I keep getting recruited by people interested in my "unique qualifications".
What if they're serious about that? I do have some "unique qualifications", and I can spin a story about why some company might want them
I keep getting recruited by people interested in my "unique qualifications".
We spent three or four months pretending that I had a long time to live. Doing things that only made sense if we had a future. We moved into a new apartment, with three bedrooms --one for us, one for perfuming until it took off enough to need a storefront. After that happened, The third bedroom would become my office. We bought a long curly couch. My website work was paying all our bills. Eirlys went to a few conventions and gave away a million little plastic tubes of her favorite fragrances, which got her some fair number of orders. Our phantasmal future looked bright.
I suppose it *was* bright. Echidna had presented us some horrible possibilities.
Here's how it felt to me. I don't mean to diminish Eirlys's experience by switching to first person here.
I was taking an noontime nap with my head in Eirlys's lap, her tail curled around my face.
My first clue was that suddenly everything was dark and delicious. I couldn't see a thing; that wasn't alarming, it happened pretty often. . I tried to brush Eirlys' tail, the usual culprit of darkness, off my eyes. It felt like my arm was wrapped in steel,trapped, unable to move.
Eirlys *was* alarmed. I went from napping peacefully into convulsions. She did all the right things, getting me away from sharp thing, keeping me on my side.
At about that point, I realized I couldn't feel anything that made sense for the domestic scene I remembered. I vaguely imagined Eirlys had filled the clawfoot bathtub with custard and popped me into it, though I wasn't clear on why or how.
With that thought in mind, I slurped a big mouthful of the delicious-smelling custard around me. She must have scented it with a new batch of perfume.
That first bite was full of memories. Once, a mischievous and bisexual French major persuaded me that I must read Proust's In Search of Lost Time on the grounds that it would explain all sorts of homosexual things to me. It wouldn't have done that, even I had been upper-class and french and decades previous. But it did introduce me to the incident in which a taste of a cookie drowned Proust in a wave of memories. Which which the custard did to me. The taste of the custard didn't trigger a thing — it was a savory meaty flavor, vaguely like chawanmushi, But it was full of memories — not even significant ones: Me sitting in a dull software engineering class, doodling ridiculous busts of the teacher. Riding on a Greyhound bus to chicago, staring dully at miles and miles of cornfields, on a trip to visit my aunt. Me reading an assortment of forgettable science fiction book in the gradeschoollibrary.Me drilling multiplication tables. Me folding laundry as a child.
I took another bite, and got a flood of assorted physical memories — a very detailed scene of me walking on the slipperyedge of a fountain. The fountain itself didn't make it into the memory, just the sensations of keeping my body balanced on the slippery concrete. I certainly hadn't been eating chawanmushi on the fountainthere was no reason to associate the flavor with the memory.
Eirlys said "Kaiju, are you ox? you're having convulsions. I hope youcan hear me. This might be an Echidna thing. I'm calling 4444."
My very sensible wife had given me the clue. I had evolved into my next shape. Since my head had become my egg... my new body was presumably thrashing around in my own head, which surely would cause convulsions. That tasty custard was my own brain. Each bite I took gave me some of my own memories — and probably inspired convulsions in my body. I wished I could tell Eirlys any of that. I decided that I had better eat the rest of my brain, so I'd get whatever memories and Kaiju-ness was in it. Given how much damage I'd done to it, it wasn't going to be good for much longer — in a meat sense.
I gobbled as quickly as I could, out of a sense of self-preservation, and considerable hunger;. My mouth was long, lined with little sharp teeth, and filled with a lithe sensitive tongue.
And pretty soon there wasn't any brain left to eat. Which was fine with me --- I had a whole mind full of memories, and they all felt like my memories, that belonged in my psyche. I have no idea how to tell if I'm the same person as I had been, but I thought I was.
The emergency medical technicians did the appropriate things despite Eirlys and I knew they weren't going to work. So, I didn't have a heartbeat, 'cause the brain makes tells the heart to beat.
They tried CPR, which I suppose kept my human body alive for a while.
Then they pulled up one eyelid, and shined a bright light into that eye.
That was disconcerting. New-me had always been in the dark. But it turns out eyes transmit a lot of light, sort of as if thst's their main purpose.
Also new-me has very sensitive eyes. So the EMT's light lit up the whole inside of my skull.
It is intellectually upsetting to know that you are some kind of small creature inhabiting the recently- emptied skull of some unfortunate human (viz. yourself)
It is a whole new dimension of upsettingness to see it foryourself. The eyesockets are awful, since they're sort of glowing, because of light on the other side. Glowing eyesockets on a skull are a bit of a cliche, but no more pleasant for all that.
Also .... how was I going to get out? I got to look at my new body — my neck is as sinuous as a snake, and as the skeleton foretold, I'm little dragonish thing.I thought I might be able to claw my way to my former mouth, then somehow open my former jaws wide enough do I could squirm out. So it would look as if my corpse were vomiting a large bloodsoaked dragon. This would give everyone watching permanent nightmares. Thinking through the plan pretty much gave me permanent nightmares.
More nightmare food was when the emergency medical people zoomed me to a hospital. Andtried to determine if I was alive. It turns out there are a variety of tests that can be applied. I thoroughly failedthe test of brain electrical activity I *might have done better on that one if I hadn't already eaten the whole brain.
At about this point Eirlys realized that, although she had a good deal of divine commentary on my condition, one of the commentary was going to be officially acceptable. Zeus probably can be a witness, but none of us could ask him to do that. Echidna, probably no, even if she were willing to visit mortal realms without laying eggs in any one else.
Eirlys did explain a bit to the hospital, but they said "Sir, if you want to submit a police report full of false gods and about this man-in-a-skirt that you claim to be your wife, that's your own lookout,"
Eirlys politely and simply corrected some of the mistakes in this.
Then the emergency medical people started with some less appropriate questions. "What drugs were the two of you doing when you callled4444."
"Only her normal prescription medication," said Eirlys.
Somehow that was entered into the official record as."Poppers." Someone or other volunteered to search Eirlys's purse, and came up with a number of brown glass vials — of a sort that could have been used for poppers — or perfume.
"He's dead," said one of the doctors. Eirlys was thoroughly devastated, and I was sad that I hadn't figured out how to give her our recognition sign.
"Given that you know he's a known high seizure risk, why didn't you stop?Poppers were surely a contributory factor in his death," asked a sherriffish sort of man whose bedside manner could have been much better.
Eirlys had no good answer for this, in part due to crying at top speed.
Zeus and Hera sat together on a couch of archaic design, its cushions being woolen bags stuffed with fragrant herbs, resting on a web of leather straps.
"You who have returned from dark Tartaros — speak to us now of Echidna," said Zeus.
Eirlys had opinions. "She's a horrible, amoral, self-centered psychopathic horror-loving demon."
"Is she planning to challenge Olympus?"
"She sounded like she would avoid any sort of a war — she was sure she'd lose if she tried, so she was just going to putter around with little projects like me, without any big purpose. In particular she doesn't want Typhon to get free. Or she was being deceptive. You might want to have sentinals watch her." Kaiju and Eirlys summarized their visit.
