Noz ~ a story by Mike Cooley

Noz

By Mike Cooley

The thump woke me up. Noz looked at me, blood dripping from his fangs. The body was on the floor in the kitchen; she looked young. The cigarette between my stained fingers was still lit and my hair was matted against the side of my face. I was lying on the ratty couch and an empty bottle of something cheap was on the carpet between me and the dark glass table. The cabin smelled ashes, spilled red wine, and fate.

“Noz. What have I told you about bringing home strangers?” I nodded toward the young lady, who was lying on her back, motionless and pale. Her hair was sandy blonde, and she was wearing a jade necklace, a turquoise blouse, and black shorts. The smell of her perfume wafted toward me, floral and ephemeral.

Nozfuratu’s satisfied grin morphed into a look of apology. He licked his left paw and smoothed his ebony hair back, trying to act nonchalant. “Mrow?” Other than the inverted white cross on his forehead, he was pitch black. It wasn’t immediately obvious how a feline of his relatively small size was able to take down a human and drag her all the way home, but I had long since given up trying to figure that part out.

I sat up with a groan, the inside of my skull pounding like a kodo drum, grabbed the kit off the table, and then beaconed Noz with a curled finger. “Come here. You know the drill.”

He sheepishly approached, after looking over his shoulder to make sure his prize was still there. Then he stopped in front of me and bared his teeth, holding still. The aura around him flickered with power.

I moved the test strip close and took a crimson drop off his incisor, then I inserted it into the tester and waited. “AB Negative? What have I told you about that, Noz?”

His ears flattened and he looked at me with apprehension. Then he gave me his best sad eyes.

“Can’t you smell the difference? I know we discussed this. If you have to hunt, you need to stick to O Positive or A Positive. I’m running out of everything else.” I wagged a finger at him. “You know how dangerous it is for me to leave.” I gestured at the walls of my cabin, nestled deep in the woods west of Duluth. There were piles of books and magazines all over and it looked like a small windstorm had just blown through. Shelves fastened to the walls contained a strange assortment of artifacts including silver rocket ships, moon rocks, and particle detectors.

Noz nodded with understanding, but his eyes were defiant and wise. His long tail twitched back and forth hypnotically.

The girl on the floor was still motionless. I stood and stretched, then rubbed the sand out of my eyes. Noz followed me into the kitchen, around the girl, and to the fridge. I opened the door, exposing row after row of blood bags, hanging from metal rods. I pushed them to the left, looking for the rare AB. There was one bag of it, near the back, so I grabbed it and then shut the door. There were dusty photos of crop circles taped to the front of the refrigerator and a few pictures of people that used to admit they knew me.

Noz trotted over to a ceramic bowl on the floor and lapped up some water.

I hooked the bag onto a metal stand near the broken television, then picked up the girl and laid her down gently on the couch. Then I wheeled the stand closer, and propped the girl’s head up on a pillow that was closer to clean than the rest of my place. Noz watched with great interest as I sterilized the needle with my lighter, let it cool, and then eased it into her arm.

Noz crept up to the side of the couch and peered up at her, his long black hair making him look bigger than he actually was. He sniffed her skin and then licked her pale face.

“Give her some space, Noz. You almost killed her. Why does a little guy like you need so much blood, anyway? You got a hollow leg?” I dodged the stack of Ancient Aliens magazines and pulled another bottle of cabernet out of a cardboard box on the floor. The cabin was a mess and smelled of damp cigarette butts, booze, and loneliness. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a real visitor.  Not many people knew where I was—and that’s how I liked it.

I sat down in my padded leather chair near a stained glass floor lamp, on the other side of the glass table from the girl. She looked like she was in her twenties, slight of build and a bit scuffed up from being dragged by Noz. I pulled the cork and poured a glass of dark red, then lit a Marlboro and took a drag. The ashtray on the night stand next to my chair was full of  filters and ash. There were empty beer cans on every horizontal surface.

Noz sniffed the girl’s hair one more time, then walked over, jumped into my lap, and curled up in a ball. His eyes closed and he began to purr. He smelled of power, like he did every time he brought someone back, and he felt heavier than he looked, like he was made of warm granite or lead.

I lifted the red, inhaled the aroma, and swirled it. Then I tilted it up, finishing my glass and pouring another. I looked around the inside of the cabin for signs that anyone had been there while I was passed out, but the haphazard clutter seemed the same as the night before. I didn’t remember when the voices had dimmed and let me fall asleep, but it had to have been hours ago.

The girl’s eyes fluttered open. They were blue and filled with confusion, which changed to awareness, and then panic as she scanned the room and stopped on me. “Where? Where am I? Who are you?”

“Noz dragged you home.” I gestured toward his sleeping form in my lap. “But he took too much blood, so I gave you back a pint.” I pointed at the metal stand and the hanging crimson bag, which was half empty.

She looked around the dirty, cluttered living room until her eyes fixed on the front door. Then she looked back at me. Her eyes shone with defiance, rather than fear. She tried to sit up and then slumped back down, closing her eyes for a moment.

“You’re not afraid.” I took the last drag from my cigarette, ashing it out in the octagonal glass ashtray to my left, then I exhaled slowly toward the front door. The window to the right of the door revealed only darkness beyond.

“Should I be?” She sat up on the couch again and groaned, reaching toward the bite mark on her throat. “Are you trying to tell me that little thing brought me here?” She pointed at Noz.

I nodded. “He’s a vampire.”

“Your cat is a vampire?”

“Would you like some wine? You lost a lot of blood.” I slid Noz off my lap onto the chair and stood slowly, then reached down into the crate for the last bottle. The girl didn’t flinch or try to scramble off the couch. “Normally they try to run when they wake up.”

“I’m not a runner.” She looked at the blood bag hanging from the metal stand, and then down at the tape on her arm.

“My cat bit you, sucked your blood, and then dragged you home; I’m a black man, somewhat disheveled, and you don’t know where you are.” I pulled the cork, poured my glass full and then poured half a glass and set it down on the table within reach of the girl.

Noz woke up and jumped down onto the dirty, wooden floor. Then he walked over to the couch and looked up at the girl as if apologizing.

“Somewhat?” She reached down and petted him. “I’m Nalia. Noz is cute. What if I leave and tell the police what happened?”

“You won’t remember me when you leave. No one does.” I rubbed my unshaven chin and took a gulp of wine. I looked down at my stained t-shirt and grungy pants. I couldn’t remember the last time I had showered.

Nalia reached for her glass, then lifted it to her lips and took a small, experimental sip.

“It’s safe. Same bottle.” I raised my glass. “Sorry about the bite and the scratches… Noz gets hungry.”

“This happens a lot? Where are the other girls?” Nalia patted the couch next to her and Noz jumped up.

“They left after I gave them some blood back. Halfway through the woods they forgot all about us.”

“So you’re magic?”

“Noz is. I’m just a man with a troubled mind.”

“Troubled, dangerous?”

“Not to you.”

“Can he turn into a bat?” Nalia scratched Noz behind the ears.

“No. But he doesn’t show up in mirrors, and rarely goes out before dark. Garlic doesn’t bother him and silver bullets can’t kill him.”

“You look a little rough. You all right?” Nalia leaned forward and looked me up and down.

“It’s been a rough couple of lifetimes. It gets a bit noisy up here.” I tapped my temple. “Why didn’t you run when you woke up?”

“My Mom says I’m different. That I embrace risk.” She took a bigger sip of cabernet and looked at the bookshelf full of Alchemy tomes against the far wall.

“And that’s what you think?” I let the voices inside wash over me like an ocean wave, and then they receded to a dull murmur. They were trying to tell me something about Nalia, but I couldn’t make it out. It was all static.

“No. Well, yes—I am different. But it’s not about risk. What about you?”

“I believe I was born under a pyramid. And I’m a patchwork of ghosts.”

“How’s that possible?”

“Sometimes when people die, and I’m close enough, their ghost passes through me—and sticks. Then I have another voice up here.” I pointed at my forehead. “I have attracted the attention of the wrong beings.”

Noz galloped across the room and jumped to the top of the bookcase, peering down at us like a gargoyle; then he closed his amber eyes.

“Is this a kidnapping?” Nalia watched Noz on his perch. She brushed her pale hair back behind her ears and continued absorbing the details around her as if cataloguing them so she could describe everything to the authorities. She sniffed the air experimentally and then her nose wrinkled.

“More of a cat napping.” I pointed to Noz, who remained still. “You are free to leave at any time. But the GeoSat rays are strong right now, so you might wanna wait…”

“Rays?” Nalia leaned forward and raised an eyebrow. Her blouse was covered with butterflies and the jade stone was fastened to her necklace with silver wire. Her fingernails were painted dark purple, matching her lips. She was wearing tennis shoes.

Noz vaulted from the top of the bookcase, stretched out to catch the air, and glided down to Nalia, landing on her shoulder.

“He’s yours now.” I took a drag of filtered death and then turned my head and exhaled away from Nalia toward the back room. The cabin had one main room with a kitchen, a bathroom, and one bedroom.

“You can’t just give me your cat.”

“Noz is allowed to have pets. But only one at a time.” I smiled. “Wanna test your legs and get me a beer?”

Nalia pulled the needle out of her arm with a grimace and then reapplied the tape to her arm where it had been pierced. The bag on the stand was nearly empty. Then she stood up, her stance belying the fact that she was ready to bolt. She wavered a bit, like a palm tree in an ocean breeze, and then stabilized. “Why did you say the rays are strong?” She turned toward the fridge.

