donderdag 21 maart 2013

GODLING # 8: BALLAD OF LONELINESS


GODLING # 8:  BALLAD OF LONELINESS
By Jochem Vandersteen



The teeth of Cerberus came dangerously close to Godling's neck. He
could feel the hot breath of the hellhound in his face. With his left
hand the tried to hold back one of the creature's heads, with his
right another. Unfortunately that left the third head free to attack.
    "Cerberus, here boy!" A musical voice sounded, just as the
creature's teeth were ready to bore into the One Man Pantheon's
skin.
    The hellhound had suddenly lost all interest in its prey and simply
walked past Godling, seeking out the owner of the beautiful voice. When
the dog found the owner it sat beside her like a puppy. She patted it.
    Her beauty was beyond anything Godling had ever seen, even
surpassing Monica's. Her hair seemed to be made of gold, her skin
like alabaster, her eyes bottomless pools of blue. Butterflies and
doves surrounded her, seemingly wanting to bask in her beauty. She wore
a silk, pink robe, held together by an embroidered girdle. Godling knew
it was her cestus, the magic girdle that aroused passion for the
wearer. Perhaps a weapon even more powerful than Zeus' lightning
bolt. Her name was Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. Godling
noticed his mouth was hanging open.
     "If you are so full of unbridled aggression you feel the need to
tangle with the hellhound you must be troubled in matters of the
heart."
     Godling sighed. He felt silly. Indeed, he was so full of
frustration and anger he'd just been looking for something to fight.
The hellhound had seemed a proper opponent to vent his rage. "No use
keeping secrets from a goddess, right?"
     She smiled. The radiance almost made him squint his eyes.
"Indeed, Godling. Sit down and tell me what ails you."
     She sat down on a large boulder and patted the boulder next to it.
Godling joined her while Cerberus lay down at her feet.
     "It's mainly all about this woman I'm in love with. We get
along great but she just doesn't seem attracted to me you know?"
     Aphrodite nodded. "The well-known 'you are a like a brother'
to her? Almost as old as we are."
     "Yeah, I guess. You know, all these powers I've got they just
make me see even more how useless my life is without love. All those
gifts you bestowed upon me cannot help me receive the love I crave."
     "Technically they of course can," Aphrodite said.
"Channeling my power you can make yourself attractive to anyone."
     Godling gave it a thought. He knew the powers of her cestus. He
could make Monica fall in love with him in an instant. But would it
really be love? Or would it be just empty lust? In essence he would
make her love him. Was that what he wanted? Force her to love him? Was
that really love that he felt for her then? He shook his head
vehemently. "No, that would be like raping her. I can't do that."
    Aphrodite smiled. "We chose the right emissary."
    "Hmmm. Thanks. Oh, but on top of that she's in love with
another guy. Someone who's way more macho than I am. Looks like some
movie star."
    "If I may say, you look like the embodiment of the ultimate movie
star."
    "Yeah, like this. But not as Quentin Alexander. Just take a look
at me." Godling changed to his normal identity of college professor,
a man of average build with glasses and a graying beard.
     "I think you exude a certain intelligence and charm. I am sure
many women find you attractive."
     "Thanks, but my track record isn't all that great."
     "Maybe because you've been focusing on your great love so much
you have not noticed the attention of others."
     Quentin laughed. "How many men have a goddess for a shrink!"
    Aphrodite gave him a blank stare. Apparently the gods were not very
good with irony.
     "I just feel lonely a lot. Since my mom died I've always been
hiding behind my books, studying and studying. Then I lost myself in
teaching, lecturing, writing. But being Godling has made me confront
death a few times now, making it clear to me that maybe it's time I
really started living before I'm dead. I mean, who will miss me when
I'm dead? I've been such a loner most of my life..."
     "You are of course always welcome here whenever you feel lonely,
but I understand your needs. It is very natural to find someone to
start a family with. You are a wonderful man, Quentin. That is why we
choose you. You will make someone very happy, I am sure of that."
Quentin put a hand on Aphrodite's leg. "Thank you, Aphrodite. You
are very kind."
     "What are you doing with my lover!" a voice rumbled, the
antithesis of Aphrodite's musical voice. It belonged to Ares, the god
of war.
    Quentin held up his hands. "Wait, this isn't what it seems!"
    Ares drew his sword. "Are you calling me a fool? I have killed
men for less!"

                                                        *
Marcus Walker was sitting in his living room, watching CNN. He was
watching the footage of how Godling had managed to chase off the
strange spaceship that had visited New Troy just days ago.
     The strange hero had everyone talking. He seemed to be a form of
hope in a city that was being plagued by more and more strange threats.
Almost a symbol for the good people of the city that you could fight
against the dangers and win. More or less this hero was what he wanted
to be for the people of his neighborhood. He wanted to show that one
man can make a difference. That you should stand up for what's right.
But was he living up to his full potential, just trying to help the
community in the courtroom? His potion gave him amazing powers, maybe
not as amazing as Godling's but significant nonetheless. Shouldn't
he be doing something with them?
     He walked into his bedroom and pulled a large chest from under
bed. It was decorated with African artwork. He opened it, gazing at the
traditional African clothing inside it. With some modifications it
might make the symbolic costume he would need to become his own
neighborhood's Godling.

