Authors: Pat Kelleher
Kubera shrugged and sat back. “We have oracles, Moirai and Norns on the payroll, so yes, I suppose you could say that. But then gods rarely gamble for money. We have our own private casinos and games rooms, as well you know.”
“So what are you going to do, chain me to a rock in the lobby to have my liver repeatedly pecked out on the hour?”
Kubera shook his head slowly. “I think not. Your reputation precedes you, trickster. If you’re asking me to do it, I most certainly shan’t.”
“No, instead we’re going to cast you out of yet another heaven. It might hurt a little bit on the way down, but just think of it as a lesson.” He nodded to the Breeze Brothers. “Gentlemen, escort Mr Coyote out. No need to be gentle. You’re barred, Coyote. I never want to see you in the Olympus again.”
Well, that didn’t go as planned.
Hermes stood by the desk and watched. A crooked smirk of satisfaction crept across his face as the Breeze Brothers grabbed Coyote by the arms and escorted him towards the elevator.
Humiliated, Coyote found himself thrown ignominiously out of the Olympus with nothing between his legs but his tail.
through the doors, his features lost in the glare of the sun through the glass behind him, his hair shining like a halo. Deities. Always a predilection for the dramatic.
Kubera turned and nodded.
“I did,” the god said, “and I have what I came for.”
He patted the ornate silver casket in his hands. It had small crystal windows in its sides, like a reliquary, and through them Kubera could make out a shrivelled portion of flesh within.
“Coyote is going to be trouble,” warned Kubera.
“We can deal with it. He’s a prankster. Nothing to take seriously.”
“Good. And our payment for facilitating this... transaction?”
“Your cooperation is appreciated and your stake in this matter is assured.”
Kubera nodded thoughtfully. He hoped it was a wise investment.
Coyote Gains a Companion
HE SMALL BLACK
man wore a cleaner’s uniform that was one size too big. His eyes twinkled and he had a smile that never wavered, not the insincere practised mask of the service industry but one of genuine delight, as if he was in on some great cosmic joke.
He pushed the cleaner’s trolley down the labyrinthine corridors of the shabby hotel, past door after door, each one a choice, a direction. He loved hotels. Travellers passing through. To and from. Here and there. Lives intersecting. Chance meetings. Illicit liaisons. Anything could happen.
And things were. Things he was not a part of, so of course he wanted to know what. They had led him here. Why, he didn’t know. But this was a crossroads. All he had to do was wait and that wasn’t a chore, not for Eshu Elegba, God of the Crossroads.
to find his hotel eventually. He explained to the desk clerk that he’d lost his key card, but the clerk seemed more interested in the TV show playing on his iPad. Richard gave his name. The bored clerk’s fingers clattered across the computer keyboard. His details checked out. He handed Richard a spare key card with complete disinterest and returned his attention to the iPad.
Richard limped along the hushed maze of grubby corridors, past house cleaning trolleys with piles of fresh linen, as staff stripped and prepared rooms for new patrons. He found his room number, swiped the card and pushed the door open.
Someone had trashed his room.
They had thrown his clothes everywhere, ripped apart his bags and he couldn’t find his passport.
He felt dirty and abused. He winced in pain as he dropped down on the bed and surveyed the wreckage of his life. He wanted to cry, but instead he wiped his eyes roughly, his lips puckered in self-pity. He shucked off his stained clothes, to see bruises blooming on his torso. He walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower, waiting for the steam to build before stepping under the spray. The hot water sluiced down his body, burning the grazes on his hips and elbows. The water stung like hot hail.
How could he have been so stupid? He slumped against the cold tiles of the wall, slick with condensation, the ceramic soothing against his shoulders. He groped for the shower dial, shut the water off and stepped out.
He wiped the steam from the mirror, smearing the side of his fist against the cool glass. The reflection of a face not his own peered over his shoulder, through the condensation.
It smiled at him.
“I’m sorry, did I startle you?” Eshu carried on smiling as the young man grabbed a towel and wrapped it round his waist.
