The city became a powder keg. In the few short days after the news leaked of who had been shot backstage at the Basement, the heat rose exponentially in New Los Angeles. With no word yet whether the victim had survived, droves of people began to congregate at the club. The NLAPD realized within minutes that police tape and heightened senses were gonna be needed to keep some semblance of order. Like rival gangs, members of the Church of Man began gnashing their teeth at Christian believers who even after the god descended, still held to faith by a thread. They barked at each other under makeshift hand-painted signs. As officers taped off the club entrance, yelling evolved into pushing and it was apparent that arrests would soon be made. Apollo sifted through the crowd careful not to inadvertently cause a riot. He fought the urge to roll his eyes when a member of the Church exclaimed, “The gods have always been dead!” in his ear. “Perhaps so.” He said quickly and moved on.
As he got closer to the front entrance, he saw a semicircle of people on their knees. They appeared to be in submission to Allah but he knew that wasn’t right,. He knew it was mourning. Bouquets of flowers formed a mosaic of color in the middle. Like a campfire, mourners seemed to gather warmth from the assemblage. Crosses and bibles were strewn almost haphazardly around the shrine. Apollo witnessed terrible wailing. As if all the sorrow and grief bottled up after the gods descended was fully unleashed in an lament for Jesus Christ. Mourners wept openly. Unconcerned at etiquette, some lay down sobbing as if searing their faces against hot pavement was somehow prostrating themselves to god. The suffering was almost unimaginable.
Apollo couldn’t help but empathize. He had known his share of loss. He had also witnessed death. He wondered vaguely if his followers would lament in this way when he passed. He doubted it and couldn’t say why. Sure, there had been a time when social bonds in all forms would have crumpled at the death of Apollo. But not any more. It was clear the Middle East religions, once little more than tribal city gods, had now become profound and almost mystically influential.
He knew he still had a place called home. Greece was always calling. Greece called out to him every moment of every day but it had been in a cold ally in New Los Angeles that he’d awoke. And he’d remained. At least for now. Apollo fidgeted and felt eyes on him. A peculiar sensation as if somebody stood directly in back of him breathing on his neck. He knew he was being watched.
In the corner of his eye, he saw signs and fingers pointed at one another. Time seemed to slow as angry mouths screamed obscenities. Such hatred in a time of grief. He thought absently. Bodies moved around him, swallowing him in their center. He felt hands tugging at him; Smelled sweat and fear in the crowd. Then there were eyes locked onto his. They were expressionless and soft. As if working out a curiosity or mystery.
The man was surprisingly still given the action around him. He simply stood there looking at Apollo. Dumbfounded, Apollo watched the man approach him. He stopped a few feet from him. His eyes traveled up and down the god and he frowned. “ מה אתה רוצה עתיקה” He said. Apollo recognized the language as Hebrew but couldn’t say how he knew it. It just sounded familiar to him. Deciding to make a game of it, he answered in his native Greek tongue. “Δεν καταλαβαίνω.” The man’s eyebrows raised as if he too recognized the language as Greek but had no conception of what was said.
They stood staring at each other until both cracked a smile. “Do you use the common tongue?” The man said with a heavy accent. Apollo nodded. “I do.” The man looked around. His eyes taking in the scene around him. He was an old man. Once perhaps as athletic as Apollo yet not quite as lithe. His brown skin and bushy beard would have made him appear hipster if not for the feral look in his eyes. His head shaven, he hunched over as if carrying a tremendous weight. His heavily lined face had the impression that he’d suffered windburn. He wore rags. They seemed to slough off of him like skin. But his eyes were alert. Birdlike. Apollo wondered which one he was. That accent and dialect was obviously Jewish but he knew it was possible this one was some obscure Canaanite or Jordanian deity he knew nothing about. For all he knew, this one belonged in a pyramid. “El would be so dissatisfied.” The man said. El? Apollo thought quickly. A Canaanite god then. “Where are you from?” He asked nonchalantly. Not willing to give up the game just yet. The man fixed his eyes on Apollo. “I came to my people by way of caravan routes between Canaan and Egypt.” Not Canaanite then. “Look at them clamoring.” The man continued. “The death means nothing to them. Not really. Even those who weep have never sacrificed anything.”
Apollo found it surprisingly difficult to keep eye contact with this deity. He seemed ferocious and stormy. “And the man shot did?” He ventured. His bushy beard twitching, the man hesitated for a second. “Yes. He sacrificed all.” Apollo let his gaze fall on a woman kneeling at the shrine. Her face disfigured with grief, she clutched a rosary to her chest. “Still.” The god said quietly. “They mourn for him. They feel the loss perhaps more viscerally than we do.” There it was. Cards on the table. I know what you are. The man’s face darkened. “They perceive nothing. If they ever did. They fail at every turn. None remember the Shavuot! The Sukkot means nothing to them! And we wander still!” He looked around enraged. Apollo smiled inwardly. Stormy indeed. “And then there’s you.” The man spat. His face contorted into a grimace. The false idols.”
Apollo could feel the anger in him begin to stir. He noticed his palms sweaty. “No less false than you. They just no longer care to see your pillars of cloud and fire. Your miracles.” He said the last word slowly. Letting the insult seep in and fester. “Where are your miracles now?” The man spat in front of him. “The idols with their statues.” He said tauntingly. “Always with their statues. I needed no statue. The Temple had my cherubim and they were the empty throne! I cared not! My people bore witness. Even him.” He nodded towards the Basement. “Even he called out to me in his last moments.” Apollo smirked. “Condemn them if you must. YHWY.” Apollo accentuated his name. Letting every syllable drip off his tongue like milk and honey. He turned and strode off as a string of curses followed in his wake.