Authors: Odette C. Bell
Tags: #gods, #mythology, #magical realism, #romance adventure
Oh thank you, goddess
I put a hand up to silence him before he
could break a rule. “Call me...” I searched around for a name.
“Details,” I said without properly thinking about it. It happened
to be fresh on my mind, unfortunately. But the more I thought about
it, the more I realized the idiotic name Thor taunted me with
wasn't such a bad thing. This way I could take the name back and
I suppose you can call me...” Tolus
appeared to think hard.
I could tell he was racking his brain for
a suitable name, going through everything from Aid, to Charity, to
Survival. “How about Jeff?” I offered. It was hardly god-like, but
that was the point.
Jeff?” He appeared to roll the
word around in his mouth as if it were food he was savoring the
flavor of. It was the closest thing he got to food judging from his
gaunt appearance. “I’m Jeff and you are Details. Are you sure that
you wish to accompany me? I understand you must have your own
duties to perform—”
If by duties he meant poring over a sheet of
mathematical calculations and trying to remember each number and
equation, I could get away with shirking those for a night. “I'm
flexible. I can work anywhere.” Which was true – wherever there was
experience, there were details. Wherever there was something to
see, it could be divided into colors, forms, shapes, lights, and
shadows. Wherever there was something to hear, it could be split
into tones, pitches, and hums. All were details, and details were
I suggest we get a sack,
procure sustenance, and hand it out where it is
Easy enough. Though I have
no idea where you buy sacks these days. People tend to use boxes
and bags more than sacks and swags.”
Boxes it is then.”
For the first time in fifty years, I set
off to spend a night away from my books and fireside. One of the
things about being the goddess of details was I tended to get stuck
into a routine. Though technically all gods faced that problem. One
of the things about being the divine embodiment of some quality was
it drove your actions more than you did. If you were the god of
death, most of your days revolved around death. The same with gods
of war and harvests – they would spend every day in battle or
shucking ears of corn.
Tonight I would break the mold.
We procured our boxes and food. I stopped
Tolus from paying for them with what was literally his life
savings, and we set out to work. First we went to some of the
darker, colder, and more out-of-the-way alleyways on the outskirts
of the city. Tolus instinctively knew when there was someone in
need around him. He would wander off down an alleyway only to find
a homeless person curled up under a makeshift blanket of
It wasn't only people he helped. Tolus
didn't seem to mind what the creature was – from a stray cat, to a
cockroach, to an injured bird – if the thing was in need, Tolus was
He didn’t act from charity. Rather than
handing the food out, he left it somewhere the needy could find it.
Tolus was the god of Barely Enough, not the god of philanthropy.
When he came across an entity on the edge of survival, he would
leave the food – barely enough for the creature to survive –
somewhere close by, then he would offer a gaunt smile their way and
disappear into the night.
I felt the chill of the evening descend
around us as we worked, though I didn't dare complain. I wasn't
here for myself. I was here to help Tolus. I plunged into the
details of the cold sensation as it raced and shivered down the
backs of my arms and the tops of my thighs. In plunging into those
details, my own powers emerged and the chill subsided. As I
concentrated, I could appreciate Tolus was doing the same. In
offering enough food for a creature to survive he was igniting his
own powers and keeping himself, in turn, alive.
how it worked with us gods and
goddesses. Not only were our powers rooted in what we stood for,
but they were also what kept us alive. A war god who couldn’t go to
war was no longer a god and rapidly diminished to nothing at all.
The same was true for the god of radishes. Without radishes, there
would be nothing for him to feel the divinity of – nothing for him
to connect with – and he would diminish.
If Tolus didn't have those to help, he too
would no longer be needed, and thus, no longer exist. Without
details, I wouldn’t be Details. Without lightning and thunder, Thor
wouldn’t be Thor.
Every god and goddess needed their ability
and force as much as humans needed food, rest, and air.
Tolus finished canvassing the alleyways
and we headed towards the great storm drains. This city had a large
set of interconnecting flood tunnels that serviced all the drains
and gutters along the streets. This area was prone to great rains
in the autumn and spring, and the drains were there to stop the
place from flooding twice a year.
I’d heard that the homeless lived down
there, but I’d never been down to verify that. Nonetheless, I knew
where the entrance was and precisely how to get there. I knew –
based on my knowledge of the flow rate of the tunnels and the
levels of recent rains – how much water to expect. I didn’t know,
however, how imposing the structures were in real-life.
For a goddess, I didn't experience fear as
often as a human did. I always had a place to go when things became
desperate. Details. If I plunged into those, I became them.
Inseparable from reality, nothing could harm me there.
being said, a god can die. We are not
indestructible, just harder to kill.
Walking through the great entrance and
into the storm drains was accompanied by a quick furl of
anticipation across my back. The tunnels were massive concrete
tubes that smelled strongly of dank water and disturbed dirt. There
was graffiti sprayed slapdash across the inside of the concrete –
various symbols and inappropriate sayings. I noticed the curve and
curl to the writing and the way the once-vibrant colors were dim
after being washed and battered by floodwaters.
It was like going through a gate, I realized
as I walked through the mouth of the tunnel. The way the street
lights above stopped their illumination at the mouth of the tunnel.
The way the sounds of the cars beyond were muffled when you took
several steps beyond the threshold. The place had gravitas and
I believe once we have
finished here, we will be done for the night,” Tolus said, his skin
looking much clearer under the light of his torch.
