FICTION: The Tinker’s Son

I pulled into the grassy ditch at the side of the road. I cut the engine and tried to remember what my mother smelled like… like sweat and apples, or maybe mildew and copper. I looked out the passenger side window and watched the green, full trees claw at the gray sky, creeping as far out to the tarmac as they dare. A few cars blew by before I found myself again and got out. I must have tapped the key fob ten times before I slid it into the base of a bush, then trudged into the woods. There was a steep decline just past the treeline that was invisible until I was jogging down it, trying to keep my balance long enough to trot to the bottom. 

They called my father a Tinker. He could craft wondrous things. He was famous in certain circles, known as a sort of conceptual artist, a maker of strange things with no apparent use. He insisted all his life that the small intricate objects he made each had a function. He would say that each piece was something that was missing from the buyer’s life that he had crafted for them. 

“You have to discover it, you have to understand what i’ve repaired, then you then use it.” 

I read that quote in an old magazine I stole from the library when I was little. I’d collect magazine clippings about my father and stash them in my pockets like secrets. I’d never met him, never knew what he smelled like or if he kept spare change in his pockets for beggars or how loudly he snored. I thought often of these details, I’d ask my mother and she would touch her chin with the tip of her finger and smile apologetically, but she would never answer my question. I knew that they met when he was in new york, that she was a fan of his work, amazed by his pieces, and wanted so badly to know more. He had told her that she was like his objects, important, existing to serve some purpose, to repair him. When he left her it was soon after she discovered she was pregnant with me. He didn’t fight with her, didn’t argue when she requested child support, nothing. He simply left and never came back. When she was dying I couldn’t speak to her. All I could think about was my father, the same little questions: how did he stretch when he was tired? did he scratch his nose when he concentrated like I did? Could he wiggle his ears? I watched her fade away and die in a big bed. She left me a fortune that he’d been paying out to her for years. She hadn’t spent a dime. 

The money my mother left me could have set me up for life, but the moment I came into it there wasn’t a single question about what i’d do with it. By the time I came of age the internet had arrived, and secretly I thought perhaps the whole thing ran on one of my father’s devices. I spent long nights researching my father’s pieces, collecting names and dates. 

Each piece my father made was special and it wasn’t hard to know who had the pieces, as they were all, it was said, eccentrics, but there were few pictures of them online back then. Before they came to me they were kept by their owners like precious secrets. 

“We call him a tinker because he does not create, he repairs the form, reshapes it into the material world, as a blacksmith gives shape to an ingot, you see?” 

William Pastorolli said that. He was an Italian spiritualist who refused to sell to me. I had to wait for him to die of a fentanyl overdose in his compound to reclaim the piece in the name of my father’s estate. When the cult he ran protested, it was because they believed the piece contained Pastorolli’s soul. Indeed, when i held the item, i could feel something within it, a warm humming in the palm of my hand that, if you paid attention to it, would vibrate outward infinitely, until you lost focus and it became a little bauble in your hand again.

There were people who thought my father was a charlatan, that he sold bits of filigree to gullible people too mad to know better. That he was at best a performance artist and at worst a fraud. This notion became even more popular after he died penniless in some cave. After creating twenty perfect objects, his last days were spent starving himself to death with a holy man in the countryside who, when questioned about my father’s passing simply said

“He has repaired himself, and no longer needs this broken machine.”

The trees at the bottom of the hill were loping, short and sad. They tangled their sapling branches together and sprouted tiny, pathetic leaves that couldn’t catch the sun. it was dark down there, as if I had stepped into the night. I looked up and saw the thick canopy of massive branches overhead, sprouting from the enormous trees that reached over the little gorge I was standing in to touch their cousins on the other side. With great effort I began my trek up the other side of the gorge. 

The idea that he was either a fraud or crazy came almost thirty years after his death, as the internet became curious about him. The world had contextualized him posthumously as a man who made toys for the mad. I resented this characterization, but It made it easier for me to find pieces. Their popularity grew along with a kind of shame in owning one, and the incentive to sell to the highest bidder – which was always me – overpowered almost every owner of a device, most of whom were the sons or colleagues of some religious zealot or moneyed eccentric.

 I collected dozens of pieces. I catalogued them, stored them, documented them in photos. My lawyers were under the impression that this was all leading to a sort of museum, they began asking me if I had put any thought into buying a gallery in New York or L.A. and I assured them that it would all happen in good time, but this was, of course, a lie. I think they knew it, but they were beholden to my father’s legacy and the money which was mine to dole out for whatever I wanted, and I wanted this – to connect with my father’s ghost through the objects he gave men.

My father’s death happened soon after I was born, but growing up all I knew of him was that he had left me and my mom, that he had stopped making devices, and that he was dead. Part of my mother’s claim to the fortune he made from the moneyed, decaying old families whose entire lineage seemed cursed with an insanity we call “eccentricity” was that she kept her relationship with him – and thus me – a secret. 

I reached level ground and my chest felt like it was on fire. I fell to my knees, holding myself up by the hands and heaving. When I leaned back to sit on my heels I swallowed and gasped, wiping my face of sweat, and ahead of me in the endless tangled brush of the woods I saw a firefly floating between thick tree trunks. I watched it flitter and dance in the darkness under the canopy. I was no longer sure what time of day it was, and when I pulled my phone out of my pocket I saw that it was dead. When I got to my feet I looked ahead. The firefly was still there, dancing in the black, but when I started forward I froze right away. I could make out the shape of something behind the firefly, about as tall as me. I narrowed my eyes as if that would help them focus, and the firefly seemed to oblige me when it landed on the object and for a split second I saw the white tail of a deer in the green glow of the lightning bug. The deer sprang away into the woods and I scoffed as I continued ahead.

