Dearest Reader, if you are a wedding-coordinator, please be advised that your boss might be withholding a secret inhuman-identity. If you are considering a job as a wedding coordinator, then be aware that “wedding coordinator” is code for “virginal sacrifice.” If you are like me and already aware of this troublesome fact, then my condolences. We are trapped, as the human offerings of a wedding between Gods. I hope your boss wasn’t born from Chaos, like mine.
My name is Maggie Adams. I’m nineteen years old, and my life is over.
Why you ask?
Well, I was living in the mountains of Colorado as a Front Desk Receptionist at a local inn. I enjoyed it for a time, and I certainly loved living in the nature-rich atmosphere of the Rocky Mountains, but I’ll admit, I was getting a little stir-crazy after a year or so. My schedule was inconsistent, and I either worked too late or too early, and my friends were alcoholics.
So, I looked for available jobs on Indeed.com, and that’s where I found a job listing for a wedding coordinator just down the road at a beautiful lake-side resort. I figured I had some experience in room-blocks, so maybe I could pull off running my own sales department. I was only nineteen, but in a small town, despite the heavy traffic of tourists, it’s difficult finding employees. So I applied and told myself that it couldn’t hurt.
Not two minutes went by when I received one of those questionnaires that the employer will typically include as part of the application process. There were some questionable questions, but I have to say that the one that really stood out to me was; “are you human?”
I thought maybe it was one of those, “just wanna make sure you’re not a robot,” verifications, but three days later, when I found myself trapped inside a Grecian palace, it started to make sense.
Thus, I introduce Erebus, the God of darkness. He’s really good at covering the world in darkness. However, I’ll admit that he’s not very intimidating. He’s got this bored-with-life persona that I find reassuring like he’s too tired to blow me up if I mouth off. His family on the other hand: yikes.
His sister, Nyx, is the Goddess of night, and the two are always squabbling over who’s really the ruler of darkness. They were both born of Chaos, which I assumed meant they were siblings, but I caught them kissing once, so I guess sister is a loose definition. She’s feistier than he is, and certainly doesn’t mind causing a scene.
Tartarus, the brother, is sort-of the God of the underworld, but the bit of the underworld that’s under the part that Hades rules. Tartarus is way, way down there, well below Hades's little world. According to the Kelly Blue Books of Greek Deities, Tartarus ranks #1 on divine punishment for the really bad. He might just be the scariest of them all because he gets a kick out of tying people up and torturing them, and he’s been winking at me since I arrived.
Gaea, his other sister, the Goddess of Earth, thoroughly disapproves of her farther-from-light-and-redemption siblings. She and her brother, Eros, the God of Love, spend most of their days checking up on me because I’ve been trapped in a Grecian palace with these Gods for about a week now.
“Just sign your name here…” Mr. Erebus had politely instructed in his navy blue suit, and with little to no concern as to how I landed the position three minutes into the interview, I signed my name in red ink (which turned out to be a pen filled with my blood. How he pulled that off, I don’t know.)
That’s when with a dramatic snap of his fingers the lake-side resort with its cabin-like build and rustic elegance dissolved into a Grecian palace with fluted columns and white marble floors.
The palace bustled with beautiful people in dresses that I wanted to call togas. I learned later on that they were actually called peplos. I would have liked to have worn one too, but nobody offered. Instead, I stood out like a sore thumb in the clothes I had picked out for my interview; a brown pencil skirt and ivory blouse. A pair of black heels completed the picture of professionalism while everyone else wore sandals. I suppose it was only fitting that I stood out. I was the virgin sacrifice after all.
By the way, did you know that being a God or Goddess instantly grants you the ever-desired gift of beauty? I wasn’t aware. In fact, I expected to see at least one fat, Greek man in a toga with a massively hairy chest and a crown of leaves atop his head. Instead, I found myself in a throng of sculpted men straight out of a GQ magazine; Grecian Addition. And female models, with perfect olive skin, straight off of the Aphrodite Secret Runway.
Needless to say, I felt frumpy in comparison with my towel-dried brown hair, far-too-skinny short body, and boring pale skin. It was like comparing paper to gold.
Speaking of gold: my boss’s navy-blue suit faded to make way for a gold and blue himation, which is a heavy mantle wrapped around the body, and over the shoulder.
While I admit that he looked deliciously regal, I wasn’t gawking at him. I had plenty more to gawk at than the God of Darkness’s sculpted biceps and chiseled jaw-line. (Did I mention he has nearly-black hair and stunning brown eyes?) I wasn’t gawking. I was, instead, marveling, in a near-panic-sort-of-way at the staggering height of those fluted columns. They stretched at least thirty-four feet high, carrying a limestone ceiling that climbed another fifteen-twenty-feet to an oculus in the roof.