Noz remained on her shoulder, enjoying the ride. He nuzzled against her left ear and began to purr.

“You’re an anomaly. They’ve noticed.” I pointed up toward the sky.

Nalia opened the fridge and gasped at the rows of hanging bags. “That’s a lotta blood.”

“Nozfuratu is a good hunter. Beer’s in the bottom drawer.”

Nalia grabbed two Castle Danger’s and tossed one my way. “Catch!”

I caught it and popped open the can. “Thanks.”

She nodded, walked back over to the couch, and sat down, cracking her beer open and taking a gulp. “What do you mean I’m an anomaly? What did I do?”

“It’s not what you did… it’s what you are. You’re an energy channeler.”

“A what?”

“You might be more familiar with the term, witch.”

“My parents are normal. I was born through the woods and down the hill, on the shore of Lake Superior.” Nalia pointed.

“One or both of your parents is not. One thing abnormals are really good at… is hiding it. Outsiders are in constant danger on this world.”

“How can you tell what I am?”

“The glow around your left ring finger.”

Nalia held up her hand. “I don’t see anything.”

“I see a lot of things.” I drank half the ale and lit another cigarette. “Are you feeling better?”

“A little weak. Last thing I remember is the little bastard leaping for my throat.” Nalia grabbed Noz by the scruff of the neck and shook him gently. “I was out for a walk. Getting some air. Trying to leave my troubles behind.”

“I know a thing or three about trouble.”

“What are you doing hiding in the woods?”

“Iron Ore.” I drank the rest of the beer, crumpled the can, and tossed it across the room into a basket full of empties.

“Pardon?” Nalia took another sip then set her beer down on the table. “Those things will kill ya.”

I looked down at the Marlboro, then rubbed the stubble on my chin. “It’s not that easy. The iron helps disburse the rays—from up there—so I can sleep.” I pointed at the ceiling, which was dusty and festooned with cobwebs.

“Are you one of those Flat Earthers?” Nalia laughed.

“I’m a Multiple Earther. That which you think you know is nothing more than a thin veil over what actually exists.”

“I’m not a witch.” Nalia tilted her can up and emptied it, then set it down on the table.

Noz jumped onto her lap and curled up.

“But you have powers. ”

“Not useful ones, like dodging flying vampire cats.”

“I know this is a lot to ask, but would you consider helping me?”

“How often do you have strange girls in your house?”

“Ladies.”

“Don’t change the subject.” Nalia pointed at me and her aura grew larger. There was a blue glow around her hands that crept up her arms toward her shoulders.

“It’s not polite to point.”

“Considering the circumstances, I don’t believe that you are occupying the high ground here. Right, Noz?” Nalia looked down at the dark fluff.

Noz opened one eye, then nodded and smiled.

“Could you help me transfer my energy signature to Eagle Mountain? It will be dangerous.”

“Hold on. You want me to carry your energy away from here?”

“No. I will walk there, with you. And then we will perform the ceremony. It’s the only way to break the GeoSat link. Noz will come with us, for protection.”

Noz stretched and then looked from Nalia toward the front door.

“What if he gets hungry again?”

“He won’t be hungry again for a few days. But he might bite some things.”

Nalia picked up a magazine and looked at the cover. “Why do you have all these Alien Artifact ‘Zines?” She opened it up and scanned all the handwritten notes in the margins and then the circled phrases and images.

“Research.”

“So, you’re nuts because of these GeoSat beams?” Nalia closed the magazine and set it down on the table.

“I was always nuts. But once they found me here, they’ve redoubled their efforts and I’m pinned down like a bug on a needle under a magnifying glass. They know my frequency.”

Nalia looked at the front window and then at her watch. “It’s eleven. What if we take too long and the sun comes up while we are hiking in the woods with Noz?”

I stood up, walked down the hall to the bedroom door, opened it, and grabbed the carved wooden box from the night stand. Then I turned, walked back into the living room, and held it up. “I’ll bring his nest. We can put him in it before sunrise.” I set the box down on the glass table in front of her.

“You have a coffin for your cat?” Nalia smirked.

“Your cat. Although he doesn’t much care for the idea of a human owning him. As far as Noz is concerned, you are his.”

Nalia scratched Noz under the chin. “One bite and you think you own me?”

Noz bared his teeth and pretended he was going to bite Nalia again but instead lightly nibbled.

“So you will help me? It’s not too much of an imposition? You’re not afraid… of me?” I sat down in my chair and closed my eyes, feeling the rays outside searching for me while the ghosts inside tried to escape through my breath.

“It appears that you are only a danger to yourself. And I wasn’t going anywhere when Noz bit me and drained my blood. I was just walking in the trees, trying to absorb some positive thoughts from the old ones.”

I opened my grey eyes and leaned forward. “Oh, I’m dangerous. But not to women. Right, Noz?”

Noz perked up and looked from me to Nalia, then dipped his chin.

“Why me?” Nalia held up her left hand and examined her fingers. “I don’t see any glow.”

“You have become accustomed to your power. It lies beneath the surface like a smooth lake under ice. But I am lucky Noz found you. He is wise beyond his years.”

Nalia went to the fridge and grabbed two more beers, tossing me one. Then she cracked hers open. “I’m in. But no funny stuff.”

“Hiking up a mountain with an old man and a vampire cat while being scanned by GeoSats doesn’t count as funny stuff?” I opened my eyes wide and then grinned.

“How far is it?” Nalia drank half of her Castle Danger, then set the can down. “I better use your bathroom first.”

I pointed down the hallway to the left. “It’s about four hours to the top from here. If we don’t get attacked.”

Noz ran ahead of Nalia and popped into the bathroom. There was a thump and then the light clicked on.

Nalia laughed and followed him.

I sipped my beer and smoked another death stick while Nalia took care of business. Then I slipped the remainder of the Marlboro pack into my shirt pocket along with a lighter, grabbed a knife and slid it inside my boot sheath, and then packed Noz’s carved wooden nest into a backpack.

Nalia and Noz emerged from the bathroom and came back into the living room.

Noz looked excited. He knew we were going somewhere.

“Ready?” I stood up and slung the backpack over my shoulders.

Nalia nodded.

I opened the front door and headed outside.

Nalia and Noz followed. She closed the door behind her.

Thetrees towered above us and the faint glow of the moon shone through a layer of clouds. The forest smelled of pine. I followed the winding dirt trail and scanned the thick underbrush. Nalia and Noz were close behind me. I pulled a cigarette from my front shirt pocket and lit it, then took a puff.

“What’s your name anyway? And what are you looking for in the woods?” Nalia looked over at me.

Noz hung close to her legs, his ears perked and his eyes wide. He was watching the woods, too, and smelling the air.

“Isaac. I’m watching for manifestations. Noz can smell them.”

“Manifest what?”

“The GeoSat beams know where I am. And they can produce… creatures.”

“So we are in danger? I thought it would just be bears or cougars.” Nalia looked down at Noz who was peering up at the tree tops.

“The Manifests are deadly. But I have a knife.” I pointed at my boot. “And Noz.”

“And me.” Nalia smiled. “So these ‘Sats are aliens that want to kill you?”

“In a way. But not flying saucer aliens. They know I can expose them, so they want to keep me isolated. I know where they’re from, and that they’re trying to change the future.” I walked faster. There was a smell that I recognized wafting through the air. It was like burnt cinnamon mixed with rotten leaves.

Noz growled and then shot ahead of us.

“There’re here.” I crouched, then reached into my left boot and pulled out the hunting knife.

Nalia’s eyes grew wide. She stopped in the middle of the winding trail and took a defensive stance. “I don’t see anything.”

“Open your mind.”

Three blue beams erupted from the midnight sky, piercing the darkness. There was a crackle of energy and then the creatures were upon us. They were misshaped and hairy, like melted gorillas from a different world. Their hands had too many fingers and their eyes were scattered around on their faces, asymmetrically.

“Jesus.” Nalia extended her left hand and a green glow sprang up around her, shimmering like a translucent egg.

Noz flew through the air and hit the first manifestation in the head, fangs extended. His momentum knocked the creature down and they both rolled down the hill to our left.

“Feel your energy. It springs from within. Shield us and I will take these two on.” I lunged forward and stabbed the closest creature. The steel blade pierced its cold skin. It screamed with a voice that sounded like metal ripping, and raked me with obsidian talons, tearing my shirt and drawing blood. An acrid smell filled my nostrils.

Nalia went to one knee, and the green aura extended around her like a bubble.

The second creature dashed itself against the bubble in anger, but the shield held.

“I don’t know how to do this.” Naila’s face showed fear and she was trembling; sweat ran down her forehead.

“It’s not necessary to know. It’s not something you learn; it’s something you are. Feel the flow and stay in it. You are a conduit.” I spun to my right and the second creature barreled into me, pinning me to the ground. The knife dropped out of my hand, slick with the blue blood of the creature I had stabbed.

Noz popped out of the bushes, his muzzle and head covered with the blood of the creature he had wrestled down the hill. He pounced on the back of the one that had me pinned and started biting it.

The manifest on top of me screamed like a rusty hangar door and rolled off, scrabbling at its back with both arms, trying to dislodge Nozfuratu.

The third creature battered against Nalia’s shield over and over, trying to reach her. Each time it hit the barrier, it drove her back and the shield weakened. The green glow of her power crackled and sputtered. Nalia was on both knees, sweat drenching her body. “I can’t hold it. I can’t.”