The first piece I procured belonged to David Lier, an accountant who had obtained the object from his great aunt, a famous manhattan witch who had put a curse on the mayor the same week he died of a brain aneurysm. Her powers of dark magic evident, she translated that coincidence into a fine life of talk show appearances and televised seances. It was a box exactly one inch on every side. It was bronze and engraved in letters from an alphabet entirely of my father’s invention. On each side these letters made up a pattern, not quite a word but not quite gibberish. Lier kept the piece for many years after his aunt’s death, never sure why it came to him specifically. At first he displayed it proudly on his desk, perched on a platform with my father’s name embossed on the base, but eventually the device was boxed and stored, and finally sold to me. Lier said that his aunt had never actually paid for it, and so decided to give it to me as a gift. He refused payment politely one afternoon at a coffee shop we had planned to meet in to discuss terms. I was struck dumb when he pulled it out of his pocket, considered it thoughtfully, then slid it across the table to me and left, turning as he did to say that covering his half the the cheque was payment enough: a fourteen dollar cup of espresso. I wondered how many of these transactions would be so strange and the answer, as it turned out, was most of them.

I had buyers who refused to sell outright and then a week later would send their piece to me and become unreachable. Those who did take payment always took my first offer. The slightest hesitation to my price would crumble within hours of the first phone call. In one year I had collected seven pieces, each unique, bespoke and incomprehensible in craft. There was a little triangle that would tip over when you placed it on a surface unless you balanced it on a particular corner. There was what looked like a tumbleweed of silver filaments as delicate and slender as glass but indestructible. Each tiny strand unbendable, impervious to shift or scuff. There was a little ebony sculpture of a crow that when inspected under a microscope, revealed tiny strokes of silver paint imperceptible to the naked eye that gave the miniature bird’s feathers a life-like sheen.

The woods were dark and green, the canopy above was impenetrable with thick branches full of leaves above and let only glimmers of light through, making it all appear like a starry night sky. The smell of lichen filled my nose as I stepped blindly along, forging a narrow path through root and branch and mulch. 

After a decade, I had collected all twenty of my father’s pieces, the small apartment in manhattan where i kept them was, essentially, my home. It was bare save for a cot, a laptop and a cheap coffee table where each piece was set beside the other just so. I had fired my lawyers and accountants. They were frustrated and told me so, clucking their tongues and telling me that I needed good, sane men to watch over my father’s legacy. Ultimately though, they resigned to the idea that their years of taking the money of a madman were bound to come to an end sooner or later. I told them that the last part of all this was coming, and that I needed to be alone for this last part, the part nobody knew about – the part about the twenty first device. 

I had always known it existed, there was never a doubt in my mind. From the moment I knew there were twenty, I knew there was a twenty first. My father had a weakness for madmen, so perhaps it would comfort his ghost to know his son had become one. The same night I dismissed the men in suits who picked my father’s bones, I packed my laptop and the devices into my car and made for a small lumber town in the north of New York state. I don’t know what drew me here, but I knew that the twenty-first device was in this tiny, forgotten little place full of tiny, forgotten little people. I spent a month in a cheap hotel, spent my days staring at the devices. The cleaning ladies would come into my room and I’d scoop the pieces into my bag when they knocked and keep the bag in my lap until they left. When they were together the pieces made a hum that I was convinced only I could hear. When I laid them out on the cheap particle board coffee table and focused on them, odd things would happen. The light in the room would change, the air would grow cold, then hot, then a temperature i cannot describe, a sort of dry, prickly tension in the air that would contract and expand as if reality itself were catching its breath. Sometimes i would become so lost in them that it would appear as though a cleaning lady walked out of the room and then the moment i laid them all out, one would knock at my door again to clean the room.

The locals considered me like a rumor. many wondered what it was I did for a living. “Finance. Acquisitions.” I would reply to the grocery store clerk and the Chinese food delivery man. That was enough to make them stop asking, though they’d chatter to themselves about me as I passed, like I was an animal that had wandered into town to rummage through their garbage and terrorize their pets. 

I spent my days reading about my father. I would sit in my room and stare at the pieces with my hand on my chin, set on the coffee table, arranged just so. I would listen to the wind shudder my window over that hum, trying and failing to count the moments as I attempted to fathom the totality of the pieces, to consider what the strange sensation i felt when i looked at them was, and what was missing, in a vain hope that knowing these things would lead me to the reasons why i was here in this town. When i would break for meals or sleep i would look at my email, hoping to confirm what i knew – that someone, somewhere had found a twenty first object. A piece that would answer my question, make it all make sense. I would look out the window at the woods, vast endless waves of green lapping over themselves with the wind.

I saw it again, just beyond the furthest, thickest trunks, the deer. It flitted past one tree and behind another, then disappeared like a ghost. I froze to see if it would emerge but after a while of listening to the wind rustle the impenetrable canopy above, to the insects chitter and the birds sing their haunted little tunes in the dark, I moved forward through the brush, looking as far ahead as my eyes could manage, trying to find a break in the canopy – a shaft of light to guide my way. I made for the tree that the animal had disappeared behind, expecting, I suppose, to find it there hidden.

After a couple months of lethargy, spending each day eating the same bad food in the same bad hotel room in the same bad town, I felt I had made a kind of peace with all this. I stopped wondering, no longer thinking in constant circles about my father, if his breath smelled sour, if the stubble on his chin was thick and prickly or soft and giving, all these secret little questions washed away in the gray of my daily life. The objects, their magic, became something of a chore to me now. Whatever supernatural glamour they were once cloaked in seemed to have faded in my eyes, now they just looked like little metal trinkets. Interesting the way a toy is interesting. I had become deaf to the hum, i could no longer feel the breathing of reality. The certainty that the final piece existed had not dulled, but the desire to find it had worn to a nub. My father was now an idea to me, an idea like any other, like water, and shadow, and money, and moon. A certainty which I could neither wrap my hands around nor do anything to stop, only accept. Time had become meaningless. I could no longer tell when a day had passed, even the cleaning ladies stopped coming, and I could find no rhythm in the light of day or dark of night, had no conception of them. All I could will myself to consider was the objects, and for no purpose other than to consider them. Whatever came next, if anything ever would, seemed so far away, like everything else – like the world itself. I forgot what my father’s face looked like. To me, now, he was simply these objects, all twenty of them, with only one piece missing, somewhere out there. A last piece to repair the whole of it.

