Chapter 3 – Cognition

I remember this Christmas night in college where I got wasted and had found myself in Anne’s apartment a mess the next day morning with no shirt and a terrible mind-numbing headache; an experience that shrunk in comparison to what I am feeling right now. The feeling I have right now couldn’t possibly be put in words.

“Good luck Ryan” were Erebus’ final words before leaving me pondering last night. That kind of football coach attitude was not what I needed. I needed solid answers and probably therapy to get through the veritable storm brewing in my head after what happened to me.

While processing things and contemplating my next move, I opened my eyes and let it adjust to the light. I got up, and this time avoided the bunk ceiling, much to my own surprise. Brandon was still asleep; I looked at him thinking about the blissful ignorance which let him sleep a day’s happenings away; something I lost the luxury of doing.

I found myself playing involuntarily with the talisman like one would play with a penny before tossing it. I forced myself to get up, walked to the basin and looked at the reflection that stared back at me, just a day ago, it had seemed so much younger in comparison to what it was now. As I washed my face, I noticed lines of worry, a few I’m sure were courtesy Erebus.

But thinking all this is not what I should be doing right now, I need to be searching for all and any information I could find, weighing my options and thinking up my future course of actions.

That being said, it really did not seem like I had a choice, but to succumb to the choice that is seemingly being made for me, just fill the shoe, lest it be filled by Anne; I mean for her sake,  being a few thousand year old God’s lackey did not seem like a bad deal; who knows, I might actually amass some good karma.

Anne, the real question was whether I tell her about my midnight Godly rendezvous or not. She is a historian and the cleverer of the pair of us. Telling her would make absolute sense, assuming that she would believe me, which even for me, seems doubtful. But before I could tell her, I need to find out as much as I can about all this; and meeting Father Christopher seems like the key to doing just that.

Father Christopher. Who was he really? I mean, is he a God too- in the form of a human? Or was he some Greek monk who just does this for a living? Well whoever he was, he’d better give me a few answers. I needed those before I sit down and make up my mind.

While I was thinking about all this, the guards rang the bells to signal shower time. As we all formed our single file and moved to the shower area, I looked around. This place might have been my home for the past three years, but I did not feel at home here, at all. This place does not treat its inmates kindly. It housed some of the more notorious criminals our generation has seen.

Even though their activities are overlooked by the guards, they are a necessary nuisance. The hierarchy affects everyone in every walk of the daily prison life. I had somehow managed to fly under the radar; out of the system inside the system . I might have just lucked out, or maybe I wasn’t juicy enough; I mean I am a skinny guy with a thin layer of beard that feigned intelligence and fashion sense. Anyhow I count my stars on a daily basis for having escaped notice. I find myself thinking along these lines every day when I head towards the showers.

I liked shower time; quite honestly – don’t get me wrong, I don’t particularly fancy standing butt naked in close proximity to a few dozens of other butt naked people of various shapes and sizes – but its the illusion of normalcy that the shower provides amidst a scene of dirty reality.

Water, I feel has an innate power of healing. It makes me feel clean, normal and whole which somehow seemed to counter the inadequacy I feel thanks to the days I spend in a dingy prison cell with a bald homicidal inmate. I washed myself up and stayed in the showers for as long as I could.

Once I was done, I clothed myself and headed out to the kitchens, had my usual small talk with Harold and then quickly ate my food.

Finally, the bells rang for yard time – free time. We could do whatever we could in this time. I had only one thing on my mind, getting some answers from Father Christopher. I needed to shed some light on my current situation.

I headed into the chapel, and there he was, Father Christopher, atleast I think he’s a Father; after last night I couldn’t be sure. As far as I can remember, Father Christopher had arrived randomly to the prison a month before I’d come here. He’d been the best prison cleric this place had ever seen. He had this mild benevolence around him that was infectious.

He was a tall, well-built man with dark black hair and azure blue eyes. I mean for someone with his looks, his entire body shouted jock. He would have fit perfectly in a basketball team. The only feature of his that showed deep and measured intelligence were his eyes. His eyes failed to hide how knowledgeable and keen he was.

One gaze from him and you find yourself confessing your childhood secrets to him. This qualified him to become a priest of the lord, or that’s what I always thought. But clearly, in spite of having spoken to this man for three long years almost on a daily basis, I barely knew him.

As I headed towards the father, he gave me his usual warm hug and a smile. His eyes then latched onto my newly acquired necklace and his eyes froze. He raised his brows that gave away his surprise; then his brows furrowed almost immediately showing evident worry. He had always been very expressive.

