Ray was a writer.
It had been a long time since he pounded the keys of his laptop and strung together words to build pictures and create stories—much longer than a writer should allow. He’d found a woman and she had his attention so he wrote less and less. Then she left Ray. His soul was set ablaze and the only way he could sooth the pain was to stripe himself down to sinew through the act of writing, which is, in my opinion the tool best suited to do this. After a week of moping he sat at his desk swirling a glass of vodka while his laptop stared discouragingly at him. He thought it was writer’s block, perhaps even the hold Rachel had on his heart. But it was something much more.
It was me—Hermes. God of writing.
“Ugh. I got nothing,” Ray said frustrated before he put the drink down on his unadorned desk, stood up and looked around his living room. “Almost literally. I’ve got nothing.” He didn’t have much—a television, a couch, a small table, his desk. There were no pictures on the walls. Many of his favorite pictures were of he and Rachel and the last thing he wanted was to be forced to look at reminders of that world. He couldn’t even wear the shirts she had bought him or watch episodes from shows they had watched together—those things were knives that could easily pierce his soul.
He glanced at his cell phone. No text messages. It had been a month since Rachel, had left him. Ray though about where things had gone wrong as battled hope and despair, and was haunted by what ifs, should haves and all of his flaws. Truth be told, he was right about the role he played. He got comfortable and the moments they spent together had become routine. But what he would come to understand is that all those moments were dominos that I pushed over.
Ray rubbed his forehead and closed his eyes. “Please Lord.”
I knocked at the door.
Ray peered through the peephole. He wanted so much for me to be Rachel. His heart beat frantically. It was shameful. He could have been trying to write. And make no mistake, most writing is trying to write. Instead of hoping to find words, he hoped to find her. What he got was me. A bald man in a blue suit, hands locked behind my back. He didn’t recognize me and so he walked away in confusion. I didn’t expect him to open the door. After all, he had turned his back on me and the gift I had granted him. And while I appeared a stranger to him, he was no stranger to me. He was a disappointment.
His heart become tight and still as I thrust the door open and it slung back with a force that sent a gust of wind circulating around Ray. “I was being polite by knocking.” I stepped through the door slowly, one small step followed by another, hands firmly behind my back and my bald head lowered, allowing the light to gleam from it so that I was like a star, with my eyes menacingly directed at him.
For those moments, Ray was little more than a pair of eyes capable of observation. As I approached his heart jumped and then beat with fervor. He lunged at me, hands out like a falcon’s talons.
“Sit down,” I demanded before forcing him to sit down on his couch with a forceful thought.
“What the hell are you?” He attempted to stand up but only managed to wiggle in his seat.
“Pissed off,” I growled.
Ray studied me closely. His thoughts were scrambled—clichéd. An alien…a demon…a witch? He saw my newly polished dress shoes and the small pair of wings that fluttered on their sides. The theatrics were over. I had his attention. “Hermes, messenger of the gods among other things,” I announced. “The one that pertains to you, though, is the god of words,” and I made sure to put emphasis on words. I hoped he could see it then, but I knew he wouldn’t. You mortals, when blinded by love, are blind to everything. “I’ll let that sink in for a moment.” I made my way towards Ray’s desk and began to shuffle through the scattered sheets of papers next to a few red and blue pens. “The old stuff wasn’t bad. Not great.” I opened up a folder on his laptop. “Not a whole lot of new material. I wonder why that is?” I felt annoyance rise out of my throat. We gods have never been good with our emotions. “You can get up now, but I think you should stay there.” In a moment of surprising wisdom, Ray didn’t move. He sat up straight on his couch and watched me. His heart thumped in fear.
