Who Am I?
When my consciousness returned I was hesitant to open my eyes. I was getting tired of waking up in foreign places full of pain and confusion. I opened my eyes briefly to a blinding white light and quickly shut them again. I felt my fingers tighten around what felt like a collection of tree roots. I realized that I was sitting up and didn't feel any pain at all; in fact, I felt normal. I slowly opened my eyes, letting them adjust to the brightness. I was in fact sitting up in a large chair made of what looked like weaved together branches that seemed still alive. I ran my fingers over the arms of the chair and admired its craftsmanship. Then I noticed my hands and my confusion returned. I examined my palms and made my hands into fists, something seemed off. I was in total control of my hands and I felt sensations from my fingertips, but they didn't look right.
I was alerted by a retching sound to my left and looked over to witness a teenage boy with dark hair and pale skin unleash a red liquid over the marble floor. He sat back up in his coal-black chair and fixed his dark eyes on me. "What?" He asked harshly.
"Is that… blood?" I asked. His pupils dilated and he looked at the liquid on the floor, then looked back at me disappointed.
"No." He responded, turning his head away from me. Before I could read more into what had just happened, another retching sound came from across the room followed by a scream. As I looked over into the direction of the sound, I noticed the room was full of a variety of chairs like the one I was sitting in with a teenager in each of them. Their chairs were the same size and style as mine, but they were all customized in a different way and made a circle around the room.
The second boy to throw up began to moan in pain, with his curly brown hair covering most of his face. His chair looked like mine but the material looked more like vines and even had grapes hanging from it. The scream had come from the girl to his left who had lifted her knees to her chest and covered her eyes in disgust. "Ew, ew, ew! That's so gross!" She shrieked. The dark-haired boy to my left laughed to himself. The curly-haired boy began to moan louder and looked like he was going to add to the mess he had made on the floor. A boy from the left side of the room got up from his golden chair, that radiated with a warm glow. Despite his dark complexion, the boy seemed pale and looked as if he hadn't eaten in days. He had no hair on his head, including a lack of eyebrows. He resembled a withered old man, aside from the youth in his eyes. He began to rub the back of the curly-haired boy and whispered comforting words into his ear. I looked around the room at everyone as they watched the interaction. There were 16 teenagers, counting myself, in the room.
Large stone doors across the room, that I hadn't noticed before, suddenly opened and two people walked into the room. Both of the women wore white togas, gladiator sandals and what looked like crowns made of plants. They walked confidently and in unison to the centre of the room. They stood back to back to one another with their heads held high. The older of the two looked as if she was in her late twenties or early thirties and had light brown hair. She faced the left side of the room, while her counterpart faced the right. I was glad neither of them were facing me, since they seemed intimidating. The second woman had curly red hair and very pale skin that was covered in freckles. She physically looked younger than her companion and I guessed she was in her early twenties.
"That will be enough, Andrew." Spoke the older woman, in a familiar voice. The sickly looking boy stopped comforting the curl-haired boy and looked up with a puzzled look on his face. "Please return to your seat." Andrew hesitated for a moment, then walked back to his golden chair and had a seat.
"Welcome, ladies and gentlemen!" Said the second lady and I instantly recognized her voice, it was Acacia. My jaw fell open in disbelieve; I thought our encounter had been some sort of dream. In fact, this whole experience felt like some sort of weird dream. "I know you all must be very confused, but I promise you will be getting some answers shortly." Acacia continued, with a smile.
"My name is Thea." Introduced the older woman, with a slight bow.
"And I am Acacia." Introduced Acacia, mimicking Thea's bow. "We are your oracles." The word oracle resonated with me, but I had no idea why.