I approached the tree. I had seen the animal disappear behind in the darkness, and as I reached it I noticed the glow of the firefly. There was a moment of deja-vu, and my mouth hung agape as I watched it dart by and deeper into the dark woods. I stepped past the tree, half hoping and half expecting to find the animal waiting for me, staring at me and beckoning me to follow it like a fairy tale. 

One morning as I dragged my feet through the poorly lit grocery store and gas station at the very edge of town, I came to realize that my presence was becoming less of a novelty to the locals and more of an annoyance. They watched me with suspicion and glared openly at me as I tucked cans of irish stew and boxes of pre-cooked chicken fillets into a little metal basket. I avoided eye contact and that seemed to give them a kind of permission to speak freely about me, as if i wasn’t there, listening.

The deer was gone, and the insect fluttered off ahead of me. I followed the faint green light it produced, noticing how much darker everything was getting. I looked up and noticed far fewer breaks in the canopy above for light to pierce through. All was black save for the little bug, guiding me through. I stepped as carefully as I could, but a root snagged my shin so stubbornly that I doubled over and landed on my elbows in a heap of dead leaves and god knows what else.

“Guess there are two hermits in this town now.”

That’s what the woman said as I passed her. She was visibly shaken when I turned to her and asked her to repeat it. She insisted she hadn’t said anything but when i repeated it back to her, her lip trembled and she said in a squeaky, indignant voice that she only meant that i was like a hermit, never saying anything to anyone, only ever coming out of my hotel room for food, living all alone, never saying hello. She said i was rude, that all New York City people are rude, too good for her and her small town folks. The cashier touched my shoulder and asked me if I’d like to check out. The woman took this moment to slip away and disappear down the beer isle, away from this conversation.

When I got up from the floor I felt wet from the chest down. I got to my feet and looked around, trying to catch my bearings, and there was my little friend, the firefly, perched on the bark of a tree a few feet away. I adjusted my backpack and quickly noticed that behind the tree on which the bug was perched was the deer’s unmistakable white tail. I stepped forward with sore, skinned knees shivering to control my careful, silent footfalls as I approached. I just wanted a good look at the thing i’d been chasing, not sure what compelled me to do so or why.

The cashier made a performance of bringing me to the register and taking my items to scan and bag. I placed my hands on the lip of the counter and tried not to seem as tense as i felt. I licked my lips and thought to ask a question, and the cashier began to speak as if anticipating my query. 

“There’s a hermit just north of the town. Lives in the woods they say with the bucks. Every hunting season the boys gotta watch themselves they don’t shoot the fella. Nobody’s seen him for years but they say he’s harmless.”

I paid for my food, drove to the hotel, collected the twenty devices in my bag, and made my way to the woods outside of town, still wearing the pajama bottoms and faded t-shirt I seemed to have never taken off since I came here.

The forest was silent. No bird chirp, no insect song, even the wind held its breath as I rounded the tree to meet the animal’s eyes. What I saw I couldn’t quite comprehend. The animal seemed somehow transient in state, blurry in globs of swirling time that crept all over its body, parts were vibrant and thick one moment, then decayed and skeletal the next. All over its body like spots its fur changed from autumn red to haggard gray and back and inbetween. It didn’t seem to be afraid of me anymore, surely it noticed my presence, as its skeletal face turned to glare at me with eyes at one instant full and wet and at another dry and hollow. Its mouth openned and from its eyes burst millions of small points of green light. Fireflies whirled around me and attached themselves to the tree. I staggered back and whatever was doing this to the poor animal radiated from it, swirling up the trunk of the tree and slithering through its branches in swarms of green lights. I looked up as the canopy above broke in waves of tumbling leaves, immediately replaced by fresh green ones that would, at that instant, curl, dry and snap off the branches to the forest floor. A thick shaft of daylight unfolded like a curtain. I saw the deer stagger into the light, the temporal insects had left it a dry husk of bones and skin, and as it collapsed in the sun I stared at it so intently that I didn’t notice the thunderous cracking of the branches of the tree above me. I was thrown into the pile of bones that a moment ago had been a deer. I looked up and threw my open hand over my brow to see through the shaft of light showering me. I could make out a figure standing in the darkness among the ruins of the huge tree, a single firefly buzzing around it. 

“I knew it. The moment I knew you existed, I knew it was you.”

“My father always had a passion for mad men.”

“The twenty first piece.”

“It doesn’t exist.”

“It has to. If I knew about you, I would know about it.”

“I’ve been here a long time.”

“What does that even mean?”

“It means i was here when my father built the first piece. It means i was here when he made the first piece, which was this one here – in my pocket.”

“You have them all?”

“Of course i do.  So do you. They’re all I have. All twenty.”

“Twenty one.”

“You’re not listening.”

“You never left?”


“Not when he died? Not when mom died? Not when I was out there finding the pieces?”

“If i had, who knows what would have happened?”

“You just stayed here all alone?”

“All alone.”

“Did you meet him? Do i.. Meet him?”


“Bullshit. Why would you even go back if you couldn’t meet him?”

“I went back because that’s what all the devices do. ‘You have to discover it. You have to understand what i’ve repaired, and then you have to use it.’ That’s what my father said. You remember.”

“But you didn’t use it. You didn’t. You’ve been here all this time, you’re not repaired. Nothing is.”