“One more minute. You can do it.” I rolled to my left, grabbed the knife, and plunged it into the creature Noz was biting. It shimmered and then dissolved into dark azure smoke, which drifted away on the night’s breeze leaving nothing but the echo of its last scream.

Noz screeched and turned toward Nalia as her shield collapsed and the last manifestation knocked her to the ground.

Nalia screamed and raised her arms, trying to knock the creature off.

The creature wrapped both of its powerful hands around her neck and squeezed. It was making a gibbering noise and its many eyes were wide open and staring.

Nalia’s screams stopped and she went limp.

Noz bit the creature, draining blood while pulling it off of her.

I stabbed it in the head and it turned to smoke like the others.

“Nalia?” I examined her neck, which was bruised but not broken. She was breathing.

Noz rubbed against her anxiously, his face near hers. Then he licked her lips.

“Wha? Christ!” Nalia’s eyes fluttered open and then she coughed and sat up, clutching her throat. “That was close.”

“Now you see why I don’t leave my cabin.”

“Thanks for saving me, Noz.” Nalia rubbed under his chin.

Noz purred like a tiny chainsaw and then licked his paw trying to clean his face of the creature’s blood.

I wiped the viscous blue off my knife and then sheathed it in my boot. “You feel well enough to keep walking?”

Nalia nodded and stood up. She rubbed her neck and moved her head around in a circle carefully, checking for pain.

I started walking along the dirt trail again. It was getting steeper as we passed the base of the mountain.

“How far to the cave? Are we going to run into any more manifestations?”

“We are getting close.” I reached for another cigarette, but the pack was empty. “The creatures don’t usually manifest again, right after an attack.”

We walked for another twenty minutes before I held up a hand. I could see beams scanning the woods all around us, and the glow of eyes watching from the trees. “We’re here. It’s off to the right, behind that outcropping.” I pointed.

“I don’t know what to do. I’m not really a witch, you know.” Nalia reached down and grabbed Noz, then put him on her shoulder.

“I know you don’t think you are. You’ve been conditioned by humans. They’ve taught you to suppress it. They’ve made you forget what you really are.”

I led the way off the trail and into the mouth of the cave.

“Now what?” Nalia pulled a flashlight out of a pocket on the backpack and illuminated the hollow.

The cave was twenty feet high and deep enough we couldn’t see the end. The rock walls were covered with moss, and the dirt floor was littered with pebbles and small bones.

“You are going to extract my essence and coat the cave walls with it. That will trick the GeoSats into thinking I’m here. You will have to nearly kill me, or it won’t work.”

“But I don’t know how.”

“Noz will help.” I laid down on the cave floor and stretched out my arms. “Reach down to my chest and find the edge of my essence.”

Nalia knelt down beside me and placed her hands on my chest. “But what—what if you die?”

“There are worse ways to die than looking at beauty.”

Noz leapt down from Nalia’s shoulder, and took up a position to my right. He looked up at Nalia expectantly.

“Close your eyes and feel the essence within me. It will feel like warm gelatin. And it will pulse with fire. It will burn.”

“I think. I think I can feel it.” Nalia spread her hands and began to pull them upward.

Noz gave a worried meep, placing his face close to mine.

I felt the warm rush of my life force draining, as if my blood was evaporating, and I grew faint. “Take my essence, and paint the walls with it.”

Nalia crouched over me, fear in her eyes.

Everything began to spin in a dreamlike spiral. I could smell freshly turned earth and pine trees. The ghosts within me sprang free and hung in the air like paper lanterns.

She spread her fingers and a pulsing glow sprang from her hands. She reached into my chest and pulled on my heart. Then she pulled her hands back and my energy flowed upward and out of me.

My eyes closed.

Nalia flung her hands upward and outward, spraying bits of my essence over the inside of the cave like spatters of gold.

Noz nuzzled my cheek. “Mrrow.”

A sigh escaped my lips and I exhaled. I felt no need to inhale anymore. The weight of the world rose off of me like a shimmer of light. There was a vibration within my chest like the rumble of faraway thunder. I could smell coffee. Memories flickered by like moths.

Nalia’s eyes widened. “Oh, no you don’t!” She pounded my chest with her fists.

“I’m not leaving you.” My voice was no more than a whisper. “But I’m too weak to walk. Noz will have to drag me far away from here before my essence is detectable again.”

Noz bit down on my pant leg and dragged me from the cave as if I weighed nothing. Above the rocky opening in the side of the mountain the GeoSat beams danced, scanning the area. They played across the cave opening while dreams of the ancients flickered into life behind my eyelids. Ghosts danced and swirled through my consciousness like flickering fireflies.

“Isaac? Are you alive?” Nalia crouched over me. Her voice sounded far away.

My eyes opened. Noz was perched on my chest and I was lying on my back. Trees rose above me and it was nearing dawn. I could hear the chirping of birds as the forest began to wake. “I am. Where are we?”

“About halfway back. Noz dragged you.” Nalia’s blue eyes showed concern and her lips were a tight line.

“And the beams?”

“They didn’t follow. They were scanning the top of the mountain behind us.”

“We need to get Noz in his nest.” I sat up and the forest swirled around me. I fought the urge to black out and squeezed my temples.

Nalia pulled Noz’s coffin out of the backpack and set it on the ground, then opened it. The outside was carved walnut while the inside was red velvet. The hinges and clasps were golden. “Time for your nap, Noz.”

A warm, red glow sprang up from the eastern horizon, filtering through the brush like blood.

I grabbed Nozfuratu and held him to my chest, grasping him tight. Then I looked into his eyes. “You take care of her.”

Noz rested his head on my shoulder for a moment, then jumped off of me and into his nest, curling into a ball. He looked up at Nalia expectantly then lifted a paw in my direction.

I held up a hand, palm open and let a wash of feelings swirl through me like an undercurrent in a fierce river.

She closed the lid and latched it. “He’s in. Can you walk?”

I struggled to my feet. “As long as I can lean on you a little. We need to get back to my cabin before my strength comes back, or the GeoSats will detect me.”

“They were scanning the cave when we dragged you out of there.”

“I think you did it, Nalia. They will believe I’m still there.” I leaned against her and walked as fast as I could. Each step was harder than the next and I was barely able to lift my feet. My bones were weary, but I wasn’t going to waste the chance.

The sun was kissing the ground to the east, red turning to golden, rays cascading through the leaves when we got back to the cabin.

Nalia pulled open the front door and dragged me to the couch where I collapsed as everything went black.

Shewas sitting on the leather chair keeping an eye on me when I woke up, a beer in each hand. Her aura was bright and undulated around her like a ghostly shell.

“Feeling better?” Nalia leaned forward. “You look dazed.”

I sat up and looked around the room, spotting Noz’s wooden nest on the glass table in front of me. “I’m feeling free. I can’t hear the beams.” I looked up at the ceiling. “Best sleep I’ve had in years. How long was I out?”

Nalia smiled. “It’s dusk. You slept all day.” She held a beer up in the direction of the front window, where daylight was beginning to fade. “What now?”

“You are free to go. I owe you my life. Take Noz with you.” I leaned forward, unlatched the coffin, and opened the lid.

Noz opened one amber eye, then the other, then vaulted out of his coffin in one swift motion. He stretched and preened, his face lighting up when he saw Nalia.

Nalia walked to the fridge, grabbed a handful of blood bags, and jammed them into the backpack. Then she pulled the pack onto her shoulders and reached down to pet Noz’s head. “You sure you’ll be okay without us?”

I nodded. “They won’t know where I am for awhile. Perhaps long enough for me to escape them.”

“I believe in you.” Nalia walked over, placed a hand on my shoulder, then leaned down and kissed my cheek.

“Be careful, Nalia. They know who you are now.”

Nalia smiled. “I will, Isaac. I will.”

Noz ran across the room, leapt up to the door handle, and turned it with his weight. He locked eyes with me and raised his chin with pride.

Emotion welled up in Nalia’s eyes. She touched a finger to her lips and looked away before her face could betray her.

The front door swung open, and then they were gone.

* * *

From Mike Cooley:

mdc-author-shot-1

I am a science fiction and fantasy writer by night, and a software engineer by day. I have written many science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories. I grew up in Washington State, went to college in New Mexico, and ended up in Minnesota. My top influences are Phillip K. Dick and James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon). I could name another hundred writers that have influenced me and my work, but that would be a bit excessive.

~ Mike Cooley

Tangled Tales

From Juliette:

I love this story so much.

I can’t even express how honored I am to feature this story from my friend and  author Mike Cooley. Thank you Mike.

Mike’s blog Last Writes Fantastical Tales of Madness and Mayhem can be found HERE (click here.) There you’ll find his blog, his books, contact information, and some of the best new science fiction, fantasy, and horror available today.

His work is also featured in several WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants) Anthologies.

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Over the next few months I’ll be featuring other talented guest authors.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Inspire (it isn’t a dirty word)

In my home I have a wall of bookshelves. Don’t we all. There are also more books scattered all over the house on other shelves as well. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from film maker John Waters, ““If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ’em!”

John Waters also said, “It wasn’t until I started reading and found books they wouldn’t let us read in school that I discovered you could be insane and happy and have a good life without being like everybody else.”

But back to what I was looking for. I was looking for a book about California art, but ended up on the other side of the wall looking at poetry and literature.

