Continued from Part 7
I stand at the Twilight of the Gods, having given them the Blessing of Adam and released them from their millennia of service.
I had thought my Quest was simply to destroy my iron ring of Pride;
Which I once jealously guarded but had grown to despise.
But instead Zeus used his bare, bleeding hands to reforge the Ring into a Key.
But for what?
“How can I find the Lock that fits this Key?”
A strange, Doppler-ish sound.
Hermes appears instantly, looking like a younger, better-muscled version of Flash from the CW television show.
With a toga instead of spandex.
I am nonplussed.
Is he going to carry me?
Will I have to ride piggy-back?
Couldn’t I take Charon’s school bus instead?
“Fear not, friend.
We gods may have ceded this world to Adam’s heirs, but we still have enough power to spare your dignity.”
Hermes grins and holds out his hand.
I reach out gingerly, unsure if he’s going to physically yank me through a wormhole or something.
He grasps my hand firmly…
… and we are there
The Box of Hades
The last time I was here it was crowded with Adam’s family, a handful of goddesses, and legions of the damned
Now it is empty
As desolate as a broken promise
Hermes releases my hand
Still smiling that saucy grin
I want to wipe it from his face
But realize his reflexes
Would make my attempt comical
I kneel down to look for tracks
But the lava-like surface is too hard and broken
To hold useful impressions
Suddenly I spy an odd regularity
A flat space the size of my palm
I walk over and clear it off
A circle has been chiseled into the rock
And in the middle, a keyhole
It makes no sense
What possible portal or mechanism could lie beneath this living rock
But what the Hell
This is why I’m here
I insert the Key of ruined Pride
It fits perfectly
And turns easily
With a satisfyingly click
I brace myself
Waiting for the whole section to drop
Or a giant boulder to come rolling out of nowhere
I am not sure whether to be relieved
I reach down to pull up the key
And the whole cylinder comes with it
Rising to just over waist high
The chiseled circle
Was actually a seam
The cylinder is covered in runes
None of which mean anything to me
I turn to Hermes for assistance
But he just shakes his head
His permanent smile seeming to mock me
Sighing, I decide to push one at random
I am in Junior High
There’s a girl I like sitting at the next table
My friends urge me to go talk to her
But I am too scared and insecure
I jerk my finger back
I have braved gods and goddesses
Divine mountains and infernal hellholes
Only to be taunted
By my adolescent foibles?
Is someone pranking me?
I am tempted to just forget
The whole ridiculous business
And have Hermes take me home
But two things stop me
One is Hermes’ maddening smirk
To give up now feels like letting him win
Admitting I have no idea what I’m doing
Maybe it is the last vestige
Of my ruined Pride
But I can’t stand giving him
The other is the memory of Naaman the general
Who asked the prophet Elisha to cure his leprosy
But balked at dipping himself in the River Jordan
Maybe putting myself through something so ridiculous
Is the only real cure
For whatever truly ails me
Grimly, I settle down next to the cylinder
And methodically work my way through the lines of runes
It is not as bad as I feared
On the one hand, I am forced to relive
Of cowardice and shame
That I hadn’t already confessed
Some far less innocent
Than a Junior High crush
But on the other
It gives me a new perspective
Those unbearable emotions
And seemingly impossible decisions
That led me to doubt myself
In their utter pettiness
The deeper darker sins
Are sealed over as with wax
By what I recognize
As the blood of Jesus
Those were the sins I had confessed
I tentatively touch one
And see a moment of great folly
The gateway to addiction
But from Christ’s viewpoint
Where His love and compassion
Any sense of guilt and loss
I am feeling encouraged
As layers of nearly invisible burdens
Slough off of my spirit
I’m beginning to think I am home free
When I discover
I don’t know what else to call it
It is as if the inscribed runes
Had been sloppily erased
It is irregular
Extending a couple inches up
And three-quarters around
The base of the cylinder
And it glows a deep, toxic green
I glance up at Hermes
And my heart sinks
As his boyish face
Has turned positively grim
And the corners of his eyes twitch
With barely-concealed fear
Why do I always have to go
Where the gods themselves
Fear to tread?
Hoping that this is the last
If perhaps worst
I reach out and touch The Blot
There is a searing pain
An incredibly noxious stench
To be continued