Helix apologized for the end of the world first thing in the morning. Of course he knew something had to be done about it, and of course he felt badly about it, but also, he also wanted to watch the M*A*S*H* marathon on 227 without having to think about the imminent end of civilization as it was generally known. In the back of his head, he was aware that there was something pitiful about seven hours of M*A*S*H* on a Saturday night, a pitiful that was compounded by Helix’s tumbling black curls, his easy laugh, and his apocalyptic smile. There was no doubt that he could have been doing anything or anyone on any Saturday night, and instead: M*A*S*H*.
Mostly, he wanted to someone to ask him what he was doing, so that he could tell them. But no one called, and so he was left with M*A*S*H* and looming Armageddon until dawn.
Trillium didn’t accept his apology. (Trillium was not really her name. Actually, Helix was not really his name either. The names of gods are impossible for humans to spell, much less pronounce. Our lips and voice boxes aren’t made for it. Curiously enough, the lips and voice boxes of the Madagascar Aye-Aye, a specialized lemur that retrieves grubs from trees by means of an elongated middle finger, are made for it, but no one asks them). Trillium told Helix that she’d been thinking, and she had this theory that Helix had only triggered the end of the world to get attention.
“That’s ridiculous,” Helix replied. He was in his pajamas. Not pajamas like you or I wear, but the original paijama, from West Asia. He’d paired the trousers with a hideous bright blue calf-length sherwani that he liked because a mortal had once told him it brought out the blue in his eyes. His eyes were no longer blue, but the memory of the flattery remained.
Trillium, on the other end of the phone, said, “You’re like a puppy. Even negative attention will please you.”
Helix considered this. He didn’t feel like this was true. He didn’t care for Trillium’s angry voice, and he didn’t particularly like apologizing in general. His father had never apologized, and his father had done many more things worth apologizing over. Anyway, Helix knew when he was doing things on purpose, and this particular apocalypse didn’t feel like he’d done it on purpose. And he didn’t think he’d done it subconsciously. Gods were all subconscious.
“Oh, stop,” Trillium snapped. “Fine. Just tell me where this damn volcano is.”
He told her. She made an irritated noise.
“Don’t you think that was a bit dramatic?” she asked. “Don’t answer that. Fine. I’ll take care of it. Don’t say thank you, by the way. You don’t really mean it. How long do I have?”
Helix told her.
Trillium made an irritated noise. “Well, I guess I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”
Helix said, “We never do things together anymore. Don’t you miss that?”
She made another noise, and then she hung up on him. She didn’t call him back, either. Helix would’ve thought he’d imagined the entire conversation except for the fact that the world didn’t end. He peered out the window a few times, anxiously checking the sky for a smothering cloud of ash and noxious fumes, but it remained blue and clear. Helix was simultaneously relieved and disappointed. It wasn’t that he had wanted humanity wiped off the planet, it was just that he’d been hoping for something to happen to pass the time.
Then there was a knock on his apartment door. It was Trillium. She was dressed entirely in white, which made her skin look inky, and and her lips were painted the color of the blood of innocents. She looked dangerous, which she was.
“I cannot believe you’re wearing that,” she told him, before he’d said anything. “You should’ve told me it was that bad.”
In his kitchen, she sorted through the cabinets until she found the good stuff (technically, “the good stuff” was called ambrosia, but calling it “ambrosia” gives people the wrong idea. It’s cloudy and gritty, although most of the chunks stay in the bottle if it’s poured right. The ambrosia has to distill for at least two centuries to even be drinkable, and even then, drinkable is a very subjective term. I know you don’t have a sensitive stomach, but I won’t tell you what it’s made from regardless). Trillium lounged with a glass and watched him.
“Aren’t you going to get dressed?”
Helix drew himself up. “I am dressed.”
“Aren’t you going to get dressed?” she repeated.
Trillium said, “You said you missed doing things together.”
Helix was quite thrilled, but it wouldn’t do for him to be quite thrilled, so he shot Trillium a filthy look and stalked to the bedroom to change. He took everything out of his closet and began to try them on in front of the mirror. Gods have a different sense of time than mortals, and so it was Tuesday when he emerged from his room, resplendent in Cary Grant’s suit from North by Northwest. Of course it was the real thing, made by Kilgour, French, and Stanbury of Savile Row, and pinched from the hands of collectors decades before.
Trillium, who was still savoring a glass of Ambrosia, tipped the ice around in her glass and raked her eyes over him. “So it’s to be North America, then.”
“I can change,” Helix said.
“Oh,” Trillium said, “No, I think it’s quite obvious that you can’t. Shall we?”
Together they journeyed out into the noisy city Helix had chosen for his home. It was choked with people and all of their hopes and fears, people of every different race and status and gender. To humans, it was a cacophony of identities. To the two gods, however, the city was an ant hill, populated by frantic occupants with common goals. It was tedious for Helix to tell them apart. Luckily for most humans, it’s more difficult than one might think to catch the eye of a god.
Finally, though, the same boy caught their attention. Both gods at once. He’d been tasked by his mother to pawn her good china and bring back the proceeds for groceries. The boy’s name was Jack, and this reminded Helix of a story. Gods adore stories, especially ones about them. It’s like a favorite movie that you watch again and again, never getting tired of the ending. So Trillium fetched some magic beans and gave them to Helix, and Helix possessed a street vendor to sell them to Jack. The two gods had no giants or magic harps or enchanted geese yet, but they had time. The beanstalk always took weeks to grow, and it seemed like it might take a little longer in this concrete city they’d chosen.
After the exchange had been made, Helix pranced back to Trillium with some falafel. He didn’t say that he was happy with his work, but his face shone with a joy that brightened the sun, rose the temperature of the closest ocean a quarter of a degree, and caused a shelf of ice to melt from the polar ice cap.
“It has been a long time,” Trillium admitted. As a god, she was more immune to Helix than most, but even she had a hard time turning her eyes away from his fierce happiness. The joy of a god was a powerful thing: it started wars and ended winters, murdered monarchs and melted hearts. So when Helix unleashed his ebullience on her, Trillium had no choice but to kiss him with her stiletto lips.
Helix had not been kissed by a god before. He felt he’d spent the last few centuries kissing statues. The most curious sensation was bubbling up inside him. It was as if now, standing on this busy sidewalk, every face around him became distinct and noticeable. Every human caught his eye, suggested stories. Every life seemed like an opportunity for the two of them to insert themselves and play.
“I thought,” Helix said, “that it was the end of the world.”
“Not yet,” said Trillium.
Author’s Note: my last Merry Sisters of Fate story! Based on our common prompt of Jack and the Beanstalk.
Image is by icliff.