Seshat sighed and looked up at the ceiling. As she blinked the exhaustion from her eyes, Seshat took a moment to appraise the opulent palace. The Olympians used cream marble, decorated with murals and engravings. It was overblown compared to the dark pyramids that were once her home.
Her hand shook as she took a sip of water. It trickled down her throat, and she savored every cool drop of it. As a deity of a desert people, she had learned over the years to appreciate every drop of water she could find. On a normal day, the moment Seshat felt the water hit her stomach, the cool sensation would calm her nerves. But today was not a normal day.
Today was the day Seshat would die.
She hunched over her book again, scribbling down the remaining pages of the new era. Once she finished, it would be set in stone and she would seal her fate. “Hurry,” Hermes growled in that throaty voice of his.
Seshat looked up, nearly forgetting the wily malach was still in the room. “I do not wish to make a mistake.”
“Zeus finds out what you’ve done, you’re dead. Got it?”
Seshat looked at him over her glasses. “I understand my fate.” She crinkled her nose as she noticed his staff of snakes. “If you keep interrupting, both of us will have a fate to accept.”
“You don’t know me well enough then.”
She pursed her lips, then turned back to her work. Hermes was a dexterous malach, and more than once she had heard tales of his narrow escapes from danger. It reminded her a bit of her former lover Thoth, now dead. As many other malachs were. She took a breath.
Seshat was the last malach of her type; one with the ability to recreate a world. This would be the eighth time she had written man back into the world. In earlier periods, humans fell victim to the elements. This time, they fell victims to themselves.
It started near her region, where mistrust, fear, and hatred brought men to arms. Entire cities were destroyed. Years of history blasted away because humanity could not learn to love itself. They destroyed the ancient pyramids, a place she used to call her home. Man and malach alike fell to the vicious weapons: the bombs, the chemicals, and the guns. In the beginning, humanity was driven by knowledge, but in the end, they were driven by greed.
And now the Olympians, herself, and a few scattered malachs were the only ones left. Afterward, Zeus had made it known that he would never want humankind back on the planet.
And yet, Seshat, scribe of the new renewal couldn’t allow herself to let that happen. She wrote in everything she could remember: from the largest lion to the tiniest hydra. Seshat would write mankind back into this eighth renewal. Their last chance for them to learn to live among themselves. Seshat knew what was likely to happen when Zeus found out. Undaunted, she wrote her final words and color poured itself back into the world.
“There,” she whispered. “Now I just need to review it for spelling errors.”
“Enough,” Hermes said, grabbing her by her arm. “We have to go.”
Seshat pulled her arm away from him. “No,” Seshat said, wiping her glasses. “I want to look Zeus in the eye and tell him what I’ve done.”
Hermes narrowed his eyes. “Why?”
“All my friends are dead.”
“You’ll make new ones.”
Her eyes fluttered. “My consort is dead too."
"You're hot, you'll get a new one."
She glared at him. "I don't fancy the idea of being chased around by a group of horny malachs either! And I will not have that philandering oaf Zeus, tell me what to do.”
“This is stupid. It's suicide!” Hermes stepped in front of her.
“It’s my creation. What shall I do after it’s done? Wander alone for ages, constantly looking over my shoulder?”
“Beats being dead, doesn’t it? You don’t have to be a martyr!”
“In death, I shall watch with Thoth. It’s my decision. Please do not be a hero.” Tears filled her eyes.
“I’m not a hero.” He stopped his invisibility magic. “I’m not risking myself for you, I’m trying to talk you out of something stupid.”
“I know,” Seshat said with a small smile, “But I thank you for your help.”
He appraised her for another moment. The way he looked at her reminded her of Thoth and it only made her more eager to see him again. “Nice knowing you,” he muttered as he opened the door to the main hallway for her.
“Seshat, there you are," Zeus thundered. "We have been waiting for you to begin the new renewal.”
Seshat looked around. Fear gripped her as she looked at the faces of the remaining malachs. Each one looked as if their fate balanced on her shoulders. For the briefest second, it caused her to wonder if she had made a mistake.
It didn’t matter anymore. “I found her,” boasted Hermes. “But bad news. She already wrote them.”
Zeus stood up, and the room went silent. There was a menacing glint in his eye as he looked at Seshat. “You would condemn us to die?” Seshat couldn’t determine whether she was more frightened of how calm his voice was, or of the muscles rippling from his arms.
Ares chuckled as he sipped his wine. “I told you, Father.” Seshat turned to face Ares. Although he had a smirk on his face, his eyes told a very different story. She knew then, he was the one that was going to kill her.
“Silence.” Zeus boomed. “Answer me now, you would condemn us all to die?”
Seshat stepped forward. “Die? Without mankind, we are all nothing but a group of bickering fools! It is a symbiotic relationship much like in the animal---”
Seshat lost her breath as Ares threw his chair across the room. “How many more times do we need to babysit humans? How many more times will they betray us? And forget about us?” He pounded the table, causing Seshat to step backward. “To watch as they kill our friends?”
“What are we?” Seshat pleaded. Ares took a long drink of his wine. “Exiled creatures trying to find a home. Without humans...we will have nothing. They created so much in their time here, we see they can be as great as us.” Ares placed his glass on the table as Seshat continued. “I will not destroy the time cycle by ridding ourselves of them. As long as there is a chance for mankind to once again live peacefully---”
Seshat was cut off as Ares grabbed her by the throat. She grabbed onto his wrists, but his grip was steel, forged from years of war. “Ares!” Zeus cried. Ares didn’t listen to him as he lifted her off the ground. A bone cracked in her neck.
