Cooper finds the perfect gift for Kinsey, but the crystal globe holds more than he thinks.
|Cooper looked at the beautiful, dark skinned, black haired, winged woman sitting in front of a palace on what looked like ice. What’s this, an angel? He shook up the globe as he waited for the clerk to answer.
He was mesmerized by the results. No snow, like in most of these type of items, but instead it appeared a strong wind had come along and blew the clouds into a fog around the beautiful winged lady.
As the winds settled, the clouds lifted and the image again became clear. “This is really quite unique, the way you can only look in through the front of the globe.” He turned the globe in different directions, only to see his own reflection from every angle but the front. “Very unique!”
The store clerk, an elderly woman, was now standing beside Cooper. “Yes, it’s a very unique item, and very reasonably priced. As far as I know, it’s the only item of its kind. The globe is a rare crystal, the base made from almond wood, and the figurine is said to be the actual spirit of a
Harpy sitting outside Zeus’s palace.”
Cooper set the globe, about the size of a basketball, down on the counter and turned to look at the clerk. “A Harper?”
“No, not Harper, it’s a Harpy. Harpies were the spirits of sudden, sharp gusts of wind, known as the hounds of Zeus. They were dispatched to snatch people and things from the earth. Sudden and mysterious disappearances were attributed to the Harpies. Zeus sent Harpies to punish King Phineas. Whenever food was set before him, the Harpies would swoop down and snatch most of it away, befouling anything left behind. They were represented as birds with the faces of hideous women, horribly foul and loathsome.”
She cleared her throat and continued. “Originally, in Greco-Roman classical mythology, they were fabulous, beautiful creatures, most likely wind spirits. In Homer’s Odyssey, they were the winds that carried people away. They were sometimes connected with the powers of the underworld.”
She went back behind the counter, stopping across from Cooper. “There’s different stories that explain what happened to the Harpies that transformed them from beautiful to loathsome. The one I believe is this. Originally they served Zeus, embodied in the winds. When called upon, they took the form you see in the globe, but after they completed their tasks, returned to wind. They made a pact with Hades, god of the underworld, they would deliver souls to him in exchange for being able to keep their beautiful physical forms.”
“The pact was set and they delivered as Hades directed, but some of the beautiful winged Harpies fell in love with the mortals they snatched for Hades. Instead of delivering the mortal to the underworld, they kept him for their self, angering the god of the underworld. The result was a curse, if they stayed in the world of the living for too long, their beautiful bodies would decay and become that of a foul and rotting bird.”
She picked up the globe but continued to talk to Cooper. “Zeus was angered by this, but because his beautiful winged creations had made this pact, he was unable to undo the damage they had set upon themselves for even Zeus dared not cross the river Styx. He watched helpless as one after another of his winged beauties turned into a grotesque and loathsome creature. In desperation, he created a place to preserve his most beautiful Harpy, a mystical crystal globe. He set his palace in the background so he could look out anytime upon his beautiful Harpy. He magically froze a bit of water from the River Styx for her to sit upon, preventing her from falling under the curse, and filled the globe with other Harpies, in the form of the winds, to keep her company through eternity. However, once the globe was sealed, they were forever trapped as wind and could no longer take on the form of the winged creatures that once served their god.”
Cooper was entranced with the tale and had not notice that the lady had wrapped the item until she set it back down in front of him. “You said you wanted to find a gift for your fiancé, something filled with Greco-Roman mythology? I think this would be perfect.”
Cooper looked back up. “How much did you say?”
“I didn’t say a price, but considering the item is very old and the only one of its kind, you tell me what you think it’s worth.”
“Probably much more than I can afford. Maybe I should look at some other items. I’m really just looking and not sure yet what I want to buy Kinsey for a birthday present.”
“Ah, but I think this would be just perfect. It really needs a home, and I doubt you will ever find anything as special and unique as this, sir. Would you be willing to part with two hundred and fifty dollars?”
