Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Free Featured Fiction: "Twilight of the Gods, Chapter 8" by D.J. Gelner

Not too much to add to the intro here; this is the penultimate installment of Twilight of the Gods. If we don't get any submissions for FFF after next week, my short novel, Hack: Innings 1-3, is next on the list. Word of caution--that one's not exactly for the kiddos.

If you can't wait until next week for the conclusion to
Twilight of the Gods, it's available on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo for $0.99.
If you missed them, here are the previous installments:
Chapters 1 & 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5Chapter 6

Chapter 7


Thanks everyone, and enjoy!


-D.J.


Twilight of the Gods
D.J. Gelner
Chapter 8


The cadre of gods arrived on the shores of the East River, carried by Apollo’s chariot, which the now-missing god had failed to collect before absconding to parts unknown.

They arrived after dark; what they found caused a thin smile to grace the lips of Zeus himself. Sirens blared through the streets, cutting through the sounds of shattering glass as tumult engulfed each block. Shadows of buildings drew ever longer in the presence of the pale moonlight, which poured through the steam given off by angry mobs and manhole covers alike to provide the illusion that the entire city was simmering to a boil.

“There!” Zeus pointed toward a part of town consumed by rabble and illuminated by millions of watts worth of flashing signs of all colors, shapes, and sizes. Zeus, Poseidon, and Artemis each had to work to keep their jaws firmly in place, though to Hermes, the novelty of Times Square’s lights had worn off years before.

They put the chariot down on a side-street. Zeus allowed his relatives to disembark before he strode toward the throng of people in the streets, thin chest jutted outward, chin extended toward the glitzy sky.

“Make way—make way!” Zeus snarled. He brought a hand up to part the massive crowd, but his arm was batted about spectators like it was made of rubber.

Eager to curry favor, Hermes got out in front of his father to clear a path for him. It was only then that a wretched-looking, drunken man in a disheveled suit pointed directly in the face of the messenger of the gods.

“Hey, issssss you!” The man yelled. He pointed toward one of the massive video monitors suspended above the fray. There was Hermes’s picture, with “Herm Olympus” plastered underneath.

“Everybody quiet!” Hermes found the cry to be particularly plebeian.

“Authorities issued a warrant today for the arrest of Herm Olympus, architect of a massive insider trading scandal that has brought world financial markets to their knees. We now go live to the Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, who is set to make a statement regarding this horrible financial tragedy.”

The screen cut to a man in a well-tailored suit, with a bushy mustache to presumably offset the male-pattern baldness that ravaged his polished head. He was already speaking and staring down at his notes; the TV station had omitted all of the customary introductory comments.

“The size and scope of this scheme is unprecedented, the level of outrage and chaos it has caused, shameful. In light of these extremely extenuating circumstances, we have now decided along with authorities at every major stock exchange world-wide, to wipe today’s data from the system and start over anew, with a clean slate, tomorrow morning, as if today never occurred. We want to reiterate that extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, and in no way…”

The rest of the speech was drowned out by a chorus of loud cheers. Strangers hugged one another with irrational exuberance, especially given that moments before they had been fighting over a purse stolen from a third party.

Zeus’s eyes went wide. He glared at Hermes, “What does that mortal mean?”

Hermes shuddered. He couldn’t believe his own ears, “No—no it can’t be! You people have rules. You can’t just throw those rules out the window when it suits you! I learned those rules, each and every one of them! And now you, you peons have the audacity to say that what I did had no import?!”

As he built to a crescendo, more eyes turned toward the messenger god, who, aside from the anachronistic toga that he wore, still looked exactly like Herm Olympus.

“Hey, it’s him!” A woman yelled.

“Get him!”

The crowd closed in on the gods, who were forced up against one another, back-to-back. Projectiles ranging from hot dogs to full beers flew through the air at the deities, pillorying them with all manner of rubbish and condiments, though so ravenous was Poseidon that he scarfed down anything edible cast his direction.

Artemis reached for her bow, but found it snatched from her grip by a gaggle of angry humans. She backed up against her father, her arms covering her face, bracing for the worst.

Zeus lowered his head. His eyes narrowed even as his right eye began to twitch, streaked red by blood vessels straining to keep from bursting. The veins in his neck bulged as his long-dormant muscles shook and came alive. One of his trembling arms reached back until his hand closed around something, and thrust it forward toward the crowd.

“Ba-ROOOM-ROOOOM!”

Thunder cracked across the crowd at close range, causing thousands to reach for their ears. The loud rumble shattered what glass remained along the first few floors of the glittering skyscrapers that lined the streets, as shards fell toward the earth, miniature fireworks streaked by neon.

