This story came from a writing prompt on the subreddit r/writingprompts. The prompt was as follows:
“You are chosen as the avatar of a Pagan god, able to transform into a being of immense power. One problem: You’re a devout Christian.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Father forgive me, for I have sinned,” Zachariah or Zach, said in the confessional. “It’s been two months since my last confession.”
“How have you sinned?” Father Toley asked. Zach took a deep breath.
“Infidelity. I made love to a woman who was not my wife.”
“I don’t remember marrying you, Zach,” Father said.
“You didn’t Father. It was a very long time ago. Before I knew you,” Zach told the technical truth.
“Was this woman a friend, a stranger?” The priest asked.
“She was a friend. We’d been dating for a month and some change. I’m so sorry Father.”
“You know what vows you took to your wife, correct?”
“No I don’t actually. I totally forgot my vows.” That gave poor Father Toley pause.
“Okay then, you should get comfortable Father.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Cassandra and I were driving up to the Rockies with my two brothers, Don and Hayden. Donnie needed to get away from the shoreline, he was in this feud with some old Marine veteran what allegedly hurt his kid’s eye. Meaning no disrespect to my nephew Father, little Paul-y has a history of writing checks with his mouth that his face can’t cash.
Meanwhile Hayden was on the phone the whole ride up with his blushing bride Corey. You were right about one thing when you married them Father, bliss. Those two are so in love that at the time, it made me feel insecure about my relationship with Cassandra. Not for the reason you think, I’m ashamed to say. Donnie and I agreed we needed to get Hayden out of that hole in the ground he calls a home because if we didn’t, Corey would never let him leave.
Cassandra, oh God Cassandra. She just smiled and held my hand as I drove and groaned to my brothers complaining and chatting in the back. She was such a special girl, Father. Really. Making no excuses for myself, she deserved better than me. The world did. Anyway, we arrived at the cabin we rented for the week. The first night was nothing special, unpacking, settling in, a few drinks. When the time came for bed though, that’s when I made my move.
Cassie was sharp as a whip and didn’t fall for my usual advances on women. That’s what made her special. No I had to work for her and it was during that time that I started to learn more about her. Her sparkling green eyes and her love of birds. Her deep faith, that we both happened to share. Our passion was ignited but she still refused to share my bed. Not until I’d proven I was in for the long haul and that trip with my brothers was her proof. Meeting the family, you know?
With respect to your vocation Father, I won’t share the details of that night but suffice it to say it was worth the wait for both of us. As I laid there in bed, with Cassie lying on my chest I knew what I had to do. I was going to propose to her that week.
That’s when things got weird.
That night I dreamed about a woman. The most beautiful woman I’d ever seen in my life. With tears streaming down her face and mixing with her hair like waterfalls. She turned to me with fury in her eyes but the tears didn’t stop. She was yelling at me and I drowned in her tears. I awoke to find Cassandra bringing me breakfast in bed and asking me about my nightmare. She said the lightning had woken her up and true enough it was storming outside even though the forecast said it was going to be clear. I waved it off as no big deal and as my mood improved with breakfast the sun came back like the storm had never happened.
You can probably start to make the connections now Father. Sadly the story of my sin doesn’t begin here, but hopefully it ends in this confessional.
Donnie took Hayden and myself horseback riding along the mountain trail and we got to talking about the women in our lives. Don was giving me shit about my womanizing, not unjustified I admit, and Hayden was worried that maybe Cassandra was no different than my past conquests. I wanted to correct him but there was a tugging in my heart that kept me from firing back. I noticed something, or someone, in the thick of the trees and told them to go along ahead. I dismounted and went off the trail to find her, the woman of my dreams. Her eyes still red and her cheeks still stained with salty tears.
She approached me with such confidence and fell into my arms. She moved to kiss me but I stopped her, remembering Cassandra. I asked her who she was and she answered by slapping me. The world around me began to warp and shimmer. She said that she had suffered for too long and she began to glow and shine. With the force of a small explosion, I was blown back and my horse got spooked and legged it.
Yeah I was pretty spooked myself Father, but I was more worried about Cassandra. I remembered something about this mystery woman then and I knew she would go after Cassandra next. I ran back to the cabin and found Cassandra trying to fight off a mountain lion with a chair like a circus lion tamer. Without thinking, I raised my hand and fired two shots from a revolver to kill the cat. Afterwards I dropped the gun and ran to Cassandra, holding her in my arms.
She was crying and thanking me for saving her life. She said she was so glad that I had decided to buy a gun anyway after we’d agreed I wouldn’t. Here’s the thing Father. I hadn’t bought a gun. I didn’t even realize I was holding one until I fired the shots.