"Now that everyone is settled," started Thea, giving Andrew a stern look. "We will be introducing you to your… sponsors." Each of the oracles crossed the room and opened one of the doors. Standing in the doorway was a muscular man with stern features and a confident spark in his sky blue eyes. He wore a white toga, that was much brighter than that of the oracles. He also wore gladiator sandals and a crown made of gold that was intertwined in his white hair. He looked over the room and cracked a smile before beginning his walk into the centre of the room. He did another look over the room before fixing his eyes on a boy sitting in a chair that was made out of clouds. The boys dark skin was covered in a number of scars that looked like veins running over his whole body. The man took a seat behind the boy in a throne that resembled a larger version of the boy's chair. Zeus, said an unfamiliar voice in my head. Part of me knew the voice was right, but the other part of me was confused about how my mind would know that.
The next figure in the doorway was a woman with long brown hair and a similar gold crown. She also had stern features but friendly brown eyes. She walked elegantly into the centre of the room and looked over each of our faces. Hera, said the voice. Hera took her seat behind a friendly looking boy beside the scar covered boy and smiled at Zeus. Her throne looked like the typical thrown royalty would have, golden and covered in jewels. The boy in front of Hera had sandy blonde hair and pale green eyes. The parts of his skin that I could see were covered in bruises, including a black eye and what looked like hand imprints around his neck. He looked as though he was beaten to near death, but he didn't seem to be in any pain.
The next figure to stand in the doorway instantly reminded me of somebody I knew, but I couldn't think of who. His tan skin seemed weathered and worn. He had sandy brown hair and eyes as blue as the ocean. Poseidon. His seat was behind a girl with skin just as tan but not as weathered. She had bright blonde hair that barely reached her shoulders and sat in a chair made of sand. In front of her chair was a puddle of what looked like water, which seemed out-of-place. I decided not to judge since it was better than what was to the left of my chair. I felt nauseous just recalling the puke fest that occurred earlier.
Next came an incredibly good-looking man who walked in wearing sunglasses and took his seat behind Andrew. Apollo. After him was a lady who looked like him but had a serious expression. Artemis. She took a seat behind a girl who had a permanent scowl on her face.
The man who entered next had a rough-looking beard and a look in his eyes that made me squirm in my seat. Ares. His steps were heavy and slow as he took his seat behind an unimpressed looking girl with short black hair. I didn't think she was unimpressed by Ares, but rather with the entirety of life.
My full attention was drawn to the new figure in the doorway. Aphrodite. Something about her was incredibly captivating and I watched as she walked flawlessly over to take a seat behind the girl who had screamed in disgust earlier.
Next entered a man who looked like he had been in a terrible accident that involved disfigurement of his face. His legs were made of metal and had their mechanics and gears showing. Hephaestus. He took a seat behind a girl who looked incredibly intrigued by his legs. Most of the right side of the girl's face was covered in a severe burn mark that only left her right eye and a small patch of her hair untouched. When her eyes met mine, I felt guilty for staring and quickly looked back at the doorway. Entering the room was a women with long dark hair and rapidly moving eyes. She quickly looked all over the room, as if she was planning the best way to escape. Athena. I didn't know what possible escape there was since there were absolutely no windows and she was standing at the only door. She walked with confidence over to a boy with shoulders almost twice as wide as mine. He hid behind dark brown hair that covered his eyes.
As soon as the next figure entered we locked eyes and I was convinced that she would take a seat behind me. Her hair had flowers intertwined in it and her bare feet walked carefully on the marble floors towards me. Demeter. I had noticed that each one of the chairs resembled the feeling I got from each new "sponsors". Including Ares, who was sitting on a throne made of a variety of weapons. I heard Demeter's footsteps behind me and smiled with relief, since I definitely preferred her over Ares. My smile faded as I heard her footsteps continue until she took a seat behind the girl to my right. The girl had a chair made of branches and bloomed flowers, but I hadn't noticed her until then. The girl's face was covered in a number of large gashes that continued down her neck and even appeared on her arms.
The next man who entered the room staggered to stay up and carried a drink in his hand. Dionysus. He had a big grin across his face and was pretty well dancing to his throne behind the curly-haired boy who had helped decorate the floor.
