Her gaze lingered on the muscular men working on the plains of Oklahoma. She desired them all, but there was something about the power in his shoulders, the way he carried himself, his easy smile when he cajoled the others, that made her think this one was her choice. Her hero. The Goddess of Stone sent messengers.
Under the roaring heat of the natural gas flaring off above, Avrel hauled the next pipe segment into place, sweat exuded from all his pores while his rippling muscles worked to place the 35 foot of steel that hanging from the boom into the right position to be driven deep into the earth.
His father was an oil worker–hobbled from the decades of accidents he suffered–as well as his late grandfather. Avrel had good grades in school and could have gotten away from Oklahoma, but drilling was his calling and the pay was good. There weren’t many women around, but he could figure that out later, like his father and grandfather did.
They were making history, drilling America’s deepest well, in the Anadarko basin. It was cutting deeper into the heart of the planet than anyone before. Some say the drill bit is over 500F and nearing the depths of hell.
When his shift finished—they placed twenty segments that day—he headed home. His muscles ached after spending all day operating heavy machinery.
Beth turned on her neon sign, the one that faced the highway, just as Avrel neared.
Monday Free Massage for Oil Workers.
A minute later, as she hoped, Avrel walked in.
“Howdy handsome.” She gave him a look from head to midsection. He stripped to his waist, and she placed him face down on the massage table. She kneaded analgesic cream into the tight muscles of his back and legs. Her hands skillfully loosening his knotted tendons after a hard day’s labor. She wondered why she never had a chance with him.
Avrel gave an occasional moan of pleasure, and when the 30 minutes were over, he got up, dressed, nodded the tip of his hat in her direction, and then left. Beth was the wife of a Dexxon Oil line manager, so he always kept his distance, no matter what signs she gave him. She wondered what it would take to get him to notice her.
Polenia, the Siren of Excitement, was already waiting outside.
“Hey you!”, she said as he walked outside. Straddling a motorbike, she had made sure her long red hair was undulating in the wind. “I have an extra motorbike and need someone to ride with.”
He gazed at her with a look of awe. Men like him don’t often meet a demigod’s messenger.
Polenia threw him a set of keys. “Let’s go”
“Lady, you have a deal.”
She sped off down the country highway. He followed. At the canyon, she turned into the dirt trails and pushed him harder. Each time he got closer, she sped faster, taking wilder and wilder turns around boulders and gullies.
After ten minutes of testing his driving skills, she stopped her motorbike and took off her helmet.
He pulled alongside.
“You win,” she said.
“Not quite.” He grimaced. “How did you learn to ride like that?”
Without answering, she reached over and kissed him on the lips. “I like you.”
“I think I like you too. But I don’t even know your name.”
“Paulina. I’m in town for 3 days, doing a job for the EPA,“ she said.
“Yup.” She nodded. “I’ve heard a rumor Dexxon Oil might shut down the oilfield you’re working on. A little mechanical breakdown could help them make up their mind, if you catch my drift. And save the planet.”
“Whoa there, little stallion.“
“If the oilfield shuts down, I’ll come back and we can go for our next ride.” She winked at him.
“The EPA?” he asked, with suspicion in his voice. “We were told never to talk to anyone from the EPA.”
She pulled him back to the point. “You were great on that motorbike. So now, are you
going to be a man or a mouse?”
He stammered an indecipherable answer, and then said, “I want to go back to town now.”
“Are you 100% sure?”
“As sure as rain in a thunderstorm.”
Polenia put on her helmet, yanked the accelerator, and kicked up a cloud of dirt into Avrel’s face as she zoomed away.
He tried to pursue, but the motorbike ran out of gas seconds later. He abandoned it on the side of the road and walked the dusty highway back toward town. Several cars passed. No one was willing to pick up a young man alone.
Raidne, the Siren of Comfort, had a cursory check of her makeup and cropped blond hair in the rearview mirror, and started her engine. As the silhouette of Avrel appeared ahead, she pulled the old Toyota Camry alongside him. “You need a ride?” she asked with a Midwestern twang.
Avrel gave her a doubtful squint.
She persisted, “I’m Beth’s sister. She sent me out to make sure you’re doing alright after you left town on a motorbike with a strange woman.”
“Strange, that’s for sure. Left me alone out on Highway F.” Avrel studied her for a while.
“Beth never mentioned a sister.”
“We don’t always see eye to eye on things. You know how Beth is?” she asked rhetorically. “I have dinner waiting, so get in.”
Avrel moved himself into the passenger seat without saying anything.
After they began driving, she said, “There’s too much food just for me. I could use a visitor.”
“Thanks. It would be nice to have some company.” A working man will never turn down food.
After dinner, she told him, “Have a seat on the sofa, and I’ll rub those big shoulders of yours the way Beth taught me.”
“Thank you,” he said, after she began massaging his shoulders.
“I sent Beth a text message. It’s odd you don’t get mobile reception so close to town.”
“Happens all the time in this valley.” As Avrel was lulled into a state of full relaxation, she said, “if that oil well closed, like they say it will, you could work in town and I could take care of you.”