“You scared the hell out of me,” said the naked man, blinking water out of his eyes, “What the hell are you doing in my room?”
He shrugged, as if it was obvious. “There was no sign on the door.”
No signs, no sigils, which was as good a welcome as he ever knew.
“Do you work here?” the wet man asked.
Work here? Yes, in more senses than one. He pointed to his badge.
Hi I’m Eshu
“Call me Shu,” he said.
“Richard. Sorry, had a shit day. Shit night,” said Richard. He saw Eshu’s trolley by the door. “Housekeeping, right?”
Eshu was enjoying this. “In a way.”
Richard clenched his fists. “I’ve been bloody robbed.”
“Yes, I rather think you have,” Shu agreed, but he wasn’t talking about material possessions.
“I’m going to go down and report this to reception and they can call the police,” Richard was saying as he pulled on a pair of jeans.
“They won’t help. You’ll be in the system then; organised, ordered. You’ll get bogged down in paperwork.” He tutted and shook his head. “In triplicate.
Thrice named, such a binding.”
“What choice do I have?”
Well, not the boring one. That was why Shu was here.
“What brought you to this place?” Shu asked.
Shu looked back along the paths that had brought him here and was puzzled. There was a turning in his life that shouldn’t have been there. He probed it, examined it, like a tongue in a tooth cavity. What he found was interesting—and disturbing.
“Choices,” Shu said. “Choices were made, you were cast adrift on the ripples they caused. They cost you what you have lost long before you came here.”
He looked deeper. There, in the tapestry, was a new pattern forming, a pattern he didn’t like the look of. It was small so far, but the tiny repeats were indicative of something larger to come, something that wouldn’t be seen by others until it was too late. To Shu, it suggested a plan. A plan meant order. Order took time, energy, effort and
. For which someone somewhere was responsible. Chaos, on the other hand, just took a nudge. The results could be delightfully unpredictable. With the least amount of effort, you could start an avalanche, a hurricane, a tidal wave. All it took was a butterfly’s wings. Or a matchbook.
Shu tossed one across the room. Richard reached out on a reflex and caught it. He turned the matchbook over. The Olympus. He glared at it.
“How did you—”
Shu smiled as he watched the myriad paths unfold before him.
“An opportunity,” Shu said, “to find what you have lost. Now you have a choice. Make it count.”
Richard frowned, pocketed the matchbook and slipped on his trainers.
“Look, I’d better go,” he said. “Sorry about the mess. Just leave it. I’ll tidy up later.”
Shu followed him into the lobby. Richard stopped, took out the matchbook and stared at it, tapping its side with a finger while he pondered. Then he walked past reception and out of the front door and turned towards the Olympus.
Shu smiled and went back to his cart to fetch his phone.
T WASN’T OFTEN
Coyote found himself outfoxed, but it always took him by surprise. Frankly, it was embarrassing. If someone hadn’t stolen his pecker, this would never have happened.
The Anemoi escorted him down to the foyer, and took great delight in unceremoniously propelling him though the doors with the aid of well-aimed zephyr. Then, to add insult to injury, the aircon curtain unexpectedly strengthened, preventing him from re-entering. He struggled briefly against it, like a drunken mime artist, until people nearby started laughing and pointing at his performance. Before he knew it, it would be a bloody YouTube clip. Defeated, he gave up and sloped off with what little dignity he had left.
“They won’t get away with treating me like that. I’ll return and teach them a lesson, but first I shall find out who kidnapped my younger brother.” So said Coyote.
His anus farted.
“And a fat lot of good you were.”
Coyote straightened his jacket, strode into the Parthenon and walked straight into—
“You!” said Richard.
Coyote looked him up and down and tutted. “I don’t have time for this.” He side-stepped and carried on walking down the Avenue of Heroes.
Richard called out after him and began following. “Don’t you walk away from me. Don’t you dare walk away from me!”
Coyote turned on him. “I would be careful right now, little brother.” He held up a finger and thumb, their tips barely a centimetre apart. “I am this far from going on the warpath. I am not in the mood for your petty grievances.”
