing piece. You are not a god and yet you house a god inside of you. As you get older, I will disappear and it will become you, but until then it’s – complicated.”
Phe didn’t really understand the bigger picture, but she understood that she was far more connected to her father than she had ever considered. “Oh. Is that why I’m here then? So you can get that piece back?”
“What?” His head snapped around and he looked at her as if he didn’t even know her. “No! Nothing like that! Don’t think like that – “ He bit his lip and exhaled, biting back her name; names had power in themselves. “I needed to meet you, to see you in the flesh, not from a distance.”
“Oh.” Again she felt embarrassed. Had she just really suggested her dad brought her here to kill her? Sometimes she said some really dumb things.
“You can’t stay here long. You aren’t dead and I don’t think you should be, but I brought you a present.”
Phe liked presents. Her head snapped up and she looked at him eagerly. It didn’t really matter what it was, just so long as it was something from her father.
He grinned at her and stood up. He faced some bushes off to the side and clapped his hands. “Thanatos, Thanatos Sarakiazo.”
At first nothing happened. And then the bushes jerked and began to shake. There was a deep rumbling as if someone were revving a bulldozer. At once the bush erupted in a spray of leaves and twigs as something large and dark bounded through the bush. Phe’s father laughed and grappled with – a three headed dog. It stood up wobbly on its hindquarters, paws on his shoulders and attacking his face with three tongues and three times the saliva.
“This is Thanatos Sarakiazo,” her father explained, pushing the dog down to all fours. “He’s just a puppy, six months old. He’ll get bigger but he’s very sweet. I picked him out for you – if you want him.”
He could have given her a box of grave dirt and she would have been thrilled. “Yeah,” Phe nodded and grinned.
Three heads turned puppy eyes on her. Three noses sniffed experimentally. One tail wagged, and four paws bounded forward. The ‘puppy’ was big enough to roll Phe off of the bench and pin her to the ground and give her a slobber-bath.
“Down boy, down!”
Her father pushed the puppy aside and picked Phe up, offering her a handkerchief for the saliva on her face. “He eats a lot, but he’s faithful and he’ll be smart someday. I’m just sorry I can’t do more.”
“I never expected this much,” Phe blurted out, wringing the handkerchief in her hands. “I mean, you got me into school, and you sent me my sword and Leto, and now this. I never expected any of this.”
He looked at her sadly, “Do you really have such low expectations of us?”
Phe shook her head, “No. I know you’re busy. You can’t worry about just me.”
His eyebrows inched up until they disappeared behind dark hair. “Whose daughter are you?”
Phe blushed and looked down. One of the heads of the dog butted her hip, begging for a scratch. Father, daughter and puppy stood silently for a few moments, on the brink of saying what couldn’t be said.
“You said I couldn’t stay here, right?” Phe said finally, unable to be quiet any more.
“Right,” he said reluctantly.
“Well how do we get out?”
“Close your eyes.”
She squeezed her eyes shut just as the puppy butted her, almost pushing her off balance. Phe had to latch onto the collar of the closest head. Just as her fingers closed around it the world lurched, and then she was falling again, only this time she landed on something furry and soft that whined and wiggled under her.
Phe blinked up at a white ceiling. She was back in her dorm room and the puppy was attacking her with puppy love again.