- The Hidden Oracle
Her turret crown circled her brow like a glittering railroad track. When she looked down at me, her tinted glasses changed from orange to purple. A macramé belt cinched her waist, and on a chain around her neck hung her brass peace symbol.
She smiled. “Glad you’re awake. I was worried, man.”
I really wished people would stop calling me man. “Why are you…Where have you been all these centuries?”
“Upstate.” She scratched her lion’s ears. “After Woodstock, I stuck around, started a pottery studio.”
She tilted her head. “Was that last week or last millennium? I’ve lost track.”
“I—I believe you’re describing the 1960s. That was last century.”
“Oh, bummer.” Rhea sighed. “I get mixed up after so many years.”
“After I left Kronos…well, that man was so square, you could cut yourself on his corners, you know what I mean? He was the ultimate 1950s dad—wanted us to be Ozzie and Harriet or Lucy and Ricky or something.”
“He—he swallowed his children alive.”
“Yeah.” Rhea brushed her hair from her face. “That was some bad karma. Anyway, I left him. Back then divorce wasn’t cool. You just didn’t do it. But me, I burned my apodesmos and got liberated. I raised Zeus in a commune with a bunch of naiads and kouretes. Lots of wheat germ and nectar. The kid grew up with a strong Aquarian vibe.”
I was fairly sure Rhea was misremembering her centuries, but I thought it would be impolite to keep pointing that out.
“You remind me of Iris,” I said. “She went organic vegan several decades ago.”
Rhea made a face—just a ripple of disapproval before regaining her karmic balance. “Iris is a good soul. I dig her. But you know, these younger goddesses, they weren’t around to fight the revolution. They don’t get what it was like when your old man was eating your children and you couldn’t get a real job and the Titan chauvinists just wanted you to stay home and cook and clean and have more Olympian babies. And speaking of Iris…”
Rhea touched her forehead. “Wait, were we speaking of Iris? Or did I just have a flashback?”
“I honestly don’t know.”
“Oh, I remember now. She’s a messenger of the gods, right? Along with Hermes and that other groovy liberated chick…Joan of Arc?”
“Er, I’m not sure about that last one.”
“Well, anyway, the communication lines are down, man. Nothing works. Rainbow messages, flying scrolls, Hermes Express…it’s all going haywire.”
“We know this. But we don’t know why.”
“It’s them. They’re doing it.”
She glanced to either side. “The Man, man. Big Brother. The suits. The imperators.”
I had been hoping she would say something else: giants, Titans, ancient killing machines, aliens. I would’ve rather tangled with Tartarus or Ouranos or Primordial Chaos itself. I had hoped Pete the geyser misunderstood what his brother told him about the imperator in the ants’ nest.
Now that I had confirmation, I wanted to steal Rhea’s safari van and drive to some commune far, far upstate.
“Triumvirate Holdings,” I said.
“Yeah,” Rhea agreed. “That’s their new military-industrial complex. It’s bumming me out in a big way.”
The lion stopped licking my face, probably because my blood had turned bitter. “How is this possible? How have they come back?”
“They never went away,” Rhea said. “They did it to themselves, you know. Wanted to make themselves gods. That never works out well. Ever since the old days they’ve been hiding out, influencing history from behind the curtains. They’re stuck in a kind of twilight life. They can’t die; they can’t really live.”
“But how could we not know about this?” I demanded. “We are gods!”
Rhea’s laugh reminded me of a piglet with asthma. “Apollo, Grandson, beautiful child…Has being a god ever stopped someone from being stupid?”
She had a point. Not about me personally, of course, but the stories I could tell you about the other Olympians…
“The emperors of Rome.” I tried to come to terms with the idea. “They can’t all be immortal.”
“No,” Rhea said. “Just the worst of them, the most notorious. They live in human memory, man. That’s what keeps them alive. Same as us, really. They’re tied to the course of Western civilization, even though that whole concept is imperialist Eurocentric propaganda, man. Like my guru would tell you—”