Chapter 5 – Entropy

When my eyes opened, all I could hear were a bunch of noises. It didn’t seem like the yard. These noises were neat. It wasn’t of the boisterous prison inmates, but what seemed like medical equipment, people talking, two men and a woman, Anne. Wait, what was Anne doing here? Wasn’t I in prison?

I opened my eyes and looked around. The surroundings were dark and had the same gloomy and flaccid feel to it as the walls of my cell. That meant I was still in the prison. Judging by the medical equipment, I was in the infirmary. I had never been to the prison infirmary. I had spent three years without getting into trouble or harm. I hadn’t needed to visit this place. My infirmary virginity didn’t last as much as I’d have hoped.

I looked down at my body. I looked like a disproportionate mummy wannabe. I was wrapped in bandages covering my bruises; my many, many bruises. My left arm was tied to a sling; my legs were elevated also by a sling. I didn’t feel much pain but I figure I had morphine to thank for that.

Next to me lay Francis, breathing. Thank God, he was alive. I did somehow poke something into him. I wasn’t sure what I had done or how I had done.

I looked around, outside the glass door that led to the observation are, I saw Anne. Oh she had been here; I thought I had been imagining her voice. She was having a heated argument with the guard and the doctor, Dr Dalton, I believe his name was.

Dr Roger Dalton, looked like he was the only person happy to be here. He wasn’t grumpy at all; he looked neat, scientific, dignified. He had a clean shaven, healthy looking face, spot clean clothes and sneakers that looked like they’d been washed daily.

The guard who stood near him was an exact contrast in discipline. But then one can’t blame prison guards for being grumpy. They are underpaid and overworked. The three of them were talking loud enough for their voice to have woken me up.

The doctor noticed that I was awake, caught my eye and came rushing in. “Oh, did we wake you up? Apologies, Mr. Ryan; how are you feeling now?”

“Broken, I suppose, what happened to me?” I asked, though I guessed the answer for the most part.

“You were getting thrashed by the other inmates and lost a lot of blood. Luckily before there was any lasting damage, the guards used tranquilizers to put you and Richard to sleep. You were then sent here and we called your emergency contact. Quiet the fiery girl, you’ve got there.” The doctor said, glancing nervously at me.

Yes, that’s Anne. She was usually amiable and harmless. But when angered, she was unstoppable and fierce; quite like a tigress in heat. Both Anne and the guard had come in by now. Anne rushed to me and gave me a bone breaking bear hug. I suspected a few ribs might have broken as a result, but she was warm, homely and smelled nice. I wasn’t going to complain. Then she let go, looked at me as if examining the damages.

She looked excited to see me unscheduled albeit the circumstances. The doctor sensed that we wanted to talk. He was sensible; he got up and said to the guard “Alright then Stevenson, let us give these two some space to talk, shall we?” and left the room. The guard closed the door behind him and stood with his back to the door. The doctor left.

“So what happened? The doctor gave me and idea of the happenings, but I want details. What did you do?” She asked, almost as if she was scolding me.

This question put my entire dilemma from earlier today in perspective. That was the very question I had been wondering about when I was rudely interrupted. I had to know whether telling her was a good idea. Well, even if it wasn’t, I didn’t have an alternate story to tell her.  Anne was far too sensible to buy any random story I’d feed her. She knew me too well to read through my lie.

That wasn’t the only thing bothering me. The problem wasn’t what I tell her, it was how much I tell her. Last night through today so many things had happened.  I couldn’t help but wonder how Anne would react to all that. How much could Anne digest before she breaks down, or worse. She was a historian; she might take the implications in a different light.

A familiar face saved me from this dilemma. Christopher entered the room, poked his face inside, nervously spotted me and hurried over to me.

He sized me up, trying to gauge the damages I had sustained after leaving his chapel only a few hours back. “Boy, they really did rough you up, I should have warned you” He said, then he looked at the bed next to mine, where Francis lay unconscious, the brass feather on the bedside table next to him. He quickly went to examine the feather. While he did that he noticed Anne in the room, for the first time and jumped with a start.