"I do! My hidden brother has many subjects who can be quiet and stealthy and keep a long close watch, on account of being dead."
"So it seems as though Echidna is beingharmless for the moment," said Zeus.
"Except for implanting deadly eggs in occasional innocent mortals," said Eirlys. "Which we have no particular answer for."
"And it does not seem that the gods of Olympus can save me from this egg. Our only approach would be to somehow get Echidna herself to save you, but she claims to be unable"
"That is so," Hera admitted.
"Now, we just did you a service, of scouting and spying, at some considerable danger to ourselves," said Kaiju."I request a boon in exchange."
"What boon? After a few unpleasant myths, we no longer offer "anything you want" as a boon," said Zeus.
"I want a thunderbolt," said Kaiju.
"You could not hold it.That is a weapon beyond most gods,much less mortals," said Zeus.
"Oh, I don't want it as a weapon for myself. I want you to kill me with it, if I need killing. Eor example, if I hatch into a rampaging dragon burninating Pegana, say, or trying to eat Eirlys — dispose of me fast and thoroughly,before I hurt her or anyone else," said Kaiju.
"A sad boon, but wise and responsible," said Hera. "It shall be granted, if needed.
Eirlys hugged on Kaiju, whimpering sadly. she added, "I want some recognition sign, some way for you to say "I'm Kaiju, don't kill me," if you're a kind of dragon that can't talk," said Eirlys.
"Now that you mention it, I would like that too."
"I'll draw an 'E' for Eirlys. Also it should be easy to do with whatever paws i've got, and recognizable."
"Also, not killing and eating anyone is a good start.
"Is it, really? One of Echidna's guesses was that I'd hatch as a wild animal. How do you feel about, oh, taming the beast that came out of my head? Having a pet dragon could be awesome, but one that cost my life... I don't know how you feel about that"
"On the other hand it's like — if I am going to die, you might as well get an awesome pet out of it, I suppose. Instead of just a dead wife."
"I have trouble with that logic, said Eirlys.
"Me, too,"said Hera.
"Think of it as a final gift — the last thing I could possibly give."
"Jointly From you and you killer."
"OK, that's a bit morbid."
"There are too many variations and possibilities to try to game them out in advance.
"It is the hour of dining," said Iris. Eirlys, Kaiju, please stay for three nights; a guest room has been prepared for you. She conducted Kaiju and Eirlys along certain wide corridors, past windows showing the wild mountainscape of Olympus. At the head of the bed was a small vase of white flowers springing from a black bulb. Eirlys thought they were snowdrops, like her name.
Sleep did not come easily that night.
The dog was rather large. Even, it was bigger than any three elephants, which made the second and third heads seem excessive. Kaiju at first thought its black fur was full of vines or roots, but they turned out to be dozens and dozens of snakes. It crouched in front of a vast arch in a black stone wall, and when it wagged its tail, the wind thereof was icy and wintry.
"Cerberus? " asked Eirlys.
"Yes, indeed," said the dog's middle head. "But I fear that I do not recognize you."
"I'm Eirlys — nobody in particular." "You are now someone in particular. A living human or even demigod visiting to the court of Hades guarantees a certain amount of well-deserved fame. Admittedly, swallowing a live frog the size of a small boulder would get you even more fame, faster, and more conveniently. If you had the frog, and the throat for it."
"I will stick with the visit, even at the cost of obscurity."
"Nonetheless, be welcome at the Palace of Hades and Persephone, where indeed a rich welcome is made to all, visitors or immigrants both," said Cerberus.
"We're visitors!" said Kaiju in a hurry.
"We have come on the command of Zeus himself, for to walk the ways of Tartarus," said Hermes.
"Or to ride an onocentaur on the ways of Tartarus, it looks like," said the dog.
Amphion grumbled, "Touring Tartarus is a bit more than I had planned on."
Cerberus' middle head peered and snuffled. "What are you going to do in Tartarus? People generally go there to rescue someone from an eternal and ironic torment, or sometimes to release one or another of the very dangerous creatures caged there. Neither of those ever ends well, by the way, " said Cerberus.
"Actually, we're just visiting someone. Kaiju, on the onocentaur, got cursed by one of the residents of Tartarus, and we're going to ask her to lift the curse."
Cerberus's heads peered at each other. "Hekate I suppose, or one of her lampades? There aren't many inmates of Tartaros whose curses, or selves, wander the sunlit and moonlit worlds."
"Echidna," said Eirlys.
"What has my somewhat-overdramatic mother done now?" asked Cerberus. Eirlys had forgotten the dog's ancestry.
"Inserted a dragon skeleton in my brain. It's giving me seizures," said Kaiju.
"That's a bit eccentric even for Mother," said Cerberus. "Why did she do it? For that matter, *how* did she do it?"
"We don't know either of those things," said Eirlys.
"Perhaps she will explain... I can't remember the last time she put some horrible curse on some mortal without a very obvious reason. It's not like her at all. Not that she never wants some mortal disposed of, but doing so is usually a chore for a youngster like the chimera or the hydra. Like, have you killed a monster lately, that might be one of my siblings — her children?," asked Cerberus.
"Not in reality. In games, perhaps," said Kaiju.
"Are you sure she worked the curse at all, then?"
"We got an oracle about it," said Eirlys, and explained somewhat.
"I don't sit on the High Court of Hades, and my lawyerly credentials are shady at best. But that oracle doesn't sound to me like certain proof that my dear mother is implicated in this matter."
"It's what we have to go on," said Eirlys.
"We can have more. I would be glad to guide you to her shadowy realm, and wag my tail while you ask her a few questions," said Cerberus.
"We accept with gratitude, " said Bastet.
"As long as you don't make any dog-versus-cat jokes," said Cerberus.
Cerberus led everyone through tunnels where lava had once boiled. Through a crack in a wall they saw a shining iridescent surface, like the carapace of an immense beetle. Bastet pressed her eye to the crack, leading Cerberus to askm "Did you want the full tour of Tartaros? Or the swift completion of your quest? I will gladly guide you, but the longer the skeleton is in Kaiju's brain, the more likely it is that she will need to fill out immigration paperwork for Hades. Also the paperwork is worse for mortals who actually die in Hades, much less Tartaros.
"Let's hasten to Echidna," everyone agreed. "And tour afterward, if there's time and interest," a few people allowed.
Seven assorted turns and eleven ridiculous paths later, and Cerberus howled a greeting. "Echidna, Mother dear, some gods and mortals are here to visit you!"
Echidna herself was a complex creature, with aspects of serpent, moon, coral reef, and elemental fantasy. Kaiju snapped a dozen photos of her; they didn't look like pictures of the same being.
"Kaiju! I never expected to see you here, or not for a long while indeed!" exclaimed Echidna.
"You know who I am?" asked Kaiju.
"Yes, of course I do. You are my latest project!," said Echidna.
"Why did you curse me, then?" asked Kaiju. "What did I ever do to you or yours?"
" Oh, you were more difficult than I expected, and a few vulgarities and imprecations may have spilled forth. If I have ever cursed you, I withdraw every curse, and replace each one with a blazing elliptical blessing." And indeed, the shapes of ghostly blazing shields were slightly visible around Kaiju.