I couldn’t decide whether I was in a good dream or a bad dream. About thirty seconds later, I would find out that I was in a bad dream.
“I am Erebus,” he had begun, correcting the decorative gold pin that locked the folds of his himation across his shoulder, “the God of Darkness. You are here as the virgin sacrifice for the ceremony of marriage between two Gods.”
“So, you don’t need a wedding coordinator?”
“Sincerest apologies for the mock job posting,” he said like he wasn’t sorry at all, “but I knew in a town as small as this one, some underqualified woman-child would apply and be exactly what I needed.”
“How did you know I was a virgin!” I was offended.
“I am a God.” He answered, implying that he was all-knowing. I put my indignation aside long enough to find the horror in my unfortunate predicament. How long did I have to live? Would I be placed on a marble slab, my throat slit from left to right until I choked on my own blood?
“I think I’m going to be sick.” I gasped.
“I’d rather you didn’t.”
“You have to let me go,” I told Erebus. “I may be a virgin, but I’m a terrible virgin! I have filthy thoughts. I’ve read over a hundred romance novels. One time I kissed a girl in front of her boyfriend! I’m not the right kind of virgin for you. Please, reconsider.”
He was walking away. I was chasing after him.
“I adore romance novels,” he replied, “and I’ve kissed girls too, so that’s not exactly a deal-breaker.”
That was it! I had to lose my virginity before the wedding!
“When is the wedding?”
“It will begin whenever everyone arrives. It could be one day, it could be fourteen.”
Vague, and unhelpful. But, I had found my brilliant little loop-hole and I would be jumping through it like a Pembroke Welsh Corgi show dog.
Under a truss roof, I followed Erebus deeper into the palace. When I wasn’t marveling at the frescoes that decorated the limestone ceiling, I was determinedly studying my surroundings. I was searching for something in particular, and there was a chance I’d have to ditch the God of Darkness to find it.
We passed arched doorways that led further into the maze of the palace and walked through rooms that were all different from the last. When the roof stopped short high above our heads, a plunging staircase appeared and caught me by surprise. Erebus put an arm out to keep my stumbling feet from tripping down the impressive flight of stairs.
“You don’t have to follow me.” He drawled.
“What else am I supposed to do?”
“You may roam the palace as you please. You are not a prisoner here.”
“Am I allowed to leave?”
“Then I am a prisoner!”
His abrupt stop had me crashing into his back. I stumbled back; he didn’t budge. He turned to address me, and that’s when I got a glimpse of what I had been looking for.
The sex room.
(I imagine there’s a more historically accurate term for this, but at the time, I was trying to avoid death, so bear with me.)
Erebus was saying something, but I wasn’t listening. I nodded, and he left. With a clear path from the toe of my shoe to the entrance of the “sex room,” I slowly made my way in. Crossing a landing between the first and second flight of stairs, my heels clicked obnoxiously on the white marble floors. I thought it would be best if I removed them. I did.
Once I was standing beneath an arched doorway, I observed something I hadn’t noticed before. In this “sex room,” there was only one woman, and at least a dozen men.
Sixth-grade history class caught up with me, and I realized that I was standing in the doorway of a Symposium; a gathering of men who come together to drink, listen to music (often played by half-naked women,) and watch talented recitals (also played by half-naked women.)
That’s when I realized the one woman in the room was a Hetaera, a well-educated courtesan, often quite talented and witty enough to keep up with the dry humor of men.
I leaned into the limestone of the arched doorway as I observed the carefree sexual energy that danced like ribbons around her soft body. She was dancing, sort of. Swaying might have been a more accurate description of the movement she was doing with her hips. Her dark brown hair hung low on her back, and her skin literally glowed as if she had just applied an insane amount of olive oil to her body.
It was then when a deviously wicked idea, so brilliant it might actually work, popped into my head. In under five minutes, I had managed to run around the complex corridors that branched off the landing, scour each room I passed for a chest of clothes, remove my skirt and blouse and replace them with a cream and gold-laced peplos, and return to the entrance of the symposium, barefoot, and only slightly out of breath.
I can pretend to be a hetaera, I told myself. I removed the clip in my hair and allowed my chestnut waves to fall around my face. I can be witty, and interesting, and...talented. I mean, how hard could it be to get laid around here?
Shoulders back, head high, a seductive smile on my face that (I hoped) mirrored the hetaera in the room; I sauntered in.