“I wasn’t supposed to be repaired. Don’t you understand yet? I understood. You’re just a piece, a tool, like mom. Just another part of the fix.”

“You could have met him.”

“What would you say if you met him? If you walked out of this place and met him, hm?”

“I wouldn’t say anything! I wouldn’t have to.”

“Are you sure? Are you sure you’d like what you saw? Do you believe he would scratch his nose like you do? Smell like what you think he smelled like?”

“He wouldn’t recognize you! You could have met him and he wouldn’t recognize you.”

“You know that isn’t true. You know that if you found me here, if you knew what that hermit in the woods outside of town was, then you know that isn’t true. He’d know exactly who we were.”

“He might be happy to see us.”

“He might be horrified. He might see the mistake he made and decide he didn’t want to be a tinker, decide the devices are dangerous, who knows? One can never tell with other people.”

“Other people? My father.”

“What if he didn’t like us?”


“His entire life was about precision. He made objects so perfect that they were more than objects, they were concepts. Don’t you understand that? He wanted to repair the universe, give people the perfection only he could conceptualize, but then there was me. There was you. Imperfect, a regret, something he wished he could take back.”

“How do you know? Did you go back and meet mom? Did you finally get her to talk about him?”

“Don’t you understand why she didn’t talk about him? What do you remember about mom?”

“She raised us. She loved us.”

“Do you remember what she smelled like?”

“Of course i do.”

“I wish i still did.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means you spent your entire life looking for your father, and you let her slip away from you, from me. You let her slip away and forgot her, she was just another piece, and now all you have are the inventions of a man who didn’t want anything to do with you. A man who wanted to erase you because you were an imperfection. A failure.”

“But he didn’t! He had this, he could do this, and he didn’t.”

“Maybe it wasn’t for lack of trying. How does someone dedicate their entire life to repairing things and end up with a time machine they never used?”


“I know this is hard. It was hard.”

“This is a loop, then. Closed. A circle.”


“A perfect circle.”


“So i’m going to make all the choices you made. I’ll come to all the conclusions you came to.”

“It’s the only way.”

“So you just keep coming back here to talk me out of it?”

“That’s about it.”

“But you keep all the devices?”

“I have to.”

“And what comes next?”

“That’s a very good question.”

“Will you ever die?”

“I hope so.”

“Do you miss people?”

“I do.”

“And you never left?”

“And I never will.”

“I’m the only one you’ve seen since today.”

“You’re the only one i’ve seen since today.”

“How long has today been?”

“Today has been forever.”


“What did mom smell like?”


Thank you to Katie Sawatsky, Allison O’Toole and Syd Lazarus

FICTION: Thanatos in Troy


Troy burned in the night sky. The greatest wall in all the mortal kingdoms fell sometime in the night, and the Myrmidons were the first through the rubble in their black armor. I had watched this place with much interest, coming and going as the years dripped along, collecting old men from their bed chambers and listening to the winged Keres cackle as they gathered the souls of men who in their last breath prayed first to Ares, then to Athena, then to me. It was not my place to take those men. I am the god of peaceful death. The Keres were cruel, but their role in this war was theirs. Many days before this night, My Brother, Hypnos and I had taken the great warrior Serpedon’s remains home as a favor to his father, great Zeus. 

I watched the sky father clutch his beard in his fist as that boy’s flesh gave way to a sword of Phthia. War is not my purview, but when old men meet me and their feeble bargains begin to spill out, their pleas for mercy, I often hear the stories of fathers whose sons were taken by the Keres on some battlefield or another. Zeus resigned this son to his fate. What I knew of war was that this one was different.

Tonight I was drawn to mighty Troy as it screamed in agony and surprise. The armies of Phthia and Ithaca and Mycenae slithered through the streets like smoke, filling every space with choking death.

I could not have imagined why I was here, what peaceful death could possibly be found on such a night. I thought perhaps I was drawn here on ceremony, after all, this war had divided the Gods, set them to arguing and challenging one another in the tedious and capricious ways they have always bickered over the lives of mortals. I knew much of these quarrels because they always ended with me or the Keres.

I could feel the pull, drawing me deeper into the city. The black wings of my sisters crackling the air around every alleyway and sewer. I walked on, watching infants being dashed into cobblestones and their mothers gutted like animals. I watched men beg for their lives, reach out to me with blood-slick hands and gasp as they caught a glimpse of my face before my sisters took them. 

Suddenly I saw a familiar and brilliant glow, down a long street. I followed that light to a courtyard strewn with dead men, their souls long thrust down to Tartarus, arrow and spearhead and dull, chipped blade stuck in the muck of their bodies like the branches of a tree. There, bathed in that glow which he could not seem to see, was Pyrisous. Saved from Fire. I recognized the ease in which he brought men to their ends, and I recognized Chiron’s training. The old Centaur told me that of all the heroes he trained, this was the greatest of them, greater even than Heracles. I thought of what I told him then, that it was the fate of all heroes to fall, and if this Greek was the greatest of them, that his fall would be the greatest. 

I noticed that his armor was Hephetsus’s work. It gleamed brilliantly in the unnatural light I followed here as he pranced over one foe to stab another. He broke the spear he used to kill one man off in his ribs to thrust the jagged tip into the throat of another. He was magnificent. To kill a man is harder than it might at first seem, there is something in mortals that sickens them about the idea, some inherent connection to the other that finds loosing a soul from its vessel repellent. There was no such thing in this one. Blood dried on his bared teeth, and his eyes were so enrapturing, so bright and full of a cool and resolved hatred. He seemed, for a moment, to notice me watching. I smiled at him and he whipped around to put his back to me, as if to deny me, of all the gods. A Ker swooped down from the shadows of the night sky and gorged itself on the throat of a fresh kill. I walked past her and toward the light that had drawn me here this night. I knew it well, I savored each moment in its warmth, though I would never admit it to him. Apollo stood high on a tall precipice at the edge of the courtyard. He was glaring with that wrathful, burning anger I knew him so well for. His gaze turned to notice me and he grinned. 