"Kai? How do you feel?" asked Eirlys, noticing that her wife was still trembling.
"Not very different," said Kaiju.
"Have some tea and pastries, all of you!" said Echidna. She brought forth snacks and beverages on a copper tray.
The pastries were a carnivore's delight, spiced buttery meat in flaky dough. The tea was minty and sweet, and served in tiny glass cups.
Kaiju picked up her second pastry with her left hand, but a crampy spasm forced her to drop it immediately.
"Are you sure the curse is all gone?" asked Eirlys.
"Oh, yes," said Echidna.
"She's still having trouble moving her left side, it looks like to me," said Eirlys.
"Yes, of course, but that isn't any sort of curse," said Echidna.
"It's not functionally different. Does Kaiju still have a dragon skeleton in her brain?" asked Eirlys.
"Yes, of course, and much more than just the skeleton," said Echidna.
"So you *didn't* lift the curse," said Eirlys.
"Oh, you seem to think the dragon skeleton is somehow a curse," said Echidna.
"It causes seizures, it paralyzes, it's likely to kill her soon, so yes, it's a curse, mother," said Cerberus.
"I suppose it might have some minor side effects like that. But no, it's not a curse — not any more than your very life is a curse, Cerberus."
"I could make a strong case that it is, since I live in Hades and spend half my time in Tartarus."
"Kaiju is your new sister. Not yet hatched. The skeleton in her skull is an embryo in ovo. " And a most fearsome and doom-bringing sister she shall make for you, I should think!"
"Is 'fearsome' and 'doom-bringing' what you really want for my sister?" asked Cerberus.
'Fearsome' is a good look on anyone in our family, and doom our greatest legacy."
"What are you doing to me?" wailed Kaiju.
"Helping you live up to your glorious name," said Echidna.
"You .. put a skeleton in my brain because I like Godzilla movies too much?" said Kaiju, a bit hysterically.
"'Too much'? No such thing. A young dragon hatched in the boiling void of your Godzilla-fan imagination and sensibilities could be a most impressive beast indeed. Especially if you siphon some mystic power from your mother-in-law and wife. I turned your brain into a dragon's egg to see how good a dragon will hatch."
"How long do I have to live?" asked Kaiju.
"No idea. Usually the Olympians will send a hero to destroy you, but sometimes they wait forever or so before they get around to it, " said Echidna. "Also it depends partially on how many cities you destroy when you're dragonning around.
"They haven't killed me yet, and I'm nearly to my two thousandth birthday," said Cerberus. "I*did* get whomped by a hero, but that was just a dognapping, not an attempt to kill me or anything."
"I mean, before the egg in my head hatches," said Kaiju.
"My eggs incubate without hurry. You'll probably incubate for months or years," said Echidna.
"Why do you create monsters?," asked Eirlys.
"You're going to persuade me I'm inconsistent about it, or that you're an exception that I should ignore. I know you philosopher types," said Echidna.
"She might even be right about it," said Cerberus. "For that matter, why *do* you birth so many monsters, Mom?"
"When two primordeal horrors love each other very very much ... or each others' genitals anyhow, the monsters sort of come naturally at first. That's how I got started, like some naïve peasant girl getting seduced by the first sexy living volcano who comes along," said Echidna.
"Typhon?" asked Eirlys.
"Yes, Typhon. By the time I was gravid, Zeus and Pan and Hermes had already defeated Typhon and squished him under a mountain. So I decided I'd slither away from being Typhon's mate and ally, into some role with the Olympians, one less likely to get me fucking a thunderbolt."
"So I offered a few bespoke designer monsters — Ladon, the dragon who once guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides. Then, well, Cerberus, since the underworld needed guarding."
"So you created me to be Hades' dogsbody, " said Cerberus with a triple snarl. Kaiju gave the huge dog a nervous look." Oh, don't worry, we bicker about it whenever there's nothing else worth bickering about."
"I didn't know you'd be intelligent! The chimera and hydra weren't."
"Is that supposed to make it better? asked Cerberus.
"Am I going to come out intelligent?" asked Kaiju.
"I have not the slightest idea," said Echidna. "You might be a sentient dragon version of your human self, or an animal, or dead. If you can think of another option, that could happen too,"
"Mom, you're not being comforting to your daughter-to-be," said Cerberus.
" I'm not worried about her feelings, not until she hatches," said Echidna.
"So how are you going to get her to follow your wicked plan if you don't mind her feelings?"
"What's wicked about my plan?"
"Killing unwilling human, to start with. That's wicked. Then, who are you going to sell the dragon to?"
"I didn't *sell* you to Hades. You fell in love with him on your own," said Echidna.
"What is this plan you have for my wife?," asked Eirlys, her tail bristling.
"Just what you know. Turn her into a dragon egg, hatch, see how she comes out."
"So you're not going to send her off attacking Olympus or something?"
"I'm definitely not planning anything fatal for *me*", said Echidna.
"To be clear, getting Kaiju killed or mangled will be as fatal for you as this destroyer goddess can arrange," said Bastet.
"Fine, fine. No need to be pissy about it," said Echidna.
"Another topic on which we disagree," said Bastet.
"Lose as many children as I have, and you will stop being so fussy."
"Apropos of nothing in particular, *could* you de-egg Kaiju if you were so inclined?" asked Eirlys.
"Oh, this is about Egyptian burial rituals, where you want a whole unadulterated corpse?" asked Echidna. "I could take her head off and scoop the brain out if you wanted. You could do that too, and in a ritually correct way."
"Let's not do that," said Kaiju.
"No, this is about reversing the whole situation — the thing we call a curse but you don't."
"Un-laying an egg is harder than un-scrambling one," said Echidna. "I don't have the first idea how to go about it."
"So you've put my wife into mortal peril, because you were curious about what might happen, and to no further purpose," said Eirlys.
"Yes, exactly," said Echidna.
"How *could* you?"
"Gods usually do so. When Poseidon sinks a ship at sea, do you suppose he usually thinks how it will fit into some larger plan of his?"
"I've never met him."
"No, he does not," said Echidna. "The sea needs no planning. It is a wild realm, and is safe and prosperous for merchants and travellers, or it is not, and rarely is there a purpose. My own domain of monsters is no different."
"Except you chose Kaiju's head specifically."
"True, but I keep monsters more exciting than the sea. Which is the full extent of my plans," said Echidna.
"If you're looking for grand cosmic purposes in all things — Look to Zeus and Hera maybe, Hades and Persephone the Fates I guess, Athena. Mostly gods just keep their domains wobbling along," said Cerberus.
"So there's no purpose to anything? Bleak," said Kaiju.
"Rather, there a myriad little purposes, from a myriad gods. Your head-egg was purposeful, even if it wasn't a purpose for all peoples and times," said Cerberus.
"I don't think that's better," said Kaiju.
"Well. Become a supremely powerful dragon, conquer everything, and establish specificu niversal purposes for all things," said Cerberus. "The way the Olympians so notably didn't do."
"It sounds difficult," said Kaiju.
"I think the Olympians settled for some more modest goals. Keeping the universe as a place where joy, beauty, love, and those kinds of good things show up a lot. I forget the full list, or maybe there's not an official list," said Cerberus.
