Maïmoú of Athens, in all her spanning years trapped on Earth, had never liked the ocean. Ever since the Hellenistic Period, this’d been the case. She’d seen it up close when she was a kid and thought she’d drown in it. Little did she know she couldn’t drown like a normal human.
Now, fully in the realm of her godhood, she hated it even more. She hated the Deity it was prescribed to and hated how it limited most of humanity‘s efforts into evolving. Shào had had no troubles cultivating the seas and the skies for his Domain—the waterborne and airborne had claimed it easily.
And nothing angered her more than defiable limitations.
She was floating it in now, arms and legs splayed out as she floated through the debris-ladened water. The Muralha had finally cracked and, per Kevin’s dare, she’d abandoned it in lieu of saving the remaining crossbreeds. She’d been ready for it to give way, but out of sheer narcissism, something she’d built up in humanity quite well, she hadn’t let the Muralha fall. She couldn’t let the Other Deities win in their efforts to kick her while she was down. And, against her better judgement, she couldn’t let Shào’s people die. Again.
She’d thought about it, justifying whether or not to save Shào’s people. It was a dance she knew well. She hated him, loved him, couldn’t stand being near him, needed to be within arm’s reach of him at all times. Bonds were complicated between Deities. They, whether they admitted it or not, were the most loving living beings on the planet.
At that last second, she was going to use her remaining strength to save Kevin. He was all she had left. She’d figure out the rest later, if any of them survived. But then, of course, like always, he fell in love, and his heart expanded to some mudskipper girl who was more spineless than the amphibious fish she was born as.
So, taking on the challenge she’d been working at for over 500 years, she’d let go the pressure she’d been containing and let the Muralha fall. She’d planned on trying to mentally transfer the crossbreeds someplace safer when it happened, but as soon as the water burst forth, she’d been swept away by the current. Her mind shattered to pieces, and when she’d come to, she was floating somewhere down Main Street, unable to move, with not a single other body floating on the surface.
They’d all disappeared. They, she assumed, had lived.
Of that group, however, she hadn’t accounted for the thousands of drowned pets or the billions of dollars worth of property damage now worth nothing. The city was completely lost, submerged under a mile of water—its empty canals finally had enough water to replenish the old streets for the waterborne. She knew someone somewhere would judge her for that.
“You shouldn’t have done that.”
“You should’ve done this and that in these much better ways.”
“Why did you endanger your soulmates?”
“Why couldn’t you save Derek from falling or break Kevin out of the Asilo?”
“Are you weak, Maïmoú?”
“Are you losing your touch, Maïmoú?”
As if she’d let anyone see her fail.
She just couldn’t physically move right now. Water trickled around the sides of her head and eyes, bobbing her in a sea of her own destruction. She only saw the tops of the tallest buildings now. Luckily that stupid Asilo building was disintegrating in the ocean. That reeked of Shào’s doing with Nikki Lenore. Kevin would praise her for not murdering her.
She inhaled slowly. She’d never felt pain like this before. It wasn’t the nausea or dizziness she’d learned to deal with, or the immeasurable pain and body tremors she expected from stunts like this. This felt like she’d been impaled. The type of injury where you couldn’t feel the effects at first but knew it’d kill you if you moved an inch. Pain she couldn’t heal from lay dormant in her chest.
She couldn’t deal with this now, not when she still needed to find where the crossbreeds were. She needed to be there with them. She needed. Wanted. Deserved her soulmates.
She focused on making her body move. She needed it to bend to her will. She needed to show the world that humans would once again reign as the most dominant creatures in this universe. Why couldn’t she do it? Why couldn’t she be stronger than what her mind was allowing her to be?
She tried lifting her arm out of the water. She reached for the Moon, the brightest she’d ever seen it. Without any pollution muddying the view, without the Barrier, she could see its craters and lunar bases dotting the ground. The storm which had ravished the land had passed. It was a new day.