“You came, I knew you would.”

“I come where I am drawn, Delian. Troy is falling. Your temple is sacked.”

“I know these things.”

“Then why do you keep me here, Apollo? I have done my duty for your father, tonight belongs to the Keres, not to me.”

“Ah, but this one.”

Apollo pointed to Pyrisous, and from the tip of his finger came a light, which I watched fall from his hand like a droplet of water, and tumble to the tip of an arrow. Paris, the prince of Troy, who stole away with queen Helen and began this war of wars, stood there just below Apollo with a bow drawn at the warrior in the courtyard. He let fly the arrow tipped with Apollo’s light, and it screamed through the cool night air, lighting it ablaze in a streak of white heat. I whirled around and saw the arrow plunge into the warrior’s foot. He froze as each of his muscles seized at once. I turned to Apollo and he laughed at the confused look on my face.

“I’ve done it”

Said Paris, stunned.

“I’ve killed great Achilles.”

The Keres froze, watching Achilles fall to his knee and clench his hands at his wounded foot. This injury would be a week in the medical tent to any soldier, and I wondered at how Pyrisous, Achilles, the greatest of all men, the invincible warrior bathed in the river Styx could come to be in such agony. 

None of the Keres dared approach him as he died. His body seemed all at once to loosen and collapse on the courtyard ground in a puddle of other men’s blood. Apollo was gone now, his light had given way to penetrating darkness that enchanted the night with a sense of rare calm. The Trojan war was over, and all its heroes were dead.

I approached Pyrisous and called him by name.

“Who are you?”

A question I was used to. A question most men knew the moment they asked it, but not this one. Even standing there above his own corpse he could not fathom what had happened to him.

“I am the oldest friend to mortal men. I am a cold hand in the darkness, I am inevitable, I am that which every king, every warrior, every crawling thing must meet.”

He was silent for a moment, considering this answer. I could tell that he understood, and there seemed to radiate a resignation I knew only in those who are released from the clutches of some illness or disease. His eyes were sad now, distant, not the burning stars they were a moment ago.

“Then the prophecy is fulfilled.”

“So it would seem.”

“I killed Hector myself. I knew the price of doing it, I knew that if he died I was prophesied to follow him, but…”


“My mother, she made me immortal, i thought…”

“And yet.”

“…Where will I go?”

I looked up and around us at the Keres, all crouched in the darkness, watching with eager and fearful eyes. 

“There are many questions, and that one chief among them.”

“What does it all mean?”

At this, I smiled. I had been asked this question too by every mortal I had ever met. It is a question older than mortality, older than Zeus and Kronos, and even Uranos himself. The man noticed my smile and his eyes flashed in a sort of challenged temper I was not used to.

“What do you think it all means?”

This was the answer I always gave to those who asked, and to it, his features relaxed and he put his hand on the back of his neck, curling sleek locks of blonde hair through his fingers. 

We walked through the city as it dissolved into darkness, listening to the sound of screams in the night fade slowly away. He seemed to realize all at once that we were ascending into the night sky and he looked behind us, watching the dim light of the mortal plane flicker out. He tapped the divinely molded breastplate he wore with a finger thoughtfully and glanced back up to me. 

“This armor, will i wear it forever?”

“If you wish.”

“Are we on our way to Olympus?”

“We’re going for a walk. I thought you’d like to clear your head a little before we got down to business. I like to give mortals a little time before I take them down below.”


His eyes dropped to his feet like a child who’s been scolded.

“You do know who i am.”

“You are Pyrisous, bathed in the River Styx, your mortality burned away by your mother, or so it seemed. You are a hero worthy of Heracles. Son of Peleus, Student of Chiron. Achilles, the greatest of all the Greeks. Is that what you want to hear, child of Thetis?”

“You know my mother?”

“I know of her. I know of her Nereides. I know of her ambition, and her hatred of the fates.”

“She wanted me to be a hero. She wanted me to be a god.”

“She wanted many things for you, brave Achilles.”

“Where is she now?”

“At Zeus’s feet, I should think, begging on your behalf.”

“Zeus owes my mother. She protected him.”

“I’ve heard the story. I wonder if it’s true.”

“Wouldn’t you know?”

He was staring at me now, His eyes were a deep and omniscient blue, piercing, and all-encompassing as if there was nothing they did not see. I lifted my arm and the black feathers which sprouted from it enveloped Achilles. He braced himself as if he thought to fight them away, but they covered every inch of him and when they parted and returned to me, his feet were on solid ground.



He looked down. Fine, white snow tumbled around his feet as they pressed into the pristine blanket that fell on the mountainside.

“We’re on a mountain.”

“We are on the mountain. We’ve arrived.”

He stared at me for a moment and then turned to look around. There was a vast ocean of stars above us, and below us all of Greece. The wind howled and blew the scent of the far-off sea across our noses. 

He looked at me quizzically. Here I was not the grim, black figure I was a moment ago in the night of troy.

“You look…”



He seemed sheepish, which didn’t suit him. 

“You look like a little girl.”

I made a sound in the bottom of my throat that seemed to embarrass him, and we stood in silence for a while and waited.

After a little time, as the moon reached its zenith above us, our company arrived. He noticed them first, six figures in the distant crags of rock, moving swiftly closer.

Athena was leading them. Her eyes never left Achilles as she approached. Poseidon was next. I watched him closely, and when he noticed this he smiled at me.

His part in this war was perhaps the most meddlesome, and I wondered if he stuck so close to Athena for protection. I almost failed to recognize Apollo. His light was dim here and the proud, condescending look that always sat on his face seemed foolish without his usual radiance. Ares and Aphrodite were next, each glaring at Achilles, not seeming to even realize I was there. Hera came last. Her round, warm face brushed by a peacock’s tail feather, she handed it to Achilles, who bowed deeply and accepted it much to the silent derision of Aphrodite, whose malice was like a dark wind that forebodes a storm.