Then something in my mind just shattered. It was my current WIP (work in progress.) The structure is there but there had to be more. The characters need to care more about each other.

So there you have it.

Over the years, and I’ve been over quite a few, we adults find that things like work (jobs), school, judgmental friends and relatives, and society in general has totally beaten any inspiration and creativity out of us. Or at least they try damned hard to.

I never understood the disdain some people have for creativity, change, innovation, and inspiration. The artist is revered but damned if anyone wants to study art. The writer is mocked as a quaint hobbiest. The inventor is mocked with the mythical idea of the man who would rather spend his life inventing a better apple peeler, or mouse trap than feeding his children.

My advice to my children, and anyone else who finds everyone around them is trying to suck every bit of inspiration out of them, is don’t listen to them. Shut out those who say no. Shut out those who make condescending remarks. Shut out those who say your creativity, be in art, music, writing, or even science, is a waste of time. Shut them out. Make them more of a pariah than they want to make you.

Inspiration isn’t just some stupid workplace poster that usually insults rather than inspires.

Inspiration can come in any form. It can be love. It can be acorns that have fallen on your car. One idea inspires an entirely different idea out of nowhere. Just go with it. Don’t think about it too much. Just don’t listen to the assholes. They don’t want you to be inspired. Being inspired makes you dangerous. That is a good thing.

I also tell my kids that if they’re around those who are boorish and lack imagination, and lack empathy, and want to be jerks, to just keep their ideas to themselves. You don’t have to share your world with assholes.

Creativity doesn’t have to be monetized either. Don’t ever forget that. 

And when you’re young, and even if you’re not, it is OK to just move on.

Let yourself shine, even if it is just on the inside. Have satisfaction knowing that you aren’t like them.

Then share with those who care, and understand, and those who feel safe sharing their ideas with you as well. Yes, know you can always be inspired by listing to others. Your story is wonderful, but it isn’t the only story. Don’t shut others out.

In the meantime, since I’ve turned this post into a vent rather than what I was going to write (don’t mind me, I have other things to share so just move on to the items below.)

I recommend you check out the books below. These are four of the books that distracted me and got me thinking about other things. They are by two authors I admire and respect. I am honored to consider both friends.

They both have a reverence for words, and actually see the world around them. They’re observers of life, and love, and everything.

You might be inspired. You never know.

Sack Nasty
Prison Poetry by Ra Avis

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Dinosaur Hearted
By Ra Avis

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Centripetal Force and Other Stories
By Jon Obermeyer

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Wingspan
By John Obermeyer

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One last quote. This is something we don’t say often enough to each other.

You are loved.
~ Ra Avis

heart-kittens

For those looking more for the Vampire side of things, I understand Vlad will be back soon with mire diary entries.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ode to a Greek God (read if for the first time, or read it again)

You might have seen this before. I’ve found myself up to my ears in dogs, cats, family matters, and hunkering down for some rain coming tonight… needless to say my brain is not in the creative mode, love letter mode, or wanting to write about parenting (but my kids are great.) Anyway, I read a blog post John Coyote wrote about Monterey and I thought of this story. The two are totally unrelated, but aren’t most things that way. One idea makes you think of another and another and another, and soon you’re where you should be. “Ode to a Greek God” was one of the first stories I’d written for “Writers, Poets, and Deviants.” It has a poem in it too. That is why. This was written I believe in 2012.  

 

Ode to a Greek God

A story by Marla Todd

I’ve been 6000 years at the top of my game. I knew it was too good to last.

I’m having breakfast on my deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean with the perfect amount of salty warm breeze drifting over me. A beautiful redheaded woman is still in my bed and I can still feel the warmth of her skin against mine. Fortunately she’ll be gone in an hour.

Anyway, I’m having coffee and some amazing cheese and apple pastries my son dropped off this morning. I’m also checking out a box Pan had dropped off with the pastries. That’s my son Pan, the famous happy-go-lucky satyr who dances through the woods making merry. That’s over. He settled down about 150 years ago with a wood nymph named Gloria and they’ve been keeping domestic bliss ever since. I never thought I’d see the day. Anyway, they were cleaning out some closets and found some stuff I’d swiped a few years ago. Thirty-four years ago to be exact.

It looked like I’d gone into the backpack of a college girl. I’d been in college mode that year for a change of pace. I was young, buffed and blue eyed and a killer smile. Female heads all turned in my direction.

In the box was a silver hair clip in the shape of a flowering tree branch, a delicate sexy lacy cream-colored underwire bra size 32C, a sea shell and a folded up piece of college ruled notebook paper. I unfolded the paper and read the words that would change my life.

It was a poem. It was in a round girlish script written in blue felt tip pen. No name identified the writer. I started to read, expecting the usually silly girlish babble about the meaning of life, teen angst and the horrible nature of never being understood. What I read was something else entirely.

As I stood upon the steps,

Halfway between the land and sea

The messenger god Hermes

Came to me,

Swift footed and bright

But somewhat overtaken

By his cousin Dionysus’ last visit

He brought me a message

And I read it through his blue eyes

“I bring you myself” he said.

No answer came from my lips

Except a kiss,

Which spoke very clear.

Oh happy was I,

When hand in hand

Under the stars we ran

For my mythical Hermes

Turned into a man

I took a gulp of coffee and stared at the poem. A poem about me? People had written poems about me, of course, but this was personal. It was a poem about ME, not a god of tales and lore but about ME, Hermes. It was about ME.

This girl knew me. I mean she KNEW me. She knew who I was. How? I never let on to any mortal to who or what I am. Never.

She wrote me a poem. It wasn’t a great poem. It wasn’t even a good poem. It wasn’t epic. But by my father Zeus, it was tender and sweet, full of the promise of love. It was happy. It was from her heart. A heart that considered me more than just a good body and maybe a great fuck, if I did indeed fuck her. I know I must have kissed her. I must have made love to her, because a girl who wrote the poem would never just fuck a guy. She’d have made love to me in a way I should have remembered, but damn it I couldn’t remember a thing.

A kiss. I tried to recall it. Such a kiss I should have remembered. It should have burned on my lips. It should have taken my immortal breath away. I sat going through all of the dusty file drawers in my brain trying to remember, but NOTHING came to mind.

Don’t get me wrong. I am usually NOT the romantic type. I love women but I refuse to be the kind of guy or god who is going to turn into a jellied mass of so much romantic bullshit over just any female. Or am I? My stomach knotted up. My head spun. My heart started to beat fast. I thought I was going to throw up.

By the way, I am Hermes, the messenger God. I go by a lot of names but my friends and family and people who worship me call me Hermes. The Romans called me Mercury, but that is a completely different story, one I’d like not to bring up right at this moment.

So I close my eyes and THINK. 34 years. I’m trying to get a face. A location. Who the hell wrote that poem? There was a ski trip to Aspen and another to Tahoe. An uneventful week in Miami brought back no memories. Of course there were trips to Greece and Paris. The summer was spent in San Francisco and a little north of there was the beach house. Fall brought on New York and Boston. I was in Vermont for the holidays with my family (I know what you’re thinking and yes, we do get together for the holidays just like any other large dysfunctional family).

I heard a car start and looked back to the side of the house. The redhead drove away in her red BMW. I wouldn’t see her again. She got what she wanted and was happy. Fine with me.

Up the drive walks my cousin Dionysus, who happens to be staying at my brother Apollo’s place next door. There again, he was the PARTY GOD. Now he turned into Mr. Bottle Shock. Always going up to Napa, Sonoma, Amador or jetting over to France, Australia, and all corners of the Earth for wine tastings. The guy has been going on about Lodi wines lately so much that I wanted to smack him until I tried them. He was right; it was the nectar of the God’s. But really – Lodi? Have you been to Lodi? Despite all of that he’s still my best friend.

He read the poem. “Halfway between the land and the sea. She was at the beach house you dork.”

“Do you remember her?”

“Yes I remember her.”

“Who was she?”

“Miranda. Quiet girl with the pretty blue-green eyes. She was cute enough.”

“I’m trying but I don’t have a face yet.”

Dionysus poured himself a cup of coffee, added about a gallon of milk to it and half a cup of sugar before sitting down. “She drove a beat up old MG Midget. You talked cars. She was impressed by your Porsche. The two of you hung out all weekend making small talk. Saturday night you went for a walk on the beach and she had sex with you. You thought she was sweet. Remember, she was getting ready to go off to UCLA for the fall. You told her you were going to Harvard.”

Pictures, smells, sound and feelings started to flood my brain.

“She’d been there for several weekends. We always ended up talking on the porch.” I said as images started to come back into my brain.

“Right. She liked you a lot but she didn’t come out and hunt you like the other chicks always did. It wasn’t until that last weekend that you acted on it.”

I remembered. She was a cute, somewhat pretty 17 year old girl with long brown hair and aqua marine eyes. At a party she wouldn’t have been the girl all the guys were after, but I noticed her. Well, she noticed me first. She started out talking to me about cars. From cars we talked about the tides and the ocean and movies and music and school. She wanted to travel to Nepal and spend time in Europe. Most of her friends were moving on to different colleges but she seemed all right with it. Her mind was set towards the future. I liked her company but she didn’t indicate at all that she wanted true love or a lasting relationship.

We’d walked on the beach. I’d made a few jokes and she’d laughed. She said a few things that were so funny it surprised me. I kissed her and a few hours later we made love by the base of a cliff in a private isolated area of the beach. She didn’t howl at the moon or put on a show. She wasn’t a virgin either.

