The Olympian Gods wake up in a world of cell phones, iPods, hybrid cars & telecommuting.
Lightening flashed across the sky as booming thunder rocked the house. The trees through the kitchen window lit up, the landscape black, white and eerie. The air changed, felt charged and smelled of ozone. There was a flash and two almost simultaneous booms less than a second later as lightening hit a tree behind the house and thunder rattled the windows.
Large droplets of rain began pounding down, pinging off windows and splashing on the patio. A small fire took hold of the now split oak tree, battling the sudden downpour. Sparks landed on the trellis as fire and water continued their battle. Roses wilted and blackened as the heat reached their heights, velvet petals singed and began to curl. The rain fell impossibly harder, thunder and lightening rolling together so loud I could barely distinguish between the pounding of the rain and the thunder claps. The fire lost as the storm drenched everything in sight, extinguishing the flame in a torrent.
I knew what I had to do. I had to face it, face him. Hugged myself harder, I took a deep breath. Gathering all my courage, I walked to the French door that led to the back deck. Lightening zigzagged across the sky, the deluge continuing, thunder so strong it gave the impression that the earth was trembling. Grabbing the handles, I mentally prepared myself to walk out into the storm.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Apollo asked, making his presence known. He was leaning against the door jamb, arms crossed, looking at me as though I was crazy. Maybe I was.
“He’s royally pissed,” I answered, “at me. So, I figured I go out there and see if I can calm him down a little before the entire neighborhood goes up in flames.”
“Sacrificing yourself for the good of us all, huh?” Apollo looked skeptical. “Artie, that’s a stupid idea and you know it. It’s not like we all wouldn’t appreciate a martyr in our midst, but you’re just not made for the job. What’d you do to get the big guy all riled up, anyway?”
“Doesn’t matter.” I mumbled, turning back to the door.
Actually, it did matter, to me anyway. I didn’t grab the handles again and Apollo didn’t move any closer. I figured he could sense I needed a little space. Being my twin, he usually picked up on stuff like that, when I had a bad day, needed a hug, a few bucks, some cheesecake or just some time alone to think things through.
I definitely lucked out on the whole sibling front, actually liking mine and all. Persephone, one of my best friends, is an only child and her mother is ridiculously over-protective. Poor Seph has an earlier curfew than most of the children around here who have to be in when the street lights come on, and she’s almost 18.
Calypso, my other best friend, is on the opposite end of that spectrum. She has like 50 brothers and sisters. I don’t even know all their names (I don’t think she does, either) and her parents are so busy with the little ones that once you hit 13 in her family, you’re basically on your own. Caly isn’t particularly close to any of her brothers or sisters, although quite a few are around our age.
Apollo, on the other hand, is actually a pretty good guy. He usually lets me control the remote, can keep a secret and has pretty good insight into the trials and tribulations in the life of a teenage girl.
Being twins, we have a few physical similarities, but we really look nothing alike. Apollo is blonde with crystalline blue eyes and has perfectly clear skin without a hint of a freckle. He looks as though he was carved out of marble with a strong jaw and straight, perfectly proportioned nose.
A little over 6 feet tall and athletic, Pollo is the fantasy of more than a couple girls at school. Believe me when I tell you, there is little that is more disconcerting than listening to teenage girls recount their explicit dreams about your brother…ugh!
I like to think that I’m rosy red to Pollo’s cool blonde. My auburn hair is curly on a clear, cool day and crazy when the slightest bit of humidity hits it. I have more than my share of freckles, green eyes that seem to turn even greener when I’m angry and a face that lights up like a stop sign when I blush.
My only complaint about Pollo is that he can be really overprotective. Like REALLY overprotective! He doesn’t seem to understand that I’m older than him (20 minutes older, but that’s something!) and thinks he needs to protect me from myself…yep, he’s actually used that phrase before… “Artemis, someone has to protect you from yourself.” His over-protective streak is why I really don’t want to let him know what’s going on now and why our father is all up-in-arms, tossing lightening around and generally being a nuisance to the entire block.