Achilles held up the feather Hera offered him and stayed crouched down in the snow as the gods took their places on either side of him. I stepped back and found a perch on a rock nearby where I could observe quietly. Achilles must have noticed him first, because he stood up and peered past the six looming figures that surrounded him to stare at the old man trudging through the snow, leaning on a walking stick made of oak.

The old man approached and each god turned to acknowledge him. 


Said Achilles.

The old man was tall and frail, his stern, angular face hidden by a great beard caked with snow. When Zeus turned to look at me, so did everyone else.

“You may go.”

I bowed my head but did not move.

“If i may, i wonder if i might stay and watch.”

Zeus was wiley, not as easily fooled as most gods are, myself included. He narrowed his eyes at me and I felt the numb heat of his anger flutter on the crown of my head, but he relented.

“If you wish.”

He turned now to Achilles, who was still grasping Hera’s gift, staring out at the distant, sacred night sky, distracted. Zeus spoke.

“Pthian, do you know who i am?”

Achilles turned and knelt down again as he had before, supplicant as a warrior of his skill and arrogance could resolve to be.

“You are Zeus, the cloud gatherer.”

Zeus seemed to grow taller with this acknowledgement, to tower above Achilles and the gods and even the mountain itself. The top of his head was a part of the night sky above, his white hair swirling and becoming storm clouds.

“Do you know why you are here with me now?”

Achilles looked around at the other gods, who averted their gaze either out of disgust or embarrassment. He bowed his head and looked at the ground again before he spoke in a formal, princely voice.

“My mother Thetis is a god of the sea. She bathed me in the river Styx and made me immortal.”

“And yet you are dead, prince.”

“And yet i am dead.”

From my perch I could see Apollo forcing down the smirk that threatened his lips. Zeus stroked the snow from his beard and let the silence penetrate everyone’s thoughts. He looked around at each god, each one staring forward at nothing in particular, standing on a ceremony which was unprecedented. Zeus knew his family well, knew our tempers, passions and agendas better than any of us. That’s what made him the king of the gods.

“You are the greatest warrior the mortal world will ever know.”

Zeus’s eyes flashed in prickles of white lightning that danced around his face. He glared down at achilles and grew taller.

“Your name will live forever, across land, ocean, and sky: Aristos Achaion, The best of the greeks. Achilles Aspetos Phthius, Pyrisous, Saved from fire… indeed.”

Achilles turned his head to look at Apollo, who radiated a hateful, impetuous heat that the other gods separated to avoid. Athena was the first to speak as Zeus watched silently.

“Apollo, speak before the mountain burns.”

Apollo blinked and the heat faded, he looked at me and then Athena, visibly embarrassed, then turned to Zeus.

“This mortal has displeased and defied me at every available opportunity. His arrogance mocks the will of the Gods. He knew the prophecy, knew his fate, and still he killed Hector, my champion. He is dead, dead like any other mortal, and I demand that he do what any mortal does when he dies. The very idea that he stands on this mountain offends me.”

Hera lifted her chin and stepped forward.

“Achilles’ prophecy came true. He killed Hector and he died. That will forever be a part of his story too.”

“I wonder…”

Said Apollo

“How our reputation will fare against him if we anoint him as you suggest.” 

At this, Achilles rose to his feet and ripped the helmet off his head by the horse-hair to glare at Apollo, who stared back and began to glow hot white. I could see the tears forming on Achilles cheeks but he refused to break his stare. Zeus picked up the helmet and held it to his face in the palm of his hand, considering it.

“The gifts of the gods should not so callously be discarded, Aristos Achaion.”

Achilles broke his glare to turn to Zeus and unclenched his jaw.

“I meant no disrespect to you or great Hephestus.”

Zeus appeared an old man again, just barely as tall as Achilles’ shoulder now. He stepped forward in the snow and handed Achilles his helmet back with frail, shivering hands. Achilles bent to a knee and took the helmet, placing it back on his head and then bowed. Zeus bent his back and whispered something to Achilles I couldn’t hear. The other gods tried to lean in and hear without being noticed before Zeus straightened out and the six jolted backward. 

Achilles tucked his bent knee under himself and sat on his heels, clutching Hera’s feather to his chest like a child with a foundling kitten. Zeus stroked his beard and looked around, at Apollo still radiating with anger, and Athena, whose expressionless face seemed unusually tense, and at me. At me, he smiled, and at this I sprang to my feet. He grinned at me and I felt that humming in the back of my neck again until he turned his eyes to Achilles once more and spoke.

“Quarrelling with gods, even those as important and beloved as my son, is if anything an integral part of godhood, Achilles. We all took our sides in this war, all knew what the prophecies would bring, all saw them fulfilled, and now here you are among us, to be remembered forever. What shall your story be, Saved from Fire? There is no prophecy for what comes next, no destiny unfulfilled. You were born to a goddess whom I owe a great deal. You fought and killed and succumbed to fate like any man, but you are not any man. Even now they weep at your grave, even now your mother grieves for you, but when her name has faded from all the stories that keep us, from all the histories that make us truly immortal, you will still be there, etched in the souls of every mortal who ever knew anything about this age, these peoples, this war. Your name will rise above all the names of those who died in Troy.”

Achilles was perfectly still.

“What say you, Aristos Achaion?”

