Chapter 3: Of demigods and the demimonde
Copyright © 2017 by Brian Bixby
“Oh, not my marriage, darling. Yours.”
I mentally count to ten. It doesn’t matter. I could count to 1,204,816 and it wouldn’t make a difference. The ice in my voice is almost visible. “My marriage? I seem to have misplaced my calendar. Could you remind me what day it is on? Or, for that matter, who is the groom?”
My mother looks away, picks up her tea, and stares down into it. In a small voice, she replies, “It hasn’t been arranged yet.”
“Well, isn’t that wonderful. Do let me know when it is settled. And whatever happened to their attitude that I was some sort of inadequate degenerate half-breed that no respectable demigod would ever want to take as a bride?” This is a question that makes sense in my life. Well, sort of.
My mum puts down the cup. In a carefully controlled voice that warns me I am wandering into dangerous territory, she quietly says, “That was not exactly what was said at the time. You were not stricken from the list. You were just put down so low on it that I thought they’d never call on you, and I wanted you to get on with your life, so I told you you’d been dropped completely.” Mum turns her head to look at me. There’s pain and anger in her eyes.
I know better than to talk back just yet. I’m missing something here. And then it clicks in my head. “You’ve been arguing with them, and they sent that monster to scare you.”
In bitter tones, she replies, “They wouldn’t have objected if I’d been killed. Then they could marry you off immediately.”
“And if I don’t agree?”
“They need my consent, my consent or my death. They don’t need your consent at all.”
Of course not. Rape is a prerogative of gods. Although it wouldn’t come to actual violence. Some of them are so attractive that I’d find them irresistible, not that they’re likely to pair me up with one like that. The others, oh, they could twist my mind about at their pleasure to make it my pleasure to serve them. No, no violence would need to be used at all. Unless the demigod in question was turned on by violence, in which case, tough luck me.
I’ve got a touch of that mind control power myself, one of the few powers I have. My eyes don’t have a proper color. Look straight into them, and they will be the color you find most attractive. Blue, brown, bloodshot, orange, striped, dress Stewart tartan, it doesn’t matter, that’s what you’ll see. And the color in my eyes will keep changing to whatever will keep you fascinated by them. And then you’re my plaything, as long as you are looking into my eyes.
I don’t use it much. Oh, it’s really handy if I’m gathering signatures for a petition. But the one time I used it to seduce an otherwise uninterested fellow was such a fiasco that it left me psychologically scarred. Don’t understand? Try to have a sexual encounter with your eyes open the whole time. That’s why I usually block this power by fixing my eyes to look the same unattractive color of brown as my natural hair color. You can’t tell because my hair is dyed neon blue.
Oh, and my power of mind control won’t work on any god or demigod, so far as I know. I tried once, years ago, and it didn’t work. It was part of a series of tests my mother’s folks set me years ago. Despite having a goddess for a mother, my powers are so weak I’ve failed every one of those tests. They noted my odd eyes, which seem to be unique to me, but that wasn’t enough for them. They didn’t even grant me the official status of a demigoddess as a courtesy, despite being entitled to it by ancestry.
I tell my Mum flat out, “I am not marrying one of them. I want to enjoy my sex life, not be a brood mare for some ego-challenged demigod.”
My Mum’s voice turns hard. “Who was it who just claimed that being human was more important than having an enjoyable sex life?”
That is so unfair, I don’t bother answering it. And my Mum regrets saying it, too. She sits back, closes her eyes, takes a few breaths, and then in an unhappy voice says, “I tried to talk them out of it. I ran you down every way I could to them.” She opens her eyes and looks at me with a wan smile on her face. “Did you know you’re a genetic throwback with no real powers, incapable of sexually pleasing your partners, ill-tempered, and a host to several sexually transmitted diseases? So I told them. Didn’t matter. They’re desperate enough to take you anyhow. There’s an unexpected shortage of young marriageable females with the proper ancestry. Too many have . . . um, passed on.”
I’ve never figured out whether gods and demigods have very long lives or are actually immortal. But death is rare enough among them that most can’t talk about it directly. Hence my mother’s hesitation and use of a euphemism.
I throw up my hands. “Tell them I’ve died, then. I’ll move out of the country.”