The veins keeping her alive twisted. She’d been through pain most beings couldn’t physically comprehend, but this was straining. She battled it out with gritted teeth. Pain would bring her closer to the things she cherished: Derek, Kevin’s safety, the remains of Greece and India, Shào. Shào. Shào.
Her vision blurred, as did the world, and gravity, her biggest nemesis without a face, took hold of her. With her mind breaking in two, her body went limp, and she plunged down into darkness.
She did cartwheels through empty darkness. She was in a tunnel of wind and water without a way to stop herself. Like dropping from the ceiling, she landed hard in the ruins of her own mind, her prison.
Raeleen was gone. The water, the sky she’d broken. Replacing it was endless darkness, corroding columns and crumbling arches. The foundations of houses that would never be. It mirrored the state of her own mind like a magnifying glass in-between her ears: Ruined potential of growth, stuck in dark and decaying limbo.
She should’ve been grateful. Her pain, her spasms, all of it disappeared. She was gone from the world and allowed to heal in peace, a coma-like state while the Earth kept turning.
Maïmoú’s eye twitched. She detested being here. She didn’t have time to heal. She had ten million things to accomplish and being dormant wasn’t one of them. She wasn’t like Ataleah and Fate, hiding away due to whatever hangups they had. Being dead, injured, cowards. That wasn’t her.
She refocused her stalling energy to break out of her own head. After being stripped of her powers and left to die, she had more trouble breaking free from this prison. She’d perfected it a thousand years ago, but comparing herself now to herself a thousand years ago was like comparing an infant lost at sea to an infant teething on an atomic bomb.
“Come on.” She hit the ground with her fist, shaking the whole Void. “We’re not doing this again. I’m not staying trapped here. I’m fine.”
The darkness growled like an animal, begging that she stay for a few years so she could heal. Upon Kevin’s request, she’d caved and entered it for a few days, and she’d always regret it. That small amount of healing would never amount to the pain he had to suffer through in the Asilo.
“I’m getting out,” she rephrased, and pushed her long hair out of her face. She focused her energy ahead of her. She was getting out. She would no longer be trapped.
She took a running start. The invisible walls shifted and screamed in protest as she climbed back into the world like a malnourished Komodo dragon with a broken arm. She dug, scratched, plowed through. The stars above her crackled like sparklers.
She puked up Dark Matter. “Let me out!” she screamed.
Something in the back of her mind snapped. Tumbling forwards, she inhaled a mouthful of salty water.
Her senses returned to her. Coughing, she tried getting up and out of the ocean. She rarely used her powers to float, but she couldn’t stay like this anymore. Kevin, Shào, Derek. The people she loved, she needed to get back to them now.
She cursed and slapped the water, seeing her reflection shift. “Why?” she asked no one. “Why is it always me? You must love this, don’t you? Just like how you love watching the planet die, you sit back and watch the only person trying to change this cursed timeline and laugh. You’re all psychopaths.”
As she expected, she got no answer. After 500 years of being trapped, not one single Deity, not even Tsvetan, had come to talk to her. Argue with her, battle her, hug her. Not like she expected the last one, but no one had even tried convincing her to calm down.
She didn’t know what they’d exactly done to her 500 years ago, but she knew what they’d wanted: to kill her and Shào for good. Kill all the humans and crossbreeds who’d made the world better. They saw beingkind as parasites and wanted them exterminated for good.
What a selfish way to revert back to their good old days, all pinned on two thirteen-year-olds.
Looking back up into the clearest skies she could imagine, Maïmoú readied her broken mind and teleported herself to Shào. Usually, the closer a Deity was to another Deity, they’d feel a string in their head get tugged. It was the string of fate that threaded them all together. Whenever someone acted out or, say, ruined a city or massacred an entire village, the string would be yanked.
She sensed it—sensed him—like an internal radar had been switched on in her head. All this time she had no idea if he’d survived the Separation or not, but she knew him. She knew that, despite his fascination with martyrdom, Shào wouldn’t walk into Hell without dragging Maïmoú down with him.