“Are you lost?” I heard from over my shoulder, and I nearly smiled in victory. Not even ten steps into the sex room and my brilliant plan was working! I fixed my seductive smile, I relaxed my eyes until I imagined they looked drowsy with lust, and then I turned around and faced the victor of my V-Card.
“I’m not lost,” I replied to the forbidding man who looked like Erebus, only bigger, and...darker. I didn’t know whether to be frightened or aroused. Regardless, he was handsome.
“Then why don’t I borrow your time while I can.” His eyes trailed a path from mine to somewhere over my shoulder, encouraging me to follow. I did, turning to see a hoard of lust-hungry young men rising to their feet, their eyes on me.
(Am I pulling this off, or what?)
“Yes,” I addressed the man again. He politely held out his arm, and I placed my hand in the crook of his chiseled bicep (yes, chiseled.)
“What is your name?” He asked as he led me to a nearby day-bed.
“Mag―” I winced. “Marguerite,” I answered with a smile as we perched at the edge of the bed.
“A beautiful name.” He mused. “I am Tartarus.”
“Oh…” My smile waned because he said it as if I should know who he is, and I didn’t.
“My home, well beneath the underworld, holds the Titans.” He explained with a smile, and I brightened instantly because I knew about the Titans.
“Yes, of course! I know who you are.” I laughed a breathy little laugh that I thought might sound seductive. By the darkening look in his eye, I must have been right. In fact, I think he was just beginning to lean in for a kiss when from the corner of my eye, I spotted Erebus glide into the sex room. His eyes found mine, almost immediately, but I refused to acknowledge him as anything more than a stranger whom I had never met.
“What are you waiting for?” I purred to Tartarus. “Kiss me!” I hurled myself into his lap, wrapping my legs around his waist. It was a clumsy, hideous effort, especially when his hands held me firmly by the shoulders just as I was preparing for our makeout-sesh.
“My, you humans are frisky,” he threw his head back and laughed.
“I see you’ve found my virgin sacrifice,” Erebus spoke from somewhere behind.
“Are you sure she’s a virgin, brother?” Tartarus affectionately patted my cheek as if I were nothing but a child. “She’s got a way about her that suggests she isn’t.”
“I imagine she’s trying to deflower herself before the wedding.”
Together they laughed heartily and I was too stunned to do anything but sit on Tartarus’s knees. I felt dumb and defeated.
“Come, little one.” Erebus held out his large hand and I don’t even know why I took it. He helped me to my feet. “No more seducing the gentlemen in this palace.” He waved a disapproving finger at me, and I glowered at his chiding tone.
“Brother, tell the girl she isn’t going to die.” Tartarus rose from the bed behind me. My head whipped around at his words.
“No,” he chuckled.
“Well, you are going to die.” Erebus corrected, drawing my attention forward. “But you will be given a new life and your sacrifice will be well rewarded.”
“Wait,” a hand flew to my throat. “I’m still going to die?”
“Of course,” Erebus nodded. “It’s tradition.”
“Can we just…” I gulped. “Not...tradition...this year?”
“We cannot make an exception for you.” Erebus declined.
I didn’t argue, but I did ask for further explanation. I was told that human sacrifices were a part of the grand celebration that is a wedding, and it was truly a great honor that I had been chosen. I didn’t think so, but Erebus went on to explain that when I returned to life, my life would be significantly better. I was guaranteed happiness.
I guess I was willing to die for guaranteed happiness.
But how would I die? I wanted to know. But Erebus wouldn’t offer a crumb of information regarding the method of my death, and that really worried me.
But for guaranteed happiness, wouldn’t it be worth it? (God, I hope it isn’t fire.)
So, now that we’re caught up, here I am, a week into a Grecian Palace, the virgin sacrifice for a wedding between Gods. Everyone knows I’m human, which means they’re not allowed to touch me. Which means, the V-card stays intact. Major bummer. Eros and Gaea keep my company, but they won’t tell me how I’ll die either. They won’t even tell me what my better life is supposed to look like. They, instead, brush my hair, massage my hands, and feed me grapes to “relieve the tension.” They’re very kind, and I will miss them after I “die.”
When I learned who Tartarus really was, I started avoiding the absolute hell out of him. Although his winking could pass for flirtatious, I imagine a night with him would look something like Fifty Shades of Grey times fifty. (I can’t say the idea of being tied up at Tartarus’s mercy doesn't turn me on a little…)
But I guess if Erebus is being honest with me, and I do come out of this bizarre experience alive, then I suppose I will look back on this week and marvel at all that I have seen. I have met Greek Gods, I have seen Grecian Architecture, and I (will) have experienced death first hand.
We’ll see how that goes.