Cooper asked to see it again, so she unwrapped it and handed it to him. The crystal was very unique, not smooth like glass at all; the texture was like sandpaper, yet it reflected like a rough mirror. The only place that was smooth and able to see through was the front, like a round window looking inside. The base was of wood, dark with age, and carved with a very intricate pattern around the outside with three hands carved into it to hold the crystal sphere. Inside, everything was three dimensional, and even as he looked, the clouds seemed to move over the winged woman’s head. When Cooper blinked and looked again, they were still. He gave it a tilt and shook it.
The clouds began to blow across the sky inside the globe and then a fog formed around the woman on the ice. Slowly the fog lifted and separated back into the clouds in the sky. “This is very interesting. I wonder how it works.”
“It’s magical, created by the hand of Zeus in time before time, when mythology was reality and man served the gods. The one inside is called Absinthes, Queen of the Harpies. Others have called her Aliola, the small winged one. Shall I rewrap it for you?”
Cooper sighed, “Sure. He didn’t know why, but he felt compelled to purchase the globe. I just hope Kinsey likes it.”
As the clerk swiped his credit card she smiled and asked, “But do you like it?”
Cooper signed the slip and handed her back her pen. “Strangely, I do, and what’s even stranger, I feel like it wants me.”
“Perhaps Absinthes has taken a liking to you. I’m sure your fiancé will also love the gift. Have a nice day and please, stop by again.”
Cooper brought his package home and stashed it under the bed in the spare room. Kinsey would be home in less than an hour, and he wanted to make her day special. He had her gift, he had stopped by and picked up the cake he had ordered, and he had reservations at The Red Oak Smokehouse and Grill for Kinsey’s favorite, smoked barbecued beef ribs. He had also gotten her roses. He had put some in a vase on the table with her gift and cake, the others he had used the petals to decorate the simple black tray that held her birthday cake.
He had just finished up the decorating when he heard her at the door. He turned and seen the big smile spread across her face as she looked at the table. “It’s a white cake, your favorite.”
Crossing the room she picked up the gift wrapped globe. “What’s this?”
“Your present, but you can’t open it until after we get back from eating. I’ve got us reservations for The Red Oak.”
“Yummy ribs, and I won’t have to dress up. Honey, you’re the best. What time do we eat, I’m starved?”
“Just as soon as you change and we drive over, about a half hour to go.”
Kinsey changed into jeans and a t-shirt, then together they walked to the car and drove over. Their table was ready and they got right in and ordered. She talked about her day as they ate, then asked about his day. “I spent the afternoon looking for your gift. I had a couple of ideas but wasn’t sure just which one to get. Then, I remembered that odd shop with all the mythology based stuff in it you told me about, so I wondered over there and looked around, too. I found the perfect gift there, I’m sure you will love it.”
“I can’t wait to see what you got me now, is it something of Greek mythology, you know how I love that stuff. Well, anything mystical for that matter. I guess that’s why I studied mythology and took the job at the museum.”
“Yes, Kinsey, it’s right up your alley. And, the lady told me it’s very old, I bet it’s worthy of sitting in the museum.”
“Oh my. Don’t tell me you spent a fortune on something without having me check to see if it’s authentic or not. Remember that Roman statue you purchased for our first anniversary, only it wasn’t Roman, it was Plaster of Paris? You spent almost a grand on it and it was just a replica.”
“Yes, I remember that well. Luckily I was able to get most of my money back in the end, but it cost me almost as much for legal fees in the end. I learned my lesson, no artifacts without having them appraised first. No, this wasn’t that much, and it’s pretty plain that it’s old, very likely an antique of some sort. But, Kinsey, I didn’t buy it because it was some ancient artifact, I bought it because it’s based on Greek mythology and it’s the most interesting – um item I’ve ever seen.”
After enjoying a very wonderful meal they returned home. “Can I open it now?”
“You should wait until after we have some cake, but I suppose you can open it. Besides I’m so stuffed I don’t think I’ll be able to enjoy cake and ice-cream for hours yet.”