Next entered a man with a devilish grin. He wore round sunglasses that had a reflective surface and his shoes had wing-shaped fabric branching off of them. Hermes. He took a seat behind an equally mischievous looking boy, and then the doors closed.
"I present to you, The Mighty Twelve of Olympus!" Exclaimed Thea, throwing her arms into the air. I looked around the room, feeling like a mistake had been made. The throne behind me was empty and so were the thrones behind the three teens to my left. My worried eyes met Acacia's and she gave me a reassuring smile. Zeus cleared his throat and began to speak, "I have brought you all here for a very unique opportunity." A few of the other sponsors rolled their eyes. "I am Zeus, king of the gods!" Hera instantly began to clap excitedly with a big smile on her face, everyone else sat completely still. King of the gods? What gods? Greek, answered the voice. I felt uncomfortable having a strange voice in my head giving me answers, but I didn't know what I could do about it.
"We talked about this!" Shrieked Hera, "I clap, you clap!" Even through her clear frustration, she kept a giant smile on her face. The sponsors began to clap slowly and reluctantly, which sounded more sarcastic than anything. Out of fear, I joined in the clapping and so did the other teenagers.
"You may be asking yourself: why me? And there's a simple answer to that, because we picked you." Zeus continued, unfazed by what had just happened. "Each of us saw something in one of you, so you were brought here to begin a very special quest." His eyes looked around the circle and when they got to my side of the room his smile faded. He cleared his throat again, keeping his eyes fixed in my direction. "Thea, where are… our special guests?"
"They are almost here, sir." Thea answered, with her head bowed.
"Excellent!" Zeus boomed. "Then we shall wait." The room filled with awkward silence. I was hesitant to even move in my chair in case it made too much noise. I began to wonder what Zeus meant by "special guests" and why my sponsor wasn't part of "The Mighty Twelve". I pictured my sponsor to look like Demeter, but maybe it'd be a man with vines tangled in his hair. Or a woman who looked like she was raised by trees, mostly I thought of the stereotypical "hippie" of the 1980s. That'd be an interesting quest, travelling the world in a VMW van fighting evil with the power of love.
The stone doors burst open with so much force, they almost broke off their hinges. Thick, black smoke billowed into the room, but none of the sponsors seemed the least bit concerned. My first thought was to run, but I quickly realized I had nowhere to run to. The smoke was coming from the only way in or out of the room. A figure dressed in a black toga stepped into the room with a grin on his face. He looked around at the unimpressed sponsors and terrified teenagers, then let out a dark laugh that I recognized. Hades. "Did you start without us, brother?" He asked stepping into the middle of the room.
"Yes, well, if you showed up on time…" Zeus muttered. It was the first time Zeus seemed bothered by anything, which was surprising since he had taken things pretty well so far.
"Now, where is my boy?" Hades questioned, slowly looking over the circle. My pulse began to quicken, out of the four people left without a sponsor there were only two boys including myself. The boy beside me seemed to fit with Hades, but even the slight chance of being paired with him scared me. Hades' red eyes paused, locked on mine. His smile grew, showing his teeth. Ally, this was the first time I had serious doubt in my new internal voice. There was no way Hades would be a trustworthy ally to me. He moved his eyes to the boy beside me and began his walk. He paused in front of the boy and extended his hand. "Hades," he introduced. The boy reached out and shook his hand; he opened his mouth to say something, then closed it with a confused face. "We're going to have lots of fun together, Horace." The boy looked relieved and smiled darkly. Hades took his seat and my eyes darted back to the door. There stood an innocent looking lady, who couldn't have been much older than me. She wore a pale grey toga that hung loosely from her small frame. Her eyes were a washed out blue that bordered grey; her blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She took gentle steps into the centre of the room, that couldn't be heard even though everyone was completely silent. She looked over the crowd with a smile that grew when she locked eyes with a girl who had light brown hair and an equally small frame. I waited for my internal voice to give me a name for the new guest, but there was nothing. The sponsor bowed in front of the girl.