"So that's the purpose of the cosmos? occasional joy, love, beauty, and whatnot?" asked Kaiju.
"I think so. Hadesisn't the top spot for those things, so I don't see it *that much*, but we do make memorials to them."
"How do we get from that to my head exploding with a dragon?"
"It's not *my* purpose," said Echidna. "Well, except beauty. Beautiful monsters." "Here, look at this. Echidna produced a tablet of some normal mundane consumer electronics brand. She poked its surface, and showed a BBC-produced video clip of a cheetah bounding across the Serengeti, taking a young gazelle. "Now *that* is beautiful. Watch that cheetah run — it's practically flying."
Bastet chuckled. "I prefer a less strenuous approach myself — clever and subtle, not so much about pure speed, But, yes, she is a beauty, And I am glad to share a world with such creatures."
Echidna ruffled Kaiju's hair. "I'm sure you'll come out just as beautiful, in your own way."
"Still rather not."
"You'll get used to it," said Echidna.
Demi leapt lightly onto the end of the picnic table away from the salads and flatware. She drummed her fingers on her plastic plate, for a bit of mock thunder. "Welcome to the first Pegana Picnic of the summmer! I hope you're hungry — there's ever so much food. I especially hope you've got a vast chasm in your belly that craves zucchini. We're kind of overflowing with zukes."
"In case anyone doesn't know me by sight, I go by 'Demi'. Demigirl, demigod, demisexual, demimondaine, demitasse-sized,and obviously too afraid of commitment by half. Except that I am completely committed to making Pegana happen," said Demi.
"I'm a bit confused," Eirlys admitted. "Didn't Pegana *already happen?"
"Pegana is a few different things, some of which have happened, or started to — including yours, Eirlys," said Demi. "The big thing we made happen already was getting the town to change its offensive antebellum name to 'Pegana'.
"How'd you pick that name, asked Reneigh, tossing her mane. "I'm down with all the pegging we can arrange, but is that *all* the town's about?
"Pegana is the name of a myth cycle that a fantasy author made up. There aren't any real gods of Pegana, and no demigods. Not yet anyhow. So it's a way to say 'demigods live and frolic here' but not commit to say Olympians or whatever."
"Are we committing to frolicking?" asked Reneigh. "I personally will make such a commitment ton frolic harder than a human can frolic. But i happen to know that some of you are monogamous newlyweds, and I have my doubts that our demi-fearless demisexual demoiselle is going to frolic with hurricane force.
"I'm not going to pole dance with you!" said Demi. "But we *are commmitting to frolicking. Pegana's appeal as a tourist destination is the frolicking, in the presence of queers, demigods, outdoor recreations, and that kind of thing. Pegana will be Provincetown, Georgia, or that's the plan. "
"When? P-Town wasn't built in a day," asked the girl in the Grand Satan Band t-shirt.
"Pegana won't be either. But my whisperers suggest that we'll be
getting that development grant we applied for last year. By this time next year we should have ten storefronts ready to move into — including Eirlys's perfumerie, ARTA. I don't have ten *shops* yet but we're talking to a lot of people. It'll go slowly for a while, then we'll reach critical mass and suddenly be full. Or, y'know, not."
Reneigh asked, "How about the night side?"
"Everything there takes a long time to get going, mostly because of
paperwork. The ex-church is ready to sell but we need to do building
inspections. The club needs eighty-teen licenses, liquor and nudity. It will all happen. Perhaps before I chew my fingernails down to the skin," said Demi." "That is sure to take some careful campaign contributions, too."
"Bribes, " said Kaiju.
"Legal ones, though," said Demi.
"Tell me who's holding us up. I'll get them in bed, take a bit of very spicy footage, pfft! no more problem."
"Just in case you're not joking — hard to tell with unicorns — that would seriously mess us up, no matter how much fun and justice it would be," said Demi.
"Awww, you're no fun anymore," said Reneigh.
"If you want horse-sized fun, help yourself to the zucchini overload!" said Demi.
"Hold that thought for when I'm running low on stage entertainment ideas."
Bastet sat on the edge of Kaiju's gurney in Examination Room 21. Dr. Venkssen did not seem pleased, and if Eirlys had been sitting there, he surely would have shooed the demigod off. But as a mythomedical specialist, Venkssen must have had some inkling of Bastet's many mystical capabilities, which in his professional opinion almost certainly included not overbalancing a heavy hospital bed.
"Eirlys. Don't you have a decent blouse?" said Bastet. "We're going to visit some very important gods, and you're wearing a stained t-shirt that says "I'm silently correcting your grammar."
" I didn't know about gods, Last I heard, I was rushing to the hospital to try to save my wife's life. There was some dinner preparation in there too. For some reason I didn't pack my full set of evening wear."
"Unwise choice. Never neglect the elegances!
Eirlys gave Bastet a hurt look. "Mom? My wife's life and brain are... I have no idea what, even. Can you not tease me right now in the middle of an emergency?"
"I will try to stop, said Bastet. " It's not my first life-or-death emergency by many-many-many, but I guess it's yours. I'll try to remember that."
Eirlys purred and rubbed her cheek against Bastet's. "Mom. Thanks for helping."
"Why are we going to Olympus? Am I going? How? What should I wear?" asked Kaiju, rather blurrily.
"why: Our oracle gave us one name I know, Catacecaumene, the Burnt
Country, in Lydia, the land of Niobe and Tantalus. So we're going to
the lands of Hellenic mythology. Getting explicit permission is
polite, especially since we're from a different pantheon and religion.
Not that Zeus is likely to object to even poorly-behaved visitors
... or poorly-dressed, for that matter."
"You are going, Kaiju, We are on a quest to cure you, and that cannot be done without your presence,
"How — Family connections and the fine art of invitation-wrangling.
"Wearing — Your wedding ring."
"I don't take it off," said Kaiju, her head spinning too much to ask further.
"Good — don't," said Bastet. "At least while Hera is paying attention."
"Eirlys, would you be a dear one and light a sacrificial fire, please," said Bastet.
Dr. Venkssen said, "Not in the hospital, goddess. We've got oxygen tanks and flammibles and much else that would turn a small fire into a big disaster."
"Miw! This is a lot easier with a proper fire. Can I at least spread perfume on the wall, or will that void your insurance or your bladder, Doc?" asked Bastet.
"That sounds safe, We might need to scrub the wall down after, " said the doctor, who was already thinking about the famous case study he would write about even just his observations and part of the evening.
Bastet acquired, by unclear means seven little glass vials stopped with bitumen lumps. "Now, I need your pen, doctor, No, not that one, the fancy and pricy four-color Bic." He handed it over. The goddess eviscerated it, and dripped some of its ink in the perfume bottles."
"ok,Who is our best graphic artist? she asked.
"Usually me, I guess, said Kaiju, but the seizures aren't helping and my hands are numb and shaky."
"Are you still seizing?" asked Eirlys.
"Not now," she admitted.
"Now you must fingerpaint with this inked-up perfume. One rainbow. A peacock or peacock tail feather if you can manage it. You aren't being graded on quality," said Bastet.
