Continued from Part 10
I stand in the Box of Hades
Holding the hand of Eve.
While the Multitude tears Adam to shreds.
Over and over and over again.
Time seems to stop.
Or perhaps speed up to infinity.
We are frozen somewhere between horror and awe.
By the depths of his sacrifice.
Somehow, thought resumes.
Something snaps me out of my reverie.
Was it a shout from Adam?
Some movement from Eve?
I remember his final command, to save his Bride.
Who suffers no man to rescue her.
From whence no mortal ever returned.
What could a Son of Adam like myself possibly do?
Especially having surrendered the Master Key of Peter!
And then I realize.
I do know one who is neither man nor mortal.
And I’m pretty sure she owes me a favor…
Aphrodite walks in.
Holding hands with her sister Artemis.
They are smiling through their tears.
Their presence revives Eve.
As one awakening from a dream, her eyes blink and focus on them.
Though she still does not speak, nor betray any emotion.
To my surprise, the sisters stop a few paces away.
Releasing each other’s hand, they kneel down and prostrate themselves in worship before Eve.
Eve releases my hand to cover her mouth in wonder.
The goddesses sit back up to speak.
Artemis: Hail to thee, O Eve.
We rejoice to look upon the Bride.
The One our Lord hath chosen to be filled with the wonders of His grace.
Blessed are you above all women!
Blessed are the children you have born!
Blessed are we to be counted worthy to kneel in your presence.
They prostrate themselves again.
Eve’s wonder seems to be giving way to confusion.
She opens her mouth to speak.
But it is not her voice I hear.
Minerva: Silence, fools! How dare you come here? Now, after all this time?
An athletic and armored goddess — looking like a model from a medieval Nike ad — steps around Eve.
Blocking her from the view of the other goddesses.
And vice versa.
She holds a spear in front of her.
I am relieved she holds it sideways to block, rather than forward to threaten.
Though her words and face imply otherwise.
Minerva: Why should she accept your obeisance now, after you have ignored her for millennia?
I was the only one who stood by her.
I was the one who first recognized her for the queen she was!
You would have made her a slave (glancing at Aphrodite), while you would make of her an outcast (glaring at Artemis).
You call yourselves goddesses, but have become nothing more than messengers for this stripling here.
She turns to stare contemptuously at me.
I gulp, feeling seriously overmatched.
How can Love and Freedom hope to win an argument against the embodiment of Wisdom?
But when I peek in their direction, my jaw drops open in astonishment.
Far from cowering in terror (as I more than half-expected), the sisters appear neither surprised nor dismayed by Minerva’s appearance and rebuke.
In fact, they turn to each other and grin, as if this was exactly what they had been hoping for.
As if the missing piece to the universe’s most complex jigsaw puzzle had just been handed to them deus ex machina.
Without a word or gesture — as if this had all been planned since the beginning of time — they stand and separate.
Keeping their distance, and careful to avoid any sudden movements or threatening gestures, Artemis goes right while Aphrodite goes left.
We stand in tableau, with Minerva at the center.
Like three points of a compass.
Or the top half of a clock.
Or the world’s most asymmetric cross, with a ravaged Adam as its distant base.
Then, with infinite grace and patience, they slowly kneel down and prostrate themselves again.
But this time to Minerva.
Aphrodite: Forgive us sister, for we have sinned.
Artemis: You are right. We were wrong. You have seen the truth we were to blind to see.
Aphrodite: We have no right to ask anything of you.
But for the sake of your Queen, and by the sacrifice of the One who is Lord of all, we ask your forgiveness.
Their words ring with obvious sincerity.
But I can’t help but wonder if there is also a note of levity.
Minerva seems to sense it too, as her tone is harsh in response.
Minerva: Forgiveness you may have for the asking, but trust is not so easily restored.
What sacrifice will you bring our Queen as Earnest of your loyalty?
My ears perk up at the possible mention of my name.
But Aphrodite gives me a minute shake of the head.
She is playing a much deeper game.
She lifts her eyes to the armored goddess.
Aphrodite: What sacrifice do you suggest, O wise sister?
She turns to Artemis, her face grave.
Aphrodite: Whatever she says to you, do it!
Artemis flinches at the hardness of her sister’s tone.
Looks deep into her eyes for a long moment.
Then takes a deep breath and nods.
Minerva is… stunned!
She clearly had expected defiance, or at least an argument.
Total submission was not something she had planned for, or even considered.
She opens her mouth, but no words come out.
We wait expectantly, frozen in anticipation.
All of us knowing that our fates hang on that next word.
Yet none of us knowing what that word will be.
Or even should be.
Suddenly a Voice shatters the silence.
But is it the voice of hope… or the voice of doom?
To be continued!