"Hello Scarlette, I have been so excited to meet you." Her voice was gentle and calming.
"It's very nice to meet you," Scarlette replied. Her sponsor then took her seat, without another word. I found it odd that she didn't say her name, but it was still more of an introduction than The Mighty Twelve had given. Hades was in fact the first sponsor to actually interact with any of the teenagers.
The first thing I noticed about the next figure entering the room was the reactions he caused. Zeus seemed to look at him with disgust, while Thea and Acacia smiled warmly at him. The rest of The Mighty Twelve had a mixture of reactions to him, none of which were positive. The majority of them began awkwardly shifting in their seats and some became instantly involved in petty things, such as Aphrodite who began smoothing out her toga. It seemed like none of them wanted to look in his direction, which was odd because he seemed like a friendly guy. He had dark brown hair and brown eyes to match. He had a large stature and his hands were the size of my head. His smile was infectious and he looked like a typical dad. Despite the mixed reactions he caused, I hoped he would be my sponsor. Again, the voice inside of my head was silent about his name. The new guest stood in front of a girl with tangled blonde hair that had patches coloured blood-red. The man got on one knee and bowed to her as if she was royalty. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Piper." Piper's face turned red out of embarrassment and she laughed nervously. The man raised his head and let out a jolly laugh, then took his seat.
The anxiety that had built up in me with each entrance was now at an all time high, because the next sponsor to walk through the doors would be mine. My nervousness had caused sweat to pool in my palms and when I tried to discreetly wipe them on my shirt I noticed bruising on my right hip. I had lifted my shirt so slightly above my pants that it was hardly noticeable, but when I pulled it up as much as I could while still being discreet I saw that the deep purple continued across my skin. I was incredibly alarmed, mostly at how I hadn't noticed sooner. I put my shirt back down and then noticed my forearms had thin scratches across them and faint bruises. My mind was racing as I tried to remember how I had gotten the injuries, but then the pressure returned on my brain. Look, said the voice in my head. I looked up to see my sponsor standing a couple of feet in front of me. "I'm sorry," I said frantically. The corners of her mouth turned up into a smile and her grey eyes were full of sincerity.
"Don't worry, I will help you understand." She was definitely not a hippie. There were no flowers in her hair, or peace signs on anything she was wearing. In fact, her toga was plain and white just like the ones The Mighty Twelve wore. Her hair was brown and braided, falling halfway down her back. She wore standard gladiator sandals and a gold cuff wrapped around her right bicep. As she walked past me to her throne, she gently touched my shoulder and whispered, "everything will be okay, Gemini." At first I thought I had misheard her, because Gemini was not my name. When I thought about correcting her, the pressure on my brain increased again. I couldn't correct her, because I didn't know what my name was. I didn't know how that was possible. The more I thought about it, the worse the pressure got and I was forced to give up when my brain felt like it would collapse.
"Now that everyone has arrived, we can talk about the quest you all must complete." Zeus announced. "Each of you will have three days of preparation with your mentor to help you practice your unique skills. Then you-" Zeus was cut off by an obnoxious ringtone and everyone looked around the room confused.
Hermes pulled a cellphone out of his toga pocket and answered it. "Go for Hermes… Oh… Well that's no good… But can it wait? … Hm… Okay I'll see what we can do." Hermes hung up the phone and Zeus looked as though he was about to explode. "I know, I know. It's your big moment, you want to unveil the big quest that leads to the bigger quest. I wouldn't have answered if it wasn't important and it is. So I think we need to get the kiddies on the right track, then have an adult meeting about some new developments in that problem we have." Zeus immediately calmed down at the mention of the problem.
