Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Story: The Tricks Life Plays on You

I hate Wednesdays. Little known fact: Wednesdays are Odin's days. Odin's a great guy, don't get me wrong, but have you seen any Loki days out there? Seriously, it isn't fair at all. I get such a bad rep. People are so biased against gods who like to have a little fun.

Right, so Wednesdays. This Wednesday, for instance. I was driving down the freeway, having a great time and listening to the radio when the music ended and some boring talk show began. I'd have changed the channel, but it was an interview with some religious studies major. I love listening to mortals talk about gods. It's just so cute.

Anyway, this chick, Dr. Amelia Nondieu had been doing a scientific study on gods in general.

Like we have anything to do with science. Totally ridiculous.

It was all very interesting and hilarious, but then she said something that made me stomp on the breaks.

"We've recently come up with scientific evidence that proves definitively that there is no higher power."

For about thirty seconds I just sat there, parked in the middle of the freeway. Then I cracked up.

No higher powers? What did she know? I wasn't going to let some stupid mortal tell me whether or not I exist. That'd just be stupid.

I changed the channel and stomped on the gas. I needed a drink.

Of course, fate would not be so kind. First, I had to deal with a speeding ticket. Me! You'd think gods would be exempt from that kind of thing. I mean, not that the idiot who stopped me knew I was a god, but still.

I mean, I was only going along at what, hundred, hundred fifty miles per hour? Sure, it's above the speed limit, but I wasn't hitting anything. Few near misses, just enough to get people scared, but y'know, all in good fun.

Cops don't think it's so funny, though. Wasn't too long until I heard sirens behind me.

I thought about letting them chase me.

Thing is, I really liked the car I'd stolen, and magic's really hard on a good pair of wheels.

I pulled over to the shoulder of the road and transformed into a woman. Body like a goddess, of course. Aphrodite, actually. Sure, she isn't in my pantheon, but have you seen that chick? Knocks the socks off Sif, our goddess of beauty.

Not that the uncultured moron in blue noticed.

"Hey, you got a license, Miss...?" he asked.

I gave a girlish giggle. "Lucy," I said. "Lucy Swindler."

"Miss Swindler," he said. "License."

I rummaged around the glove compartment and patted myself down. He watched my hands and I let myself flush.

"Gee, officer, seems like I don't have it," I said, pouting cutely. "Any chance you could let me off with a warning?"

He was tempted. I could smell it. Not surprising, considering the pheromones I was giving out. Gotta love mortals. So predictable.

"I...uh, I shouldn't," he said.

I leaned forward. "I'd be...very...grateful," I whispered throatily.

And he was mine. We had a nice tumble in the back seat. Best part was when I let the female enchantment go away. Poor guy couldn't figure out what had happened to the sexy babe he'd bedded. He was still babbling when I hit the road again. No idea what happened to him after that. Probably went home to his wife and wrote it off as a bad dream.

Yeah, I coulda produced a license. Could have even produced a badge or something. Heh, that could have been funny. I could have yelled at Officer Dimwit for ruining a case I'd been working on.

This was more fun, though. And a little more of a challenge. Seriously, I'm the God of Mischief. You expect me to do things the easy way? Trouble's the only reason I exist.

Problem was, I just couldn't get what Dr. Nondieu said out of my mind. Sure, I know I exist no matter what anyone says, but not all the other gods are as smart as I am. And truth be told, we kind of depend on people to exist. I mean, without mortals, we're kind of screwed. I mean, sure, Odin used the giant Ymir's body to create the world, but he wouldn't have if people didn't exist. People and gods created each other, you know?

If you're confused at this point, I don't blame you. It's really complicated and probably involves quantum

I turned onto the exit without slowing down. There had to be a good bar around here somewhere. I mean, there was a college nearby.

I parked my car and put on Baldur's face. He's our other god of beauty. He doesn't actually know that I sometimes wear his shape. Probably wouldn't be too happy if he knew. He's a little pissed about the fact that I'll someday trick Hod, the God of poetry and darkness, into shooting him with an arrow made from mistletoe, the only material that can kill him. Man, some people can hold a grudge.

I smirked at the mirror as I entered. I could feel the girls (and a few of the guys) turning to look at me. I sauntered up to the bar and ordered two drinks. One for me, and one for a pretty girl sitting at a table in the corner.

When the waiter brought her the drink, she looked up at me and smiled, so I walked over.

"This seat taken?" I asked.

"No," she said. "You bought me this drink?"

"Yeah," I said, flashing her a grin. "Name's Luke."

"Amelia," she said. "Nice to meet you."

"You too," I said. "I'm a God you know."

"Yeah?" she said, amused.

"Oh yeah," I said. "All my previous lovers could tell you."

Amelia laughed. "Actually, funny you should mention gods."

"Why?" I said, raising my glass to take a drink.

"I actually just published an article about that. I proved that God can't possibly exist."

I coughed, spitting my drink back into the cup. Disgusting, but what can you do?

"Amelia Nondieu?" I said.

"You've heard of me?" she asked, sounding pleased.

"Radio," I said. "You're wrong, you know."

She raised an eyebrow. "I wouldn't have taken you for a religious man. I mean, Luke may be a very Christian name, but..."

"You're wrong!" I said. "Look, I know Gods exist!"

She frowned. "You know, it's funny, but I could have sworn you had brown eyes when you walked in here."

I slammed my drink down and rushed to the bathroom. My face. How could I have reverted without noticing? I tried to change back.

I couldn't. It wasn't working. I had to get out of there.

I left the bathroom and swallowed the rest of my drink. "You're wrong," I told Amelia again. "Gods exist." She simply smiled.