“Petty? You gambled away my entire redundancy package. You vanished and left me with nothing, then got me kicked out of the place. That was my life you were playing with. I want it back!”
“I can’t give it to you.”
“The casino confiscated it. Besides, today I’ve lost far more than you can imagine.”
Richard continued to hound him, like a terrier nipping at his heels. “Well, boo-hoo. I’m not leaving you until you give me back what you owe me.”
Coyote looked him up and down. “I can’t. Go away. Without my younger brother, I am not whole, my powers are reduced. I cannot help you until I have recovered what
have lost. On that day, Richard Green, I swear I will give you your life back. Until then, go away.”
Nearby, a fuzzed and distorted heavy metal ringtone rang out across the Parthenon. A metalhead struggled with his pocket to extract his cell phone and answered it.
He looked around, standing on tiptoe, like a meerkat on the lookout for predators. Then he made a beeline for Coyote. His face scrunched in confusion, he handed him the phone.
“It’s for you.”
Coyote looked at him and took the offered phone.
“Has he found you?” It was Eshu.
“The Englishman?” He glared over at Richard. “Yes.”
“Don’t lose him.”
“Why now? I don’t have time. Someone has stolen my penis. I’m going to find who took it and make them pay.”
“Then keep the Englishman with you. His name’s Dick. He’ll do until you find your own. Meet me in the diner. You know the one. Don’t forget your Dick.”
As Coyote hung up, he could have sworn he heard Old Man Shu laughing.
OYOTE SAT DOWN
in the booth next to Richard, who was looking at a large burger, fries and a malt shake that the waitress had just delivered at Shu’s request. Richard had been surprised to see Shu, but mollified by the offer of food. He still regarded the two men with suspicion, but he hadn’t eaten since yesterday and he was starving.
“What the hell am I doing here?” said Richard. “Who the hell are you people?”
Shu pointed to his plate. “Eat. You will need it. It will anchor you.”
Richard found himself tearing into his meal.
Coyote ate nothing. Normally he could be quite a glutton, but he was preoccupied.
“Is this important, or did you just want to stuff your faces?” he asked, arms folded. “I have things to do.”
HU LOOKED AT
Richard. His old life had been stripped away. He’d unwittingly undergone a symbolic death and now here he was sat before them with nothing. He was ready to be reborn into their world, one that was a shadow of its former self, a twilight world of gods and monsters. Richard now stood on the edge of a precipice—a Fool, with a coyote at his heels. The image amused him.
First, though, Richard needed to experience the shock of a rebirth. There was nothing like being dropped in at the deep end for that.
Shu clapped his hands in front of Richard’s face.
N A MOMENT
, Richard’s world was unmade. The cosy consensual reality that humanity had constructed to protect itself was ripped asunder to reveal the things that circled just beyond its perception. Gripped by a vertiginous terror, Richard experienced the world as it truly was, a place of the unknown and unknowable. There, outside his comprehension, things moved, and an unintelligible roaring filled his ears.
Just as suddenly, the world righted itself. The roar dissolved in a clatter of cutlery and chatter as Richard’s default awareness reasserted itself.
Richard found he’d scrambled up into the corner of the booth, as if someone had just lit a firecracker under him, his heart pounding against his ribs. Muscles tensed, fight or flight. Fear etched on his face. The rest of the diners were staring at him.
Shu gave him a reassuring smile and coaxed him back down onto the seat. “Sit. Sit down. Eat. The food will ground you.”
Hesitantly, Richard slipped down onto the leather bench.
“What... what the fuck did you do? What was that?”
“A metaphysical jolt. I shifted your perceptions momentarily. I showed you a glimpse of our true aspects, our power, of the world as it is. Some call them emanations, others frequencies. I just turned your dial. If it helps, think of it as a weave, a tapestry. Most of the time, mortals just see the pretty picture. I showed you the underside: the stitch work, the knots, the ties that hold it all together. ”