Alastair Healey is what is causing my father a coronary. In the words of the all-mighty and really grumpy Zeus, he isn’t “one of us” and the “only reason he’s even in this town is because his father is a wiz of a mechanic.” Oh, and don’t forget “Artemis, I need to able to trust you,” which is arguably one of the more ironic things to ever come out of my father’s mouth.
But, Dad is right on a few points. Alastair isn’t one of us and his father is the mechanic to the gods, as it were. Alastair is in my history class and a center on the basketball team. And he is a mortal. I’m not.
Mortal, I mean.
It all gets sort of confusing, but here are the basics…
My name is Artemis. You may have heard of some of my great adventures in the past (the Greeks were big on their epic poems back in the day.), but all that’s done and that life is gone, at least I think it is.
Once upon a time, my family was worshipped by all the mortals. My dad, as I’ve mentioned, is Zeus, the leader of the gods. My mother is Leto, daughter of Phoebe, the Titan goddess of the moon and mother of the Amazon warrior women. My family tree is complicated at best. I have more aunts and uncles, half-siblings and cousins than you could possibly imagine.
In the days when we reigned, the mortals sacrificed to and honored us. Dad, being the king, had quite a following. My step-mother, Hera, had many devotees as well, as did Uncle Poseidon, Auntie Demeter and Uncle Hades. But, times change, the earth and her people along with it and eventually other gods took our place and we sort of slipped off the world’s collective radar.
More than 2000 years ago, the world started changing, and changing fast. So fast that we couldn’t keep up. My father plead with my grandmother, Rhea, to do something. Grandma inherited some cool talents from her mother and tried to sort of suspend everyone on Mount Olympus, figuring one day, the mortals would hit their foreheads and say “Duh” and start sacrificing at our alters again. Yeah, so that’s not happening. My dad keeps referring to this as “The Big Slumber.” I think he’s ridiculous, but he insists it’ll be another of those never-ending poems one day and it should have a catchy title.
Rhea did inherit some of Gaia’s powers, but her precision spell casting fell a little off the mark. Rather than waking up when the world was ready to worship us again, the spell ran its course and we all woke in this new world full of cell phones, iPods, hybrid cars and telecommuting. In an attempt to catch up with all the advances the world had made, Zeus opened Olympus to select mortals, like IT guys, teachers and mechanics.
The spell also effected our ages in a way that had not been considered. When we started this Big Slumber, I was a fully grown adult, as was Apollo, Persephone and Calypso and most of the immortals at school. Zeus was sporting a huge white beard and Poseidon was complaining about arthritis in his knees after spending so much time in the water. Now, Dad and Uncle P are in their primes and Apollo and I are worried about getting a zit before a big date. It’s weird, I know.
Now we have a mix of beings walking around in out little corner of the world. Grandma Rhea wasn’t too discerning when she threw that spell on us. Anyone on or around Mount Olympus at the time was caught in it. We have Centaurs, Satyrs, Amazons and a few Giants, among other beings. There was a healthy population of priests, priestesses and other mortal Greek from the time that got caught and are along for the ride, too.
The mortals seem to faring worst in all this. People who had no experience other than what they could get within a 3 miles radius of the house they were born in do not take kindly to waking up and being expected to catch up as quickly as their gods and demi-gods can. Maintaining a modern household, grocery shopping and getting the kids off to school each morning is more than some can handle.
Zeus’ solution to the ancient mortals’ acclimation issues was to have them completely submerged in life on Olympus. He figured that the sooner the mortals felt like they belonged, the easier their transition would be. That’s not working out, either. Do you have any idea how mortifying it is to be at Starbucks and have a couple ancients stumble in and start kneeling at your feet, beseeching that they be allowed to return home? Seriously, it’s horrible.
Some of the immortal households have brought ancients in to live either with them or nearby, sort of taking them under our wings, so to speak. Sophia, Constantine and their kids live next door to Mom, Pollo and me.
Sophie comes in and helps Mom with the cooking. I really think this is working out well for both of them. Mom was never a mover and shaker in the politics of Olympus, opting to rather stay out of the spot light that dive into it. She’s also more of a homebody, spending time with Pollo and me, but never really having friends of her own. Truthfully, I think people we afraid to get too close to Mom in fear of my evil step-mother, Hera, and her disdain for Leto, Pollo and me. I like seeing Mom with a friend. She seems happier in this century that I ever remember her being all those years ago.