She disappeared and travelled across the world in an eyeblink. Her body was pulled against time and space. After breaking every law the Earth tried placing on her, Maïmoú teleported from the Brazilian coastline Raeleen had been built against and found herself a mile in the sky, looking down at England’s southern coast.
She breathed out a confused exhale. The humans had been in England, farmlands and mountains and forests that’d overtaken the confined land. Raeleen had enough materials to rebuild the Asilo, maintain a humanoid robot, keep most of its buildings and Old World’s fallout shelters functional. This country had farmlands, a broken Barrier—who’d broken it?—and oceans.
Oceans. She cursed the Gods and their ways. This place had an ocean, and Raeleen didn’t? They’d left the crossbreeds without access to the Atlantic, pushing them to rely on defective techniques to get them through life. What little lakes they’d provided for them had dried up in the 2150s, only fifty years after the Separation. That was the one good thing Zantl’s family had done: preserve the waterborne species. When they’d started housing the water breathers in the Asilo, Maïmoú had regained a smidgen of faith in Shào’s Domain.
But what their predecessors had ultimately done to them earned them a ticket to every permutation of Hell that existed. They’d experimented on their capabilities, then expunged their existence from the public so nobody knew about the sadistic treatments being done to them. Thousands mutilated and diseased, and she had been penalized to watch it for centuries as a floating corpse.
She really hoped Unathi would end Zantl’s life soon. Cut the cord and start over as a new reincarnation. She hated Unathi as much as the Others, but she remembered them as the smarter and less forgiving Deity of the group.
But she also knew how much Unathi loved Zantl. When she’d felt Unathi enter Raeleen to fuck some sixteen-year-old, she understood. When Tsvetan had come out of the woodwork to pretend to be a dad—they were freaks, all of them—she wanted to strangle them both. Ignoring her was one thing, but coming into her prison to coo and gawk at their newborn soulmates instead? She’d tried so hard to become visible then just to tear them apart.
She pushed back her hair again. Beneath her, both humans and crossbreeds ambled around the coastline in disbelief. She watched them like a patron at a zoo. Waterborne from the forests found their way into the frigid oceans. Bird crossbreeds were high in the sky, looking for their separated loved ones. The air smelled different here. It smelled of pine trees and snow.
Derek and Kevin were near. She could feel it. She floated towards a remodeled castle on the cliffside. It seemed like the humans had devolved to a freaking Renaissance era. Men in plated suits and horseback riders. They were organizing crossbreeds into some semblance of order. How impossible it was to gather beings during an upheaval.
She paused over the castle. Betwixt the flyers and swimmers, there were a few who flew without wings, swam without fins.
Dragon crossbreeds, real dragon crossbreeds. She only counted a few, but she knew their breeds anywhere.
When the Separation had occurred, she’d assumed the Others had massacred the world’s single magical species to teach her and Shào a lesson. Their breeds had never come over to Brazil with the crossbreeds, and she’d mourned them. They’d been so powerful over the centuries. They’d owned countries and controlled civilizations.
They must’ve only been uncoupled like a motherless child in a mall. Wandering around, she saw Snow-Faced Hilltop dragons, Spanish dragons, Carnes Bat dragons and Yokani Toxin dragons. She spotted one shy South American Water dragon. She couldn’t find any Greek Marvos’ or Chinese dragons, but she guessed that much. They had been dead for thousands of years, and the crossbreed variants had gone extinct after the 100s. Shào was the last Chinese dragon, unable to die by conventional means.
She looked above her. Just like in Raeleen, this country’s Barrier had been broken.
“What did Shào do here?” she asked herself. She had only broken the Muralha. This, this hadn’t been her.
She teleported inside the royal home. The foyer and hall were cluttered with confused crossbreeds and humans trying to help them. She left them all be. Up these stairs. Down these halls. She panted, reveling in her parents’ connected souls. They were close.
She came to a locked door carved with dragons and wartime. She touched the handle, licking her lips. She must’ve looked a wreck. She hoped they wouldn’t mind.