Though both Tolus and I didn't need light,
we carried them nonetheless. We were not allowed to let mortals
know our true identity and powers. Walking around unaffected by the
darkness would be the first indication something wasn't right with
us food-carrying, divine aid-workers.
The farther we walked, the more the smell
of the place changed. The air became staler, the water far murkier.
We were outside of the flood seasons, which meant the water flow
through the tunnels was minimal. With no great tides to flush the
place out, the smell settled down like a thick blanket. I noticed
the way it hung around in pockets and how it was stronger closer to
There was also a scent of something...
else. What that thing was, I couldn't discern.
Tolus began to hum as he worked.
We found the first of our charges for the
night – an old man on the edge of starvation. I stood back as Tolus
did his work, and watched as he hid a packet of bread close to the
man's makeshift tent. The man, I was sure of it, wouldn’t turn his
nose up at eating surprise bread he found in a storm drain – he was
beyond that. A humbling thought. I couldn't help thinking if Thor
saw this it would strip that arrogance from tugging at his eyes and
puffing up his cheeks. Then again, if Thor somehow found his way
down here, he would hardly deem to offer this homeless man charity.
Thor would offer a rousing and food-devoid speech about how victory
was at hand only for those willing to seek it.
I tutted under my breath as I thought of
my least-favorite Nordic god. Loki I could get along with – well, I
could at least have a vaguely reasonable conversation with him
while I stamped his visa application as rejected. He often tried to
get back to Earth – one of his favorite play grounds as he'd put it
once on his application. He was banned from the place. He was
banned from Asgard, too. Too much trying to destroy the planet and
fighting other gods.
didn't stop him from trying. He was
the god of mischief, and a surprising amount of mischief can be had
while applying for visas. He’d once shown up at my office with a
fake beard and a ridiculous hat, claiming to be the god of
Victorian crime novels. I’d seen through the disguise and refused
him entry. Still, at least he'd taken it reasonably – he hadn't
bothered threatening me like Thor always did.
Thor was my least-favorite Nordic God. He
was also my least favorite Roman and Greek god, too. No matter the
divine guise, that man was ultimately irritating.
My lips pressed together harder and harder
as I thought of him.
Tolus tugged carefully at my arm.
I'd been out of it and it took me a moment
to snap back. During that moment, I heard something at the edge of
hearing. As soon as I attended to it, it was gone.
I blinked over at Tolus.
Done here,” he whispered. “I
feel we are done in these tunnels altogether...” he fluttered his
eyes closed, “The other beings in need are not as needy as I once
I didn't bother to point out to Tolus that
regardless of the fact they weren't hollering at death's door they
would still enjoy food. We weren't dealing with the over-fed and
rich here. Any scrap of sustenance could benefit someone who lived
their life in a storm drain.
He wasn't that kind of god. He gave to
those who needed something – anything – to separate them from
I can take you to where you are
staying – if you have somewhere to stay.” I doubted this guy had
enough dosh to put himself up in a hotel or a caravan. He would be
planning to spend the night on a park bench somewhere.
Oh, that would be helpful. I do
get lost. I also have a colleague I would like to meet up
Where are they?” I had firm
resolve to help Tolus all I could tonight. I would devote at least
several hours of my time helping one of my own kind, without
thought of reward or recompense – unlike certain other
At Ambrosia.” Tolus walked
before me. When he’d walked into my office that morning, he'd
barely had enough pep to amuse a rock – now he strode. He was alive
with his ability and power, and it was feeding and nourishing
Oh,” I said quietly. Ambrosia
was the only god-exclusive joint in the city. Not all cities had
them, but this place was big enough to support one. Not that I’d
been there – not my kind of place at all. Ambrosia was the
ale-sloshing, feast-giving establishment where Valkyries danced on
the tables and war gods recounted their bloody battles at the tops
of their considerable lungs.
I couldn't back out, though I hardly wanted
to walk into Ambrosia. I had agreed to help Tolus – and I took
agreements to heart. An agreement was close to a fact, and a fact
was closer to me than anything could get.
We crossed town quickly now Tolus was
enlivened from his night of work. I, however, was flagging. I
stifled several yawns and tried to lose myself in the details of
car lights reflecting in puddles and off shop windows. While these
details would do for now, I wouldn't feel properly rested until I
could find some facts or had enough time to stare at some picture
or scene and deconstruct every detail therein. Only then could I
We soon arrived at the door of Ambrosia –
a simple and nondescript turquoise-blue door situated right next to
a garage. From the outside, it was nothing but a scratched door.
Any god, however, would know the appearance concealed reality. The
door in the wall didn't lead to the inside of the building – it led
to a place in time and space distinct from anything a city planner
could dream up. It led to the beating heart of a bona fide god
I pressed my lips together and blinked
several times at the door.
I turned to Tolus. “Here’s the
nice helping you tonight—” I began, wanting to wrap things up so I
didn't have to stand too long around the door. The last thing I
wanted was for Balang – the riotous tribal god I'd dealt with the
day before – to pop his head out the door, off-his-face drunk, and
set his skull necklace on me.
As immigration officer to Earth, I was the
least popular divinity on this rock – at least as far as other gods
were concerned. As a true goddess of details I had my followers and
worshipers among the native populace of this planet, though most of
them wouldn't explicitly call themselves adherents to the Cult of
Officina. But at heart, many people found themselves in details –
mathematicians, data scientist, knitters determined to make a tight
I didn't need to be popular among the other
goddesses and gods – I needed to do my job. Still, I wasn't willing
to taunt the Fates – who could be mean when they felt like it – and
stand around outside the hottest god bar this side of the