“Work in town?” he said, as if it was a newly discovered concept that had never occured to him.
“I could be waiting to pick you up every day, feed you a nice dinner.”
“While I do what? Serve coffee at the diner?” he said, suddenly agitated.
“Think about it.”
“A man needs a man’s job.” He tensed up under her hands and then pushed them away. “I think I’ve had my fill of female companionship today.“
He stood up, thanked her for the meal, and walked out. As expected, he headed straight toward the saloon.
“Lone star,” Avrel said to the bartender. He drank beer to unwind after work, not tumblers of whiskey to get drunk like the others.
After his second beer, Parthenope, the Siren of Lust, ruffled her hair, applied a drop of aphrodisiac to her neck, and made her entrance.
Avrel was sitting alone at a quiet back corner of the bar.
Parthenope approached quietly and ran her soft fingertips across his back. She sat in front of him and gave him a look of her shining black hair that flowed down to her waist and a sultry come hither stare.
Avrel said, “I’m tired of talking today, honey. I suggest you find someone else.”
She wasn’t used to being refused.
“I don’t want to talk.” She reached out and held his hand.
“You with the EPA?” Avrel asked.
“Who’s that?” she asked, and without waiting for his answer said, “’I'm with you. What’s your name?”
“Well, that’s all I need to know. We’re done talking now.”
She had him guide her back to his nearby apartment. As he got on top of her, she pulled him into the aphrodisiac. She bit his ear, and he went wild with lust. She yielded her soft body to him. After hours of passion, he laid exhausted.
“That’s the best sex I’ve had in my life," Parthenope said, "I want to do that again, soon.”
“That’s an offer I can’t refuse”
“But, Avrel,” she said. “I’m a lustful woman, Avrel. If you’re not in town and out on some oil rig, I’ll have to find someone else.”
“I can service you twice a day, I’m a big boy.”
“No. I think you’re a little boy playing with Legos out at that oil well.”
“Working on oil rigs is my destiny. A man has to do what a man has to do. I,” he said, standing up and now getting dressed. “There’s a weird smell on you, like an animal smell, a badger, or a ferret.”
Tears welled up in Parthenope eyes, but she can’t let him see them. The pain of deceiving another man, or the pain of what she has become after 3,000 years, she wasn’t sure. This was also her destiny, to suffer for the Goddess for Stone for eternity.
When Avrel came back from the bathroom, she was already gone.
Leucosia, the siren of anger, stomped through the tall grass toward that horrible man who defiled her sister. Hell has no fury like a siren scorned.
Avrel flinched as the gunshot ricocheted above his head. Looking into the scrub, he saw her now, holding her rifle. With her farmer’s dress and her long flowing white hair, she was pointing that rifle straight at his heart and showing she knows how to use it.
“Your oil well killed my best cow,” she told him, “drank from your run-off pond over there, took a few steps and rolled over dead. I am now going to shoot you send you into the ground to join him, unless you have something to say.”
“I don’t know anything about your cow…”
Leucosia moved in closer until the barrel of the rifle was pushing up against his chest.
Behind her, someone grabbed her arm. Instinctively, she pulled the trigger. Bam!
Avrel recoiled from the shot and held his hand to his chest. He stood in shock and looked down. Trembling in fear, he took his hand off to look for blood, but there was none.
“I'm not shot,” he said incredously. “It must have been a blank.“
Leucosia cursed the Goddess. She had put only one bullet in her rifle. The lack of trust was disappointing.
The hand that grabbed her arm, went around her waist and held her tightly. They pulled the rifle out of her hands. Screaming and struggling wildly, they had no choice but to lock her in a maintenance van while they called the sheriff.
Of course, she would be gone before the sheriff arrived.
Some people just don’t get the message. The Goddess of Stone cancelled all her appointments in the heavens, cleared her calendar, and began the long journey down to the land of the mortals.
The oil rig began rattling. The earthquake made itself felt through the ground that knocked everyone but Avrel off their feet. She knew they had minor earthquakes set off by the fracking, but nothing like hers.
Dust rose from the ground around Avrel, and nearby oil rigs shook wildly from side to side. “Rupture in number 7,” a supervisor announced. All eyes turned to the rig, just 200 feet away.
A cloud of mist rose from the oil rig. A bright yellow flash turned it into a shimmering tower of flame. The shockwave from the explosion tossed Avrel into the dirt. The heat melted the steel of the oil rig which began to sag. One by one, the other rigs toppled and exploded into flame. Avrel looked behind himself, at his own rig. Then began running.
The Goddess of Stone waited until he was far enough away and then directed her energy, shoving it over like the rest. She induced a piece of molten metal to be forged into a red-hot brand, and flung it at her chosen heroes’ chest.
Avrel screamed in pain as hot iron burned the Goddess’ inscription into his flesh. A new, harder look came into his eyes.
The Goddess transmitted the power of fire into him, hoping he would learn how to use it before the coming conflict. Her job done, she began cooling off for her return to the icy heavens. The God of Greed must not find out what she had done.