The sun on this second day bit into him like a Zak Great Hound savaging him as he lay. He clamped his lips together, tightly, lest he start whining. His tongue, in his mouth, felt like a woolen sock. He had no tears left to weep, barely enough moisture for his mouth and for his eyes to move in their sockets, though they felt like they were nested in hot sand.
…I have things to take to Mikas,” I say to the Two… hiding Gods. Why did that pop into my head? Why on the Earthsphere would Imbas and Oas be hiding? “And Anae gave me things for Risae.”
“No, boy, you don’t want to go there.” Imbas says. Oas nods solemly and offers me a beer jar. I shake my head, no.
“I don’t have time to sit and drink with You, as much as I want to. And where is Mella?”
They don’t answer except to show me a double door made of white, glazed glass, bound in silver, with hand-press patches on both panes, saying, in ancient and spikey letters ‘P**H’. They are trembling in their tracks. “Listen,” Oas says. “You tell Us if you want to go in there.”
Someone is screaming. Someone is howling and the words are distorted enough that I cannot make them out. There are cats yowling; squealing noises and the sounds of smashing glass. A thunderous CRASH shivers the mat I’m standing on and I’m astonished the glass doors don’t shatter. They seem to bulge. I swallow hard. “May I borrow a jar of Your beer… or wine to make an offering to Her?”
They look at me and suddenly their two smiles melt into Mikas’s foxy face. “Take two,” he says. “She likes a sweet white wine best.”
I swallow hard again, set my hand on the ancient ‘P’and push the one door open.
As it opens a shower of glass bits blow through the crack and I’m forced to cover my face with my arms. I turn my shoulder to the door and back in with my arms up over my head. Blue lightning crackles and bursts here and there, melting and burning whatever it touches.
Glass flies everywhere like snow in a blizzard a hand reaches out scoops shattered fragments up, re-forming whole beakers and pipettes and jars and they float away to be seized by rats with hands. But the room is swarming with tiny figures of a short, plump woman, with scraggly brown hair scraped back into a bun like Risae’s. They are all various forms of enraged, some weeping, some disgusted, some red faced and clench fist and they’re all fighting one another.
They are hurling Risae’s glasswear at one another. One tiny woman picks up a table, the Goddess screams ‘NO!” but it tips and all the restored slides and equipment slide off to smash and bury other tiny women. Two fighters have broken glass slides into swords and are slashing at each other.
Ghosts hover in the blizzard of glass, bellowing ‘You aren’t smart enough! You aren’t pretty enough!! You aren’t tall or thin or blond enough! You fat, stupid cow! You were born to a fat, stupid cow as punishment for your sins! Not like your father, your brother. BUY KWIK NU LASHES NOW…ugly blemishes… vaginal odour… menstruation… female… Hell awaits you, Jezebel! GOOD GIRLS MARRY RICH …I dare correct the Sin of Eve!... First Prophet I give myself to your vision…. I’m the real me! I’m the real me! Go away you awful, evil, ugly woman! I’m Ruth! No, I’m Risae!” The rats are biting them, shaking them.
A wave of kittens with hands surges in and each kitten grabs a little woman, wraps her in a towel. The mice and rats roll the bundles away, the monkeys scoop up nets of them, carry them away, their horrid little ratchet voices muffled. “I’m the pretty one. Selly’s pretty because I made her that way, for You. She was crippled and if not for Me She’d still be one! Love ME!”
Risae rips through the glass blizzard with two stabs of her hands, looming taller and taller till her head brushes the roof. She raises a tuning fork and beats it against a cage door. Every particle of glass in the air plummets to the floor at once. Her hair, pulled out of her bun is full of glass and dirt and flies around her head and I can see the resemblance to all of the tiny, crazy homunculi.
Her usually pristine coat is bloodied and smeared with fluids and she now has scalpels in both hands. Her sleeves are soaked to the elbows with blood and what smells like feces. I stand on the mat at the door, still like a mouse in front of a snake. I swallow and try to work some moisture into my mouth and say the only thing I can think of.
“Great Chirurgeon. Might this lowly one offer the Exalted a glass of wine?”