"Rainbow coming up," said Kaiju, She sat on the edge of the bed, dabbled her fingers in the perfume, and sketched out a big, wobbly, streaky off-colored rainbow. The room filled with a weak sweet scent, vaguely reminiscent of boiled carrots. "Peacock feather coming up. " Perhaps Paul Cezanne could have understood Kaiju's drawing as a peacock feather. Kaiju barely managed to draw it at all, and that only with her wife holding her up. Dr. Venkssen shook his head at the antics: clearly disapproving of them from the viewpoint of conventional medical practice
(making the vertigo-ridden stroke victim walk around! But he hoped Bastet knew what she was doing.
"I'm mostly making this up as I go along," said the goddess. Venkssen was not encouraged.
"Anyone in here any good improvising poetry in classical Greek? Homeric preferred, but we can be flexible. I guess."
"No. I dont think anyone in the whole state could do that," said Eirlys.
"I can use Google Translate to give you *modern* Greek," said Kaiju. "Let me know what to translate.
" Hail, golden-winged Iris, wonder-bearing walker between sea and sky,storm-swift, welcome in all worlds!" said Bastet. Kaiju tried to type that on her phone, but her hands betrayed her repeatedly. Eventually Eirlys did it without particular trouble, and picked up Kaiju's phone.
"Google says this — " Eirlys showed her mother the phone.
Χαλάζι, χρυσή φτερωτή Ίρις, θαυμάσιος περιπατητής μεταξύ θάλασσας και ουρανού, γρήγορη καταιγίδα, καλώς ήλθατε σε όλους τους κόσμους!"
Bastet spread her hands and ears, and intoned the transliteration: "Chalázi, chrysí fterotí Íris, thavmásios peripatitís metaxý thálassas kai ouranoú, grígori kataigída, kalós ílthate se ólous tous kósmous!
Iris stepped out from the arch of Kaiju's rainbow, through the wall: a beautiful woman with Greek features, and the light of her golden wings touched the examination table and racks of medical equipment, and made them glorious and holy.
"Honor to you,Bastet," said Iris. "It is a rare pleasure for you to call on me. (Later she told Eirlys, "She's being polite — I've barely met her really. Messenger goddesses are good at diplomacy.")
"Strange need has fallen upon us, and we would ask the leave and assistance of the Olympians, so famously generous with power and kindness."
("Which is to say, we're gonna come begging," Bastet told Eirlys later.)
"Gracious Hera Boṓpis is pleased to invite you to to lofty Olympos," said Iris.
Iris brought forth a plastic spray bottle, and squirted some puffs of water droplets. The brilliance of her golden wings fell on the puffs, and rainbow arches sprang forth all about the trio. As the rainbows faded, they found themselves in a sunlit courtyard, with fig trees and laurels all about, and three peacocks pecking at a basketful of hot barley pita.
The most beautiful woman in the world sat on a low couch wearing a low cylindrical crown of silver. Or maybe she wasn't quite, but she might be only a modest bribe short of that title.)
"Be welcome here, in my own name, that is Hera, and in the name of my husband Zeus," said the goddess.
"Which is a command to introduce ourselves," whispered Bastet. "I am Bastet, she of the ointment jar; implacable eye of Re who in Egypt is the sun; protectress of the kings of Egypt, and of the sun himself when he must journey through underworld, peril and way too many snakes to get from night to morning,"
"I'm her daughter, named Eirlys. I'm not a cosmic power, just a perfumer."
"I am Kaiju, a web designer, Eirlys's wife, not a demigod or anything like that," said Kaiju.
Hera nodded to Iris. "Drink, refresh yourselves, and tell us what strange need has brought you to our throne. Iris poured three wide flat cups of dark wine. Bastet put hers on the floor and lapped at it with a curly pink tongue, and Hera chuckled. After a moment, Eirlys did the same. The wine was sweet with grape juice and honey, and scented with thyme, and though it was watered it was quite strong.
" Kaiju, you might want to be careful with this. I don't know how it'll go with your meds," said Eirlys, her tailtip twitching nervously, But Hera nodded to Iris, who poured a single drop of something shining and green into Kaiju's cup, like an emerald transmuted to mercury. "With the nectar added , it will not harm you and may help you in the perilous place you will go. Though, Bastet, you *do* need to tell that part of the story. Kaiju did her best to pick the cup up and hold it steady,though her left hand made that a perilous exercise altogether. The drop of nectar made the wine taste of intricately-chanted poetry, so strong and significance-filled that Kaiju could barely endure it. She managed to finish the flat cup, and sank back on the hospital bed, exhausted and overwhelmed."
"Eirlys, the time has come for you to defend and uphold your wife — the first of many such, I daresay," said Hera.
Eirlys spread her claws. "Defend her? From what?"
"A malign reality and an indifferent, uncaring world. Later on — we shall see. To start with, tell us," said Hera.
Eirlys did her best to recount the afternoon's events. "I hope that 21st century matters make sense, I can try to translate and explicate. The reason that 4444 was the number for emergency services --- or how they could get a number at all — took a bit of perplexing explanation. "Telecommunications on Olympus are managed rather differently, by the excellent Iris, or the differently excellent Hermes."
Hera thought for a moment about the story. "Show me the mri images."
"We didn't bring them. Hera nodded to Iris, who stepped into a gloriole of rainbows, startled aides busy resetting Room 21. She called up the images on the monitor, using her divine powers of communication in ways that were new to her — getting the doctors' passwords, then peeling the images off the monitor, as if they were giant stickers.
Iris returned to Hera's parlor by the rainbow gate. Hera studied the images closely, frowning. She raised a hand. Iris opened the rainbow gate, stepped through; returned.She arrived hand-in-hand with a bearded man for whom the word "godlike" was quite literally invented. Hera popped up from her throne to give him a close kiss and embrace. "Zeus, You must hear and see the news our visitors bring. "Bastet of the Longest Kingdom, you are welcome here, as always. Eirlys and Kaiju were duly introduced to the King of the Gods. Kaiju in particular was trembling, from fear and illness, and outright brain injury and remembered almost nothing of what ought by rights to have been the most tremendous day of a lifetime.
"Eirlys repeated the story of the afternoon. Zeus listened carefully, glancing at Hera several times as if wondering why this mortal/demigod illness was any of his concern.
Hera unrolled the anomalous MRI image as if performing a magic trick.
"That's not a taxidermized dragon skeleton, is it?, said Zeus.
"Husband, if it is anything less than an unborn dragon in the egg, revealed by the powers of quantum physics, then I should resign my domains of maternity and childbirth," said Hera. "And try to acquire the domain of medical imaging."
"Our crippled son, who is proving himself no less mighty than any other Olympian, rules that domain," said Zeus.
"So, my wife, who knows more than she says at times — why do you bring this to my attention so minutely, What does this dragon's egg bode? Are we to fret about a single baby dragon?"
"The oracle said, "Seek in Arima, at Catacecaumene--- Not for cats, but for dragons."
Zeus shuddered, just the tiniest amount, but the thought of what could cause such a god even a moment of nerves, scared even Bastet.
"What does that mean? asked Eirlys.
