Authors: Odette C. Bell
Tags: #gods, #mythology, #magical realism, #romance adventure
Thinking about Thor/Zeus/Jupiter brought
an angry flush to my cheeks, and I took a hearty sniff as I turned
the key to open my front door. My cat appeared around my ankles. It
meowed with all the force and passion of a warhorse eager to go
into battle. The battle it intended was some nice prolonged meowing
until I fed it, but the sentiment was there.
Yes, yes,” I said softly,
“You'll get your food, Chia.”
I took one last glance at the sky and the
rays of sunlight filtering down. They were long, purple, and orange
– rich with the colors of dusk. I smiled up at them.
If I’d had the time, I would have counted
them – though it technically isn't possible to count rays of light.
I would have noted the exact hues of each ray. I would have noted
the way they interacted with the objects they hit – how they shined
off the clean white of my picket fence and the glorious
pearly-color of my roses.
It was always in the details for me –
considered the collection of files on my
desk. It was a popular time of year for gods and goddesses to visit
Earth. It waxed and waned, but whenever the constellations aligned,
you could bet every god worth his toga and wreath would hop a
golden chariot to Terra.
Now was one of those times. I had fourteen
various divinities to get through today. They ranged from gods of
battle to a god of plumbing. All of them wanted to go to Earth, be
it on business or pleasure.
I sighed into my steaming cup of cocoa and
waited for the clock to strike nine. I always made it to work
precisely ten minutes early. That gave me enough time to make a
drink, straighten the files on my desk, and wipe away any streaks
on the glass wall by the side of my chair. It also gave me a chance
to memorize the details of whichever divinity wanted to visit
today. While I sometimes pretended to check back to the files every
time I wanted to intimidate a potential godly immigrant – it was an
act. I made a point of memorizing every single detail of their
files. Their powers, their height, their reason for visiting, their
dental records. I was the goddess of facts and details – paperwork
was my champion never my tormentor.
I glanced at the clock several seconds
before it ticked over to nine, then straightened the ice-white
blond bun at the back of my neck. I pushed my black-rimmed glasses
further up my nose and tugged down my no-nonsense navy-blue
I looked at the door in haughty
anticipation of the next godly arrival. That was the thing about
working at the Integration Office – every single entity you dealt
with, from the cleaners, to the clients, to the cafeteria ladies,
were gods, and they all came with a certain attitude. A god was
used to being worshiped, lauded, and cherished. Having a building
full of gods all boasting about how good they were while they
waited around for their worshipers to clean the temple and prepare
them dinner wasn't going to happen. Up here in the Integration
Office, gods and goddesses – at least the smart and efficient ones
– had to take a deep breath and realize they weren't all that
great. In other words, if you want tea and a biscuit, get it
yourself. If you notice a spot on your shrine, go fetch a sponge on
your own time.
When everyone around you is equally as
divine, things tend to even out.
Well, mostly. In the realm of divinity there
were those gods and goddesses who had personalities and egos the
size of the universe. I hated them.
The first god to walk in was a thin chap
in a dingy toga with a scraggly beard. His watery gaze darted
around the room as he sat at the desk. I already knew who he was,
but nonetheless I leaned in with an eyebrow raised and patted his
file. “Who are you, why do you want entry to Earth, and have you
read your rules?”
His eyes watered more at my curt tone. “Ah,
great madam, I’m Tolus, god of Barely Enough.”
I raised my other eyebrow and cocked my
head to the side. “God of Barely Enough? I have never heard of
that.” I was lying. What with working for the Integration Office,
having read Tolus’ file, and being the goddess of facts – I'd heard
of most things. Admitting that would ruin the
tough-immigration-officer act I was going for here.
Yes, great madam, I’m the god
who embodies,” he brought a thin hand up to his chest, the skin so
meagre his knuckles protruded like balls, “Having only barely
enough. When a peasant has but enough food to survive or a man has
but only enough breath to live – I’m the god they worship.” Tolus’
eyes flickered and watered as he spoke, and his dirty toga hung off
him with all the limpness of a dead flower about to lose its
I softened my expression. Though I wasn't
about to give anyone any breaks, I wasn't heartless, either. I’d
been doing this job long enough to form opinions – however
work-inappropriate – about the various divinities who walked
through my door. While I harbored a genuine dislike of the
outrageously powerful and egomaniacal gods, I liked the more
understated ones. The gods and goddesses who stood for humble
things like the way buttercups dot through the grass in spring, to
the first rains of autumn, to divinities of things obscure yet
necessary like knit wear. They were all different, those gods –
they were far humbler, far nicer. They were also far less likely to
take a chunk out of your desk or threaten you with a lightning
I offered a bare smile then hid it with a
cough. “What is your reason for visiting, god of Barely
I’m visiting a refugee
My heart quietened. “Work,
Work,” Tolus confirmed with a
nod that saw his thin head jut forward too fast.
You agree to obey the
rules?” I asked softly.
Oh yes. I respect the right of
every being to choose their own path. I will offer comfort and
solace where they are sought – I will not intervene directly,” as
Tolus spoke, his eyes widened, his lips spread a touch, and his
thin hair brushed against the top of his head. It was always the
details like those I noticed.
Details made the picture. If you noted – if
you immersed yourself in every second, in every line, in every
color, in every stroke, in every feature – you could reconstruct
reality from the bottom up.
Very well. Please sign this
binding contract, and you will be on your way.” I pushed the sacred
scroll towards him.
