Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Free Featured Fiction: Twilight of the Gods, Chapter 6," by D.J. Gelner

Still no submissions for Free Featured Fiction. That's fine; at this point, we'll probably just finish out TOTG anyway for those who are invested in the storyline. Still, we'll need more stories sooner rather than later, so if you want to take the opportunity to promote an already-free story, or something you'd otherwise just sit on, feel free to email us at contact@hunttoread.com.

Until then, though, let's keep on going with Twilight of the Gods.

Previous Installments:
Chapters 1 & 2
Chapter 3 Chapter 4
Chapter 5

Twilight of the Gods
Chapter 6

Shortly thereafter, Hermes found himself in front of an enormous building in Manhattan.

There are so many of them here! he thought. Each one must stretch to the heights of Olympus! How did these mere mortals manage such great works?

He shook his head and looked down at the suit and briefcase he had pilfered from some unsuspecting boob on the way over.

Sometimes it pays to be the god of thieves…he thought.

He gathered himself and forged ahead to the attractive female at the building’s front desk.

“Herm—” Hermes paused before he collected himself, “Herm of Olympus here for Baker Sherman Investments.”

“Elevators on your right, hit thirty-nine, first door on the left.”

She didn’t even bother to look at the god; despite the oddly form-fitting suit (he had apparently chosen his mark well), Hermes still looked worse for wear compared to his previous, athletic frame.

He followed the instructions to the letter and arrived in the lobby of Baker Sherman. In stark contrast to Olympus, the marble in its hallways was impeccably buffed to a sheen. The letters in the company logo were made of polished brass, and the god even caught a hint of the warm, rich scent of mahogany from the furniture scattered about the room.

“May I help you?” This receptionist was even more attractive than the one in the lobby. There was something seductive about the way she sized him up from behind her black plastic glasses frames.

“Ye…yes. I’m Herm—”

She brightened, “Ah yes, Mister Olympus. Mister Sherman will see you now—second door on the right,” she motioned to the hallway behind her and went back to typing away on her keyboard.

Hermes swallowed. He unconsciously straightened his tie and briskly walked down the hallway until he came in front of the office with a “S. Sherman—Principal” nameplate next to it.

Not knowing the modern custom, he simply barged in without knocking.

“What the hell—?” the thin, middle-aged man behind the desk quickly clicked his mouse several times, covering up whatever presumably non-work-related site was flashing in the background. He surveyed the interloper with razor-thin eyes.

Hermes glared right back, more out of a lack of familiarity with custom than anything else.

This had the unintended effect of disarming the businessman, who offered a bemused smirk.

“Good…I like a guy with some stones. Too many just come in and roll over nowadays. What’s your name, son?”

“Herm. Herm of Olympus.”

“Dean Sherman—” the middle-aged man held out his hand, “Damned glad to meetchya, Herm.”

Hermes grasped the man’s forearm at its widest, close to the elbow in the Roman fashion.

This drew a cocked head and a chuckle from the pleasant businessman, whose languid drawl gave himself away as a man who appreciated misfits.

“So, you want a job, do ya?”

“Indeed I do. I want to rise to the firm’s highest ranks, take control of the entire financial system, and smash it to bits!”

Sherman laughed, a deep, booming laugh misfit with his slight frame, “Finally—a little refreshing honesty! I’m gonna level with you—I don’t much care for these eggheads coming out of their fancy ivory towers nowadays, all facts and figures without half a mind for business business. I don’t care where you were educated or who yer pappy is huntin’ buddies with. What I do care about is your prior experience; ever do anything in business before? Start a company or anything of the sort?”

Hermes raised his eyes toward the ceiling as he thought for a moment.

“I…I suppose that my uncle and I scuttled an entire fleet of ships once because they failed to show us the requisite level of respect prior to taking off with their wares.”

Without a hint of irony, Sherman rose out of his chair and extended his hand once more, “You’ll fit right in. Welcome aboard, Herm!”

Hermes grasped the man’s forearm again. Sherman punctuated the gesture by slapping the god on the back several times.

Though Hermes still had little idea of what he was doing, he was a quick study; he ascended through the ranks, committing various financial ratios and terms like “EBITDA” to memory.

His old world sensibilities were charming enough to disarm even the most grizzled, ornery Wall Street veteran, and he continued to amass a collection of A-list clients through the years, who inevitably would call the firm and ask for “the Greek fella.”

All the while he was probing for loopholes, ways to send the system crashing down upon itself.

He had hundreds of ideas, but none that he could implement alone as a Vice President at Baker Sherman, a modest Wall Street investment firm.