Miranda let me take the lead but followed with quiet perfection. She lost herself quietly in the moment (which by the way lasted a good hour) and in me and didn’t ask for more. She could kiss too and had an amazing body. What more could a young man want?

We walked back to the house with all of our friends and she never said a word about it. The next morning she gave me her number and said, “Call me”, knowing full well the chances of me doing that were slim to none.

I never called her back.

Now I sat alone in my anguished romantic hell. She’d written a poem that morning and I’d stolen it along with a few other items to remember my lovely weekend. The god of thieves had taken a token of love she dared not share with me and for 34 years I had no idea what she’d written on that piece of folded up note paper.

“Where is she now?” I asked Dionysius, knowing if he didn’t know he’d find out.

He pulled out a large wine glass; the big kind used for reds and filled it with water.

“Take a look Hermes. But you might not like what you find. I guarantee you that one like her isn’t sitting around pining for the boy who got away.”

Images and information started to swirl in the glass. And I guarantee you, it sounds primitive, but you get a lot better information in a wine glass than you’ll ever get on Google.

Miranda had earned a doctorate degree in Genetics from UCLA and an MBA from Stanford. She was currently the Director of Development for a biotech firm in Northern California. The husband was an advocate for foster youth and has been a public defender for 20 years. They’d produced two lovely children, one of each. 11 year old girl and 13 year old boy. Both in swim club, good students, get along, popular, no problems. Lots’ of friends with kids, vacations and barbeques. Her home is in a fairly upscale neighborhood but not too pretentious. They go wine tasting a lot and like to cook. My kind of mortals if you don’t mind me saying. The husband even built sort of a wine cellar in the basement. She also likes to build garden sculptures but the visuals were blurred.

“Like whirly gigs?” I asked, thinking of pink flamingos with wildly spinning wings and little figures of men chopping wood. The idea was too weird to digest.

“Kinetic yes, but more large found items, tiles, wood, paint.” Answered my cousin.

“Like the Watt Towers?”

“Not that extreme. More like something out of Sunset Magazine. Understated with a touch of rustic charm.”

Enough of the garden shit. “What’s the relationship like with the husband? What is he? Some middle-aged Viagra popper?”

Dion gave me a smile, like the kind you’d give someone who just said something incredibly stupid. “Hermes, I’m surprise in you. The husband doesn’t need Viagra. He functions quite well on his own.”

“I didn’t need to know that. Did she ever write HIM a poem?”

“The husband? No. You’re the only one she has ever written about.”

“Does she still write anything?”

“She just finished a novel. It’s a mystery romance sort of deal.”

“Can you get me a copy?”

“Sure. I’ll call her up tonight and ask her to email it to me.” He said with a slight touch of sarcasm in his voice.

“Am I in it?” I asked too urgently, hoping the answer would be a definite YES.

“I have no idea but I seriously doubt it.”

“Is she looking to publish it?”

“As we speak. This is her dream Herm. She wants to be published before her kids get into high school so she can be home more with them.”

How could any woman with such a romantic soul, who wrote a poem to a god end up where she was I wondered? “What the fuck is she doing in Biotech?” I asked my cousin.

Dionysus shrugged. “A growing and diverse field with fulfilling opportunities to make the world a better place. She loves it but after 25 years of it she is ready to move on, maybe be a consultant but her family is everything to her.”

I looked into the glass again and saw her as she is now. The brown hair was a little shorter falling slightly below her shoulders, now lighter with blonde highlights. She was dressed stylishly in one of those cute little sweater sets all the women are wearing with a slim skirt and flats with bows. She wore bows on her shoes, a fact that turned my body to so much more jelly. I remember she always wore some bit of fluff or frill along with her Levis and rag wool sweaters. The aqua marine eyes sparkled with little signs of aging. She laughed out loud filling the room with joy. How could someone be so happy working in a science lab? How could someone be so happy without me?

The glass told me that she is known for her humor and mirth. I hardly saw any of it 34 years ago. How could I have been so blind?

To make matters worse was the fact that she was lovely. Fifty one years of lovely female bliss aged to perfection – like the most exquisite and complex wine ever made. She was something to be savored. She was something to be lingered over and enjoyed slowly with great appreciation. I wanted her so bad I ached.

I’m not the kind of guy, or god for that matter, who turns himself into an animal (like dear old dad) to trick a woman. I’m not going to do anything to hurt or use a woman. If a woman wants to use me, then fine, I’ll let her, but that doesn’t make me a bad guy. But I guess I was the perfect asshole to Dr. Miranda Wilkenson Hobbs. She wrote me a poem and I never called her.

I looked up at my cousin. “What was it like before she met the perfect husband?

He shrugged. “She traveled a bit. Worked a lot. Dated a lot. Had a couple of serious relationships but nothing she couldn’t walk away from. She met her husband 16 years ago at a party.”

“Did she write him a poem?” I asked.

“No. Nothing.”

“Nothing. Any hang ups with old boyfriends?”

“None. She’s still friends with a few. They’re all married with kids. Nothing unusual. She didn’t write them any poetry either.”

I conjured up an image of the husband in the glass. Average to nice looking middle-aged man. Full head of black hair, sparkling bright blue eyes, slightly crooked nose but with one of those warm and fuzzy charm filled smiles that women love. Nice slightly better than average guy who could in no way compare to me. No way. Not enough for her to write him poetry. Asshole bastard.

During the following weeks I pulled strings and called in favors that sent Miranda’s book right into the waiting hands of Bryan Woods, literary agent extraordinaire. By the way, Bryan Woods was the name I went by when I spent those weekends at the beach house 34 years ago.

When she received my call I couldn’t believe how good it was to hear that lovely voice. Why of course she could meet me. Where? I made arrangements in San Francisco. She’d have to drive to the big city which was A) always a treat for her and, B) a few hours from her home and away any distractions, C) a most romantic spot for seduction.

It was a beautiful day in the city with clear skies and a high of 68 degrees F. I wore gray Armani and my Rolex Daytona (yellow gold), and of course a Hermes tie. The blonde highlights in my hair were perfect and natural. The smile was a zillion watts. The eyes sparkled blue as a Maxfield Parrish sky.

I picked a restaurant with impeccable service and food, an excellent wine list and a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Exactly at noon Miranda showed up. She scanned the room and saw me with a slight hint of recognition. She’d dressed carefully with thought as women do. A flattering and pretty pink tweed suit over a pink silk blouse with high t-strap shoes that was so classic and sexy I nearly laughed out loud with joy.

She smiled and took my outstretched hand. I took her back to our table. There was the usual required small talk about the drive over, the weather, etc etc etc.

We ordered wine and food. I told her how impressed I was with her book. By the way, I was impressed. The woman could write a story. We spoke of publishing and possible options and contracts. I told her I could see a movie deal coming out of all of it. No lies there. After a flurry of animated conversation we suddenly stopped.

Then she looked at me with slightly squinted eyes and asked “Have we met before?”

I said “The beach house.”

“Oh my goodness. That is you.” She said looking slightly embarrassed.

“We made love on the beach.”

She glanced down unable to meet my eyes for a moment then took a sip of wine and looked up at me again. “We were just kids. Wow that was a long time ago. Small world. Um, it’s good to see you again. You’ve obviously done well for yourself”.

“So have you dear Miranda.” I put the piece of notepaper with the poem in front of her. “Read it.”

She read it but her reaction wasn’t what I thought it would be.

“Where did you get this?” she demanded.

“I took it from your backpack.”

“It wasn’t yours to take.”

“You wrote it about me.”

“Just because we…Bryan, this was private. You betrayed my trust in the absolute worst way.”

“It’s Hermes.”

“It wasn’t yours to take.”

“I’m Hermes. My real name is Hermes, not Bryan. On some level you had to know. Tell me you knew.”

It was as if she didn’t hear a word I said. “Yes, it was about you but the poem was mine,” she said. “You were not supposed to see it.” She was clearly upset, not in a crying angry way but in a calm and collected rage.

“How did you know?” I asked calmly trying to sooth and comfort her.

“Because you shrugged it of the next day like nothing ever happened. I really liked you a lot but oh well. Shit happens.”

I took her hand. “But it did happen Miranda. You and me. You wrote a poem about us.”

“Guess what? It happened a long time ago. I’m not that girl anymore.” She said obviously not following my lead as she pulled her hand away from mine.

“Obviously. How did you know that I am Hermes?”

“You were cute and light on your feet. You made me think of Hermes. Jeeze Bryan. Is that why I’m here? If this isn’t about my book…”

I put my hand on hers again. “I didn’t mean to upset you. But yes, Miranda, I am the messenger god Hermes. Hear me out. I only use the name Bryan Woods when I mix with mortals. Your poem touched me to the very soul and to my bones in a way that nothing else has ever touched me. Nobody has ever written anything so personal to me or about me before. I’m sorry I over looked you. I am sorry I never called back. I’m sorry that it has taken so long for me to tell you that I love you.”

“I should go.” She said trying to pull her hand away and starting to stand up.

“No” I said still holding her hand as I transported her to another time and place.

I took her to a beach. The air was cool and breezy not too cold. She wore a sweeping filmy dress of lavender and white that highlighted her curves. Her hair was slightly blown by an ocean breeze. She was bare footed. I wore a romantic poet’s shirt, sleeves rolled up, half way open to show my spectacular chest.

