The Life of a Background Goddess by Hannah Middaugh

I sighed for the hundredth time and crossed my arms. I slumped back in my chair in the corner of the room, and continued to listen to my uncles Zeus, God of Sky and Thunder, Poseidon, God of the Sea, Earthquakes and Horses, and Hades, God of the Underworld, my father, argue. Other gods tried to interrupt their argument by bringing up their own issues. For being the Goddess of Nightmares, this was my worst nightmare. And I had to relive it repeatedly. I rolled my eyes as Ares, God of War, offered to start a war to fix the issues Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades were arguing over. I couldn’t tell you what they were fighting about or how it even started. I closed my eyes to help keep the bright lights around Olympus at bay. With each passing minute I was in Olympus, a headache was brewing right behind my eyes. I just wanted to be back in the darkness of my cave in the Underworld.

“That’s it!” Zeus yelled, slamming his hands on the throne he was sitting on. My eyes flew open from the deafening sound. Everyone around me went completely silent. He stood up, anger rolling off him in waves. His long, blond hair was tied back in a ponytail, but little pieces of it were sticking out. I almost wanted to laugh. Perfect Zeus’ hair wasn’t so perfect. Neither was his temper. “Back to the Underworld, Hades! We are done discussing this!” Hades stood up slowly and narrowed his eyes. His fiery blue hair was sparking around his head, sending tiny sparks to those near him. His eyes had a fire burning behind the pupils. Persephone, my mother, with her small frame and floor length golden colored hair, didn’t blink an eye when a spark landed on her purple dress, setting a small fire. She lightly patted the small fire with her hand, putting it out.

“This needs to be discussed, Zeus! I’m not…,” Hades started.

“I SAID GO BACK TO YOUR DUNGEON,” Zeus boomed. I narrowed my eyes at Zeus’ comment about the Underworld being a “dungeon”. It might have been a dungeon to him, but Olympus was the dungeon for me. The atmosphere around everyone started stirring with swirling high winds and tiny jolts of lightening. The once bright lights of Olympus were now getting dim, letting everyone in the throne room know that Zeus was furious. Hades glared at his brother but stomped out of the room in Olympus like an angry child, sparks still flying from his fiery hair. I jumped out of my chair and followed my father. Any excuse to get me out of Olympus. Zeus dropped back down in his throne. My father and I stopped to look back at the room. My mother was standing in the doorway.

“I’ll return after this meeting is over. I’m going to try to talk some sense into them,” she said. I rolled my eyes. I knew it was a waste of time to try to explain reason to the Gods. Hades nodded once and resumed his walking to the entrance to the Underworld. I could hear the Gods continuing their argument after my mother gently closed the door after, giving me a small, sad smile.

The decent into darkness relaxed me. The headache disappeared almost instantly. I took a deep breath, letting all the smells and sounds of the Underworld take over my senses. The mixed scents of smoke, musky earth, and sulfur entered my nose. The humming sound of the rivers running through the Underworld eased my overwhelmed senses from Olympus. I hated going to Olympus. It brought nothing except trouble when we visited. Zeus and Hades would always get into arguments, Zeus would get sick of hearing what Hades had to say about “important” matters of the Underworld and he would send Hades back to his realm in the Underworld. Persephone would stay behind to attempt to change Zeus’s mind, but nothing would appease him.

“Back already, sir?” Charon questioned when Hades and I made it to the mouth of the Styx. The boatman stood on the tiny boat, oar in hand. Hades growled something under his breath and got on the boat. I stepped on the boat, nodding at Charon, and taking a seat as far from my father as I could. I didn’t want to risk starting a pointless argument with my father. Charon pushed off from the shore and started directing us toward Hades’ domain. The river Styx churned underneath the boat, lost souls circling around them in large groups. The eerie, green tinted river put little pleasant colored light on the walls of the dark cavern.

When we made it to the shore outside Hades’ palace, Charon docked the boat, letting Hades and I off. I once again nodded at Charon. He may have had a smart mouth once and while toward my father, but he helped me greatly; he helped me gather my souls to use to create nightmares.  I appreciated the boatman. He nodded back and started the trip back to the other side of the river to pick up some new soul or souls. Hades started complaining about his brother as soon as they stepped inside the palace.