No, what he needed was greater than money, greater than power:

Hermes needed influence. He needed to become so big, so revered, that Wall Street would take note of his every move.

Once he had others sitting rapt, like dogs begging fro table scraps from their masters, then he would spring the trap and watch the whole house of cards tumble down around him.

These thoughts continued to simmer in the back of Hermes’s mind as he went to lunch with Dean Sherman on a crisp autumn afternoon.

“You ever thought about startin’ your own hedge fund, Herm?” The managing partner’s lazy, Southern cadence even partially hid the dollop of thousand island dressing that ran down his cheek.

“Yes,” Hermes responded, matter-of-factly.

“Oh…oh good! I mean—what I was fixin’ to say was, well, ol’ Bill Baker doesn’t exactly have his fastball anymore.”

Hermes cocked his head.

“Between you and me, Bill’s got a hardware store’s worth of screws lose up there. He’s out of his mind. So—” Sherman adopted a sly grin so reptilian that Hermes could have sworn a forked tongue poked through the man’s lips, “—I was wonderin’; you seem like the sharp type. Hell, you rose to V.P. in just a couple of years. Wanna go in together and make a bunch of cash?”

“Yes.”

Hermes didn’t even pause to consider, in part because this, just like every other moment in his “working” life had been planned out from the start.

Days later, Sherman announced that he was leaving Baker Sherman to form “Sherman Olympus,” a “breath of fresh air” compared to other, more staid and conservative hedge funds.

What Sherman failed to mention were the hundreds of individuals who would not be joining the new fund, left to either find new jobs or go down with the ship as Bill Baker played his imaginary fiddle.

For Hermes, the new enterprise was a godsend. He immediately established a position in SXR Industries, a global conglomerate that made everything from toothpaste to turbines and began feeding the press information and rumors, in violation of hundreds of mortal laws for which Hermes had nothing but contempt.

He consumed feasts rather than enjoying them as Apollo had. The nourishment slowly brought color back to Hermes’s sunken cheeks until they puffed up, fat and rosy.

What the messenger of the gods truly enjoyed was the attention from the mortal media, those desperate hounds eager to report the smallest piece of inside information, often made up by Hermes to drive a stock price downward or upward on a whim.

Hermes continued to buy up SXR stock and praise it to the press. Soon thereafter, he dropped hints about “revolutionary products” the conglomerate would soon unveil, each one grander and more mysterious than the last, each assertion backed up by little more than the god’s word.

Not that Sherman cared; Hermes quickly made good on the southerner’s outlandish startup promises, sending Sherman Olympus to the top of the financial world.

Finally, on a particularly cold spring morning, Hermes was ready to put his plan into action.

The messenger of the gods smiled; all that time he had spent through the years learning the ins and outs of this awful mortal “business” world, figuring out the systems underlying their entire system of enterprise, and at the end he didn’t need any of it.

All he needed was a click of the mouse and a well-placed phone call.

He dumped all of his shares of SXR and called Tom Pittoni, one of his favored reporters at a financial news outlet.

“Tom Pittoni here.”

“We’re reassessing our strategic positions in SXR Industries in light of the coming stock market crash.”

With that, the god set down the phone and leaned back in his chair. He had set his computer to “CLANG” like a bell each time the market fell past a given benchmark.

At first, the “clang”s came slowly. One…then several minutes. Then another…and several minutes more. Each sound caused the corners of Hermes’s mouth to turn upward a tick more, the smile on his face ever-broadening.

After a while, a cacophony of bells greeted him from his computer speakers. The god gave in to both vanity and ego and waved his hands at the noises, conducting the din.

When the reality of what he was doing hit him fully, he shook out of it and bolted from his office, down the stairs, back toward Olympus.

Moments later, Dean Sherman’s guffaws could be heard throughout the posh offices of Sherman Olympus.He chomped on a cigar as he popped a bottle of champagne and, true to the firm’s company policy, didn’t bother knocking as he entered “Herm Olympus's" office.

“My God, Herm you’ve done it again! We’re rich! We’re beyond rich! Richer than God him—”

Sherman’s face dropped, more out of confusion than anything else as he surveyed the vacant office in front of him.

“—self…”

* * *


Are the mortals finally doomed? Did the gods finally get the better of them? Will they be forced to worship the members of the Pantheon once more? Stay tuned for next week's thrilling continuation to Twilight of the Gods.

Also, if interested, you can see all of D.J.'s listings on Hunt to Read here. Happy Hunting!

D.J. Gelner is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hunt to Read. Contact him directly at djgelner@hunttoread.com.
 

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