Against the cliff was a bed piled high with romantic white on white pillows and flowing curtains off of high bedposts. Pink garlands of fresh roses wound around the bedposts. It was one of her dream sort of things.

Miranda looked around 360 at her surroundings, completely ignoring me. Her eyes squinted at the sight of the bed. She turned to me with a total lack of expression on her lovely face except for an angry fire in her aqua marine eyes.

I put my arm around her waist and pulled her close then buried my face in her hair. “It’s been too long”. I said.

She pushed herself away. “What the hell is going on? Did you put something in my drink?”

“I told you I’m Hermes. You’re in my world now.” I said.

I grabbed her wrists. I would have her and she would submit and enjoy ever bit of it and then be glad that she was mine. Or so I thought. She twisted to get away and stomped on my foot. We lost balance and went down to the sand. I was still holding her wrists as I landed on top of her. I could have taken her then and there as I lay between her legs, but I didn’t. Not with Miranda.

“Let’s move it to the bed.” I said gently, my lips meeting hers.

“No, I’m not going to do this. Please. Don’t make me do this.” Tears welled in her eyes. I felt a knot in my stomach and then a wave of nausea swept over me. I rolled over onto my back letting her go. The day was not going as planned.

She got up and walked down the beach a ways then stopped dead in her tracks. She stared at the surf. The sea serpents were out there wrestling. They’re as big as humpback whales with all the teeth, big eyes and claws one expects from them. She froze, and then looked back at me.

“Sea serpents.” I said catching up with her. “Listen Miranda, I’m really sorry. Yes, I’m an arrogant son of a bitch. When I read the poem I thought just for a moment that, no it was more than a moment. Nobody has ever cared like that.”

She didn’t hear a word I said as she stood transfixed on the sea serpents. They roared and crashed into each other in kitten-like play. Green, blue and gold scales sparkled in the sunlight.

I put my arm around her shoulders. “Pretty magnificent creatures aren’t they?”

“Will they come after us?”

“No. They pretty much stay to themselves.”

“This is amazing. Are they real?”

I turned her around and looked into her face. “Yes, they’re as real as I am.” Taking her face in my hands I kissed her. She didn’t fight me, but didn’t exactly jump in my arms either.

“We’re at that point between the earth and the sea.” I kissed her again. She stepped back and crossed her arms. This was going to be more difficult than I thought.

“You’re Hermes, the god Hermes.”

“Yes. I am Hermes.”

“You’re real.”

“I am.”

I expected her to kiss me or something now that she realized who and what I was. She turned away from me and looked at the sea serpents again then looked back at me.

“I wish my kids could see this.”

“My children always loved it when I took them to see the sea serpents. They still do.” I said suddenly thinking that I’d done well by my children and their mothers. In these modern times we’d be a typical blended family. Go figure. Miranda didn’t say anything but kept looking out to the sea.

“This could all be part of your life Miranda. Few mortals ever see this. I’m willing to make you part of this.”

“I can’t.”

“You’d give up immortality?”

She gave me a look that would have killed any red blooded mortal. I watched her take off again down the beach.

I suddenly understood that she’d never love me in the way I wanted her too. Honestly I did. Of course understanding and acceptance are two different things. I ran after her and caught her by the arm spinning her around to face me.

“Miranda stop.” I said trying to reason with her.

“What about my book?” She demanded.

“What about it?” I spat back at her.

“Did you like it or were you just saying that to get me here?”

“It could be a best seller.”

She glared at me. “I won’t sleep with you to get it published.”

I was slightly offended but saw her point. “That isn’t good business Miranda, you should know that. Your book is good enough to publish without sex.”

“I know it is. But as my agent can you get me a good deal and top posting on Amazon and book and posters in the window of Barnes and Noble? Can you get me on the best seller lists? Can you get me an interview with the New York Times and NPR?”

“I’m your agent now?” I asked.

“Yes, I mean don’t you want to be?” She asked looking at me like I was stupid or something.

“What about your biotech job?”

“I’ll keep working until the royalty checks start coming in,” she snapped.

I put my hand on her shoulder, ever so gently. “I’ll get you a six figure advance. You can quit your job tomorrow if you want.”

Her face softened. I could feel her shoulders relaxing. “Really? You’d do that?”

“Of course I would. I’ll be your agent but you have to do something for me.” If I couldn’t have her love, I’d get something almost as good out of her.

She squinted her eyes up at me. “What?”

“You have to write about me.”

“Poetry?”

“Books. The modern adventures of an ancient god.”

“I can do that.”

“I’ll have the contracts drawn up. I believe you’ll like the terms.”

“I’m sure I will.”

“One day I will make love to you again.”

She finally smiled. “Don’t count on it.”

“Let’s go back.” I closed my eyes and when they were open we were back in San Francisco. The restaurant (which by the way I own) was empty of any other customers and fresh blackberry pie and fresh made vanilla ice cream was on the table along with coffee. The sun was starting to set over the San Francisco Bay. We talked about our lives and our kids for about another hour or two. It was so easy with the elder Miranda.

“You’re going to get caught in some pretty nasty traffic.” I told her in my most concerned and caring voice. “You can stay the night here with me.”

“It’s ok,” she said,”I have a couple of audio books in the car.”

I walked her out to her car, a blue 2010 Mustang convertible. I should have known she’d still have a convertible.

I didn’t want to let her go. “Miranda, I’m sorry I was a jerk. I didn’t know how you felt about me. Another time and place and we could have…”

She put her finger to her lips as if telling a child to be quiet. “Listen, Bryan, I mean Hermes, I’m sorry it didn’t work out the way you imagined it but I have a good feeling about this, about us. I really do and we’ll make a good partnership and maybe even become friends. I take that back. We will become friends. Okay?”

Friends usually means the kiss of death in a relationship but not this one.

“You’ll write about me.” I said, not as a question.

“I will write about you Hermes.” She put her hand on my waist, stood on her toes and kissed me. “I will write wonderful things about you that everyone will want to read.”

I opened the car door for her. “I’ll fax over the contracts in the morning. Drive safe Miranda.”

Late into the wee hours of the morning I sat on the balcony overlooking the Bay and thought of her kiss that lingered on my lips. The messenger god Hermes had indeed turned into a man.

Ode to a Greek God

Sometimes the unexpected comes your way, be it in a memory or a lost object found. You think you can go back and take what is yours… but you never know what might happen.

This was posted here a while back but it is one of my favorites so I’m posting it again. A special “guest” author.

~ Juliette

Ode to a Greek God

A story by Marla Todd

I’ve been 6000 years at the top of my game. I knew it was too good to last.

I’m having breakfast on my deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean with the perfect amount of salty warm breeze drifting over me.  A beautiful redheaded woman is still in my bed and I can still feel the warmth of her skin against mine. Fortunately she’ll be gone in an hour.

Anyway, I’m having coffee and some amazing cheese and apple pastries my son dropped off this morning.  I’m also checking out a box Pan had dropped off with the pastries. That’s my son Pan, the famous happy-go-lucky satyr who dances through the woods making merry. That’s over. He settled down about 150 years ago with a wood nymph named Gloria and they’ve been keeping domestic bliss ever since. I never thought I’d see the day. Anyway, they were cleaning out some closets and found some stuff I’d swiped a few years ago. Thirty-four years ago to be exact.

It looked like I’d gone into the backpack of a college girl. I’d been in college mode that year for a change of pace. I was young, buffed and blue eyed and a killer smile. Female heads all turned in my direction.

In the box was a silver hair clip in the shape of a flowering tree branch, a delicate sexy lacy cream-colored underwire bra size 32C, a sea shell and a folded up piece of college ruled notebook paper. I unfolded the paper and read the words that would change my life.

It was a poem. It was in a round girlish script written in blue felt tip pen. No name identified the writer. I started to read, expecting the usually silly girlish babble about the meaning of life, teen angst and the horrible nature of never being understood.  What I read was something else entirely.

As I stood upon the steps,

Halfway between the land and sea

The messenger god Hermes

Came to me,

Swift footed and bright

But somewhat overtaken

By his cousin Dionysus’ last visit

He brought me a message

And I read it through his blue eyes

“I bring you myself” he said.

No answer came from my lips

Except a kiss,

Which spoke very clear.

Oh happy was I,

When hand in hand

Under the stars we ran

For my mythical Hermes

Turned into a man

I took a gulp of coffee and stared at the poem.  A poem about me? People had written poems about me, of course, but this was personal.  It was a poem about ME, not a god of tales and lore but about ME, Hermes. It was about ME.

This girl knew me.  I mean she KNEW me. She knew who I was. How? I never let on to any mortal to who or what I am. Never.

She wrote me a poem. It wasn’t a great poem. It wasn’t even a good poem. It wasn’t epic. But by my father Zeus, it was tender and sweet, full of the promise of love. It was happy. It was from her heart. A heart that considered me more than just a good body and maybe a great fuck, if I did indeed fuck her. I know I must have kissed her. I must have made love to her, because a girl who wrote the poem would never just fuck a guy.  She’d have made love to me in a way I should have remembered, but damn it I couldn’t remember a thing.

A kiss. I tried to recall it. Such a kiss I should have remembered. It should have burned on my lips. It should have taken my immortal breath away. I sat going through all of the dusty file drawers in my brain trying to remember, but NOTHING came to mind.

Don’t get me wrong. I am usually NOT the romantic type. I love women but I refuse to be the kind of guy or god who is going to turn into a jellied mass of so much romantic bullshit over just any female. Or am I? My stomach knotted up. My head spun. My heart started to beat fast. I thought I was going to throw up.