Hera on the other hand, did not. "Are you kidding me Hermes? You knew what the plan was for tonight, I prepared all of you! I don't care if you are the god of communication, you shouldn't have had that bloody thing with you!" Everybody shifted uncomfortably listening to Hera's outburst. "We should continue as planned!"
Zeus stood to his feet, "while I understand where my wife is coming from and would love to continue as planned…" He turned and gave Hera a smile, that was met with a death glare. "We unfortunately have business to attend to. The details of your quest will be revealed at a later time. I now ask that each mentor shows their trainee where they will be staying for the next few days." Thea and Acacia opened the doors and The Mighty Twelve left the room with their trainees struggling to keep up. I watched as Acacia smiled at the trainees leaving the room and tried to think of how to ask about what had happened the other night. I had no idea how to bring it up, or if I should. Thea did mention that they weren't supposed to be there that night and I didn't want to get Acacia in trouble.
"Gemini?" Interrupted my sponsor.
"Yeah?" I answered, turning to her.
"I don't mean to rush you, but everyone is leaving and I don't actually come her often enough to give you a tour."
"Oh, I understand. I've just been a little spacey lately." I explained. She nodded and we walked to the doorway, when she paused.
"Acacia, could you lead us to Gemini's room?" She asked, with a smile.
"Yes, of course!" Responded Acacia, bowing her head. We exited the building and walked down a white stone path. "The Mighty Twelve had these houses made specially for this occasion." Acacia said, as we walked by a number of identical buildings. Each of the houses had classic greek architecture and could only be differentiated by the symbol over each front door. We stopped in front of the last house on the left with a leaf engraved above the door.
"I suppose this is it then," guessed my mentor. "I'm supposed to leave you now, so I will see you in the morning." She then turned to Acacia and bowed, Acacia looked shocked at the gesture. "Take care of my boy." She continued with a wink, then walked down the path back towards the building we had come from.
"I like her." I admitted, breaking the silence.
"I can see why," Acacia agreed. She opened the door to the house and we stepped inside. The whole room was carpeted with moss and the bed was raised by four oak trees that extended to the high ceiling. Under the bed was a pool made of roots that was filled with the clearest water I had ever seen. The walls and ceiling were lined with vines with red stems and green leafs.
"I guess this is good night." Acacia said, turning to leave.
"Wait," I started. I felt as if we were being watched, so I was careful with my words. "Have we met before?"
"No, of course not." Acacia answered, turning to face me. I was disappointed by her answer. I found it odd that I had a dream about her, but at the same time I never actually saw her in the dream to know it was her. I must have overheard her and Thea while I slept and my imagination created a dream using their voices. Part of me had felt connected to Acacia because of what had happened and I thought she would have some answers for me.
"Oh, okay. I guess you just remind me of someone," I lied. "Good night, Acacia." I headed to my bed and began to realize how tired I actually was.
"Good night, my prince." Acacia said, as she left the room. I remembered Acacia saying "my prince" the other night and that left me even more confused. Had my unconscious self heard that and put it in the dream? Or was that Acacia's way of telling me it wasn't a dream at all? If what happened was real, then that meant I was definitely being watched. It also meant that Acacia could explain the life-like vision I had of running through the woods. If Acacia was an oracle, then that could mean the scene I saw was in my future.
I laid in my bed thinking about what had happened to me in the past two days. I thought about how confusing everything was and was even more confused by how I handled everything. I was sitting in a room full of gods and goddesses and I didn't even give it a second thought. I was renamed by somebody I had just met and I don't even know her name. The odd thing was that I had begun to think my name had always been Gemini. It was if my mind had been completely wiped clean and rewired to accept all of these new things. I couldn't recall one memory from before dreaming of the strange voices, at the same time I felt as though I had lived a full life. My mind was full of knowledge I had learned from experiences I didn't remember in the slightest. Sleep, commanded the voice in my head. I wanted to resist since I was afraid of waking up with more pain and confusion in a strange new place. Unfortunately, my eyes didn't feel the same way and I fell into a deep sleep.