“We gods don’t walk here on Earth much these days,” I said as I took a drink from his glass. “But on occasion we venture down for one reason or another. Bacchus has found himself infatuated with the nightlife. Zeus still sneaks in the occasional night of fornicating behind Hera’s back. Hera still finds ways to ruin that unfortunate life. I enjoy watching the success of writers. Not financial so much as pushing forward. When one digs deep for that single word or creates that image that brings a story together.” I took another drink and I must admit that I can feel why the two seem to find one another; writing and drinking that is. They’re magnets for emotion. I continued, “Aphrodite though, not a week goes by when she doesn’t wander around to a city or countryside to find someone desperate for love. I argued that she wasn’t doing the mortals any good. The love she offered was a deterrent to your gifts. She laughed and told me writing was just something lonely people do and it wouldn’t take much to take a mortal off track. She wagered me that she could easily undo one of my novelists.
“If I win. I get your sandals.”
You will have to understand, I loved my sandals. They were comfortable and fashionable. “That is a little steep.”
“Makes it more fun,” Aphrodite said
“And if I win?” I asked.
“I’ll be the muse for one of your little wordsmiths.” explain
“And we struck our deal. She called for Eros to shoot an arrow out into the world.” You met Rachel and proved her right,” I told Ray.
“Proved her right?” Ray’s said as he gazed up at me.
“Yes Ray. You proved Aphrodite right. And now,” I pointed towards my shoes again. “I wear these things instead of my winged sandals that I earned long before this world forgot about us. Long before you let Rachel become a distraction instead of inspiration.”
“Wait,” Ray said agitated as images of Rachel flashed like bolts of lighting in his eyes. “You made a bet with the goddess of love Aphrodite? You brought someone into my life to see i it would change me and then what? Since you didn’t win your bet you decided I didn’t get to keep her love. Because you lost your sandals?”
“Not just sandals you ingrate.” I hovered over Ray. “You proved that attention whore right!” I reached out with one hand intending to strangle him.
Ray looked up at me in terror.
“Don’t you get it. You were given a gift, a tapestry to explore yourself, your wants, your views, your life. You could write something that touches the heart of a person you will never meet. You could be that voice that reaches a desperate soul in need of faith. You could make an argument that makes the world think. Or you could tell a story for people to simply talk about.”
Ray rubbed his face with both hands. This was all still a dream to him. “So what? Are you going to kill me?”
“Kill you?” I said and I actually felt some of the anger in me subside. I was still upset and yet I pitied him. “You already gave up your life. When you put down your pen you lost that part of yourself that explored what was going on inside you. What happened then?” I asked him.
“I lost myself,” he said. “And I lost the person she loved.”
“I don’t want you dead,” I told him. For you I have decided a different fate. When the sun warms your face in the morning you will feel a slight relief as if life is somehow normal again. ” I moved in close so that he would understand that I was gravely serious. “And then something small will strike you. Laughter. A song that you didn’t like, but that Rachel loved. The smell of hot chocolate on a cold night. Seeing a couple hold one another’s hands. Watching the rain pour from the sky and not having her to lay lazily in bed next to you.”
Ray wanted to murder me in that moment as memories started to rush over his fear. I wasn’t through with him yet however. For writers, words are the tools needed to get through life. Those tools were gifts He could not get over Rachel enough to move forward with his life unless he first provided salves to his soul. I took away that gift.
I left Ray that night sitting alone at his desk staring blankly at an unloving screen. He never wrote another word. He betrayed me. He allowed my gift to be something he used when it was convenient. It is not. Perhaps that sounds cruel. Writing however is not a typical gift. It’s not a watch on a birthday or bouquet of flowers on an anniversary. It is power that I grant. Power to explore anything. If I grant that power I do expect it to be used. If it is not, well reread these words. I may be cruel. But he brought this cruelty onto himself. If you’re not careful, perhaps you shall as well.
Born, raised, and still residing in Ohio, Jerry W. Vandal grew up on a diet of Ninja Turtles, X-Men, and Final Fantasy. Having spent much of his teenage years drawing dragons, caped (and non-caped) vigilantes, and mutants, he also created stories in his head. While obtaining degrees in English and Psychology from Cleveland State University, he began working on crafting those stories with words. Jerry has seen publication with Gray Haven Comics and in Irish Imbas’ 2018 Celtic Mythology Collection. He is an avid reader of comic books, a lover of mythology, and enjoys a good sojourn through a make-believe world.