Kinsey picked up the gift and ripped the wrapping off. The clerk had found a box to place the gift in, after wrapping it in tissue to protect it. She now had lifted the tissue covered globe out of the box and was peeling the tissue off. In less than a minute she was holding the unique item in her hands and staring at it.
She had to turn it before she could see inside. “Cooper, it’s beautiful. I love it. She gave it a gentle shake and gasp as the clouds swirled and dissipated into a fog around the winged woman. Cooper stood beside her and watched the awe in her eyes as she watched the fog thin and lift back into clouds. “It’s amazing, like looking through a window into a whole different place. It looks so real.”
Cooper recounted the tale the woman at the shop had told him. I suppose this is supposed to be the crystal globe that Zeus made to protect Absinthes, Queen of the Harpies. He told her about the other Harpies being placed inside as wind but unable to take form again. While he told the tale, Kinsey looked over the gift. “This does seem to be very old, Cooper. Look at the design around the base, and how aged and dark the wood is. I thought the globe was glass but it’s definitely not, it is different than anything I’ve ever seen, including any crystal I’ve ever examined.”
She cleared a spot on the mantel of the fireplace and placed the globe there. Then, after looking for another minute she turned and planted a big kiss on Cooper’s lips. “This is the most awesome gift ever!”
She turned toward the globe again, “Look at her, she’s beautiful. Cooper, if you watch her it looks like she’s looking right back at you. And her color is so realistic, especially the eyes, they look so real. I half expect to see her blink. How did anyone make something look so real? And how does it work? The gentlest shake and the winds blow the clouds around, breaking them up into fog that fills the globe, then it lifts and changes back into clouds. It looks so real. I’m going to have to research this, maybe even talk to Theodor at the museum to see what he thinks.”
She turned to Cooper again, smiling. “You are so wonderful, I just can’t believe you did all this. Come, let’s sample that cake and then I have a special gift for you in the bedroom.”
“That sounds terrific, but let’s wait with the cake, I’m still stuffed from dinner.” He stated.
Kinsey and Cooper made their way to the bedroom, and eventually back to the cake. By this time it was a little past ten and Kinsey was almost falling asleep in her food. “You better head off to bed and get to sleep. I’ll clean up and put things away then join you.”
Kinsey hugged him tight and headed off to bed, “Love you, and thanks for cleaning up.”
“Not a problem, I get to sleep in if I want but you have to be to work by eight-thirty. Besides, it won’t take long and then I’ll snuggle up to my favorite fiancé and join her in her dreams.”
By the time Cooper slipped into bed, Kinsey was sleeping sound. He turned off his lamp and snuggled her, soon falling into a fitful sleep filled with horrid dreams. He woke in a start, sweaty and tangled in the blanket. He had dreamed he was standing in a field of tall grass and flowers, the sun shining down from a blue sky with just a few clouds floating high. The wind had picked up and was screeching, overhead the clouds had covered the sun and were dark and menacing. Again that shriek, but it wasn’t the wind it was a Harpy swooping down from the black sky. It passed right over him, just inches above his head, and in its wake a horrid stench filled the air. He turned and ran for the distant trees and cover, but the Harpy was very quick to circle and dive at him again.
The thing was hideous, an ugly face and tangled hair topped a too long neck. The chest was that of a woman, but it looked more like a corpse than anything living. The rest was bird, not anything colorful, but the body of a vulture with legs that ended in long, jagged talons. Cooper was running as fast as he could but there was no escape from the terror swooping down on him. Time after time it swooped and then climbed, toying with him. Then it was diving again but this time its razor like talons ripped into his shoulders and it yanked him into the air with it. As it flew higher and higher, it turned its ugly face to him and screeched, “Your forever mine, mortal!”
Beside him, in the glow of the night light, Cooper seen that Kinsey was still fast asleep. Quietly he got out of bed and went to the kitchen. He opened the cabinet above the fridge and took down a bottle of bourbon, poured a good amount into a glass and went to sit on the couch. The dream, no nightmare, still haunted him; it had seemed so real.
