By: Jay Sutton
For the first time in his life, Atlas woke up to a loving face. She seemed to encompass everything Atlas never had, all the kisses and embraces he craved so dearly.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“Goddess,” she said.
A vaguely human-shaped cloud of cigarette smoke and smog walked behind the leather couch Atlas woke up on. It hummed to Atlas, waving and walking into the endless expanse of clouds. The smoke dissipated, leaving a blinding white light that dropped down through the clouds.
“Who was that?” Atlas asked.
“In her past life?” Goddess said, “Penelope Blyner, an architect famous for emulating Art Deco perfectly.”
“Oh, I’ve heard of her. Seen her work some.” Atlas stared at the spot Penelope’s light fell through. “Who is she now?”
Atlas scoffed, readjusting himself on the couch. “Ha! That’s impossible. You know you sound insane, right?”
“You’ve said that the last thousand times you’ve died.” Goddess laughed. ““Thee speaketh in tongues, witch,” “You speak of impossible things, woman,” “Thee wilt knoweth thee sound nimble-footed.” It gets tiring after a while.”
Atlas stood quickly. “No, it’s not tiring. It’s impossible, is what it is.”
Goddess stood, adjusting the frills on her dress. She nearly towered over Atlas, despite him being a tall man when he was alive. She gestured for him to follow. He did.
A tree hung upside-down from nothing, its thick roots writhing in the air. Its leaves barely brushed the clouds Atlas and Goddess stood on. Branches grew in a winding spiral up the trunk. They intertwined and moved with surprising smoothness, growing and shedding branches like leaves. One small piece of bark fell onto the train of Goddess’ dress. She picked it up, cradling it in her hands.
“Oh, poor thing,” she said. She pressed a kiss to it, and it dissolved into specks in the wind.
“What is,” Atlas gestured up and down at the tree, “this?”
“The Pattern,” Goddess said. “It dictates what life you live next.”
“Where is my life?” Atlas asked. “Where am I?”
Goddess circled around the Pattern and picked up a fallen branch. It was about four feet long, and looked light in her hands.
“You lived to see fourty,” she said. “You’re a lucky man.”
Atlas stayed quiet. He didn’t feel lucky to see fourty. His knees ached when it rained, and his back was always sore from being bent over his rifle.
“Fear the old man in a profession where most die young,” Goddess murmured to herself, running a thumb over a knot in the branch. She kissed the knot, and it started to crumble. Atlas felt himself start to crumble with it.
He had to ask one more thing before he became the smoke-thing Penelope became. “I need to know, Goddess. Is this heaven?”
Goddess stayed quiet for a moment. “I don’t know.” she said. “I died for a final time, and came here.”
“So you were human once?”
“Yes,” Goddess said. She kneeled down, running a finger over a knot in the tree. EVE was carved into it. “That was my name. I was Eve.” she stood. “But I was also Penelope Blyner, the Art Deco architect, until she was crushed under her own work. I was also Atlas Ashe, the undefeatable assassin, until he was assassinated. I was everyone. I lived over seven billion times. And it was terrifying.”
“Will I be able to remember this?” Atlas asked.
Goddess shook her head. She reached up and brushed a finger over an emerging branch. “You are needed, Atlas.”
She turned and pulled Atlas close to her. She pressed a kiss to his forehead, and he turned to smoke, then a blinding light, then mortal once more.
Art Piece by Leah Mayes