Dionysus gave only slight regard to the murmurings around him. City Hall was a small building, its hallways cramped. Outside, a small conclave of curious passersby stood in silent vigil, all wondering if or when a mysterious Descendant would come to register. There had been a myriad of hoaxes. Today’s venture had included at least one that Dionysus had witnessed. A man claiming to be Zeus was indelicately expelled when his fingerprints proved him to be not only human born but wanted in several states for fraud. No doubt any fingerprints at all would yield a similar result. Dionysus knew that Descended did not, in fact, have fingerprints. Their fingers were smooth and bare. Silenus assumed it was a peculiar byproduct of having Descended. Dionysus had to agree.
“Just look at the hands.” Silenus explained. “They’ll be smooth as porcelain and featureless.” Featureless. Dionysus wished he could be so inconspicuous. Putting aside his misgivings, he approached a government officer.
“I’ve come to register.” Dionysus said.
“Oh really? Which one are you?” The officer replied without looking up from his desk.
I see. They’re in disbelief. Has nobody came?
Dionysus stooped and laid his bare palms in front of the man’s nose. Beneath the desk, Dionysus heard the man’s knee strike wood as he jumped to his feet. “Come with me.” He said in a mixture of fear and awe.
In another room, a vintage camera took a series of pictures. Dionysus smelled the jarring odors of disinfectants and bleach. The smell put his mind on sterilization which led it inevitably to Sadie.
She doesn’t stand a chance if one us is hunting her.
Dionysus was led to another room and then another. He had his suspicions about the registry. He knew the process wasn’t for his benefit. But he also knew his memories and insights were of value. But to whom? What possible discernment could I provide in this place? That would be the jurisdiction of Apollo or Dike.
As he stepped into the foyer, onlookers filled the room. Word had gotten out that a Descendant had came. Dionysus missed his footing and grabbed onto the security officer for support. The man’s shoulders tightened and he instinctively pulled away. Dionysus quietly scanned the room. He did not know whether he was terrified or relieved that he didn’t recognize any of their faces.
“Will you be needing a ride home?” The officer asked.
“Yes as soon as possible.” Dionysus said.
The man nodded and walked back the way they’d came. “Wait here.” Dionysus turned and faced the wall. Voices called out for him to say something., cameras began clicking. He put his hood up and peered at a corner television displaying ‘breaking news’ at New Los Angeles City Hall. Dionysus shuddered and retreated further into the corner. A voice echoed from his side. “Perhaps it’s best if you didn’t cajole your heritage.” The speaker, moved deftly facing him. “I promised nothing.” Dionysus shot back.
“Conceded then.” The man responded. Dionysus looked up into dark, flaring eyes. Of African descent, the man wore a bulbous hat over short cropped hair. A thin frame, his arms seemed too long for his body making the suit he wore appear ill fitted. He leaned close to Dionysus’ ear: “You shouldn’t have come here.”
Dionysus studied the stranger. “You’re one of us. You’re an Other.”
“I am only Seth.” The man said.
“Ah, yes. I know that name. You’re far from home Egyptian.” Dionysus stared at the man. There was no way to be sure without checking his hands. Seth smiled and put his hands in his pockets.
“You error in speaking to me Greek. You must never recognize another of us. Do you offer fealty?”
“If the Greek man has usurped the god that it once was, you may offer allegiance to Egypt and she’ll have you.”
“You have not told me why you’re here.”
“Asylum then? We can hide you from Apollonian dissent or his twin.”
“I think not.”
“Ah right, you have chosen asylum with them.” He nodded toward the crowd that stood fidgeting a few feet away separated by a small barrier.
Seth pursed his lips and took off his bulbous hat.
“You speak to me like a Man when our kind should be in shadows…”
Dionysus brushed his hair back from his face. “Yet you’re here. Registering. If we should be invisible to them, why are you here Seth?”
“Ahhhhhh that.” Seth sneered. “I gave my word to an...associate.”
Dionysus felt a twinge in his temple. Descendant logic was a peculiar thing. Motives were at play. But which ones? Part of him wanted to know whom the mysterious associate was. The other part didn’t care and simply wanted to strike at the Egyptian.
“You’ve put a target on your back. They’ll never see you. And you’ll never be free of them. How do you like your new migrant status?”
“As opposed to what? A status of senility in your shadows?
“It was us! The gods that inspired them. We gave them fire. We gave them passion!”
“We gave them a reason to kill one another.”
“We gave them the stars and to the stars they went. They looked up and saw us in Nut’s design. In her, they imagined constellations of ideas! And now, the fire is nowhere to be found. No original ideas. Without us, they are impotent. And yet they stay terrified not of us but of what they could become.
In this moment, Dionysus envied humanity. Perhaps it was better never having known grace. “Ignorance and bliss.”
“Ah yes. Bliss. The ecstasy of stupidity.”
“No, of salvation.”
“Salvation? What are they being saved from? Evil? Sin?”
“Of suffering. We are their redemption from suffering.”
“No, we are cursed mortals. Nothing else. We are cautionary tales.”
“You speak of hubris. Of pride. Was it not pride that inspired your fratricide? You speak of cautionary tales. Were we not more accurately stories of existence? They learned from our mistakes. They learned from our successes. Our joys and sorrows. Maybe they are learning still.”
“Our lost children.” Seth sneered. “You do know that our children want to devour their creators. You’ve put a target on your back. Your asylum here will end in defeat.”
“I’m just acceding to their wishes. I’m making a go of it. You’re here to see who slithers out of the woodwork.”
Seth shuddered deeply. He swiveled his body and leered out the window. It was an imposing view. One in which he could see the layout of the building. Anybody who entered or exited would be in his line of sight.
“As if anybody will come.”
“It’s a spectacle now. The press is here. But they’ll get bored as time goes on. And they’ll leave. Then ours will come. Pious has offered alms.”
Seth laughed. “Soon there’ll be thousands of us lined up around the block. The Descended will fill the city! I don’t have to tell you what Eleos means in your Greek. Your ‘alms.’”
“Yes, pity. You see Dionysus, we are the pitiful. But they’ll feed us for life.”
“Our existence no longer depends on them.”
“I wasn’t talking about us.”
Dionysus stared outside at the picket signs and absorbed Seth’s remark. An unspoken appeal to faith? He knew that Seth was dangerous. Maybe the most dangerous of all but couldn’t permit himself the thought that he’d killed the Christian god. Dionysus had read the many stories of the Egyptian god of disorder and storms. Violence was certainly in his disposition. The use of guns seemed an aberration though. He’d use knives. Again his mind was brought to Sadie. The attackers had been knife wielders. He sensed Seth gazing at him and turned his head away. The effort contorted his usually mild mannerisms making it seem like he’d been struck. His eyes fell on Seth’s face and the god was expressionless. His face blank as a fearsome mask. Dionysus tried to think. Before he could find the words, Seth leaned in close and whispered: “Yes, my handmaidens nearly got her.”
“Who?” Dionysus squeaked.
The god groaned but recovered quickly. “These things happen. Mortals die. Gods die. And all the heavens are in abeyance.”
“You’re hunting her. Why?”Seth smiled. The movement made him ghastly. Dionysus felt a tightness in his throat. He forced himself to be calm. The girl was important in some way. He had little doubt that his deduction was correct but important in what way? What could be so threatening that it brought down the wrath of a god?
Suddenly, claps of thunder peeled outside and Dionysus felt something whiz past his face.