By the way, I am Hermes, the messenger God. I go by a lot of names but my friends and family and people who worship me call me Hermes. The Romans called me Mercury, but that is a completely different story, one I’d like not to bring up right at this moment.

So I close my eyes and THINK.  34 years. I’m trying to get a face. A location. Who the hell wrote that poem? There was a ski trip to Aspen and another to Tahoe.  An uneventful week in Miami brought back no memories. Of course there were trips to Greece and Paris.  The summer was spent in San Francisco and a little north of there was the beach house. Fall brought on New York and Boston. I was in Vermont for the holidays with my family (I know what you’re thinking and yes, we do get together for the holidays just like any other large dysfunctional family).

I heard a car start and looked back to the side of the house. The redhead drove away in her red BMW. I wouldn’t see her again. She got what she wanted and was happy. Fine with me.

Up the drive walks my cousin Dionysus, who happens to be staying at my brother Apollo’s place next door. There again, he was the PARTY GOD. Now he turned into Mr. Bottle Shock. Always going up to Napa, Sonoma, Amador or jetting over to France, Australia, and all corners of the Earth for wine tastings. The guy has been going on about Lodi wines lately so much that I wanted to smack him until I tried them. He was right; it was the nectar of the God’s. But really – Lodi? Have you been to Lodi? Despite all of that he’s still my best friend.

He read the poem. “Halfway between the land and the sea. She was at the beach house you dork.”

“Do you remember her?”

“Yes I remember her.”

“Who was she?”

“Miranda. Quiet girl with the pretty blue-green eyes. She was cute enough.”

“I’m trying but I don’t have a face yet.”

Dionysus poured himself a cup of coffee, added about a gallon of milk to it and half a cup of sugar before sitting down. “She drove a beat up old MG Midget. You talked cars. She was impressed by your Porsche. The two of you hung out all weekend making small talk. Saturday night you went for a walk on the beach and she had sex with you. You thought she was sweet. Remember, she was getting ready to go off to UCLA for the fall. You told her you were going to Harvard.”

Pictures, smells, sound and feelings started to flood my brain.

“She’d been there for several weekends. We always ended up talking on the porch.” I said as images started to come back into my brain.

“Right. She liked you a lot but she didn’t come out and hunt you like the other chicks always did. It wasn’t until that last weekend that you acted on it.”

I remembered.  She was a cute, somewhat pretty 17 year old girl with long brown hair and aqua marine eyes. At a party she wouldn’t have been the girl all the guys were after, but I noticed her. Well, she noticed me first.  She started out talking to me about cars. From cars we talked about the tides and the ocean and movies and music and school. She wanted to travel to Nepal and spend time in Europe. Most of her friends were moving on to different colleges but she seemed all right with it.  Her mind was set towards the future. I liked her company but she didn’t indicate at all that she wanted true love or a lasting relationship.

We’d walked on the beach. I’d made a few jokes and she’d laughed. She said a few things that were so funny it surprised me. I kissed her and a few hours later we made love by the base of a cliff in a private isolated area of the beach. She didn’t howl at the moon or put on a show. She wasn’t a virgin either.

Miranda let me take the lead but followed with quiet perfection. She lost herself quietly in the moment (which by the way lasted a good hour) and in me and didn’t ask for more. She could kiss too and had an amazing body. What more could a young man want?

We walked back to the house with all of our friends and she never said a word about it. The next morning she gave me her number and said, “Call me”, knowing full well the chances of me doing that were slim to none.

I never called her back.

Now I sat alone in my anguished romantic hell.  She’d written a poem that morning and I’d stolen it along with a few other items to remember my lovely weekend. The god of thieves had taken a token of love she dared not share with me and for 34 years I had no idea what she’d written on that piece of folded up note paper.

“Where is she now?” I asked Dionysius, knowing if he didn’t know he’d find out.

He pulled out a large wine glass; the big kind used for reds and filled it with water.

“Take a look Hermes. But you might not like what you find. I guarantee you that one like her isn’t sitting around pining for the boy who got away.”

Images and information started to swirl in the glass. And I guarantee you, it sounds primitive, but you get a lot better information in a wine glass than you’ll ever get on Google.

Miranda had earned a doctorate degree in Genetics from UCLA and an MBA from Stanford. She was currently the Director of Development for a biotech firm in Northern California. The husband was an advocate for foster youth and has been a public defender for 20 years. They’d produced two lovely children, one of each. 11 year old girl and 13 year old boy. Both in swim club, good students, get along, popular, no problems. Lots’ of friends with kids, vacations and barbeques. Her home is in a fairly upscale neighborhood but not too pretentious. They go wine tasting a lot and like to cook. My kind of mortals if you don’t mind me saying. The husband even built sort of a wine cellar in the basement. She also likes to build garden sculptures but the visuals were blurred.

“Like whirly gigs?” I asked, thinking of pink flamingos with wildly spinning wings and little figures of men chopping wood. The idea was too weird to digest.

“Kinetic yes, but more large found items, tiles, wood, paint.” Answered my cousin.

“Like the Watt Towers?”

“Not that extreme. More like something out of Sunset Magazine. Understated with a touch of rustic charm.”

Enough of the garden shit. “What’s the relationship like with the husband? What is he? Some middle-aged Viagra popper?”

Dion gave me a smile, like the kind you’d give someone who just said something incredibly stupid. “Hermes, I’m surprise in you. The husband doesn’t need Viagra. He functions quite well on his own.”

“I didn’t need to know that. Did she ever write HIM a poem?”

“The husband? No. You’re the only one she has ever written about.”

“Does she still write anything?”

“She just finished a novel. It’s a mystery romance sort of deal.”

“Can you get me a copy?”

“Sure. I’ll call her up tonight and ask her to email it to me.” He said with a slight touch of sarcasm in his voice.

“Am I in it?” I asked too urgently, hoping the answer would be a definite YES.

“I have no idea but I seriously doubt it.”

“Is she looking to publish it?”

“As we speak. This is her dream Herm. She wants to be published before her kids get into high school so she can be home more with them.”

How could any woman with such a romantic soul, who wrote a poem to a god end up where she was I wondered? “What the fuck is she doing in Biotech?” I asked my cousin.

Dionysus shrugged. “A growing and diverse field with fulfilling opportunities to make the world a better place. She loves it but after 25 years of it she is ready to move on, maybe be a consultant but her family is everything to her.”

I looked into the glass again and saw her as she is now. The brown hair was a little shorter falling slightly below her shoulders, now lighter with blonde highlights. She was dressed stylishly in one of those cute little sweater sets all the women are wearing with a slim skirt and flats with bows. She wore bows on her shoes, a fact that turned my body to so much more jelly. I remember she always wore some bit of fluff or frill along with her Levis and rag wool sweaters. The aqua marine eyes sparkled with little signs of aging. She laughed out loud filling the room with joy. How could someone be so happy working in a science lab? How could someone be so happy without me?

The glass told me that she is known for her humor and mirth. I hardly saw any of it 34 years ago. How could I have been so blind?

To make matters worse was the fact that she was lovely. Fifty one years of lovely female bliss aged to perfection – like the most exquisite and complex wine ever made. She was something to be savored. She was something to be lingered over and enjoyed slowly with great appreciation. I wanted her so bad I ached.

I’m not the kind of guy, or god for that matter, who turns himself into an animal (like dear old dad) to trick a woman. I’m not going to do anything to hurt or use a woman. If a woman wants to use me, then fine, I’ll let her, but that doesn’t make me a bad guy. But I guess I was the perfect asshole to Dr. Miranda Wilkenson Hobbs. She wrote me a poem and I never called her.

I looked up at my cousin. “What was it like before she met the perfect husband?

He shrugged. “She traveled a bit. Worked a lot. Dated a lot. Had a couple of serious relationships but nothing she couldn’t walk away from. She met her husband 16 years ago at a party.”

“Did she write him a poem?” I asked.

“No. Nothing.”

“Nothing.  Any hang ups with old boyfriends?”

“None. She’s still friends with a few. They’re all married with kids. Nothing unusual. She didn’t write them any poetry either.”

I conjured up an image of the husband in the glass. Average to nice looking middle-aged man. Full head of black hair, sparkling bright blue eyes, slightly crooked nose but with one of those warm and fuzzy charm filled smiles that women love.  Nice slightly better than average guy who could in no way compare to me. No way. Not enough for her to write him poetry. Asshole bastard.

During the following weeks I pulled strings and called in favors that sent Miranda’s book right into the waiting hands of Bryan Woods, literary agent extraordinaire. By the way, Bryan Woods was the name I went by when I spent those weekends at the beach house 34 years ago.

When she received my call I couldn’t believe how good it was to hear that lovely voice.  Why of course she could meet me. Where? I made arrangements in San Francisco. She’d have to drive to the big city which was A) always a treat for her and, B) a few hours from her home and away any distractions, C) a most romantic spot for seduction.

It was a beautiful day in the city with clear skies and a high of 68 degrees F.  I wore gray Armani and my Rolex Daytona (yellow gold), and of course a Hermes tie.  The blonde highlights in my hair were perfect and natural. The smile was a zillion watts. The eyes sparkled blue as a Maxfield Parrish sky.

