Avalanche – Snippet 21

None taken.  You are saying this is a complex problem?

“Well yes, depression can come from many causes, and it takes–”

Never mind.  I shall see what is in your thoughts.

Arthur then had the curious experience of having his own mind gone through the way his housekeeper tore through the kitchen.  Every memory, however small, was picked up, examined, turned inside out, scrubbed off, and set back in its proper place, even if that place wasn’t where it had been left lying around.  The contents of his metaphorical refrigerator were examined, cleaned, restored to their proper shelves and lined up according to size, tallest in the back.  All the canisters were aligned, all the silverware nested in the silverware drawer, all the breakfast cereal was alphabetized, and she gave it all a final polish before letting him go again.

Irritating, she commented.

He cringed.  “Me?” he squeaked.

No.  Melancholia.  I shall have to try everything.  The trident came down, and he yelped and ducked, until he saw there was a fishnet with something in it impaled on the middle prong.  It slid down the prong and landed on the deck beside him with a heavy thud.

I am given to understand there should be a consultation fee, she said, So there you are.  Thank you, follower of Asclepius.  And then she vanished under the water, rocking the boat violently as she submerged.  He scrambled to his feet and grabbed the gunnels, peering after her, but all he saw was an enormous white shape just below the surface, speeding away, and soon gone.

He turned and looked doubtfully at the fishnet.  A swordfish would have been nice, he thought unhappily.  I don’t suppose those are abalone…

He poked one of the shapes in the net with a toe.  It felt like a rock.  He sighed.  Not abalone…just rocks.  Why she thought that would constitute payment…but who could tell how these crazy mega-metas thought?  He bent down to pick up one of the rocks, and grunted in surprise at its weight.  And a wild thought occurred to him.

It was a matter of moments to confirm his supposition.  One blow with a hammer chipped off a crust of barnacles, rotten leather, and hardened sea-muck, and the “rock” split in half, revealing that it wasn’t a rock at all, but a sack of gold coins.  And there were a dozen more such “rocks” in the net.

He stared out to sea in the direction Amphitrite had vanished.

“I solemnly swear,” he said to the ocean.  “I will never eat fish again.”


Amphitrite was a goddess, and she had godlike patience.  The mortal’s impressive learning on the subject of Melancholia had suggested it had many causes…she tackled all of them.  She altered the chemistry of the water around him, to tackle possible imbalances.  She brought luminescent fish to lighten his darkness.  She brought the humpback whales to sing to him, and the dolphins to scan him with their sonar, since those vibrations seemed to have an anecdotal effect, according to the mortal’s memories of a journal article.

But most of all, she talked to him until he finally began to talk back.  And then, she listened.

Although it was very likely the things she said back to him would not have passed muster with the APA.

When he spoke with longing of his previous life, she snorted.  You arose.  You ate indifferent food that was largely not good for you.  You traveled in an uncomfortable vehicle among many more such, inhaling large quantities of poisonous fumes.  You arrived at a building full of dull mortals with dull little lives for whom the antics of actors were of more interest than what was going on around them, and who counted their “friendships” by the number of faceless strangers who “liked” them on an electronic wall, but who had no notion of who or what their neighbors were.  There you were in an alternating state of terror or elation, depending on the mood of the petty tyrant you called your overseer.  You went home, exhausted, by a drive that made you more exhausted, where you ate indifferent food that mostly was bad for you, and settled beside a wife who barely spoke three sentences to you all evening.  Then, twice a week, you participated in joyless sex that was little more than a relief valve.  Then you slept, and did it all the next day, often even on weekends when the tyrant decreed you must work overtime.  And you called this a life?  Slow dying, I would call it.

And there were flashes, brief flashes, of Gladys Hestlewithe, who had had a similar desperate life, except she had not been married and she had lost herself in fantasy books and movies and television shows…but Amphitrite ruthlessly buried those flashes, for she was a goddess, and what was a goddess if not someone who could bury a past she did not care for?

Bill–she knew his name, now, although she did not care for it–looked at her with his mouth agape.  But–he thought at her, for he had learned the trick of speaking by thought to her now, as the whales and dolphins did.  Then he stopped, and blinked.  He closed his mouth.  Raised a finger as if to contradict her.  Lowered it again.  Can I think about that?  Before I answer you?

Of course you can, she replied knowing in that moment that in her battle with the Melancholia, she was winning.  Before, the Melancholia had not let him think, nor did it allow him to want to.

Soon, she exalted in the privacy of her guarded thoughts, I will teach him to be the god he is.  And from that moment, neither of us will ever be lonely again.

One thing was certain.  He was a kind and considerate creature.  He would be a much better god than Poseidon.