"Arima, in the deep underworld, is the realm of Echidna, Mother of Monsters, and mate of Typhon most perilous of all monsters, to the gods of Olympus at least. Our one war with Typhon was a very close thing.
So it is well to be cautious at signs that Echidna and Typhon are waking up and slithering around. Far too soon for terror! But I would like to know more."
"I would too!" said Kaiju.
"And, as you are perfectly placed to investigate, you and I both shall have our desires granted," said Zeus.
Bastet bristled. "Kaiju is in no shape for a deadly quest to investigate one of the oldest and greatest terrors. She nearly died today; we do not wish to complete the process!"
"Kaiju will be in no danger she is not already in, said Hera. "Which is, admittedly, plenty."
"I'm not exactly sure what's going on, or who or what Echidna is," said Kaiju.
"For that matter, I never got the full story," said Bastet.
A young man bounced into the audience room, wings on his heels, an amused grin on his face. "Why, Echidna is the Mother of Monsters. Our most famous and terrifying creatures are her children — Massive Cerberus who guards the gates of Hade, the many-head death-blooded regenerating Hydra, the Sphinx whose weapons are more intellectual than those of many monsters, the mother of Medusa... her famous offspring outnumber those of Zeus. Admittedly they are not as wonderful."
"Echidna herself is a bit of a mystery in nature — some say she is a sea-god's daughter, but she never goes near the sea. Estranged daughter? Perhaps she is a leftover Titan, or one of their siblings by Mother Gaia. In form, Echidna is most often humanoid, or serpentine. Also a bit of a mystery in behavior. Her mate is Typhon, who is terrible enough to challenge all Olympus and our allies, by himself. Echidna did not fight by his side at that time, whence Typhon lies in a rocky prison, but Echidna is free to come and go as she pleases. She prefers to dwell in dark and terrible Tartaros — which of all real places is most like the imaginary Hell of Kaiju's education. She says that she finds Tartaros inspiring," said Hermes.
"You talk with her?" asked Hera.
"I talk with everyone; my tongue is more promiscuous than that of your chaste messenger Iris," said Hermes.
"Then, what is her mood, what does she seek to accomplish? Does she hope to release Typhon, and thereafter rule in this very room?" asked Zeus.
"To me she seems calm, content with her status and hobbies and lovers. Typhon being out of the picture gives Echidna a goodly measure of freedom, like any river-nymph or dryad might have and enjoy. She seems more or less indifferent to Typhon's imprisonment, or to any politics or vengefulness, She might be lying, or concealing a terrible truth," said Hermes. "But she has maintained thus for centuries, nor has she sought allies or done anything troubling ... until today's egg. "
"How unexpected that the Mother of Monsters should seek to have a child who is a monster," said Bastet. "One might just as well expect Hera to support some newlyweds, or Zeus to make and enforce wise decrees against the Child-Killer.
"If she's just doing what you expect from her divine nature, why'd it end up in my brain?" asked Kaiju.
"One of many good questions," said Bastet. "Also, a god doing just
the predictable thing can be truly awful. There are gods of plague
and starvation in Olympus, and best not to encourage them."
Zeus smiled. "So — voyage yourselves to Arima. Persuade Echidna to
lift the doom she has set upon you. While you are there, discern her
secret plans and intentions. If she's set against Olympus, thwart
her, while you're at it."
Bastet snorted "Sounds like it ought to be routine for a Heracles, an
Odysseus,and a Perseus or two. Are those guys free to lend us a hand
by any chance? 'Cause it doesn't sound *quite* so easy for my
daughter-in-law, who's roughly half paralyzed at the moment, and having seizures."
Hermes chuckled; Iris frowned, saying, "Usually petitioners hasten to
fulfil the commands of wise Zeus."
"We're not refusing, but it'll go a lot better if we start off sensibly," said Bastet.
" Hermes, figure out what they will need on their voyage, and get it to them, Asclepius will hold off the seizures," said Zeus.
"I get a 12% commission though," said Hermes.
"You can have a full 15% of the seizures," said Bastet.
Asclepius god of healing, who looked just like the constellation Ophiuchus, gave Eirlys a bottle of large, brightly colored pills. "1250 milligrams total, twice a day.
"This is the same medicine she was getting in the hospital," said Eirlys, looking at the label.
"Yes; it's the best anti-spasmodic I know of," said Asclepius.
"I thought you'd fix her by magic or divine fiat," said Eirlys.
"Not as a rule, especially if there's a perfectly good medicine. "
Asclepius inspected Kaiju. "Can you walk?"
"Of course!" said Kaiju.
"Nothing is 'of course' about what you can or can't do with a dragon skeleton in your brain. It's not an ordinary medical condition. "Here, try to stand up. I'll keep an arm near you, in case of surprises."
Kaiju swung her legs off the bed, tried to get to her feet. Her left knee promptly collapsed, and she crumpled into Asclepius's waiting arms. "Oh, that's bad."
"It's not surprising. But you are going to need some extra help if you're going on a quest to Tartarus," said Asclepius.
"The various underworlds aren't generally Americans-With-Disabilities compliant, said Bastet. "The American government isn't the cosmic power it thinks it is."
"How is she going to get around? A wheelchair?" asked Eirlys.
"The underworld is rough on the feet. I don't think a wheelchair would answer," said Hermes. "Can you ride a donkey, Kaiju?"
"Before, yes, I rode some very easy donkeys up and down the Grand Canyon. Now — no idea."
"Let's see how you do on Amphion."
Amphion turned out to be a chubby little centaur, with a more or less human torso, and a donkey as lower body. He wore a solid saddle, with many leather straps. Two gods hoisted Kaiju into the saddle, fastening her securely with straps. "Comfortable?" asked Asclepius.
"It doesn't hurt, but ...Truth to tell, I'm terrified."
"Sensible reaction, considering where you're going."
Amphion asked, "Where *are* we going?"
"Hades, to start with," said Hermes.
"Why am *I* going?" asked Amphion.
"You want wings, and promised to serve me for seven years to get them," said Hermes.
"I don't want wings if I'm dead when I have them though."
"This is kind of a diplomatic mission. You'll most likely survive it."
"Diplomacy with Death himself?"
"Easy diplomacy. Routine stuff," said Hermes.
(( This is roughly what I experienced too, until the part where it's obviously fantasy. Also, no tuna.
(( also I merged it with some previous text, because that's how I had intended it originally.
It was Eirlys' and Kaiju's five-month wedding anniversary. They weren't exactly celebrating it in any particularly intense or formal way, but Eirlys was preparing a couple nice tuna steaks for broiling with teriyaki sauce.
Kaiju had promised to be done with her afternoon client Reneigh by 5:00. The two were having a quick instant messenger conversation about minor design points, with Kaiju sitting at her desk typing on an ordinary keyboard that had been working perfectly for years. For that matter, Kaiju's touch-typing had been working perfectly for years, too.
Kaiju thought she was touch-typing this: "This way looks better on larger screens. But I think you're likely to get a lot more attention fom phones and small screens — people looking at dinnertime for the evening's entertainment, say.
Reneigh answered, "I don't get that. Is your cat walking on your phone?"