I picked a restaurant with impeccable service and food, an excellent wine list and a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Exactly at noon Miranda showed up. She scanned the room and saw me with a slight hint of recognition.  She’d dressed carefully with thought as women do. A flattering and pretty pink tweed suit over a pink silk blouse with high t-strap shoes that was so classic and sexy I nearly laughed out loud with joy.

She smiled and took my outstretched hand. I took her back to our table. There was the usual required small talk about the drive over, the weather, etc etc etc.

We ordered wine and food. I told her how impressed I was with her book. By the way, I was impressed. The woman could write a story. We spoke of publishing and possible options and contracts. I told her I could see a movie deal coming out of all of it. No lies there. After a flurry of animated conversation we suddenly stopped.

Then she looked at me with slightly squinted eyes and asked “Have we met before?”

I said “The beach house.”

“Oh my goodness. That is you.” She said looking slightly embarrassed.

“We made love on the beach.”

She glanced down unable to meet my eyes for a moment then took a sip of wine and looked up at me again. “We were just kids. Wow that was a long time ago. Small world. Um, it’s good to see you again. You’ve obviously done well for yourself”.

“So have you dear Miranda.”  I put the piece of notepaper with the poem in front of her. “Read it.”

She read it but her reaction wasn’t what I thought it would be.

“Where did you get this?” she demanded.

“I took it from your backpack.”

“It wasn’t yours to take.”

“You wrote it about me.”

“Just because we…Bryan, this was private. You betrayed my trust in the absolute worst way.”

“It’s Hermes.”

“It wasn’t yours to take.”

“I’m Hermes. My real name is Hermes, not Bryan.  On some level you had to know. Tell me you knew.”

It was as if she didn’t hear a word I said. “Yes, it was about you but the poem was mine,” she said.  “You were not supposed to see it.” She was clearly upset, not in a crying angry way but in a calm and collected rage.

“How did you know?” I asked calmly trying to sooth and comfort her.

“Because you shrugged it of the next day like nothing ever happened. I really liked you a lot but oh well. Shit happens.”

I took her hand. “But it did happen Miranda. You and me. You wrote a poem about us.”

“Guess what?  It happened a long time ago. I’m not that girl anymore.” She said obviously not following my lead as she pulled her hand away from mine.

“Obviously. How did you know that I am Hermes?”

“You were cute and light on your feet. You made me think of Hermes. Jeeze Bryan. Is that why I’m here? If this isn’t about my book…”

I put my hand on hers again. “I didn’t mean to upset you. But yes, Miranda, I am the messenger god Hermes. Hear me out.  I only use the name Bryan Woods when I mix with mortals. Your poem touched me to the very soul and to my bones in a way that nothing else has ever touched me. Nobody has ever written anything so personal to me or about me before. I’m sorry I over looked you. I am sorry I never called back. I’m sorry that it has taken so long for me to tell you that I love you.”

“I should go.” She said trying to pull her hand away and starting to stand up.

“No” I said still holding her hand as I transported her to another time and place.

I took her to a beach. The air was cool and breezy not too cold. She wore a sweeping filmy dress of lavender and white that highlighted her curves. Her hair was slightly blown by an ocean breeze. She was bare footed. I wore a romantic poet’s shirt, sleeves rolled up, half way open to show my spectacular chest.

Against the cliff was a bed piled high with romantic white on white pillows and flowing curtains off of high bedposts. Pink garlands of fresh roses wound around the bedposts. It was one of her dream sort of things.

Miranda looked around 360 at her surroundings, completely ignoring me. Her eyes squinted at the sight of the bed.  She turned to me with a total lack of expression on her lovely face except for an angry fire in her aqua marine eyes.

I put my arm around her waist and pulled her close then buried my face in her hair. “It’s been too long”. I said.

She pushed herself away. “What the hell is going on? Did you put something in my drink?”

“I told you I’m Hermes. You’re in my world now.” I said.

I grabbed her wrists. I would have her and she would submit and enjoy ever bit of it and then be glad that she was mine. Or so I thought. She twisted to get away and stomped on my foot. We lost balance and went down to the sand. I was still holding her wrists as I landed on top of her. I could have taken her then and there as I lay between her legs, but I didn’t. Not with Miranda.

“Let’s move it to the bed.” I said gently, my lips meeting hers.

“No, I’m not going to do this. Please. Don’t make me do this.” Tears welled in her eyes. I felt a knot in my stomach and then a wave of nausea swept over me.  I rolled over onto my back letting her go. The day was not going as planned.

She got up and walked down the beach a ways then stopped dead in her tracks. She stared at the surf. The sea serpents were out there wrestling. They’re as big as humpback whales with all the teeth, big eyes and claws one expects from them. She froze, and then looked back at me.

“Sea serpents.” I said catching up with her. “Listen Miranda, I’m really sorry. Yes, I’m an arrogant son of a bitch. When I read the poem I thought just for a moment that, no it was more than a moment.  Nobody has ever cared like that.”

She didn’t hear a word I said as she stood transfixed on the sea serpents. They roared and crashed into each other in kitten-like play. Green, blue and gold scales sparkled in the sunlight.

I put my arm around her shoulders. “Pretty magnificent creatures aren’t they?”

“Will they come after us?”

“No. They pretty much stay to themselves.”

“This is amazing.  Are they real?”

I turned her around and looked into her face. “Yes, they’re as real as I am.” Taking her face in my hands I kissed her. She didn’t fight me, but didn’t exactly jump in my arms either.

“We’re at that point between the earth and the sea.” I kissed her again. She stepped back and crossed her arms. This was going to be more difficult than I thought.

“You’re Hermes, the god Hermes.”

“Yes. I am Hermes.”

“You’re real.”

“I am.”

I expected her to kiss me or something now that she realized who and what I was. She turned away from me and looked at the sea serpents again then looked back at me.

“I wish my kids could see this.”

“My children always loved it when I took them to see the sea serpents. They still do.” I said suddenly thinking that I’d done well by my children and their mothers. In these modern times we’d be a typical blended family. Go figure. Miranda didn’t say anything but kept looking out to the sea.

“This could all be part of your life Miranda. Few mortals ever see this. I’m willing to make you part of this.”

“I can’t.”

“You’d give up immortality?”

She gave me a look that would have killed any red blooded mortal. I watched her take off again down the beach.

I suddenly understood that she’d never love me in the way I wanted her too. Honestly I did. Of course understanding and acceptance are two different things.  I ran after her and caught her by the arm spinning her around to face me.

“Miranda stop.” I said trying to reason with her.

“What about my book?” She demanded.

“What about it?” I spat back at her.

“Did you like it or were you just saying that to get me here?”

“It could be a best seller.”

She glared at me. “I won’t sleep with you to get it published.”

I was slightly offended but saw her point. “That isn’t good business Miranda, you should know that. Your book is good enough to publish without sex.”

“I know it is. But as my agent can you get me a good deal and top posting on Amazon and book and posters in the window of Barnes and Noble? Can you get me on the best seller lists? Can you get me an interview with the New York Times and NPR?”

“I’m your agent now?” I asked.

“Yes, I mean don’t you want to be?” She asked looking at me like I was stupid or something.

“What about your biotech job?”

“I’ll keep working until the royalty checks start coming in,” she snapped.

I put my hand on her shoulder, ever so gently. “I’ll get you a six figure advance. You can quit your job tomorrow if you want.”

Her face softened. I could feel her shoulders relaxing. “Really? You’d do that?”

“Of course I would. I’ll be your agent but you have to do something for me.” If I couldn’t have her love, I’d get something almost as good out of her.

She squinted her eyes up at me. “What?”

“You have to write about me.”

“Poetry?”

“Books. The modern adventures of an ancient god.”

“I can do that.”

“I’ll have the contracts drawn up. I believe you’ll like the terms.”

“I’m sure I will.”

“One day I will make love to you again.”

She finally smiled. “Don’t count on it.”

“Let’s go back.” I closed my eyes and when they were open we were back in San Francisco. The restaurant (which by the way I own) was empty of any other customers and fresh blackberry pie and fresh made vanilla ice cream was on the table along with coffee. The sun was starting to set over the San Francisco Bay. We talked about our lives and our kids for about another hour or two. It was so easy with the elder Miranda.

“You’re going to get caught in some pretty nasty traffic.” I told her in my most concerned and caring voice. “You can stay the night here with me.”

“It’s ok,” she said,”I have a couple of audio books in the car.”

I walked her out to her car, a blue 2010 Mustang convertible. I should have known she’d still have a convertible.

I didn’t want to let her go. “Miranda, I’m sorry I was a jerk. I didn’t know how you felt about me. Another time and place and we could have…”

She put her finger to her lips as if telling a child to be quiet. “Listen, Bryan, I mean Hermes, I’m sorry it didn’t work out the way you imagined it but I have a good feeling about this, about us. I really do and we’ll make a good partnership and maybe even become friends. I take that back. We will become friends. Okay?”

Friends usually means the kiss of death in a relationship but not this one.

“You’ll write about me.” I said, not as a question.

“I will write about you Hermes.” She put her hand on my waist, stood on her toes and kissed me. “I will write wonderful things about you that everyone will want to read.”

I opened the car door for her. “I’ll fax over the contracts in the morning. Drive safe Miranda.”

Late into the wee hours of the morning I sat on the balcony overlooking the Bay and thought of her kiss that lingered on my lips.  The messenger god Hermes had indeed turned into a man.

Tangled Tales
Tangled Tales
~ Thanks for stopping by,
Juliette aka Vampire Maman