“Does anyone wish to stand against us and save her?” Ares screamed. Another bone cracked. Her breath was coming in shorter gasps.
“It is done.”
The voice came from Hekate in the back. The gothic malach looked into Seshat’s eyes. She was a malach of the crossroads and death. Her cold blue eyes sent Seshat’s thoughts far away, to a plane where she felt no more pain.
Hermes stood outside, looking off the edge of the cliff the Olympians called their home. As he stared down at the valley way down below, he pulled an old pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. He opened it and saw only two left. “Good time as any to quit,” he said with a sigh. Taking a deep drag of the stick, he let the sweet nicotine calm his nerves. He felt cheap. He gave Seshat to Ares and smiled as he did it. It still felt surreal to him. Zeus let Ares kill the most intelligent woman he had ever known. Without her, there would never be another renewal. The humans had to survive this time.
“What are you doing out here?”
His head turned to see Hekate approaching him. She had a vampiric beauty about her that always seemed to catch Hermes off guard. He turned back towards the valley. “Thinking what a brute Ares is. Doesn’t think anything through.”
Hekate looked down with him. “Being so high in the mountains, looking down upon all of life, it makes you think you are better than it all, doesn’t it?”
Hermes took a drag. “We are better than humans.”
“We’re not,” Hekate stated as she turned back to Hermes. “Philandering, greed, and envy are all qualities we share among ourselves. We don’t have the right to decide if humans return or how they live their lives as Zeus seems to think we do.”
“Oh come on now.” Hermes scrunched up his face. “You’re saying the only difference between us and them is that they pushed a button first? I don’t buy it.”
“If we are such perfect beings Hermes, why do you smoke cigarettes?”
He narrowed his eyes as he took a drag. “I can stop anytime I want.”
Hekate said, “Of course you can.” There was a smirk on her face that just annoyed Hermes even more. He looked back down onto the valley. Hekate whispered. “Gabriel should be here soon.”
Hermes didn’t answer. Hekate and Seshat had been planning the whole thing for months after the humans destroyed each other. Seshat would write in the new renewal; breathing life back into a lifeless world, and Hekate made a deal with the Archangel Gabriel to seal the remaining malachs away from the humans.
Except for himself. The burden of being a silent liaison to the humans had fallen on his shoulders. He took an even longer drag. Hermes looked over at the beautiful Hekate. If it weren’t for her, he would have sided with Zeus and the rest of them. After the humans discovered the Chashmal, they had forgotten what life was like before it. Everything came so easily to them. What was to stop that from happening again, he wondered?
“You’re too pretty for my own good,” he said with a sigh.
Hekate gave him a gentle kiss. “You know this is the right thing. Without them, we will be bored. You know what happens when Zeus gets bored. He becomes very dangerous. How long can Hera keep Zeus calm? What about Athena and Ares? They will kill each other.” They stared down at the valley in silence. “We need the humans as much as they need us.”
Hermes put his cigarette out on the ground. “I guess I got to go. I’ll think about you every day.”
“Every day?” A wry smile appeared on her face. “A bit excessive, no?”
“It’s gonna be lonely out there.” He shot her a grin. But Hekate’s eyes locked onto something in the distance, and Hermes turned.
“There he is,” she breathed.
The man who walked toward them was youthful-looking, dressed in a simple breastplate. He stood up tall, appraising Hermes and Hekate. He’d met Gabriel many times, but Hermes’ hand still shook as he reached for his last cigarette. “So glad you’ve been having so much alone time with this guy.”
She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “Even so, I still love you.”
"Great." He looked at Gabriel's groin area. The description of it that came to his mind was 'unnecessary.' "Great."
Gabriel flaunted an insufferable smile. “Those are bad for your health, young Hermes. Indeed. But then again, what isn’t bad for your health?”
Hermes exhaled. “I...I’ll be on my way alright? Just saying goodbye. I wanted to finish my cig---”
Gabriel slapped the cigarette out of Hermes’ hand. Hermes slumped as the cigarette flew through the sky and down into the valley below. “Does my time seem so unimportant to you oh great Hermes?”
Hermes sighed. “That was my last cigarette.”
Gabriel grabbed Hermes by the front of his shirt. “There’s an empty Walmart nearby that still have all their cartons of cigarettes waiting to be plundered by nicotine-addled malachs.”
Hermes swallowed. “Route nine?”
“Route nine,” Gabriel affirmed, his eyes blazing. “Indeed. Take. Your. Time.” He let go of Hermes’ shirt.
“You’re not gonna hurt anyone, right?” Hermes barked. Gabriel looked at him out of the corner of his eye. “I mean, I know you with the turning of people into salt, and fire and brimstone---”
Gabriel flexed his chest muscles. Hermes gathered it was a good time to keep quiet. “You are bold, young Hermes, but I am not in a good mood.” Gabriel stepped in front of him. “You went out for cigarettes because Seshat’s death upset you. When you came back….I sealed off the Olympians from ever killing humans. No one will get harmed. Are we understood?”
Hermes averted his eyes. “Why do you even want them back so bad?”
Gabriel was silent for a moment. “They remind me of my brother.” He turned to head inside the palace. “Indeed.”