Kaiju looked at her screen. She had sent, "ThiB w46ay looks ggete on lS5rger swwdwcrrns. "
She was instantly ashamed, as if she had spilled a bowl of alphabet soup on her client at a working dinner. She tried to type an apology, but it came out just as bad, a spew of left-handed letters and numbers nothing like what she had intended. She noticed that her left arm was ablaze with pins and needles, trembling and wesak, and the room felt like a tilt-a-whir.. She managed to type "stroke symptoms" in a search engineright-handed, and what she found scared her considerably. She shouted, "Eirlys? can you call 4444[Her universe's emergency number]? I think I'm having a stroke."
Eirlys dased over from the kitchen, redolent of teriyaki, smearing her phone with tuna. "What's going on?" Kaiju explained, more than a little muddled by shame and dizziness. "Look me in the face," said Eirlys. "You don't look lopsided, for what that's worth. "4444 says they'll be here in ten minutes. Are you safe for ten? Can I do anything to make you safer? She helped her wife to a couch, got her water on the theory maybe it was a sudden ninja assault of dehydration, put the tuna away, and got Kaiju her phone and charger and wallet, Kaiju tried several times to put them into her left pocket, where she usually kept them, but couldn't manage it — she kept dropping things, and getting her fingers stuck and tangled on the edge of the pocket.
After ten million years, emergency services got there. A paramedic asked Kaiju some basic questions, "What year is it?", and decided that she was clear-headed enough to confirm that she wanted medical care and pick her choice of the nearer hospitals. Paramedics wrapped Kaiju in sheets, hoisted her to the ambulance bed, strapped her down, and got going. One of them whispered to another, "This chick got a dick." What? "Yeah dude, look there." Kaiju was lost in a world of dizziness and terror, and in no shape to complain.
They got to the hospital, Eirlys following along in her car. Paaperwork manifested, but the medical staff didd not let it take long. Kaiju was hustled into a triage room, and "Code Stroke crackled over the announcement system.
"That's me, right? My code?" asked Kaiju.
"Sure is," said a triage nurse. "Lie back and relax, we'll take care of you."
Eirlys catted her way into the triage room, and stared at the staff with a sharp gaze. But to the best of her scanty knowledge, they were doing all the right things: inserting needles into Kaiju's veins, arranging brain scans, making simple neurological tests.
Without warning, Kaiju started hammering her left shoulder into the gurney. "Ow! ow, I can't stop that .. it hurts.."
A nurse touched her forehead. "You're having a seizure, honey. Can you hold your left arm with your right?"
Kaiju tried, but her seizing arm was too strong and wild. Her shoulder hurt intensely, as if the seizure was using all the strength in her muscle.
"We're going to give you an injection of an antispasmodic, it'll stop that seizure. A needle penetrated her arm, cold and sour, but in a moment the seizure faded, leaving a sore shoulder and a few bruises. "Now wer'e going to radiology, gonna look inside and see what's going on in that brain of yours."
Strong aides lifted Kaiju to a gurney, scooted her along hallways. Eirlys tried to follow, but an insistent tech informed her that the scan would go better without an audience, and eventually corralled her in a waiting room.
Kaiju wasa placed in a strong plastic tube, suffused by a mighty magnetic field, filled with mysterious crashes and deep rhythmic thumping. Visions of giant robots with sugarplums may have danced in her head.
Then, horribly, the seizure returned, harsher than before. Kaiju involuntarily slammed the plastic tube repeatedly. She heard the technicians saying, "We can't get a good scan while he's doing that. Nothing about the situation seemed conducive to an explanation of her gender; she felt, correctly, she had worse things to worry about.
Another needle stabbed her forearm. A thousand years later, the seizure abated. "OK, ready to scan? Go right now, in case he seizes again."
The sugarplum robots returned. Kaiju was slid forwards and back in the plastic tube, wherein were nightmares and claustrophobia, cacophony and endless din, and marvels of technology that even the gods were in awe of.
Ten thousand years later, Eirlys came to her wife's side, stroked her cheek with the smooth sides of her claws. "Good girl, you got through that. They got good scans. They'll figure out what to do next. Rest now ... how are you feeling?"
"Shoulder hurts. Need you to make me a magic lotion," said Kaiju.
"With all my craft and all my power," said Eirlys.
"Here comes the doctor. We'll get this sorted out soon. At least learn what's going on."
Doctor Aguilar wore the expression that you never want to see your doctor wear. Kaiju was huddled on the gurney that had carried her to and from radiology, still wrapped in sheets to restrain her rebellious arm in case of further seizures. Eirlys meshed her stubby clawed fingers with Kaiju's. "It'll be ok."
Kaiju looked up at the doctor's expression. "It looks to me like you're about to try to prove my wife wrong about things being ok."
"The MRI did come out a bit unusual," said the doctor. He arranged with orderlies to bring the couple into Examination Room 21, and sent messages to two other doctors.
"If you're already asking for consultations, I am scared already, said Kaiju.
"It's just a little unusual. Doctor Venkssen has some relevant
background." Abbreviated introductions were made, and the history of
the evening summarized for the benefit of anyone who might have missed
the last three summaries, which was no one.
"So, what are these unusual MRI results?" asked Kaiju. Dr. Aguilar poked at a keyboard. "Just for background, this is a textbook MRI of one of the things I was anticipating. Remember, this is *not* your brain." The image was a rough white oval, mostly full of striated white matter, with occasional black spots and blotches, and a fat black X shape in the center. "Briefly, the streaky white stuff is brain. These black features are the ordinary gaps in the human brain. The heavy white outline is the skull.
"I had gotten *that* far," said Kaiju.
" A stroke will show up as a murky black region in this form of
imaging, " said Dr. Aquilar.
"And here's yours," said Dr. Venkssen, who may have done poorly in "bedside manner" training, or may simply have understood Eirlys's and Kaiju's impatience.
"No murky black region at least ... no stroke?" said Eirlys hopefully.
"Right. That's the good news," said Dr. Aguilar.
"Here's the unusual feature," said Dr. Venkssen.
Kaiju's MRI brain image was shot through with heavy white structures, articulated and interconnected.
"It looks like my brain is full of bones...?" said Kaiju.
"It looks like there's some kind of animal skeleton in your brain!" said Eirlys. "It could be a winged cat."
"I know your mother doesn't like me that much. Could she have done
... this? Stuff a dead cat skeleton into my skull?"
"I don't know even a fraction of her powers; she probably could. I am
going to talk to her as soon as the doctors tell us what they know."
"So, the skeleton could account for the stroke-like symptoms and seizure. Animal skeletons do not show up in brains naturally, so Eirlys's mother — whom I gather is a goddess — would seem to be the place to start for cause or cure," said Dr. Venkssen.
"Surgery isn't an option, right?" asked Kaiju.
"Carefully removing an anomalous complex object like that skeleton from a brain, without causing terrible brain damage on the way ... it doesn't sound ... um ..." Dr. Venkssen trailed off.
"Possible, doctor. It doesn't sound possible, you'd be scraping brain off of dozens of little bones, and basically pulping it. Dr. Venkssen nodded in agreement, saying "Unless the supernatural source somehow arranged to make it easy. Which is hardly something to count on."
I think it's time to go grovelling to my inlaws, " said Kaiju.