Cooper sipped at his drink and looked at the globe sitting on the mantle. It looked so different than his dream, so peaceful and calm. He got up and took the globe back to the coffee table, setting it down in front of the couch, then sat back down and took his glass and sipped again. As he watched in the dim glow coming from the kitchen light, he could almost imagine Absinthes standing up and looking at him. He took another drink, emptying his glass.
Standing he thought about returning to bed, but the images still haunted him. “One more drink, then back to bed. For Pete’s sake it was just a dream.”
He returned with the glass about half full and sat back down on the couch and looked at the globe. Was there more clouds than before? He watched as they swirled about over the palace of Zeus. He shook his head and looked again. Yes, the clouds were swirling in the blue sky inside the globe. “Of course they are, you shook it up when you moved it.” He said to himself as he lifted the globe and looked closer into it.
Even as he watched, Absinthes blinked. Her eyes were locked on his and he couldn’t look away. Then he seen her smile. “That’s impossible!” he heard the words but they seemed to come from someone else.
He tried to look away, but he could not, he was froze in place, holding the globe close to his face. It dawned on him that the room was dimly lit by the light that escaped the kitchen, yet inside the globe it was as bright as mid-day. The sun was shining down and making shadows that had not been there before. Then, as the wind moved the clouds, shadows sped across the bottom, and over Absinthes.
“What’s going on? Why can’t I put this thing down or look away?” Again he heard the words but they sounded like someone else had spoken them.
He thought he must still be dreaming, but at the same time, he remembered waking up and getting out of bed. “Can you dream you wake up?”
A voice answered, “You are not dreaming, Cooper. This is real, just as you see it.”
He blinked his eyes shut and held them shut, counting to ten, then he opened them again. She was still standing inside the curve of the globe both her hands reaching out to the smooth surface. He even seen her mouth move as she spoke. “Please, Cooper, free me from my prison, I have been waiting for so long for the right man to come and set me free.”
It seemed like a dream, yet Cooper knew she had spoken. He didn’t hear the words in his ears, but in his mind. He was still froze in place, eyes locked to her eyes. “It’s real, isn’t it, your real and the story the lady told me is true.”
“Yes, the tale is true, I have been locked in here, with just the wind, for ages upon ages. The ice from the river Styx had me frozen in place, another curse from Hades when he discovered what Zeus had done. You, Cooper, looked upon me and believed and melted the cold hatred that held me frozen in time for how long now? I cannot even count the years that have passed.”
“But, I don’t understand – this, this can’t be real.”
“Oh, it is real. I am real. My god set the terms for my freedom before he departed from this world, In one you will find love and kindness, and his love will break the curse that has frozen you. It is you, Cooper, you have broken the curse that froze me. Now, after all these ages, I can finally be free and end my eternal loneliness.”
“This has to be a dream! If I free you will it end – will my dream end then?”
“How? I can’t move.”
“You can move, and you can put me back on the shelf and leave me eternally trapped, alone with the winds, or you can choose to free me from my living tomb.”
Cooper found he could move. He looked around the dim room, he was still seated on the couch holding the globe. He peered inside, finding it hard to see in the dark room. She was there, on the ice of the River Styx, just as she had always been. The clouds didn’t move, everything was the same as it had always been. Cooper spoke to the globe, “How do I set you free, what must I do?”
There was no answer, yet he knew as soon as the words left his mouth. Turning the globe over he looked at the bottom. There in the center was a lighter shade of wood. He rubbed his finger over it and felt a slight difference in the wood. The circle was slightly raised up. “It’s a plug, isn’t it?”
Again he knew the answer just as if someone had put it in his mind. No words, not like a minute ago, but the answer just formed in his mind. He carried the globe into the light of the kitchen and looked at the plug. It was a different shade and easier to see in here. Setting the globe down on the table, he went to the counter and extracted a long, narrow, fillet knife.
Cooper returned to the table, turned the globe so he could get to the plug and pushed the sharp, tapered tip into the wood and preyed. It moved just a bit. Again he pushed the tip in and preyed at the plug. It moved a little more. One more time he pushed the tip into the soft wood and preyed up on the plug. It moved easier and came out about an inch.