I decided to pass on the usual small talk, and started off by saying “eimai xypnios”.

He was even more taken aback at what I had just told him. He responded with an “Oh”, quickly followed by “This, I can not believe, I did not see coming.”

When I heard this, I admittedly lost my composure. I said “wait, you had some doubts about such a thing? First things first, who the hell are you; or in your case should I say who the tartarus are you? I mean are you even Christopher, are you even mortal? Why are you here?”

“Calm down Ryan. I am indeed Christopher. Yes, I am mortal. No, I am not God, and I have got to call blasphemy on what you said about tartarus. I am sorry for what has happened to you. But I promise you, this is not a bad thing.” Christopher said as he patted me on my shoulder as if in sympathy.

“Well then, why are you talking to me as if my dog just died? you aren’t exactly coming off as someone professing the whole ‘sun is shining’ ideology!” I said; on a good day, I’d say I was overreacting and was being rude; but today wasn’t a good day. If anything, it was a very bad day.

“You need to take a deep breath and calm down. I am speaking in such a tone, because I always speak this way. This is a chapel, all said and done. Lets take this slowly, one question at a time. I promise to answer all your questions” Christopher said in an attempt aimed at pacifying me; and it worked.

“Alright” I said “First things first, Who are you?”

“Ah, I am Christopher and I am someone who like you had his life changed drastically by such an event. I found out a few years back that I was a descendant of Apollo, one of the newer Greek Gods” he said.

I am sure I must have been looking at him with open-mouthed disbelief, because Christopher gave me a wounded glance. I caught my bearings and said “That… that’s impossible”

“Its actually anything but impossible. Many famous people are direct descendants of these Gods. For example, many medical and educational institutions are established by us, the descendants of Apollo. Military institutions are established by Ares’ descendants and so on. The power of the Gods of the ages have deep roots in the world as we know it” Christopher proceeded to explain.

“So why did you end up becoming a cleric?” I asked, although after having said it,  I realised I basically called him an underachiever.

“That isn’t how it works. All of us in this world, descendants or not have a purpose. Once we get the calling, we have tasks and missions that we are driven to complete; mine was to train and mould the person who gets the talisman and prepare them for what was to come. So in a way, you are my mission” Christopher said, smiling.

“What did you mean Apollo was one of the new Gods?” I asked, curious as I had heard Christopher mention that.

“Oh that’s an interesting fact actually” said Christopher, evidently entering his teacher mode “There are two sets of Greek Gods, the primordial ones and the new age ones. They exist and work hand in hand as separate entities in a bigger picture. Erebus, the one you met was one of the primordial Gods, whereas my ancestor Apollo is a new age God”

“Where exactly does this talisman fit in all of this? What does it do?” I asked, this was getting interesting, I wanted to know more.

“The talisman is an ancient symbol of power. It is said to make the user able to tap into ancient supernatural forces and even talk to Gods. Safe to say, historically, the wearers of this talisman have gone on to do some really great things” Christopher said.

As I heard all of this, I looked down at the talisman amazed at the supernatural relevance and strength it held. Another question popped into my head “why did it get hot when the God came?”

“Ah that is sort of obvious. The talisman is like a projector that basically directs ancient power. So it is bound to heat up as one uses it” Christopher said and I think he was starting to enjoy this question and answer session.
“Alright so what do I do now? ” I asked. I should admit, though things were muddled, the conversation I had with Christopher made things a lot more clear.

“Now you train and prepare yourself, then wait for one of the Gods to approach you with your mission.” Christopher said like a good army general tells his corporal.

As I thought about all I’d gathered, it did seem evident to me that the talisman need not necessarily be a bad thing to have. It was quite evident that I’d be a glorified Greek God henchman, which seemed like an okay deal to me. But one thing nagged me at the back of my mind. All this; all that Christopher and Erebus had told me, it seems too good to be true; and if life has taught me anything, it is that when something seemed too good to be true, there’s almost always a hidden downside. I looked at Christopher who was still quite eager to answer my questions. So voicing my thoughts, I said “So, what’s the downside? This seems almost unreal”

Christopher looked down, for the first time, as if avoiding my eyes “yes, Ryan. Although the talisman gives you power and wisdom, each time you use it to carry out your missions, you sacrifice a year of your life”

This hit me like a high tide. Well, of course it had a down side. All that glitters is indeed not gold.

End of Chapter 3