Eirlys extended her claws, and slashed at the innocent air. "*MOM*! You are being absolutely horrible, even for a goddess!"
Bastet manifested in Examination Room 21, taking the form of an
anthropormorphic black cat wearing a purple skirt and a loose white
tunic. Her tailtip twitched. "In what way am I being horrible?"
"Look at this MRI of Kaiju's head. Or are you saying that some *other* cat goddess manifested a winged cat skeleton in your new and disliked daughter-in-law's brain?" Eirlys's tail was whipping back and forth furiously.
Bastet extended a shining claw, and pointed at the MRI. "This isn't a cat skeleton. Cat necks are not a foot long, for one thing. The facial structure isnt at all right. The claws in Kaiju's brain are fixed --- yours and mine are retractable. And what's that blade thing on the end of the tail, like no cat ever had?"
Eirlys licked her forearms, frowned at herself for it. "You're explaining why what happened isn't what I thought, So ... did you do it insome bizarre and not very catty way? What do we need to do to get you to undo it?"
Bastet said, "I had nothing whatsoever to do with this. Not with my
own powers, not by borrowed powers or favors --- in no way, at no
time, in no place between the arch of heaven and the death-river
beneath the material world, not in past or present or future or
subjunctive. I do not approve of your marrriage in all its features
and intricacies, but ... it is yours, and you can untangle the
inevitable messes yourselves."
"Except maybe for someone teleporting an animal skeleton into my brain," said Kaiju.
"I *will* work on that," said Bastet. "And call in favors."
Another divine presence manifested in Examination Room 21, for a brief
moment veiled with an atmosphere of red and gold wings, and spoke in
words like curling incense. This one came veiled with an atmosphere
of polychromatic wings. "Seek in Arima, at Catacecaumene
--- Not for cats, but for dragons."
Bastet said, "This is a trip I do not take once a century."
"To Arima?" asked Eirlys.
"No — of Arima I know nothing. To Olympus, to petition Zeus," said Bastet.
"This is going to be expensive,lots of favors, it sounds like," said Eirlys.
Bastet flicked her tail. "You and Kaiju are what's important now. Later on I will botherate you more about your poor life choices. At which point I recommend Cat Attitude #3, the one which says 'You are saying things almost as if I should bother to comprehend or care about them.'"
"What are cell phone rates in Catacecaumene like? My plan has crappy roaming," said Kaiju. Eirlys squeezed her wife's hand.
"Kai!" said Kaiju's mother. "It worries me so much, what you are doing with your life and your soul. This Hair-Louse girl, who isn't a real girl ... I think she is a demon. I think she wants to eat your soul."
"Her name is Eirlys. She's transgender, like me. She is a demigod,
not a demon. Her mother is the Angel of Cats. Right here." Kaiju
had prepared for this visit home, bringing a copy of Johns's Angels,
with a bookmark in the chapter of animals' angels. Kaiju didn't think
much of monotheistic angelology, but she knew her parents.
"Kai, this is what you say. But why would an angel's child be transgender?"
Kaiju frowned, "I can't explain why *anyone* is transgender — I can't explain why *I* am."
"It is a punishment on me for the sins," said Kai's mother.
"It is no such thing," said Kaiju. "And if you're going to keep on with that line, I am going back to my apartment for the evening. My gender is *my* gender, and not about you at all."
"You sound upset. Bad time with your parents again?" Eirlys wrote.
"My big-eared friend, how can even *you* tell how I sound, when I'm typing to you in a messenger window," said Kaiju.
"You're typing fast and not capitalizing words," said Eirlys.
"Bite me. I didn't ask for a technique critique," Kaiju snapped.
"That's just how I can tell, You type differently when you're upset," Eirlys answered.
"Oh.... that does make sense. Yeah. Mom called you a demon, and all that kind of thing," Kaiju answered. She commiserated for a while. "Ugh. I ought to call mine, too," said Eirlys. I haven't quite told her about you yet."
Bastet didn't generally use a cell phone. Eirlys unwrapped a cheap resin-plastic statuette of a black cat with a gold necklace, and booped it on the nose. "Hi, Mom."
"Eirlys!" said the statuette. "Good to hear from you!"
" Good to hear you too — and thanks for using the right name."
"I'm getting used to it. Exactly why my black-furred kitten wants to be called as a white winter flower ["Eirlys" means "snowdrop"] is beyond me, but if I were picking a fight that wouldn't be my top choice."
"What would be?" asked Eirlys, unwisely.
"How bad an idea it is to fall in love with a human," said Bastet.
"Have you been spying on me again?"
"With every cat in the world eager to gossip about you, I can't really help it. Especially if you're standing on a balcony kissing your new human boy."
"Actually, a girl. Kaiju's her name."
"My spy needs to get her nose in order. Said she smelled male."
"Your spy's nose is fine. Kaiju smells like me, and for exactly the
"My spy definitely said 'human-smelling', and that is very not you,"
said the goddess.
"Kaiju is transgender — that's part of how we met," said Eirlys.
"I suppose it's good to have some hobbies in common, especially if you're dating outside your species," said Bastet.
"I'm close enough to human for this," said Eirlys.
"Really? How do you feel when a female cat in heat crosses upwind of you?"
"Lesbian. I feel lesbian," said Eirlys. "Like usual."
"Except you're not responding to your girl's pheromones, you're responding to some other animal's."
"Kaiju *has* figured out that I go like a cat, lots of the time. Not exactly sure what was her clue, but these humans are clever," said Eirlys. "Did I tell you I'm starting up a perfume boutique?
"You did," said Bastet.
"So I gave Kai a bottle of 'special' perfume, pheromone charged, for
when she wants to catch my interest in that particular way," said
"Huh, that's clever. I never thought of that," said Bastet. "That could have saved a dozen of my moreawkward love affairs with humans, over the centuries. Not that I could get pheromones commercially in the Old Kingdom days when I was dating the most seriously. "
"Gotta think like a human more, Mom. They're clever with tools and technologies. Did you know they can put delicious meat pastes in metal cans?
"My spies *did* mention that to me. Every day or so."
"Hi Eirlys! This is your friendly neighborhood web designer Kaiju with a couple questions about what you’d like for the ARTA site,” when Eirlys answered her phone.
“Heh, you almost made it to “friendly neighborhood spider man” there, web-spinner!”
“And pretty much neighborhood,too. The address on your check is like four blocks away. I hope that doesn’t sound too stalker-y. “No, it’s fine. I’m glad to know some other transgender people in the area. It just feels safer … cozier.,” said Eirlys.
“It does, at that. There are a dozen of us in three blocks — trans, or partners, or just friends. When I was first getting used to dressing femme and going outside, walking down the block here was … absolutely terrifying, but less than most other blocks were,” said Kaiju.
“I’ haven’t gotten that far yet.”
“Which is kind of my web question. Do you want a picture of yourself on the site? For nearly anyone in your position I would recommend a picture. You’re setting up a little cult of personality around your perfuming, and an image will help with that. “ Eirliys snorted But I totally get not wanting to have a picture up now, especially if you haven’t put together a look that you like … or that you can stand.”
“It’s going to be about forever before that.”( Collapse )