All were silent. Poseidon and Ares looked at one another, then at Zeus, who nodded to them both, as if permitting them something unspoken. Poseidon grinned at Apollo, who didn’t seem to notice, then turned and walked up the mountain pass from which he came. Ares looked to Hera. the two shared a moment, Ares smiled, and then left. Achilles looked up at Athena, who considered him for a moment before clicking her tongue against her teeth and turning to go. At first i didn’t understand what was happening, but then i heard Aphrodite, giggling under her lips until her shoulders hunched and she couldn’t contain the laughter any longer. She bowed her head back and cackled into the mountain air and it rang out in echoes as she walked back up the mountain behind the others.

Apollo and Hera turned to Zeus, who stood with his hands behind his back, watching Achilles stand up slowly as if his mortal body still sore with the work of war held him. Hera didn’t notice at first that Achilles was holding out the peacock feather she gave him, offering it back. When she did her jaw tightened and her eyes flared. She almost spoke but couldn’t articulate precisely what her thoughts were. Zeus grinned as she took it back. He turned then to me and beckoned me forward. I of course obliged.

“It’s a good thing you stuck around, little one.”

Zeus laughed at his own joke and I bowed, though truthfully I’m not sure why I stayed, what compelled me was beyond me. Apollo watched me like an intruder, suspicious as always of his father’s mischief. 

Achilles turned to look at me as Zeus collected his son and wife under his arms like children, herding them under his legs and making them small. Achilles offered his hand to me. No mortal had ever done this, even those who wished for their deaths. It took me a moment to even recognize what he was doing, and when i did i looked past him at Zeus, who was already walking up the mountain path with Apollo and Hera.

Achilles turned his open palm and set it on my small, frail shoulder. His touch was warmer than fire, warmer than the sun, warmer even than Apollo’s pride. 

“Take me across the river, God of death. Take me to Tartarus.”


I cannot tell you the way we took, it is the oldest secret I know and I must keep it. When we reached the river the black mud glimmered with the reflection of a dusk that wasn’t there. Achilles’ sharp eyes noticed it and he knew it for the cruelty it was, the reminder that there is a sun no one here will ever see again. His feet touched the edge of the river and the shadows that clouded the water receded from him as if afraid. Charon, the boat man, was nowhere to be seen. From my cloak I produced a torch, which I held upside down. Its blue flames licked downward to Achilles astonishment, and in its light he was able to make out the many faces which watched us, all around us in the black. He whirled around and reached for a sword at his hip which was not there. I placed my free hand on his shoulder and he looked at me, his eyes wide. Uncertainty did not become him.

“They’re waiting for the boatman, here from the shores of Troy.”

Achilles looked around, scanning each face carefully. He stiffened at the sight of one face and I held my torch up to see it more clearly. Hector’s black eyes glimmered in my light, and his cold, black lips quivered like he was trying to say something, to articulate a curse toward Achilles, who matched his gaze and spoke to the shade of his old foe in a cracked but stern voice.

“I am not sorry I killed you, Hector of Troy. i will never forgive what you took from me.”

Hector’s eyes flashed like coins in the pale light of my torch and his form, such as it was, hummed with a kind of vengeance.

“Come, Pyrisous.”

I led Achilles to the shore. All the faces in the darkness stepped closer behind us, but retreated as we stepped into the river, which parted for us, and in the distant black void, glimmering by the light of my torch, Tartarus waited. 


The streets of Tartarus were cold and empty. It was a city of shadows, of lost memories. There were no homes, no markets, only columns and stepways that hold up more columns and stepways. A maze of cobblestone roads that wind around themselves, populated by shades who cower at the slightest light. There is food strewn everywhere, you cannot help but step on it as you make your way to the hall of Hades. It never rots, it tastes of nothing, it is the memory of food, a trick to bind those who eat it to this place. 

Hades sat on his throne in the empty black hall at the center of the city. The flame of my torch reflected on the polished marble that made the floor. As we approached, Achilles removed his helmet and laid it at the feet of Hades, who rested his chin in his palm so that his great black beard flowed down his forearm. 


I bowed my head and tucked my torch into my cloak. When I lifted my eyes, Hades was leaning forward in his seat with his elbows on his knees, staring down at Achilles who prostrated himself before the god of the dead, his golden hair laying in tangles on the floor at Hades’ feet. 

“God of the underworld, i’ve come –”

“I know why you’ve come.”

Hades interrupted. At this Achilles lifted himself onto his knees and met the god’s eyes. Hades seemed delighted by this and leaned back in his char, a smirk hiding under his beard but betrayed by his eyes which seemed to light the entire hall in his amusement.

“You’ve come for this.”

Hades stretched his hand, and in its palm a black helmet, the helm of the myrmidons.

“Your armor. The black armor of great Achilles, who has sent me so many souls, and out there on the other side of the river more to come. Imagine what I thought when I realized that it wasn’t you who great Hector had slain.”

With a grin he plucked the helmet from his palm with his other hand and held it before Achilles, who stared in wonder as from its base grew the form of a man a little too slender for this armor. The man’s face, even hidden behind the helm, was beautiful, and when its form was complete, and Hades released it to fall into Achilles arms, he shook violently, overcome with a spasm of an emotion I could not articulate. 

“Great King of Tartarus, I will do whatever it is I must in exchange for this soul.”

Achilles voice was cracked and grieved. The tears that welled in his eyes surprised even Hades, whose smirk faded with each heaving sob between forced words.

“I have spent the last ten years filling your city with the souls of Trojans. My name will ring out in the world of men forever, and I would trade it all away for this soul. I will give myself to you, lead your armies against whatever nation or god you quarrel with, break Olympus itself to ruin in your honor for this one soul.”

I stood stunned, watching the vessel in the black armor’s still form. Hades seemed thoughtful. He stroked his chin and considered this offer. Here was the greatest mortal who had ever lived, on his knees before him. A fitting end, Hades must have supposed. When the god of the underworld finally spoke, it was a single word.


At this word the form in black armor jilted, its chest heaved and its shoulders hunched forward as if it had been struck by a blow. The only sound in the hall was the breathing of it, heavy at first and then steady. I could see under its helmet that life had returned to it, its eyes glimmered first with awareness, and then in recognition of Achilles, whose quivering hands grasped it by the shoulders.


