Redeeming Ares, Part 6: Losing My Religion

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Continued from Part 5.

Prologue

I thought I was done.
Then I remember.
I still have my Burden.
My Pride.

I’ve been to hell and back
So many times
I have frequent fryer miles
But found no flames
To unmake that ring

There’s only
one move
left.

The place that most ignore
Few approach
Only a handful willingly enter
From which only One returned

The Abyss

“Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit!”

I am falling through nothingness
Blacker than space
Hotter than hell
Colder than ice

The sensation of motion
Starts to fade
Not so much that I slow down
But just run out of things to fall through

In the distance
I see a light
It resolved to a ring
A ring of fire
Blue fire

A disk of blue
Sky blue
Shining like the heavens

I am falling toward it
Flying toward it
Into it

The Mountain

I emerge from a black hole
In the skies above Mount Olympus
Home of the gods

I see an amphitheater at the peak
A court
A tribunal
The twelve gods sitting in judgement
With Zeus at their head

Their faces as hard as marble
Their eyes cold like diamonds
Even sweet Hestia and fair Aphrodite
Playful Artemis and wry Hades
The veneer of humanity
Now stripped away

My heart seizes up
At the inhuman precision
The machine-like inevitability
The unfeeling clockwork
Of mankind’s keepers

There is no mercy here
No compassion
Or even justice

Just relentless efficiency
Natural selection
Survival of the most cohesive
Dissolution of the unworthy

And it is they
Whose judgement I must face

The Court

I land
With impossible gentleness
Did angels sing me down?

If so
They quickly make themselves scarce
I am alone
Or am I?

I turn towards Zeus
His face like a thundercloud

“Am I on trial?”
I ask
“On what charges?”

His face darkens.
He seems ready to cast
A lightning bolt
From the quiver on his back

But Minerva lays
A soft hand on his shoulder
Whispers softly in his ear

He straightens in shock
Stands up
Bangs a fist on the table
Wanders off
Muttering to himself

Minerva
Stares at me
Her face a mask
But her eyes
Seem to flicker with
Suppressed amusement
Mischief, even

She speaks
Her voice a low, thrilling contralto
Though her tone
And words
Are cold

“He thought
You were mocking him
I had to explain
You did not realize
You were here to judge us
Not vice versa”

I sink to my knees
Stunned
Overwhelmed

Sure, I have issues with the gods
Yet I have also learned sympathy for them
And hard-earned awareness
Of my own limitations and folly

Who am I
A son of Adam
To judge a god
Much less all of them?

To my surprise
Minerva laughs
A gentle tinkling sound
Like fairies dancing
Or a glacier melting

I must have spoken aloud
Perhaps I should be embarrassed
At my naïveté
But why?

The whole situation
My position in it
Seems ludicrous
Unfathomable

The other gods
Do not share her levity
If anything, they seem as stern with her
As they were with me

Although I could swear
Minerva shares a wink
With Hestia

The moment passes
Minerva is once again
As serious as a stone

“By whom else
Should we be judged?
When Adam fell
The world was plunged
Into the darkness
Of the evil one.

“We were raised up
As caretakers
Focal points
Idealizations
Abstractions
Placeholders
To guard and inspire
Punish and provoke
The children of Adam
Until the time came
For them to reclaim
Their inheritance”

Her words
Ring in the air
As she stops speaking.

The Stand

Just as the last echoes
Die away
Footsteps sound
Heads turn

Zeus appears
Having regained his composure
If not his temper

His eyes blaze as they look at me
But his voice is soft
Well, low in volume
Though still hard as diamonds

“My daughter speaks truth
Son of Adam
Our long regency
Is now over
The time has come
For you to pass judgement
On our stewardship”

He walks into the center
Of the courtyard
To tower over me

I bow my head
Afraid to meet his gaze
How can a mortal
Contend with a god?

Yet to my surprise
He chuckles

He bends down
And whispers conspiratorially

“The seat of judgement
Always seems easy
Until it is you
Who must sit in it
With all eyes upon you”

I look up
Expecting wrath
Jealousy
Even peevishness
That I would dare take his place

And all that is there
But faded
And largely replaced
By a deep weariness

He stretches out an arm
I reach for it gladly
He hauls me to my feet
Claps me on the shoulder
Then returns to his place

“All is now ready
Let the judgement begin!”

To be continued

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