I hardly remember the accident. Night had befallen the streets of Rome, but I, believing in the sheer principle of thinking occurring in its purest form in the twilight hours, had never been one for sleep.
I did not forget the dire need for me to be awake at such an hour. As the sun rose, I was to be summoned to deliver a speech to some of Rome’s finest men, per the request of Pope Leo X.
The last thing I recall is standing to relieve myself when the hutch behind me tipped from an imbalance of weight, falling upon me.
* * *
When I awoke, I was in a world so entirely different that I believed I was still in a dream.
“Oh, Zeus be with me,” I whispered as a shrill, inhumane beeping filled my ears, mixed with the shouts of young women.
Women had no place in the Greek workforce, and I had never seen one in the Roman one, either.
A woman can do anything a man can do, Artemis had told me in my dream. And now, you will learn that. Find me in this new world, Marcus Musurus.
I shook my head groggily, becoming aware of the softness of the cot beneath my body. Not even the most luxurious of Roman housing had such a soft, feather-like cot, one I felt as though I could sink into if I truly desired.
“He’s awake!” One woman screeched, so loudly my head began to pound, in a tongue I hardly recognized.
“No, now don’t talk-” she sighed, frowning when I failed to comprehend what she was saying. Her words sounded nothing short of gibberish, and I suppose that was evident upon my face.
You will find yourself lost, confused, and hurt, but you will also right the path of wrong on which you find yourself.
“Artemis, be with me now,” I whispered to myself, my tongue dry and leaden.
I opened my stinging eyes slowly. The brightness of the room pierced through me. I was confined to an area of pure, porcelain white and baby blue, on the walls, on the cot, and on the woman standing before me.
This was not Rome.
“Aria,” the woman said, pointing at the golden tag on her light blue blouse. She pointed once again, this time to her head. “Aria.”
I will be with you from the beginning. But fear not, you will have no remembrance of me. I will look, act, and even be named differently.
“Marcus,” I croaked, this time pointing towards myself.
Your name may be changed. You will be in a different reality, mortal, and it is dire that you fit in. The world does not wait for those who lose, especially in a futuristic world.
I gave a small nod, shifting in the cot and groaning as an electric pain sparked through me, searing my insides.
Aria thrust her hands in front of her, her eyes wide. “Don’t move!”
Panic was a universal language, as was pain. I did not move again.
Aria left the room as the beeping that I had tuned out spiked. I turned my head–slowly, trying to avoid the pain–towards the source of the noise, and was greeted by a bright light rising and falling like mountains on a white box. They were green, and so bright they were like miniature suns.
“Apollo?” I whispered.
There was no response. My eyes began to tingle and water from staring into the light of the suns, so I simply shut my eyes instead, wishing I were in Greece, enjoying wine over a simple meaty meal.
You will not find this life enjoyable. Most people living there do not, either. However, if you wish to have a peaceful afterlife, you will learn to live on this new Earth as one of its new creatures.
Artemis was no liar. These were people unlike my wildest dreams, so different than what even a playwright could conjure up. Despite the similarities in our physique, Aria was a woman unfamiliar to any humane conception.
She had gadgets beyond the realm of Greek and Roman understanding.
Was this the afterlife? Had I been allowed inside Mount Olympus? I saw no nectar, no nymphs offering ambrosia to all they saw. I instead saw magical lights within screens, women in charge, beeping that somehow connected to me. It was all so different than Greece, so starkly contrasted to Rome.
But Artemis was wrong. If this was where she meant to send me, she had made a mistake. She spoke of evil, but I saw no evil. I was confused and scared, but I was not hurt by what I saw. I saw no misery, especially as Aria returned with a cup in her hands, placing it into mine with a small nod.
“Drink,” she instructed, forming a cup with her hands and lifting it to her lips.
My eyes shone with understanding. I pursed my lips and lifted the glass to it, my palms clammy, smiling in relief when I recognized the cool, refreshing taste of water.
The one thing I recognized. In a foreign world, water was the one thing that I knew. And I clung to it, savoring every last drop of home.
“Mark,” Aria started, her tongue this time one I understood perfectly, sending shivers down my spine. “We need to talk.”
“I told you I would be with you. And now, it is your time. Go out into the world. There will be a woman waiting for you in a city named Athens.”
“Athens is a city. But she is there. A war is brewing on this Earth. If you play your part right, you will find repentance for your sins. Your philosophy has served man well, but if you are not careful, you will damn yourself to Hades. Now is the time–and the only time–you will have the chance to fix this.”
Aria–Artemis–gave a solemn nod. “May the gods be with you, Marcus.”
# # #
Grey Nebel, an Atlanta-based writer, finds herself entirely guided by her right brain. As an actress, technical theater worker, writer, and all-around nerd, she has enjoyed stories since she has enjoyed walking (hint: a long time). She suffers from a severe tea addiction, prides herself on her knowledge of world history, and learns languages to fill her free time (what better way to improve on English than write a story, right?). Led by spontaneity, she hopes to make her dreams come true. Be it writing or climbing a mountain, Grey has hopes to do it all–after all, she only gets to live once! Her previous works include Cheap Thrills, one of the short stories appearing in the award-winning Twisted Fairy Tales Anthology. She can be found at greycantwrite.weebly.com.