Donnie and Hayden helped me get the mountain lion’s body out and they were glad no one was hurt. I was too but I also kind of knew no one was going to be, not on my watch. If that’s pride Father, add it to my list of sins to repent for. That night, I didn’t join Cassandra. Instead I waited on the porch outside in the freezing Colorado air with the metal barrel of my revolver chilling my spine as it was tucked behind me. I was waiting. I knew she’d show up.
I turned when I knew she would arrive and there she stood, my dream woman in a heavy and opulent coat. We talked and the conversation was revelatory in more ways than one Father. Hera recapped everything to me. The fall of Olympus, the gods hitching rides in the bodies of mortals to survive, the part that was shocking to me was not that Zeus was within me and that we were more or less one in the same, but what he did.
Hera told me that Zeus drank from the River Lethe, willingly. He wanted to forget everything. Why? Because of Jesus. Hera didn’t know why exactly. Maybe Zeus wanted to forget his “defeat” by Christ, maybe he finally realized all the horrible things he did weren’t justified and that was the only penance he thought he could do. I like to think it’s the latter but I don’t know.
Poseidon and Hades had followed suit. The other gods keeping their eyes on the three throughout the centuries. The funny thing? No matter what body they took, they were all incredibly devout. Always praying and going to Church, even as we kept some of our old habits. More my problem than theirs which is why I’m here Father. Also though, to inform you that apparently Olympus, or rather the refugee pantheon of former Olympus, have taken to following Christ’s church in our example.
All except poor Hera. She did not know the love of Christ. All she saw was her husband continue his conquests of mortals only now he had literally forgotten her. My planned proposal to Cassandra was the last straw.
She collapsed into my arms again and apologized for the mountain lion. As she embraced me though, it all came flooding back to me. Memories of lifetimes and a violent and hedonistic past. I tried to shove her away, I didn’t want to remember this all, but something else stirred in my heart. Love. God. Eternal. His gift and true self to us all, Father. Love. Buried deep under all the lust and pettiness, I always loved Hera truly. Now I felt her suffering and returned her hug as we cried together on that porch, the rain pouring down around us both.
Hera and I kissed for the first time in thousands of years as joyous lightning struck. My wife and I were together again. Cassandra opening up the sliding glass door kind of killed the mood though. Not helping was both my brothers standing with her.
Hera wanted to go off on all three of them but I simply told them who she was my wife and that we should sit down and explain things. It went much better than I think anyone could believe. Cassandra, God bless her, said she would have said no to my proposal anyway because she totally trusted me but knew I wasn’t going to spend the rest of my life (or hers) with her. Her emotional intelligence is something else.
Donnie, Poseidon and Hayden, Hades, told me that with Hera around their own memories were starting to come back. None of us could remember why we drank from the Lethe but they remembered what the former Olympians looked like before they did. They were in bad shape. Even with me leading by better example than I ever did atop Olympus, they were directionless, unfocused. Knowing Christ and His way conceptually but not following His path. Whether because of ironically not understanding theology or just plain hubris.
Hera confirmed this hadn’t changed at all, with the latest fad being Hestia trying to build some new cult around me regaining my memory and taking back Olympus like some twist on the Second Coming. To make matters more complicated, Cassandra was pregnant with my son. The more things change, right Father?
It had to end. We had to come back but not as we were. We all decided to pray, to ask God for guidance and forgiveness. The only one refusing to was Hera. Taking her aside and back out on the porch, I had a long talk with her. The conversation was, actually one that might seem quite familiar to you Father. The skepticism, the arrogance, the fury, and the pain.
Through our argument, and the weather matching our discourse with stabbing lightning and howling wind, our very forms shed and I became the mighty tempest. Yet despite all my power, the gales and bolts that made up my being, I was weak. Hera saw it and so did I as we returned to the porch and the sky cleared to a starry night. The infinite expanse of space high above what I could control. We had such strength, but even with immortality we still fought like children. Our marriage was filled with anger, pettiness, and spite. God is none of these, so therefore we are not Him.
My point, almost by accident, proven. Hera agreed to give the prayer a try. We decided, with clear heads and unburdened hearts, to return to Olympus. For Poseidon, Hades, and myself to teach them as you and others have taught us Father. I will lead the Olympians into the Kingdom of Heaven with Hera by my side.
First though, all of us, Hera included, had to seek reconciliation and that’s why I’m telling this all to you Father. My sin is an extramarital affair but I’m guilty of so much more. To be sure I’ll be taking care of my son with Cassandra. Hopefully I can be a better father to him than I was to his siblings. I’m guilty of all Seven Deadly Sins Father, but Wrath and Lust in copious amounts. I think I now know why I drank from the Lethe. It was guilt and hubris. My shame was crushing my soul but I would not surrender myself to God’s will. So I decided to erase the memories of my crimes rather than atone for them.
I can only hope that God, in His infinite mercy, will forgive me as I return to my wife, the last woman I will ever lie with from hers to eternity, and as I show the Olympians the truth of Jesus Christ Our Lord.