Redeeming Aphrodite: Healing Hephaestus (Part 4)

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Continued from Part 3

Prologue

The arrow penetrates my heart.
I feel horror, but no pain.
I black out.

Hephaestus

A man wearing a toga and a sweatband stands over me.

H. How are you feeling?
E. Um, not bad for having an arrow in my chest. Can you give me a hand with that?
H. Hmm, I can probably cut off the end of the arrow. And rig up a brace to hold your cracked ribs together enough for you to breathe. That should keep you going.
E. Wait, aren’t you the god of healing?

H. No, I’m Haephastus, the god of Tekne.
E. So who’s the guy with the wings, on the doctor’s staff?
H. That’s Hermes. Is that who you were going for?
E. Oops. Uh-Oh.
H. Eh, don’t sweat it. He couldn’t help you out anyway. Other than to, y’know, help you “out.”
E. You mean…
H. Yup. He doesn’t heal people. He helps them die, so they can move on to the afterlife.
E. But then why is he honored by doctors… Oh
H. Yeah, that.

H. Doctors in my day usually failed. Hell, technically they all fail, eventually. Death always wins. Hermes gives them someone to blame, so they don’t become overwhelmed by shame.
E. Which is all that allows them to keep trying, and do what temporary good they can. But that seems to have worked too well: he took away not just shame, but the desire to learn and do better.
H. Well, that’s the thing about us Lesser Gods. We don’t really take away shame; we just displace it. Like entropy, you can never really win, but you can postpone losing.

E. That sounds depressing.
H. Eh, it’s a living. In fact, that’s what I do. Help people find not just sustenance, but meaning in their work.
E. I can appreciate that. Heck, Silicon Valley is practically a temple to you.
H. Heh, yeah. (Pause)

E. What?
H. I didn’t say anything.
E. No offense, but I thought you’d be more, I dunno, grateful or happy to see people worshipping you, by pursuing meaningful work and useful crafting. Isn’t that like the thing you gods are always after?
H. (Squirms). Well, yeah, of course…

E. Oh my gosh.
H. (Defensively) What?!
E. ROTFL. You outdid yourself. You did your job so well, getting people to worship meaningful work — that you no longer find your work meaningful!
H. What? Don’t be silly. Of course I enjoy… I mean I still love… It’s just that… (sighs and sits down)

I painfully sit up and hobble over, careful of the arrow still sticking out of my chest. I sit down next to him.

H. To be honest, I miss working for Ares.
E. Huh?
H. Don’t get me wrong, Pluto’s a great boss. Calm, efficient, affirming. Ares was a total jerk. Always yelling and screaming, destroying the things I make.
E. But…
H. But damn, I felt alive when I worked for him. Even when I hated him for destroying all my cool shit. Because even for that he had to use stuff I built. My work… meant something. To me. To…. her.

E. Aphrodite?
H. Yeah.
E….
H. Y’know, she always said she hated Ares. But I would get jealous whenever I saw her staring at his bulging muscles and glorious scars. At first I was really glad when he left. Now, though… I wonder if she just wanted to make me jealous, so that she knew I still wanted her. Needed her. Things are so peaceful now, it’s like…
E. There’s nothing left fighting for. Or about. Even your marriage.
H. Yeah.

E. So what are you going to do?
H. What I always do (hefting his hammer). Build stuff. Tear other stuff down so I can build more stuff. Continue improving my craft. (Standing up and turning away. Is that a tear in his eye). What else is there?
(Starts to walk away)

E. Wait!
H. What? (Torn between irritation and hope)
E. This arrow in my heart. You said you couldn’t fix that. Why not? We have medicinal tools on my world that can remove arrows and mend hearts. Why can’t you just make some of those?
H. (Snorts) It isn’t your physical heart that’s damaged, idiot, but your spiritual heart. Who do you think I am, the Goddess of L…
(Stares dumbfounded)

E. Yes. Yes! Yes!!!

E. That is what your marriage needs, H. The War of Love. Your wife is a lover, not a fighter. Ares is married to chaos, so he can’t really help her. But you can. You can build the tools to strengthen and defend love. You can use your work to serve her.
H. Now look here. I’m not going to be some woman’s servant, making pretty baubles and useless playthings.
E. No, no, you idiot. Not like that. She isn’t your boss. She’s your client. Not the one who gives you orders, but the one you must study with all your heart, so you can make her the gifts she doesn’t know herself (or you) well enough to ask for. And who pours her life and soul into cold dark metal, so your tools give life instead of suck it away.

H. Oh yeah, then so who would be my boss? (Pauses). Oh. HIM.
E. Yes, exactly. I know His Bride has often been very snobby towards you, so I understand if you aren’t so thrilled to be working for Him.
H. Huh? No, not at all. I’ve done some of my best work for Him in the past. I’d love to work for Him again… if I could.
E. So what are you waiting for? He’d love to have you back!
H. I know, I know. It’s just… Pluto’s a great boss, really understanding, except for one thing. His contracts are final. There’s no way out. Once you sign up with him, there’s no going back.

E. (Pause). You know that’s not true. There is One who has broken that contract before.
H. Yeah, right. Why should He bother Himself with a dunderhead like me? He hasn’t seen fit to pay me a visit since He hung up His carpenter tools. (in a whisper) And who can blame Him?
E. You’re wrong, H. He delights in every beautiful thing you have ever made, even those that were beautifully made for evil purposes. You need your wife just as desperately as she needs you, the perfect marriage of form and function. But both of you will only be complete when you are submitted to Him.

H. Sure, great. But who’s going to tell Pluto that?
E. (Standing up, painfully. Looks him in the eyes). I will.
H. Really? And how do you propose to get an appointment to see him?
E. The same way everyone does. I know you can’t save me. But you can sure as hell do the opposite.

H. (Staring at the arrow). You certain you want to do this?
E. I’d bet my life on it.
H. Okay, then. (Spits on both hands, and grabs the hammer with them). I promise I will make it quick and painless.
E. I know. I trust you.

He swings. The arrow pierces my heart all the way through. I die

To be continued in Part 5

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