The Twice Born God

A grunt escaped my mouth. The air momentarily left my lungs. “No!”

Ivy rose from the ground. It wrapped itself, creeping around Keene’s body—crawling under his clothes, clinging, digging to his skin.

A guttural cry split from his throat, tearing it raw. He stumbled back, clawing at his clothes, tearing at his arms. Pink welts scarred his skin.

Breath caught in my throat, and I swallowed. It was horrific but painfully necessary—it needed to be taught. Excruciating but non-lethal. A lesson.

My vision clouded. My body warmed in the utmost feeling of bliss. I tugged harder, feeding the beguiling, enticing niggling in my chest.

I breathed in, spread out my arms and flicked my wrist. The tips of my fingers tingled with pleasant, joyous power. My doting vines listened, following, answering, fulfilling my requests.

Keene collapsed, weighted down, crushed against the hard floor. Spots of blood dotted his clothes, seeping, staining the crisp white gown a mottled red.

“Stop it!” Deke’s scream tore. His voice pierced through my head. Disrupted my concentration—knocked the dangerous haze away.

The vines halted—grew still—but never loosened.

“Stop, this is madness,” Deke pleaded. “He has a family. I have a child. A partner. Please.”

“Madness?” I asked. “You cannot even begin to fathom the meaning of the word.”

“Please.” Deke begged, “We’ll do whatever you wish, I’ll...I’ll cut off my own arm, just please, don’t kill us. Any of us.”

“Cut off—” I stuttered. I shook my head. “A tad dramatic, no? And I appreciate the theatre as much as the next guy,”

I dared a look at Keene. His golden mask had fallen—the abandoned disguise spinning like a top at his feet.

Pain bulged in his eyes. His mouth gaped open—uselessly, feverishly—yearning for precious air. I motioned towards him and scrunched my nose, letting the vine loosen and die. “Perhaps not him—”


That word—my name—a name I hadn’t heard in a long time boomed like a thunder cloud, damning every fibre, chilling each bone.

I’d never thought I’d hear it again. Especially, specifically not from him.

A searing light enveloped my pub.

My senses blurred, and all the heat left my body, leaving nothing but a deep, hollow ache. I tried—failed—to push it away, to bring back the warmth, to bring back a piece of me.

I rubbed my eyes.

Shrouded in white, a man stood by the door. A man whose beard and hair had grown so long it could wrap itself thrice around a person and strangle them.

He came forward.

Every step shook the ground, and every step multiplied the beat of my heart.

He was here. After all this time, after many millennia, Zeus, my father, was callously, heartbreakingly here.


One word. One simple word. A word that connected one person to another. A word that crushed hearts and healed them—a word that had no place in his mouth.

“Don’t,” I said and flicked a curl of hair from my eyes. “Don’t.”

“You went mad.” He said it like a statement but meant it like a question.

Deke had dragged Keene over, vines trailing behind. His head lay nestled in the crook of Deke’s elbow, and his chest fluttered as Deke dabbed the man’s wounds, whispering soft words—bowl of water red with his blood.

I turned away, unable to look, to admit what I’d done. I took a breath.

“Aye, that I did, Father. Madder than your hair, crazier than a frog in a box.” I said dryly and stared at him. All humour, faux and real, dissolved. “But my gratitude goes to Grandmother Rhea. Again.”

The god inclined his head, a pathetic response, and his eyes found—noticed—my three intruders. A white brow rose on his face, deepening the lines on his forehead.

He looked old, or maybe that was how he’d always been, and time, maddening time, had distorted my view.

Deke looked up then. A smear of blood stained the chin of their golden face.

“You,” Zeus said. “Why do you kneel?”

Deke bowed their head, “We worship you, we—”

“Have you killed before?”

“No, no, My Lord. Never your Excellence. None of us. Never.” Deke blabbed.

Zeus huffed, his chest bellowing, puffing out. “My son has harmed you. What circumstance occurred that caused this?”

I cleared my throat and answered for them, “They worshipped you.”

“You despise me so much, you’d kill?”

“Murder was never on my mind. I was only doing what any God would do,”

I tilted my head and stared at him, stared into those soulless blue eyes. “I was only doing what you would do.”

“Enough!” Zeus boomed, his voice like a sharp talon in my side, drawing blood.

White light curled like mist. Weaving, twisting around his fists, teasing the tops of his bronzed arms.

“Father,” I warned and took a tentative step towards my three visitors. They were uninvited, unnecessary and deranged, but no one, mortal or divine, deserved the wrath of Zeus.

I hurt them, so be it, but nothing would compare to the anguish bestowed to them by him. Better they are injured than dead.

“I order you!” Zeus said. “Come with me.”

I took in the sight of my pub, at the worn, loved chairs, the old, rugged tiles, and my characterful but beloved bar. I thought of Oz and Arnan, of the promise they’d both made only hours before, the promise I secretly made each night. And I thought of my customers.

My loyal, doting customers. In a way, without their knowing, I had always been a god to them. And what better way to be worshipped than to be with them, around them, amongst them.

“No,” I said and smiled. “No, I’m afraid I am going to have to graciously decline.”

“You defy your father, your leader? To stay here? Humans are but a blink in our lives. Live as you were supposed—”

“Is that how you saw my mother?”

“Your mother was an unfortunate accident. ”

“My mother was a good, kind woman. Because of you,” I snapped, my skin prickling. “She died. Because of you, I had to save her. Nurture her back to health. That wasn’t my job, but I did it. She deserved better.”

From the floor, Keene coughed, his breath raking, scraping like sand.

Zeus recoiled, his beard curling as his lips turned downwards.

He was a god, a man who came to power through violent revolution, yet the sight of an injured man—his subject—disgusted him. He wasn’t a god of the people; he was purely an arrogant immortal, cursed with power and an overly large head.

Something crumbled inside me. A dam broke. Crushing, flooding any sense, crushing any humanity.

My skin prickled, itched and grew, and a bitter, acidic taste danced violently on my tongue.

The floor gave way under my feet, and the room shrunk. My body crumpled.

A venomous hiss screamed in my throat.

Vines entwined, merged with my skin. Pain ricocheted throughout my whole self, ripping every fibre, stretching every bone as each part of me broke, then mended, then died. My shirt—favourite shirt—split, tore down the middle, exposing my back, transforming my skin.

Black bulged and leaked through every pore, spreading like wet ink, dousing each part of me in slick, shiny scales.

“My Go—” Someone breathed, a whisper in my mind. “... A snake.”

I flicked out my tongue. Vibrations coursed through my new form.

I had transformed before, shifted; that was nothing new, but not like this.

This was different, angry, cruel. This was power.

My body glided effortlessly, moving over the floor like water. I lifted my new head. Greedy eyes on settling on Zeus. My tongue flicked.

Black essence, the colour of fear, coiled and rose. It fluttered off his clothes like steam, and I smiled inwardly, revelling in the quick flash—the surprise in his electric eyes.

“You challenge me?” he roared. “You challenge your god?”

I meandered around Zeus, my body arcing, looping, confining him in the coils of my tail. “Never.” I hissed, flicking my tongue, testing the venomous word in my mouth. “I challenge my father.”

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