In a million years I’d never have imagined myself having a conversation like this; it was so cliché. I had gone to the museum to sketch, like I did almost every Tuesday afternoon, my senses working together to transfer strangers to paper. In a setting like this I was forced to work fast, having no time to plan the image or nit pick the results, I didn’t have much time before the subject moved on, unaware.
Different things intrigued me about each person, and I tried to capture the facet that shined the brightest, letting my eyes convey them to my brain which then spoke to my hands and the image flowed out of the charcoal I held between my smudged fingers. Aged hands clutching a cane, the smiling face of a toddler, the gentle slope of an elegant neck or captivating eyes; all these things filled the pages of my sketchbook and I felt honored that I was able to take the best of these people home.
“Excuse me, Miss.”
The voice startled me and I jumped, my blue eyes wide as I looked up at the tall man standing beside my chair. He was not the kind of man I would have expected to talk to me: olive skin, high cheekbones, thick waves of dark hair and honeyed chocolate brown eyes; he was beautiful. I, on the other hand, was quite plain which is how I was able to sketch as I did, no one noticed me.
“Yes?” I replied, closing my sketchbook.
He stared into my face and laughed, a warm, rich sound like edible music, “No need to frown, I’m not a Hand That Rocks the Cradle psycho killer.”
“Isn’t that exactly what a psycho killer would say?” I asked, arching one eyebrow at him.
“Touché.” He smiled at me and pulled a chair up to face mine, lowering himself into it and leaning forward, elbows propped on his knees.
His expression grew very serious and he glanced around us before speaking softly, “I’ve seen you here every Tuesday, sketching in your book,” he reached out slowly as though he was afraid to frighten me away, taking my hand and uncurling my dirty fingers. “I watch you watching people and in your eyes I see longing. You see in others what you can’t see in yourself: unique beauty.”
I didn’t know how to react to him, to his touch, his words or his intense attention, and I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. “Are you mocking me?” I asked, reclaiming my hand. He smiled at me then; making me even more wary and I moved to stand up, wanting nothing more at that moment than to be as far from this man as possible.
His hands shot out, lightening quick, clutching my thighs and pushing down painfully, effectively pinning me to my seat. His face changed, the warmth in his eyes being smothered by something dark and sinister and my heart pounded painfully in my chest. He leaned forward, opening his mouth to speak but before he could utter a single word he was struck from behind with a baseball bat.
I gasped when his blood sprayed across my face, warm and smelling like a new penny, and I froze in place as he slumped to the floor. Screams broke out around me, one of them my own, as the assailant grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me abruptly to my feet. I stumbled after him, the fingers of my free hand trying to pry his away with no success; I could only follow as he led the way into the stairwell and down.
I finally found my voice and shouted over the echo of our feet on the steel stair treads. “Who the hell are you?!”
“Zeus,” he replied as we ran, and I’d have sworn I heard the sizzle of lightening in his voice. I tried to stop and yank my arm free, only succeeding in causing myself pain and he suddenly spun, pinning me to the wall, his hands gripping my shoulders painfully. “I am Zeus, and I am here to keep Perses from killing you.”
“What?” I was well versed in mythology, and knew that he was claiming to be the ruler of the Gods, claimed to be saving me from the God of Destruction.
“You are the incarnation of Eleos, Goddess of Pity and Compassion, and Perses would like nothing more than to rid the world of you, for without compassion mankind will destroy itself and that would feed his power. You yourself would be a particularly satisfying victory, he thinks pity is tasty.” He leaned in close, his breath warm on my face and his eyes sparking as he caressed his fingertips along my jaw, “Trust me; you must survive.”