As Tolus signed it in his shaky scribble,
the scroll came to life. Every time a god or goddess put their name
down to a binding contract, they breathed life into it. They signed
their name to it, and in doing so, everything that god stood for
poured into the contract. They ratified it with their own divine
Good luck.” I smiled at
Tolus as he got up to leave. I meant it, though I shouldn't have
been saying it. To me, every god should be a detail on a contract.
If the facts aligned, I let them in. It was a simple system. I
should treat them all the same and have no particular like or
dislike for any one of them.
I stowed the freshly signed contract in
one of the drawers of my desk and watched the god of Barely Enough
walk through the door, back hunched, but head held forward, his
watery eyes staring ahead with determination. For all the gods of
victory who passed through my office, the difference in Tolus' gaze
was so distinct it sent a shiver down my spine. Tolus stared at the
world with the determination and knowledge that whatever came, he
wouldn't defeat it – he would survive it.
It left a chill in my belly and a thoughtful
expression playing across my face. An expression which froze as I
heard a commotion in the hallway.
Make way,” a triumphant
I knew that voice, oh god (and any god
would do), I knew that voice!
I jumped up from my desk, my half-full cup
of cocoa spilling, and I ran to the door. My worst suspicions were
confirmed when I saw a god marching down the corridor towards my
office. Thor, Zeus, Jupiter – whatever you wanted to call him. The
god of lightning. The god of victory. The god of being a bloody,
self-righteous annoyance of divine proportions.
He sauntered towards my door dressed today
like Thor – his Viking helmet glittering as if trapped within was a
galaxy of stars. His chest puffed out so much the sparkling golden
breastplate appeared to pop from his torso. His footfall was heavy,
his boots clapping against the glass floor with all the dramatic
commotion of an army of beating horse hooves.
Tolus, unfortunately for him, didn't get out
of Thor's way fast enough, and soon the Nordic god of thunder
crashed rudely right into his back. “You there,” Thor thundered,
literally, “Get out of my way.”
I gritted my teeth and walked forward,
pushing my thick black-rimmed glasses up my nose. “Excuse me,” I
said officiously before Thor had a chance to whip out Mjollnir –
his sacred hammer – and bop Tolus right on the head. “We do not
permit...” I paused, not sure what I was going to say next. Running
in the corridor? Shouting like a football coach outside of people's
offices? Carrying a hammer with you to a meeting with your
immigration officer? The truth was, I couldn't say any of those
things because they were all permitted – this was a distribution
point for gods. We didn't and couldn't have rules about carrying
weapons or booming at people with a voice that sounded like a
century's worth of thunder storms. That's what gods did. They
couldn’t help it.
Ha,” Thor laughed so
heartily his breastplate looked as though it was going to pop off,
He always called me that. My name was
Officina. It was a nice name. It was lyrical. My name was not,
I pursed my lips and crossed my arms over
my blouse. If I hadn’t already pushed my glasses up my nose, I
would have done that, too. “Is there any reason you are shouting in
the corridor, Thor?” I said his name with as much disdain as I
could get away with – I did know whom I was talking to, after all.
“You are not on my books today, why are you heading towards my
Tolus looked from me to Thor, then did the
wise thing and scuttled off. Being the god of Barely Enough, he was
adept at keeping alive. He would know not to stand in the middle of
a fight between the god of victory, thunder, and general angry
outbursts and the unremitting goddess of facts.
Thor laughed again, his wide jaw dipping
open and his blond hair flicking over his shoulders. “I’m Thor, and
I have chosen to visit Earth,” he said, as if those facts were
enough to explain why he'd decided to show up at the Immigration
Office without first putting in an application for a visa.
I kept my lips thin and my expression
You look like a wet fish or
a dead man,” Thor pointed out with another gruff laugh.
Several of the other gods waiting in a
respectable line outside my office snickered.
Thor was like the boisterous bully
challenging the teacher, much to the delight of all the sensible
students. I knew my role as immigration officer made me unpopular
with most divinities. Still, laughing at one of Thor's
less-than-humorous jokes was low even for them.
I pursed my lips. “You do realize we have a
process, don't you? I have explained this to you before. You can't
swan in here whenever you feel like visiting Earth. You have to put
in an application first, and you will be seen in a timely manner
when it is your turn—“
I do not wait in lines,
goddess of details,” Thor boomed at me, his eyebrows descending
sharply. When he wanted to – which was most of the time considering
his outrageous personality – Thor could look more menacing than any
god of death or chaos.
I kept still. I’d seen this act often
enough, though it always made me suitably nervous to be stared down
upon by one of the most powerful gods of the Nordic pantheon. “In
that case, if you go to the end of the line, I might be able to see
you by the end of the day—“ I tried, knowing it wasn't going to
work, but not wanting to lose the edge off my indignation. As the
god of victory – among other things – Thor knew how to win all the
time. You had to fight hard when you were with him to prolong that
inevitable victory for as long as possible.
I’d dealt with him enough times over the
past several centuries to be able to put up a good fight.
Thor grabbed Mjollnir from his pocket, and
as soon as he touched the great hammer, it sang. It was a single
note, but it was so sharp, clear, and powerful it resonated right
He played with
He pointed to the goddess at the front of
the line – a forest divinity who was a stunning green with patterns
of flowers flecked all over her skin. “You,” Thor smiled dashingly,
“Great goddess of the forests, Thor requests to take your place in
this line.” He smiled again. It was the kind of smile that told
everyone that a) he was going to get his way, and b) everyone was
still going to adore him anyway.
It worked as planned on the forest goddess.
She puffed out her substantial green chest, her eyes sparkling like
morning dew on new foliage. “Great god of victory.” She bowed.
It's thunder today,” Thor
replied with another intoxicating dose of his dashing smile.