Volume 5 Number 2
When they decided old Nye was no longer capable of living alone, they offered him a "nice room in a lovely home." He chose a park bench at the top of Primrose Hill. Not longer after he moved, he met up with Vanessa.
"Hello, you old rogue," she said.
"Nessa, you beauty!"
She shuffled onto the bench at his side, and they sat, so muffled in layers that, between them, they took up all the available room. They sat in silence for a short time, looking out across the city.
"Remember Olympus?" said Nye in due course.
Vanessa nodded. "But tell me," she said.
"The air was perfumed with pink clouds," Nye began, "which took their hue from the blushes of chaste maidens who happened to catch glimpses from time to time of the sinful lives being lived below."
He paused as they contemplated London laid out beneath them.
"Occasionally one of these nymphs fell through the clouds, from curiosity. Fortunate was the mortal next to whom she landed! Her curiosity sated, she returned to Olympus in the form of a bird, singing to her sisters what she'd learned. But her song, being the song of a bird, was not heeded by the others, who lingered yet beside the gate of clouds, waiting for a glimpse or the chance to fall."
"And the ones who went the other way?" Vanessa prompted, folding her mittened hands in her padded lap, her lips puckering like the flesh of an aged apple.
"Youths were sometimes summoned to Olympus, at our father's pleasure, or else at the request of his rapacious wife, Hera."
"Her!" Vanessa gathered her spit and hawked it sideways.
"Remember Ganymede?" Nye sighed. "And sometimes too he shrouds, his soaring wings amongst the clouds...."
"Those were the days," Nessa agreed.
Nye dug into the depths of his tartan suitcase, extracting an unopened bottle of Diamond White. "Your turn," he said.
She got comfy on the bench. "In a room of palatial proportions, ivory pillars support a splendid suspended ceiling above a floor tiled in black marble and spread with rugs and cushions. Tall windows, shuttered with sandalwood carved with the images of peacocks, distill the light, casting intricate shadows in all directions. Lamps and incense burn inside braziers of rubied bronze."
At her side, Nye's breath caught in the back of his throat.
"In the centre of the marble floor, on a sea of silken cushions, reclines a youthful figure of inebriated beauty. His hair is golden like his skin, his eyes bright as sapphires. His limbs are long and superbly sculpted. At his side stand a dozen bowls piled with fruit, and tall flasks set with precious stones. In his hand is a cup of hammered gold."
"Hammered." Nye nodded.
"From which he sips a purple wine of potent bouquet."
"Cheers." Nye took a long swig of Diamond White. "Carry on."
"Your turn," Vanessa insisted, claiming the bottle of cider.
Nye cleared his throat. "In the gardens of the palace of Aphrodite, goddess of desire, vines climb everywhere, weaving with their sweet and fleshy fruit a forest of purple and green. Pillars thus transformed into trees support a canopy of entwined branches which keep the fiercest rays of sun from the coral plaza below. Here sits Aphrodite, on cushions of jade beside a pool of water as blue as her eyes and rippling like her golden hair, drinking a pale wine perfumed with honey."
"Nice," said Vanessa.
"Fish dart to and fro in the pool, bright as gems beneath the water...."
"I bloody loved those fish," said Aphrodite.
"I know, my love." Dionysus patted her hand. "I know."
"Where did we go wrong?" she wailed. "Why did Zeus turn us out?"
"Mortals stopped believing. Without the worshipping, it wasn't worth the hard work. And it wasn't just us he turned out," the god of pleasure reminded her. "Hermes and Athene, and the twins. Eros, too."
"That little bastard." Aphrodite ground her yellow teeth.
"Your little bastard," Dionysus reminded her gently.
"I told him, I said, 'You'll have someone's eye out with those bloody arrows.' "
"Don't work yourself up," Dionysus soothed. "He's not worth it." He passed back the cider. "Here."