I only barely managed to refrain from running to the door. I went to my car and willed my hands to stop shaking. It wasn't true. Gods exist. I exist. Nondieu knew nothing.

Once I was on the road again, I began to feel better. My inability to change? Just a momentary flux in my powers. It happened occasionally, especially around people who were that strongly atheist. Momentary insecurity. Science and religion were such entirely different realms that the idea of the two mixing was absurd. I shifted shapes a few times, just to prove to myself that I could.

Not a huge shocker that I got insecure about the article, though. The thing is, life's pretty tough for gods these days. All the old temples? All the prayers? Gone. People still worship the ideas I stand for, sure, but I haven't gotten a good sacrifice for centuries. Doing better than Thor, at least. No one worships storms anymore, but there are plenty of pranks and tricks and general nasty folk following me. Christianity kind of blows. One god taking all he prayers? Man, that's greedy. Okay, I kind of wish I'd thought of it first.

Anyway, studies like these could be self-fulfilling. If enough people believed that article, it could wipe us out. I almost believed her, and if I couldn't believe in myself, who would?

Forget mortals. I needed to make sure the stupider members of our pantheon hadn't read the article. Or that they weren't taking it seriously if they had.

I veered sharply off the road and drove to Thor's apartment. Of course the idiot lives at the top of an apartment building. He probably goes up to the roof during storms and waves his hammer Mjollnir around, too.

I turned into a bird and flew up to the window. I landed and pecked on the glass.

Thor didn't look up. Uh oh.

I pecked harder. He ignored me.

Great. I turned into a gust of wind and wriggled through the crack between the window and the wall. Not an easy fit, let me tell you.

"What's up?" I said, turning back into myself.

Thor sighed heavily and glared.

"Geeze, someone stick Mjollnir up your ass or something?"

"Don't be crude, Loki," Thor said. "Haven't you heard?"

"Heard what?" I asked.

"We don't exist," Thor said. "Any moment we'll vanish."

"Great," I said. He'd heard. Why did thunder gods have to be so moody? "Don't you have a wife to explain these things to you?"

"Sif's out shopping with Baldur," Thor said. "Explain what?"

"Thor, you are like a brother to me, and I hope you understand that I mean absolutely no offense, but you are a complete and utter idiot."

He growled, eyes flashing. "There was a scientific study done that proved it," he said. The room darkened, and sparks ran through Thor's beard. I hate when he does that. He is such a drama queen. Plus, it scares the shit out of me.

"Quit it, Thor. My point is, are you really going to believe science? What has science ever done?"

"Microwave ovens," Thor said.

"Geeze, do you have to be so literal?" I asked. "Gods and science have nothing in common, Thor."

"But science proved it!" Thor said.

"Look, I'll disprove it." I punched him in the arm, hard. Not like I could hurt him, the big lout. "You've just been hit by a god."

"But the scientist said –"

"Who are you going to believe, me or a scientist?"

Thor glanced at me. "You're the Prince of Lies, Loki."

Why did my reputation have to catch up with me at the worst times?

"Yes, but I'm not lying right now, Thor. We exist. Clearly. And we're gods. Also clearly. Therefore, gods exist."

"What you're saying makes sense," Thor said. "But I read Dr. Nondieu's article. It made a lot of sense too."

"Where'd you read it?" I asked.

He handed me National Geographics.

"Since when have you read this sort of thing?" I asked him.

"I like the pictures of thunder storms," he said defensively.

"Someone's obsessed," I muttered. I flipped through the magazine until I found the relevant article.

"Watch carefully," I said. I grabbed hold of the article and ripped it out of the magazine.

"Hey!" Thor said. "That's my magazine!"

"Uh huh," I said. "And these pages are full of dirty, filthy lies."

"Hrmph," Thor grunted.

"Anyway, have I convinced you?"

"I guess so," Thor said reluctantly.

"So you'll stop sulking?"

"I wasn't sulking," Thor said.

"Yes you were."

"No I wasn –"

"It's not important," I said quickly. "If you're not waiting to disappear, my work here is done."

Thor's eyes flashed again. "You knew about this before?" he said. Thunder crackled outside. "You came here just to convince me it wasn't true?"

"Also for the pleasure of your company, of course!" I said quickly. "Stop it, Thor!"

"How do I know you had nothing to do with this article?"

"Would I do something like that?"

"You've made people doubt their own existence before," Thor said.

"How do you know about that?" I asked.

"You talk a lot when you're drunk. Last New Year's." Thor smirked.

At least it was better from the gloomy existentialism.

"I was too busy watching Baldur freak out about the mistletoe to pay attention to what I was saying."

"And you are a jerk for even bringing that plant," he said. "That's not even one of our traditions!"

"But it was funny," I said.

"Not to Baldur," Thor said. "He didn't calm down until Sif took him to that spa."

"That's funny too," I said.

"You're not nice, Loki."

"Please. He's freaking invulnerable to everything else. He's just a wimp."

"Loki," Thor said, eyes flashing again.

"Okay, okay, I won't do it again!" I said. "Well, until I eventually murder him, but hey, that won't happen until close to the end of the world."

"And you wonder why the other gods don't like you," Thor said.

"I think that's my cue to leave," I said. "Cheer up, Thor. No one likes a stormy thunder god."

"Bye, Loki. Don't let the door hit you on your way out."

"Don't plan to," I said, turning into a gust of wind again. "I'm not using the door."

I flew out of the window and soared down to the street. Convincing Thor had been a good idea. I certainly would never let Thor know, but the article had made me a little uncomfortable. It couldn't possibly be true, of course, but it had been worrying. Convincing Thor had also convinced me. I existed.

Some police officer had given me a ticket while I was away. With a snap of my fingers, I incinerated it.

It was good to be me.

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