The man in the black armor spoke.

“Achilles… Achilles you’re here.”


“What happened? How could this have happened? This is a place for the dead.”

“So it is.”

“No… not you. Not brave Achilles. You cannot die. You are immortal. Please no.”

“When you died, Patroclus… when you died it all became so clear. I shook the sea with my grief. I laid with your corpse for three days before they took me from you. I set my wrath upon Hector and Troy, but it wasn’t enough. I didn’t care about the gods, or the war, or my mother, or the prophecy, or anything.”

Patroclus lunged forward and clasped his hands around Achilles face. Their embrace set something in me I hadn’t felt in a very long time. Something like guilt.

“I would have burned the whole world to be with you again, Patroclus. I would have fought forever in your vengeance. Forever.”

Patroclus kissed Achilles and there was a shudder through the hall, a force alien to this place. I could see clearly for a brief moment the faces of mortal kings, each brought to this city by me, each granted no quarter by the god of this place. They watched these lovers and turned all to Hades, who seemed as worried as they were.

Patroclus’s voice was a whisper at first, but grew to teary pleading.

“You are a god, Achilles. Your prophecy is fulfilled. Your destiny is assured. Your place is on Olympus, to be worshipped as divine. I am nothing, do not forsake your place in eternity for nothing.”

Achilles grasped Patroclus’s arms tightly and again the hall shuddered. 

“I have spent my entire life considering my destiny, knowing my prophecy. I killed Hector, Patroclus. I killed him and I desecrated his body before Apollo and all of Troy in vengeance for you. I forfeited my life at that moment gladly.”

“But why?”

“Because without you I realized how little any of it mattered. The gods, they quarrel like men, are tricked like men. They fight and torment and anguish and all for what? For their glory? For their honor? What higher honor is there than godhood? What glory is not afforded the most divine? What peace is there in eternity if you spend it bickering like children? If you are as miserable as my mother? I went to Olympus, it is a cold and desolate mountain. I met the gods, they are small and petty children. I don’t want any of it, Patroclus. It is a cruel joke, all of it. A trick on the gods played by the fates, and now I am free of it.”

At this Hades stood and the faces in the shadows bowed their heads and retreated into the blackness. 

“I want you, Patroclus. I want you and nothing else. If my eternity is darkness, it will be a comfort if you are by my side.”

Hades stepped down from his throne and loomed over the two lovers. He crossed his hands behind his back and looked at me. I cannot describe the expression on his face. It was foreign to him as it is to me, something like memory.

“It is the harvest season”

Said Hades.

At this the two men turned to face the god. He considered them, then looked out, past the hall’s entrance to the river Styx which could be seen from anywhere in Tartarus.

“Tell me what you wish and i will do it”

Achilles’ voice was strong again, confident and focused, every bit Aristos Achaian. 

“I know it.”

Hades was still staring off into the endless black void of his domain, wistfully.

“Our destinies are all beholden to fate, great Achilles. Our prophecies all come to pass, one way or another. That is what the stories are for, you see: to tell us this fact. Your story will be one of bravery, befitting any of the great heroes. But all heroes are tragic heroes, Aristos Achaian. Even Heracles never saw his wife and children again. He never got to hear them forgive him. Did you know that?”

Achilles was perfectly still, clutching Patroclus by the arm as if he could be stolen away at any moment.

“There are no satisfying endings down here, Achilles. Even my story does not have a happy end. Even I am beheld by the strands of the fates.”

I could feel Achilles tense his body. He rose to his feet as if to fight, and at this Hades smiled, dropping his hands and letting them fall to his sides.

“Still you would fight, eh? Fight me, fight Thanatos, fight Zeus and the fates themselves. Do you believe yourself a titan, little greek?”

Achilles said nothing. His grip on Patroclus’ arm loosened and his eyes softened, tear-struck and red in the dim glow of the hall.

“It is the harvest, Achilles. The winter comes.”


Hades outstretched his arm and there at the entrance to the hall came a patch of land, off the horizon at the edge of the underworld, rising out of the river away from any soul or shade, there, barely perceptible was the unmistakable waving form of grass. I did not know this place.

I turned to Hades and realized that the two men were gone. I blinked and Hades turned to me, stroking his beard

“Grass, here?”

Hades nodded and pointed to the hall’s entrance.

“That place is a secret to all, a secret you will keep.”

“What is it? Why is it here?”

“It is here for her.”

I turned and looked and in a flash so great it seared my eyes a blade of light slashed the void and fell upon the patch of land, illuminating bright green grass and of all things a tree, great and tall and alive, sprouting red fruit, barely perceptible in the light that cleaved the abyss. I looked up, followed the blade of light into the eternity and saw at its source a crack in the void filled by the shape of Persephone, whose sorrowful face considered the shape of two men standing together under the tree, unbuckling their armour and embracing in a kiss, bathed in a warm shade i felt a great longing for.

I turned to Hades, who smiled and held his closed fist out to me. I gave him my open palm and in it he placed the black helm of the myrmidons. I stared at it and did not notice Hades walking past me to greet his wife. 


Thank you to Sam Beck and Allison O’Toole.


Welcome! This website features fiction by Z.K. Leverton, a Toronto-based writer of fantasy, horror and experimental fiction. I hope you’ll visit often and share freely.

Our first act as human beings, all the way back in primordial genesis, was to recognize the other and try to connect with them. The first way in which our huge, complex brains thought to do this, was to tell a story. We are story creatures. Stories are the constant and foundational element in any culture in any part of our history. We tell stories to explain how to conquer our environments, how to explain where we came from, and to wonder what comes next.

i hope you enjoy my stories. they all mean something to me, and i hope they’ll mean something to you.