My mother wearily shakes her head. “You know that won’t work. No, my best bet is to get them to draw up a list of candidates and insist you get to choose among them.” She reaches out and strokes my hair. “It worked for your sister.”
Yeah, but Agatha is a demigoddess of almost goddess strength, and her husband Henry is a child of some war god I’d never heard of before. They’re perfectly matched whether it’s in the marriage bed or in a bare-knuckles prize fight. I don’t want to see who the gods on the Council decide are my equals. Probably ugly, half-witted, and petty characters who think they are all literally God’s gift to women.
But that’s how we leave it, after talking about it a bit longer. Mum will negotiate, and I will end up going on dates with the ones I deem most suitable. Neither of us has to say that if I reject them all, I’ll be forced to take one of them.
The whole business is a downer. I’m feeling depressed. So it’s time to drown my sorrows in a glass of bourbon, or maybe even an entire bottle, and a one-night stand with a normal human being, knowing I’ll regret both of them tomorrow morning. I drive back to my apartment, take another shower, and change into an outfit that conveys the proper message: I want to be taken to your place for a night of fun but meaningless sex. Between the very short skirt and the flimsy material of the see-through blouse, I’m risking death from exposure at temperatures below 70˚.
I don’t kid myself I’m looking for love on my bus ride downtown. This is a sort of revenge, my last chance to have sex with a normal human being before my Mum’s people take over my life. My only regret is that none of them are watching me, because then they’d see me “debase” myself by having sexual relations with a regular human, and that might put them off wanting to mate me with their kind.
There are singles bars and singles bars. I know one in Boston where the guys are reasonably attractive and desperate at the same time. Character? Eh, that’s another story. But I’m not into character tonight. I’m into raw sex.
It takes me about half an hour to case the place and find my chosen partner. Tall, wavy brown hair, firm chin, and clothes that bespeak a job in which he makes good money. He’s not initially interested in me at first. I’m so determined to have a good time, that I actually use my eyes on him. It works reasonably well this time because all he really wants is to get laid by a reasonably attractive chick. Since I qualify by being at least female and not ugly, his own motivation keeps him going even when he’s not looking into my eyes. So it’s no trouble to get him to buy me a drink and then take me back to his place.
He’s not messing around, as his tour of his apartment ends in the bedroom. I take the hint, look into his eyes, give him some encouragement, and then suggest he bite the buttons off my blouse. (I’ve got a spare in my shoulder bag.) He’s into that. I return the favor, with a fair amount of tongue action along the way. And then he gets a little carried away and throws me down on the bed and yanks off my panties, as if it’s time for the final performance.
This is when having the power I have comes in handy. I manage to get his attention just as he’s about to unzip his pants, hold him with my eyes, and suggest quite a few delightful things he can do for me before he comes. I make him think it will make him enjoy it all the more, too. Since he apparently hasn’t been that creative a lover in past, all this sounds good to him. So instead of four minutes, it’s another half hour before we finally collapse in each other’s arms, quite satisfied. And we drift off to sleep after a few slow kisses.
So it’s a bit of a surprise to wake up to the feel of someone hitting me. Hey, I wasn’t that bad, so why would Ed hit me? I roll over to get away from him, only to have him hit me again and again. So I sit up, push away the arm, and say, “Stop doing that.”
I get slapped, hard. I fall back on my arms, one of which strikes Ed. Guess the person slapping me is not him. A voice comes from beside the bed. “Dirty, filthy animal, wallowing with other dirty, filthy animals.” Images float into my mind of various animals copulating, including humans. Weirdly enough, it’s a bit of a turn-on. I get slapped again. Something, some article of clothing is tossed at me, and the voice says, “Put that on. You’re coming with me, though I don’t know why I’m wasting my time with an animal like you.”
It’s a dressing gown. My normal reaction would be to toss it aside, and proceed to lash out with a powerful kick at the figure I can see standing by the bed. Instead, I get out of bed, put the dressing gown on, and follow the woman as she leads me out of the apartment. My own clothes, my shoulder bag with my wallet, toiletries, keys, and some spare clothes? I can’t do anything about them; they’re all left behind.
My mother’s people have found me, and one of them has taken control of me.