Redeeming Ares, Part 8: Hermetic Unsealing


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?”

Zeus whistles
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?

Zeus laughs.
“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

But nothing.
I am not sure whether to be relieved
Or disappointed

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
That satisfaction

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
Every act
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
And God
Stand revealed
In their utter pettiness
And inconsequentiality

Even better
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
Even energized
As layers of nearly invisible burdens
Slough off of my spirit

I’m beginning to think I am home free
When I discover
The Blot

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
Then blackness

To be continued

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