He soon realised he had spoken far too much before first looking around. He said meekly “Oh, I am sorry, you must be Anne.  I am Christopher, the padre in the chapel in this establishment.”

Anne was looking at Christopher and his quirkiness with mild amusement. She got up, shook his hand and said “Hello. Ryan had mentioned you a few times before. Thank you for keeping him company here.” Then she remembered something and voicing her thoughts asked “And what did you say you should have warned him about”

My heart sank. Here I thought I had a choice, and now my choice was being made for me. I had hoped Christopher’s interruption would buy me some time to process my situation. Christopher meanwhile had just realised what he had done, and was evidently working out an exit strategy. But I wasn’t blaming him for the predicament. I did owe Anne an explanation. This just made sure I gave it to her now and not later.

“Sit down, Anne; I will tell you. Chris, take a seat. I need to here for this.”  I said straining my voice. The morphine was wearing down slowly. The pain was making its presence felt. Anne looked at me quizzically, and then sat down in her seat. Chris looked apologetic, but he took a chair and sat on my bed side, opposite of Anne.

I took the talisman in my hand, and I told her everything; everything that had happened, my meeting from last night, what Christopher had told me today morning and my fight from a few hours back. Anne listened to me patiently with wide mouthed amazement, almost like a little girl being told a fairy tale. I had not told her about the thing Christopher had told me about, the down-side. I did not want her to upset her. I was considering avoiding that part altogether. Chris caught my eye and kept his quiet as well. He could sense I’d prefer it that way.

Anne was speechless after having heard my account. It was clearly a lot to take in. As a matter of fact, she had taken it a lot better than I could have hoped. She got up, went over to Francis’ bed, grabbed the feather and looked at it as if trying to connect the dots. She was a historian. For me, that was a random manifestation of anger, a random event; for her, it was evidence, science.

She took her seat next to me again, and then looked at the feather and at Christopher alternatively. Christopher was quietly waiting for someone to break the ice. He looked uncomfortable but was patient enough to not interrupt.

“So you are Apollo’s descendant, and the Greek gods walk the Earth. They meet random people at night and talk to them. And the talisman I gave Ryan is the cause of all this.” She said looking at the talisman I was holding and at Christopher, then at me. She had a shocked and disturbed look. The more clear things got to her, the more disturbed she looked.

“It isn’t your fault, Anastasia” said Christopher “The talisman chose you and not the other way around. You had little choice in the matter. You were chosen long before you were even born. Everything was predestined.”

Then Anne looked at the brass feather she was holding. She examined it closely as if trying to see the manufacturer’s bar code or something that told her where the prop was from.

“What is this and where did it come from. Ryan did not have this before. How was the guy over there stabbed by this? Anne asked.

Christopher went back to his interview mode. He looked comfortable. He said “That isn’t exactly Ryan’s. They are brass wings characteristic to the birds that were common in Ancient Greece. They were known as Stymphalian birds. They are Ares’ pets; their dung has poisoned many an army in the past. Their wings are made of brass and sharp, often used as a defence mechanism.”

Anne looked at Chris as if he had just told her flying unicorns existed. Still surprised, she asked “Wait, how did Ryan get a Stymphalian bird to attack that guy and why would Ares help him?”

Christopher patiently continued “No, Ares didn’t exactly help him. Not per se. You see, the talisman acts as a beacon, like a siren of some sort. It calls forth ancient beings to do the owner’s bidding. Ryan wasn’t exclusively summoning the bird; he probably was desperate and wasn’t thinking much of anything, which ended up in him summoning a weaker beast by accident”

This made sense to me; I nodded and said “Yes, I wasn’t thinking much. I was just angry. I felt powerless, next thing I knew I had done that.”

Anne looked at Christopher and seemed to take an educated interest in the explanation. She asked slowly as if carefully considering her own question “And what role do you play in this?”

Christopher looked at me and smiled, I had asked that earlier today. He said “I was sent here to train the talisman bearer to control and effectively bring out the powers of the talisman. Power doesn’t necessarily get used in the right way, all the time. Were it to fall into wrong hands, there could be dire consequences. I am here to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Anne considered the information for a few minutes; shook her head and said” I am sorry but all this seems a bit bizarre for me to take in”.

