Call me Artemis. That's who I am, after all, although I'm not quite sure why I should have ended up here. Maybe I'm getting forgetful in my old age. I'm pretty old. That's for sure, but they say I'm not supposed to age. If I could - if I was able to die - somebody would be dusting off my fossilised bones by now, but I'm still as youthful as I ever was. I don't know exactly how things got to be this way. Or maybe I just don't care.
I think it may have started with the Romans, when they decided to set up their shitty little empire. They still worshipped us, even though they didn't see fit to use my real name. Then along came some jumped up little carpenter's son with a few fancy ideas and suddenly we were no longer given more than an occasional sideways glance. Yesterday's news. It was sad to see my father, the once great conqueror of the Titans, wandering dejectedly around our empty palace, each footstep echoing like tumbling boulders along the corridors.
Nobody ever notices where gods go when their worship fades. We've stayed out of sight since leaving Olympus. We don't bother anybody, just as long as they don't bother us. To think, we once held enough power to have them quaking in fear. But there's nothing much can be done when the mortals are no longer interested. At least I've managed to stay with Apollo. We've been around the world together, many times over. Between you and me, it's really beginning to get a bit dull, and now I'm even wondering whether being with Apollo is such a blessing either.
He's drunk again. Since we managed to find a place above some seedy pub in the middle of Queensland, he's rediscovered the wine of my brother, Dionysus, and rediscovered it with a vigour. Dionysus seems to have adapted well to this new worship of consumption. He always did have a knack for business. Last thing I saw of him was on the rusty old TV in our room. He owns a vineyard somewhere in England and calls himself Dennis. Actually, perhaps I should really call him my half brother. I have a lot of half brothers. Sisters, too. I wonder what has happened to them all.
Apollo isn't my half brother. We're twins. We're also on very good terms with the barman, Fred Jenkins, who everyone around here calls Doc. He gives them all medicine. I'm the as yet unnamed woman who everyone calls Jill Frost, or Ice Princess because I never let any of them near me. Don't look at me like that! I'm still a sworn virgin and I've got to keep some small part of my previous dignity. Anyway, I had better take care of my brother. He's had a little too much of Doc's medicine.
"So," says Doc, slightly condescending. "You're a god."
"That's right," Apollo replies, leaning on the bar and swaying a little.
"God of what?" asks a large burly man with a tattoo on his left shoulder. He takes a swig of beer, which he seems to be able to handle a lot better than my brother.
With a wobbly gesture that he probably thinks is grand, Apollo proclaims in a loud voice, "I am the one and only got of pospicy." He looks confused for a moment, then tries again. "God... of posiphy... of proscephy…" Finally, with a final, gargantuan effort accompanied by peals of laughter, he manages to arrive at a word which sounds something like "prophecy."
More laughter. The same large man slaps him on the back, and his tattoo jiggles. "Well, then, god of prophecy. Give us a prediction."
"Yeah," shouts someone from the corner in a high pitched, tinny voice. "Tell us the future."
Doc looks up and notices me standing surreptitiously by the door. He smiles in greeting.
Everyone is still nagging at Apollo to tell their fortunes. My brother smirks groggily to himself. "I predict that Doc will give me another drink." For added emphasis, he bangs his empty glass on the bar.
More raucous laughter. Doc shakes his head. "Sorry, mate. You've had enough for one night."
"Then I'll strike you down with plague and pestilence. I'll make your crops barren and I'll give your goats the mange…"
Time for me to intervene.
Apollo is still shouting curses, even as I drag him up the stairs and dump him unceremoniously onto his bed. Then he starts singing, while I remove his boots and place his feet on top of the mattress. The song is a bawdy sailor's shanty that he somehow still remembers after two and a half thousand years. Sitting on my own lumpy bed, I stare at him. He doesn't seem to notice my scrutiny. All that drink puts up quite a potent barrier to his usually sharp senses. After a while he stops singing and starts snoring.
This is why I plan never to get drunk. I have heard gods snore. It's not a pleasant sound.
Apollo is lying on his back with his golden curls spread around him. I have always been slightly jealous of my twin's shiny golden hair. Mine is the same colour, but it's so damn straight. My skin is slightly tanned, and my body is thin and well-muscled. Comes from centuries of living outdoors. I'm also quite strong, which is why I can force my drunken brother away from the bar when even Greg the bouncer gave up trying long ago.
"So," says a voice to my left. "This is where you live. I must say, the showers leave a lot to be desired."
I turn my head. The voice belongs to a tall, barrel-chested man who's stepped from our small bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist. Water drips onto the floor from his long hair and curly dark beard. I recognise him instantly. "Dad?"
...The Almighty Zeus is dripping on my carpet.
He casts his gaze around the room, and finally stares down at Apollo. "He doesn't look too brilliant."
"I've seen him worse than this. What are you doing here? If you wanted to flood the place, you could at least have conjured up a decent storm."
He catches my meaning. "Sorry," he says, and disappears into the bathroom to dry his hair. I follow him to provide him with another towel - the one around his waist had better stay there! "The truth is, Artemis," he tells me while vigorously rubbing the space around his ears. "I'm hiding from… You Know Who."
"Again?" This is hardly surprising, and to be honest I can't really blame him. Anyone who thinks Cinderella's stepmother was wicked has never met Hera! "What is it this time?"
"We were living in an apartment somewhere. I told her I wanted a divorce. She's strong. She threw the sofa at me."
Some small part of what he just said refuses to escape from my mind. "Divorce?"
"Mortals can do it. Why can't I?"
"Don't get me wrong, Dad. I can understand why you'd want to, but…"
"Besides, I've met someone."
This I have heard before. I've also seen that doleful look already far too many times, as Zeus implores any one of us to - please - understand. We all know that it's only a ploy, and that he's perfectly capable of bringing down every kind of curse upon anyone who protests too loudly.
"All right." This is said with a deep sigh. "You can drop the act. Who is she this time? Or is it a he?"
"She's coming over in the morning. I'll introduce you then. In the meantime, I was wondering if I could spend the night?"
"You could, but I don't really see where you would sleep…"
Zeus has fixed his gaze on my bed, which is empty. What's the point in arguing?