(Continues from Because the Haruspex Told Me To)
Echidna slithered as fast as her scaly body would go. Her son wanted to work in Hell? What was the afterlife coming to? So what if a haruspex had told him it was a good idea. The hack also thought it was a good idea to sacrifice animals and paw around in their entrails for advice on the future. She clamped her hands to the sides of her head, but it didn’t help. His proud face remained fixed in her mind’s eye–not the three dog faces of his other form but his human face.
A sudden cramping in her gut brought her to an abrupt halt. Curling into a ball of pain, she whimpered, and her tears fell into Acheron’s flow. A refulgent figure stepped into her line of sight and a breeze ruffled a gleaming hem as a woman knelt beside her. Laying a warm hand on Echidna’s shoulder, the Dalisay spoke in soothing tones.
“You must be calm. Your distress upsets the child in your womb.”
Startled, Echidna stared at the swaying reeds, nudged by the wind’s invisible fingers. “I can’t be with child…it’s not possible, not down here in the underworld.”
When the world had stopped believing in the old gods, its unbelief had relegated them all down here and locked them out of the mortal realm. But here in this limbo, new life couldn’t spawn. It wasn’t possible.
Warm hands helped her to sit up and face the woman kneeling on the riverbank. She had a kindly face crowned with stars and maternal eyes. Light flocked to her limning her white gown and purity’s flame burned within her, making her refulgent. She wore a blue stole made of piety and she smiled as she took Echidna’s hand.
“How is this possible?”
“Through love, all things are possible.” She laid a maternal hand over Echidna’s belly and captured her gaze.
In her eyes, Echidna saw a baby sleep in a manger and then grow to manhood only to be put to death at the prime of his life for preaching love and truth. Oh God, she was the mother of the Creator’s only son. And the woman sat with a Greek Titan holding her hand. But her eyes held no scorn, just a comradery that said, ‘we’re all women together.’
“Keep her close to you. There are those who’ll want to use her for their own ends.”
Upon recognizing the shining woman, Echidna heard the prayers wafting up from earth. They smelled like roses, and each one dropped a perfect petal before her interlocutor. Some pious soul must have prayed the whole rosary to this luminous lady because a rose appeared stripped of its thorns in her lap. Smiling, she lifted the token of earthly affection, inhaled its fragrance and pushed its stem into the earth.
And was it Echidna’s imagination, or did this section of riverbank suddenly look less bleak with the rose’s addition? Perhaps if enough prayers were said, the entire afterlife might be carpeted in roses and sunshine. In her mind’s eye, she imagined a little girl free of the monstrous taint of her family, laughing as she turned circles under a shower of rose petals. A tear slid down her cheek.
Mary, the Queen of Heaven, squeezed her hand, and they shared a smile and perhaps a vision of what might yet be.
to be continued…
More short stories featuring Dalisay, Echidna and their family of monsters: Because the Haruspex Told Me To, Mom, I’m Working in Tophet, Effulgence, Syxx & Stones, Tadhana, Dalisay–Echidna’s Daughter, Makisig, Kilig Me.