Chris seemed prepared for this line of questioning. Calmly and kindly, he said “I hardly think so dear. You might have read stories in history books about people using various devices to suddenly get powers, unexplained and mysterious. The best example of such an occurrence was Aladdin, remember reading about him?

Anne scoffed “That’s a children’s fantasy tale. Come on, you couldn’t possibly be serious!”

Chris seemed satisfied by her response. He looked like he was waiting for a challenge. This had me wondering whether all of Apollo’s kids were self-satisfied know-it-all like him. This made me smile silently. Bizarre conversation or not, I liked the company I was in.

He said “Exactly, It was retold and sold off as a children’s fantasy. It wasn’t a genie that Aladdin summoned. It was an ancient being and he got his riches by carrying out tasks written in his destiny.”

Anne opened her mouth to argue, but soon closed it as if reconsidering it; akin to a goldfish. More reason for me to smile. Chris waited for more questions. Anne seemed to be processing all the information. Finally, she said “what if we got rid of the talisman? It would solve our problem wouldn’t it?”

Christopher sighed and with sorrow filled in his countenance, said “no dear, I wish it were that simple, but it isn’t. The talisman chooses you and not the other way around. No matter what you did, in one way or the other, it would find its way back to you.”

As Anne digested that remark, and Christopher prepared to soothe her, we were interrupted by two guards and the doctor. They told us that Anne would have to leave. Anne got up, we killed. She told me she’d call me with all the information she could gather. She also said she’d get us out of this, and finally with another kiss and a hug more painful than the last, she left.

The doctor and the guards left with her. Then it was just me, Christopher, the other patients and a very dark infirmary.

Christopher sensed that I was disturbed. He said “Relax Ryan. Next time, I promise you, you’d be prepared.”

I looked up “Next time, huh? Here I thought this was a one-time deal.”

Christopher smiled softly and said “The prison authority didn’t get a clear view or any evidence of your involvement in this, but the other inmates would have seen what happened. You will be facing many such encounters in the future. I believe you have little choice in the matter. I am truly sorry, Ryan” and with that, he got up, asked me to rest and left.

For the first time after I left my cell today morning, I was alone, free to think. I looked at the clock on the wall. It was already dinner time. Sure enough, a guard walked in with a food tray. In the tray was an assortment of Harold’s fruit pallet.  Smiled, Harold cared like a father. I liked him for things like this.  I quickly started eating the food, ignoring the pain I had when I was chewing.

After food, I got ready to go to sleep. Just as I closed my eyes, a voice called out “An eventful day you’ve had. You better get used to it”

It was a woman’s voice. It wasn’t anyone from the prison. It wasn’t Erebus. I looked around searching for the source.

“There’s no point looking around. You can’t look at my form, for I am the night itself. The one who spoke to you yesterday was my husband” She said.

“And who are you?” I said. I was getting annoyed at these faceless night time visitors, carrying tasteless news.

“I am Nyx, the goddess of the night” she said “I came here to know of your decision. What path do you choose? For the path shall define your very life.”

Erebus had mentioned he’d be returning for knowing of my choice. It didn’t look like I had a choice really. It did look like a straightforward yes-no situation where the right answer, or the only answer was yes. If any problems were to happen, I guess I’d have to figure something out. The fact that Anne knew of this made me feel more confident than I’d have otherwise been.

“Alright, I agree to do your bidding” I said feigning conviction.

“Great. You choose wisely. Repeat after me “ypóschontai na kánoun ó, ti léte , méchri ton Ádi me kaleí , ypóschomai apó potamó Stýga

I repeated after her, the sky thundered when I was finished.

“Good luck, Ryan.” She said and with a screech she was gone.

The sounds of the prison returned to me. With a painful sigh, I closed my eyes to go back to sleep. As I was falling asleep, the only thing I could think of was why gods were obsessed with wishing me luck. Did I even have any?

End of Chapter 5