                                                                  *
Godling caught Ares' sword on his steel wristbands, preventing the
separating of his head from his body. Retaliating, he kicked the God of
War in the stomach.
Ares grunted and reacted with a roundhouse punch against Godling's
jaw. The godlike power of the blow lifted the One Man Pantheon from his
feet. With a thud he landed in the grass.
Ares charged, his sword above his head, ready to plunge it in the heart
of his mortal enemy. Godling however, did a leg sweep resulting in Ares
falling down in the grass beside him, dropping his sword.
     Usually, when facing hand-to-hand combat Godling channeled Ares'
powers making him almost invincible. This time he had to rely on his
own, very meager combat skills since Ares would of course not lent him
his powers now. What he could use of course was the strength of
Hercules! He grabbed Ares by the hair, lifting him by it and started to
spin around. When he'd gained enough momentum he let the God of War
fly, straight into a tree that broke in two upon contact.
     Godling ran at Ares. He punched the God of War in the face the
moment he got up again. Ares shook his head a few times like a wet dog,
seemingly to shake off the stars he was seeing and countered with a
roundhouse kick that knocked the One Man Pantheon off his feet.
     Ares put a feet on Godling's chest, pinning him down.
"Insolent dog!" Ares yelled and drew a dagger from his boot. "I
will kill you!"
     He raised his dagger above his head, ready to plunge it down in
Godling's chest. But before the dagger hit home a slender hand
enclosed the God of War's wrist, stopping it.
     "Don't," the owner of the slender hand said. That marked the
second time that day the voice of Aphrodite was the prelude of
Godling's rescue.
     Ares shook his wrist loose from her grip. "Do not meddle into
the affairs of warriors."
     Aphrodite crossed her arms defiantly. "I am not some stupid
nymph you can order around, Ares. I am a full Olympian like you. I
meddle in whatever affair I seek necessary. The fact that the reason
you fight is me gives me more than the right to intervene."
    "You like me fighting over you and you know it! Is it not that
almost blood-crazed lust for you that makes you so enamored with me?"
    "You have had your fight and I have had my ego caressed, all
right? Zeus would surely frown upon you would he discover you were
trying to kill the Emissary of the Olympians.   Have you forgotten the
duty we have chosen this human to fulfill?"
    "Maybe you are right," Ares grumbled. "I will allow him to
live."
    "Good, now please help him up and let the three of us go and
drink some nectar."
Ares held out a strong hand to Godling and helped him up. "Come,
Emissary. Let us go for a drink."

                                                       *


Marcus had no trouble jumping from rooftop to rooftop after ingesting
the magic potion that fuelled him with the skills and agility of the
animal kingdom. He was patrolling the streets more like a predator than
a policeman. Looking for a criminal to defeat, an innocent to protect
but even more to mark his territory as the new defender of New Troy.
     After an hour he found exactly what he had been looking for. Three
black gangbangers, all bling-bling and attitude having cornered a
shaking young black man against an alley wall. His animal-like hearing
allowed Marcus to hear every word.
     "You don't pay the vig we take it outta your head, man. We
give you a good kicking, make us feel better," one of the gangbangers
said. He hit the young man in the face.
     "Yeah," another one agreed. "You not able to pay for the
dope then the supply stops and we turn you into an example for the
other idiots that think about not paying." He kicked the young man in
the stomach.
     "Enough!" Marcus yelled and dropped down from the rooftop like
a predator from a tree.
     "What the --," one of the gangbangers uttered. A second later
Marcus knocked him out by landing on top of him.
      Another thug drew a pistol. "Don't know who you are but I'm
gonna cap you!"
      Marcus leaped straight into him, punching him in the face with
his left hand while his right grabbed the gun. Another thug down.
     The third one drew a knife. Marcus gave him a smile. "Run while
you can."
      The gangbanger was either stupid or brave. Whatever the case
might be, he attacked. Marcus grabbed him by the wrist and twisted it.
The knife dropped.
      Marcus stared the thug right in the eyes. The pantherlike pupils
of Marcus made the thug almost wet his pants.
      "I'm Safari. And I'm taking back the streets. Spread the
word after you wake up again."
      "Wake up?" the gangbanger asked. Half a second later a
headbutt took him down.
      Scared by the sudden appearance of the animal like savior the
young man was still cowering against the alley wall.
      "You have nothing to fear from me as long as you don't harm
others. But I heard you swallow the infernal poison these lowlifes
sell. Do something about it, because maybe next time I won't be
around to save you. Go to a detox clinic. Get your act cleaned up. Be
an example."
      The young man nodded. Marcus was not naïve enough the kid would
act upon his advice. But he had to try to make a difference. And this
was a start.
     He jumped up, grabbing hold of a fire escape and used it to climb
back to the rooftops again.

                                                             *

"...so I tell her, you should try to go into a juggling contest with
Geryon!" Ares clapped Godling on the shoulder, laughing.
       They were seated at a long table in a tavern, drinking nectar
from huge chalices. Godling felt more than a little drunk, but also he
felt a bit at home. It was nice to hear all these mythological stories
he'd never heard of before directly from the source.
       Aphrodite was with them, an arm around both of them. "Tell him
about the seven Cabiri!"
       Ares laughed again. "That is another great tale you might not
have heard..."
       An incredible handsome blond man came in and put a hand on
Godling's shoulder. "Enjoy your time here, Emissary. There is great
adversity to come your way in days to come. Love will exist to hurt
you, mark my words."
       Godling recognized the man as Apollo, and knew his prophecies
always came true. Suddenly he'd lost his taste for nectar.


NEXT ISSUE:
Godling returns to Earth and finds new dangers!

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