“Zeus! Who does he think he is? There’s a reason we sent the Titans to Tartarus and he’s really making me think about…” Hades’ voice grew faint as I left my father’s side to go to my cave away from the rest of the palace. I passed my siblings’ empty rooms. I took the tunnel furthest from the Mission Room where my father was headed and started down the narrow path. Little blue lights glistened along the walls. Sounds of bats chirping and slowly flowing water from the River Styx filled my ears. I smiled. I was finally back where I wanted to be. I looked around my mini throne room in the dark cave and appreciated the darkness and the silence the room welcomed. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath in, and slowly let the breath out. I sat down on my mini throne at the back of my room and closed my eyes again. I focused on hearing prayers from my Pagan followers.

“Melinoe, Goddess of Nightmares, I pray to ask a favor of you…,” one subject started.

“Goddess of Nightmares, I pray to ask you about this dream…,” another one prayed.

I listened intently, trying to answer as many prayers as I could. I sat on my mini throne made of obsidian for hours. I only opened my eyes when I sensed it was nighttime in the mortal realm. I smiled as the spirits I commanded started joining me. It was finally time to create some havoc of my own. Entering the mortal’s unconscious was simple with my spirits. Having the spirits scare terrible mortals and creating madness was the always the goal.   

“Let’s get to work,” I said, jumping up. The spirits circled around me excitedly. I started marching back toward the entrance of my cave, the spirits following me. I just reached the mouth of the entrance when Hades’ voice boomed loud around me.

“THAT’S IT!” Hades exclaimed. I sighed and rolled my eyes. I knew it was a bad idea to go ask what was happening, but I headed toward the Mission Room anyway, with the spirits still right behind me. I crept down the pitch-black halls with jagged stones protruding from the ceiling. I entered the Mission Room. The dark, obsidian walls, and high ceilings opened the room. The giant holes in the walls gave Hades a perfect view of the rest of the Underworld. I crossed my arms and leaned against the frame of the entrance.

“Care to explain what you figured out?” I asked, not really caring what my father had to say at this point. I just wanted to go give people deserving of them nightmares. Hades was pacing around the room in front of the two open holes in the walls. He only glanced at my direction. My mother was sitting in a chair off to the side with her fingers pinching the bridge of her nose.

“I’ll send Zeus to Tartarus! That’ll fix everything! If he wanted to go back to when the Titans were still free, I’ll let him live with them!” Hades stated. I raised my eyebrows. Was he serious?  

“You’re going to send Zeus to Tartarus? How?” I asked, still not believing what I just heard.

“It’s impossible, Hades,” Persephone said, getting out of her chair and leaving the Mission Room. She walked past me, putting her hand on my shoulder for a second.

“Oh, it’s not only possible, it’s going to happen!” I shook my head.

“You really want to start an all-out war on Zeus? You’ve really lost your mind, haven’t you?” Hades continued to spout nonsense about putting my uncle in Tartarus. I pushed off the wall I was leaning on and left the room. I could still hear Hades talking about his plans. “This should be interesting to watch unravel.” The spirits around me whispered responses back. I left the Underworld, and headed to the first mortal’s home to bring nightmares. Entering their home was easy. Having the spirits overcome their sleeping mind was easier. I smiled as I watched the madness overcome them in their sleep. I chuckled when they jumped awake, screaming about demons. My spirits gathered around me again, and off to the next house it was.

Settling back into my cavern before daybreak, the spirits went back to the River Styx. I closed my eyes, ready to meditate for a few hours, when I heard the Trumpets of War sound around me. I sighed in annoyance.

“Nice one, dad,” I mumbled under my breath. Shouts and sounds of violence started reverberating on the walls around me. I closed the entrance to my cave, sat down on my mini throne, and grabbed a book from the mortal realm to read. It was bound to be a long night. Was it too much to ask them to stop arguing for once? All I ever knew growing up was my father and Uncle Zeus arguing. No one would tell me why. I made myself comfortable on my mini throne and popped the book open.

Just as the book was getting to an interesting part, the entrance to my cave opened. I threw the book out of my hand and was ready to fight anyone who entered. When I saw the God of Sea, Earthquakes, and Horses standing at the entrance, I relaxed a little.

“Uncle Poseidon?” He gave me a small smile. His golden brown hair was wet and covered in sulfur. His usually tall frame looked small.

“I wish I came under better circumstances, Melinoe, but I came to tell you the real reason why my brothers are always fighting.” I raised my eyebrows in confusion and anticipation. Was I finally going to find out why I only knew fighting? Poseidon took a deep breath. “Zeus is partially your father.” And that’s when the wall behind me blew up, showering Poseidon and I in rock fragments.

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