Constantine, who was a shepherd in the old days, has discovered an affinity for landscaping and spends all his time trying to make our adjoining backyards look like a miniature version of Mount Ida. He’s brought in piles of dirt and rocks which he spends all day moving around the yard. At night, he furiously sketches what he remembers Mount Ida looking like, as he insists that any paintings that have survived to this day have it all wrong.
Their children, Zora and Zane are young and attend the grammar school around the corner. They’re having no problem getting into the swing of things. 10-year-old Zora is already the Dance, Dance Revolution champ at the arcade where the younger kids hang out and 6-year-old Zane is one of the best little players on the soccer team Pollo coaches.
All in all, transitioning into the 21st century is going pretty well. Zeus’ recruiting efforts have paid off and we have the best mechanics, computer technicians, teachers and chefs. Our little downtown area is flourishing. The people who have been inducted into Olympian society are, for the most part, not only fitting in, but helping the rest of us fit in to current society.
“Artie?” Apollo’s voice pulled me out of my head. I turned to look at him.
“What’s going on? What’d you do that Zeus is pissed about?” He looked serious. I hate when he looks serious.
I sighed, one of those deep, woe-is-me, I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders sighs. “He heard about Alastair.” I said softly, hoping Apollo wouldn’t catch the words and would let it slide.
“Hear about what?” my brother asked louder.
Resigned, I raised my voice repeated, “He heard about Alastair.”
“Heard what about Alastair?” I could hear that protective tone emerge.
“It’s nothing, Apollo. Hermes saw Alastair and me hold hands and he sort of kissed after school today. How is this even close to a big deal? Zeus is blowing it out of proportion and demolishing Mom’s roses in the process.” I didn’t look up but heard Apollo imitate my sign from a few seconds ago.
“How is this not a big deal?” He asked. “You are the chaste huntress! Do you need to be reminded what that means?”
“Of course not, you idiot!” I replied, my own fury mounting. “But since when does kissing a boy strip someone of their chaste status? Geez, Pollo, it’s not like we were playing tonsil hockey! It was a VERY chaste kiss! Besides, that ridiculously virtuous me was the old me, back in the old days. Did it ever occur to anyone that I’m not happy being alone? I was three when I asked Dad to be single forever, THREE! How was I supposed to know things would change so much, that I would change so much?”
Apollo didn’t answer. He just looked at me.
“Don’t you think that, seeing as how the world has changed so much in the past few millennia, that we should be able to re-write our stories?” I asked him, “One of your jobs was being the god of colonization. Seriously, what’s left to colonize? The moon? And I am so done with this chaste huntress business. Has it occurred to you that some of our “specialties” are so old-fashioned, so antiquated that they have no place in this world.” I glanced up. Apollo looked to be deep in thought. This could be good…
“We don’t really know all the ramifications for Rhea’s spell. Maybe we’re destined to re-live the years we’ve gotten back in the same way we did before, the same events and interactions and relationships shaping us into who we are.” Apollo said, breaking his silence.
“Who we were, you mean.” I replied. “The world we lived in formed some of who we were, or are, or whatever. When I asked Dad to be free to hunt and be independent when I was three, the only way he could grant that request was to decree that I would remain chaste. Times have changed, women today can be single, independent and make out with hot basketball players.” The volume of my voice lowered when I got to that last part. “Don’t you think?” I asked.
“I think it’s suddenly really quiet.” Apollo answered. “Seems Dad packed it in for the night. And Artie escapes justice for another day.” He added with a smirk.
“Escaped justice?” I sputtered, “What were we just…”
Apollo threw his arm over my shoulders, “I was teasing.” He said, rubbing his hand on top of my head, creating an auburn rat’s nest. “C’mon. I saw Mom with a turtle cheesecake from Junior’s yesterday. There has to be more hidden somewhere with our names on it.”
I put my arm around his waist as we walked. Cheesecake is exactly what I need after this day. Well, cheesecake and some quality time with my brush and detangler. I tried to get the fingers of my free hand through my hair. Not happening. Stupid noogie.