Sitting on couches was an upscale family who must’ve owned the castle, dressed very fancy and regal, and in front of them, sitting together as they ought to have been, were Maïmoú’s parents from another time. Derek and Kevin sat beside their sister and the other soulmates—Marcos, Zantl, the baby Alexi. There was another, one Maïmoú knew from the 22nd century. Holly, if she remembered. She looked exactly the same, as if she hadn’t died after 500 years.
None of them mattered. None of them would ever matter as much as her Hassan and Hadiya.
Maïmoú floated into the living room to meet her twins. “Hi,” she said, smiling. “I’m back, so everything’s going to be okay.”
Kevin picked at his cuticles as he listened to the humans speak. Derek dropped his head on the shoulder of a Snow-Faced Hilltop dragon. They looked close. They looked mated.
Unable to be ignored, Maïmoú walked around the glass table to get their attention.
She walked through it, invisible.
Her dead heart panged. “No.” She tripped backwards and looked down at her hands. “No. No.”
Neither twin noticed her. Desperate, she tried to touch Kevin. “Kevin?”
Her hand passed through him and into the couch.
She ripped her arm away and held it close to her chest. She began to shake. “Derek? Kevin?”
None of them looked up. She was being ignored.
Her heart sped up, shaking her whole body. This couldn’t be happening. Not again. Not after everything she’d accomplished for them. “L-look at me!” she begged. “Please! I’m right here!”
Kevin sneezed. Nikki fixed his hair for him before refocusing back on the conversation they were having. Derek smiled into some boy’s shoulder.
Maïmoú clutched her heart. She was invisible. Again. Taken from the world, another ghost to fade from memory.
She held her arms close to her center. Fine, then. No big deal. She’d just push herself even harder, that’s all. In a few days, they’d be able to see her. They had to. They would.
Saddened by their long-awaited reunion, Maïmoú floated through the castle’s roof and over the sea.
Her humans, they felt okay here. The crossbreeds looked fine. The dragons she thought had gone extinct looked healthy, and the land, although primitive, sported enough materials to easily house Shào’s 300,000 people. She saw plains, mountains, rivers, and forests.
Gentle winds carried the ocean breeze through her. It twirled her dress still stained with twinkling darkness. It would’ve given her goosebumps if she could feel such a thing.
“What?” she whispered. “What’re you all waiting for? I know you’re all dying to see me. Well, here I am.”
The clouds parted, revealing bright beams of Sunlight through her. Her body didn’t cast any shadows on the passing clouds.
She tore at her hair, begging for it to rip when she knew it wouldn’t. “I said I’m here!” she screamed. “Where are you? Why’re you ignoring me?”
Holding her sides tight, so tight her nails dug into her stomach, she heaved over. Not to vomit. Her body just wasn’t centered and she needed to fix that. That’s what she did. She fixed things.
Spit dribbled from her mouth. “Kai!” she screamed. “Shào Kai, you come out right now and look at me!”
Nobody answered her.
She started chuckling. This was okay. They were just ignoring her. They did that. Soon, Tsvetan or maybe Unathi would come to her. Sabah would come next, silently judging everything they did and berating her for existing. Maybe Ataleah would be there, floating like a lifeless balloon without a thought in her head. Maybe she’d even see Fate and he’d finally introduce himself to her.
Shào, he was who she needed most. She wanted to hold him and taste his skin and kill him and revive him. Shào, her other half, her husband, her best friend, he was the reason she’d been fighting for so long. Even if the Others didn’t like them, even if Shào refused her, he and she were destined to be together. Their love exceeded all the stars and planets combined.
Whatever anyone said, she’d done it. Humans and crossbreeds were safe on an island not threatened by its own Barrier, Hassan and Hadiya got to live another lifetime, and Shào was alive somewhere in this Godforsaken world with his stupid soulmate who’d never love him. She’d saved everyone, and everyone was happy.
Her lower lip quivered.
She blinked back her emotions. She wanted to believe she had the willpower not to revert back to her old self, but she failed. Alone, Maïmoú cried by herself, to herself, and for herself as the world beneath her slowly rebuilt itself.