Zeus grew in size; as if feeding on the mortal fear all around him, long-sagging skin again went taut as he reached for and hurled another thunderbolt.

“ENOUGH!” Zeus yelled, the echoes of his booming voice intertwined with residual rumbles of thunder reverberating through the streets. “The time has come for you mortals to recognize your true gods, long ago forgotten atop Olympus to rot. Pay us homage, and tribute, and sacrifice, and we may yet allow you to live. Fail to do so, and see the full carnage of which we are capable!”

Zeus pointed back at where he thought Poseidon would be, but the god was nowhere to be found. The king of the gods scanned the crowd for signs of his brother, and finally found him shoveling armloads of food from a hot dog cart down his gullet.

“Poseidon!” Zeus cringed.

Poseidon’s eyes went wide. He scarfed down the food in his most recent armload, then snapped to attention.

Zeus looked upward toward the sky. After several moments of contemplation, the sea god nodded and raised his trident toward the heavens. Raindrops began to fall, first as a smattering, then gradually building to great sheets. Though some in the crowd scattered, others found their legs filled with lead, immobile and at rapt attention at the spectacle surrounding them.

Zeus reached back once more, “Pay us heed, the gods demand it!” he cast another thunderbolt toward the heavens. It exploded above the multi-colored lights, causing the sky to momentarily become a mass of swirling, sparkling hues amid the roar of thunder.

As the king of the gods viewed the display, he dropped to his knees, enchanted by the one singular moment that he had unwittingly conspired with these mortal devices to create. It was sublime, the way that the colors set the clouds ablaze with personality, dare he say life.

He hadn’t witnessed such beauty since the long-ago master mortals had crafted their statues and reliefs in the gods’ images, each one a unifying bridge between the human and the divine.

Zeus’s chest heaved; awe quickly turned to exhaustion, yet he couldn’t tear his gaze from the now-dormant sky.

The mortals regained their senses as the commotion calmed.

“It is him—Herm Olympus!”

“My kid almost didn’t get to go to college because of you!”

Hermes eyed the emboldening crowd and patted Zeus on the shoulder, “Uh, father? Now would be a good time for another thunderbolt.”

Zeus continued to stare upward.

Hermes turned his attention toward Artemis, “Dear half-sister, perhaps some well-placed arrows would stem their discord?”

In the confusion, Artemis had reclaimed her bow, but as she reached back for her arrows, she realized that they, too, had been stolen.

“Get him!”

Hermes grabbed his father under the arm. He secured Artemis around the waist and gripped the fabric of Poseidon’s toga as he bolted away from the regrouping throng, and toward the alleyway housing the chariot.

He threw them in Apollo’s chariot and seized the reigns. Curiously, a carbon copy piece of paper was secured within them, with “NYC Parking Violation” written atop it.

“Never was my kind of town anyway,” he quipped to no one in particular. “Yah!” he snapped the reigns taut, and Apollo’s horses carried the four weary gods back toward Olympus.

Poseidon and Artemis sat and stared the entire time, still trying to grasp exactly what had happened. Zeus leaned up against the carriage of the chariot, head bobbing to-and-fro as if drugged.

“Beautiful,” he muttered, again and again.

“Beautiful.”

They arrived in the Pantheon, shivering from the harsh North Atlantic crossing. As Hermes helped each god in turn down from the chariot, he finally turned his attention to Zeus, who still lay, utterly spent. Hermes struggled to move his father, but his form still was engorged from the evening’s activities.

“I could…could somebody…it’s just he’s too big!” Hermes pulled on his father’s legs, but they would not yield.

“You know, if you wanted a ride, you could’ve just asked,” a voice said from over Hermes’s shoulder. A long, wide shadow darkened the floor of the Pantheon, even as the sun’s first rays began to flash brilliant oranges and reds across the battered marble fa├žade.

Hermes turned and braced himself, ready for whomever or whatever had chased him down.

Instead, he breathed a sigh of relief.

The familiar form of Apollo stood in front of him, recognizable only in the sense that he had been restored to his former glory; cheeks filled with both flesh and color complimented his muscular frame and winning smile. The only thing that seemed out of place was a pair of designer sunglasses, which made the god look like a movie star.

“Now I think it’s time that we try my plan.”

* * *

Twilight of the Gods now available for $0.99 at the following retailers:

Kindle

Nook

Kobo

Happy Hunting!


D.J. Gelner is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hunt to Read. Check out his books on his Hunt to Read Profile. Contact him directly at djgelner@hunttoread.com.

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