Something inside warned him not to pull that plug out. “What could possibly happen, the water comes out? I’ll just refill it and put the plug back in. But, what if it’s real, what if Absinthes really is imprisoned and I let her out?”
He pulled a chair out and sat. “That’s crazy, it was just a dream.” But he also knew it wasn’t. “Okay, pull the damn plug out and it will prove it’s all just a myth, nothing will happen and then you will know you just dreamed the whole damn thing.”
Cooper grasp the plug and yanked it out before he could lose his nerve. Nothing happened. Nothing at all, there wasn’t even any water spilling out. He set the globe down on the table and looked inside. To his horror, the sky inside was filled with black clouds that swirled and raced across the dark sky. Lightning flashed within and Absinthes was standing in the center, a cruel smile upon her lips. Cooper could hear the thunder, very distant but growing ever closer.
The temperature in the kitchen had dropped and it was darker now, the ceiling hid by dark, ominous clouds swirling in the wind. He could feel the wind whipping around him, from every direction. He stood so suddenly that the chair tipped over and crashed to the floor. The sound of the wind and booming of thunder filled the kitchen; he barely heard the chair tip over.
The wind whipped his pajamas and hair, bits of grit and flying debris pelted his face and hands. He could see the wind now, not so much the air but the debris in it, forming a funnel, like a miniature tornado coming out of the bottom of the globe where the plug had been. Desperately Cooper looked around for the plug he had pulled out. He had it in his hand, but it wasn’t there now. It wasn’t on the table either. He must have dropped it when he stood up.
He glanced around the room looking around the floor. It was difficult to see, the clouds, the wind, and now lightning and thunder seemed to fill the room. Then he spotted the round chunk of wood, on the floor by the sink. It had fallen and rolled across the floor. Cooper reached for it but even as he reached he felt the wind lifting him off the floor. The clouds swirled around him as he slowly turned in mid-air.
Only they weren’t clouds at all, they were Harpies flying around him, grabbing hold of him. They didn’t look like Absinthes, they were translucent, like spirits of the wind, and they were spinning him into the funnel cloud and then – the smell!
Cooper was gagging on the stench and fell to his hands and knees and puked. The floor was smooth, slick, and ice cold. He looked through watering eyes at the ice under him, then lifted his head up and seen in the distance Zeus’s palace, but it wasn’t the beautiful abode of a god, it was in ruin and decay . The sky was blue over him but there were clouds moving around in that blue sky. No, not clouds, spirits flying around overhead.
Cooper gasp at the foul air and came up onto his knees. He didn’t know if he would puke again or not, but managed to stand. He could sense something behind him, and even as he turned he knew, it was Absinthes. He had set her free after all, it was true.
Then she was in his line of sight, and he screamed at the horrid, birdlike creature before him. It was the source of the stench, half decayed, its ugly face sneered at him. “Welcome to my realm, My Love.” It screeched in a Banshee like wail. Before he could blink it had ripped into his shoulders with wicked talons and was carrying him towards the ruins of the palace.
As Cooper hung helpless form the birdlike feet, Absinthes turned her grotesque head towards his, “We will lie on the bed of Zeus and consummate or eternal union to each other, mortal? After all, he hasn’t slept there for eons.” Then her foul laughter filled the sky.
“Cooper, are you coming to bed?”
Kinsey came into the kitchen and looked around. Except for the chair tipped over and her gift sitting on the table, nothing was out of place. “Cooper?”
She went to the living room, all she found there was a half a glass of bourbon. “Cooper! Where are you?”
Kinsey searched the apartment but didn’t find Cooper. “What the hell is he up to?” she asked the globe as she set it upright on the table.
To her horror the image had changed. Inside was a hideous beast flying away towards some ruins. In its birdlike feet hung Cooper and Kinsey could hear the screeching laughter of the beast as the globe first turned gray and filled with fog, then went black.