Harmonia stared at Spiro, her cheeks flushed, her eyes wide and watery, but Spiro could not think of what to say. When they were young, the two of them had often snuck off together and played at making love. Spiro gave her every silver coin he could find, and as they lay naked in the grass he told her all his secrets. He missed those days. Maybe he could still confide in Harmonia. He did not know. He did not know anything except that he could no longer afford her fees.
Harmonia grinned. “I have an idea,” she said. “We shall let the nameless god decide for himself what he thinks of ‘female entertainment.’”
“What do you mean?” Spiro said.
Harmonia laughed. She backed away from Spiro and turned to open the door. It creaked softly. She peeked into the hallway first one way then the other; then she stepped out, shutting the door behind her.
Spiro stood gaping. When he recovered his senses, he opened the door and peered into the darkness. He spotted Harmonia creeping toward the main hall.
“Harmonia?” Spiro whispered.
She glanced back, but if she made any response Spiro couldn’t hear it. Harmonia tiptoed around the corner and out of sight.
“Curse that girl,” Spiro muttered, carefully closing the door and chasing after her.
* * *
When the nameless god tumbled from the sky, the people of Atlantis discarded their latest idol and ran out to greet him. The priests offered to sacrifice wine and cattle and virgins, but the nameless god refused all these. Instead, he instructed the Atlantians to build him something. He taught them new techniques of metal and woodcraft, the fine art of making cogs, gears, and springs. He showed them how to set a pendulum in motion and, with increasing urgency, explained how all these pieces fit together. The scribes and priests hurried to assemble the machine which the nameless god called a clock. When they finished, they presented it to the god, and he accepted it as their gift. He would accept nothing else.
Clocks now filled the inner sanctum of the temple: large clocks, small clocks, some with eccentric designs, others strictly utilitarian, but all of them precise enough to tell time to the exact second. As Spiro entered, following Harmonia, he heard nothing but the tick-tocking clocks and the nameless god’s shallow breathing.
“He… he is like an enormous insect,” Harmonia stuttered.
The nameless god sat hunched upon his throne, his body too large to fit comfortably even under the temple’s vaulted ceiling. His tattered wings hung at his sides, his many legs crisscrossed in front of him, and his crescent-shaped head lulled from side to side as he slept. One of his legs twitched. His breathing faltered, and for a moment it seemed all the clocks stopped–or perhaps Spiro only imagined that.
Spiro glanced at Harmonia. The talented and ambitious woman seemed at the moment more like a scared, little girl.
“Do you still want to be his consort?” Spiro asked.
“I… I don’t know,” Harmonia answered.
Being an acolyte of the nameless god never required Spiro to like the god himself. Among his duties, Spiro periodically wound the god’s clocks, making sure each was synchronized with all the rest. The nameless god would sit and watch, speaking only to chastise Spiro if any clock were a fraction of a second off. During these hours, usually in daylight, Spiro could see the nameless god in all his hideous glory. Superstition or not, the other gods, like handsome Apollo or beautiful Aphrodite, at least deserved love from their worshippers. Being in the presence of the nameless god inspired only revulsion and fear. Spiro wished Harmonia could see how terrifying this creature truly was, but darkness concealed the nameless god’s ugliest features.
“I know you are here,” a deep, rumbling voice said. The nameless god’s luminous eyes opened. “Come into the light.”
Harmonia jumped and grabbed Spiro’s arm, hiding her face. Spiro cowered beside her, clinging to her as he waited for the nameless god to smite them both.
But the nameless god turned his gaze elsewhere, to the farthest and darkest corner of the room. A woman in a short toga stepped into view, followed by her half-mechanical servant.
“I’m Talie Tappler from the Tomorrow News Network,” the woman said, flashing a small, rectangular card. “This is my cameraman, Mr. Cognis. We were hoping for an interview.”
The nameless god did not stir. His breathing remained constant. The clocks ticked on.
“Proceed,” the god said.
Talie strutted toward the throne. Her servant kept two steps behind her, fiddling with the mechanism of his oversized glass eye.
“Wait,” Harmonia whispered. “She’s Talie Tappler? The Talie Tappler? From the stories?”
“I’m afraid so,” Spiro replied.
No one had ever approached the nameless god with such an air of haughty disrespect, not that Spiro could remember. Guests were expected to prostrate themselves on the floor. The acolytes remained quiet and submissive in the god’s presence, bowing frequently. Even High Priest Boreas kneeled whenever he addressed the god in person. But not Talie. She stood there, hands on her hips, sneering at the beast towering over her.
“We’ll start with the easiest question first,” she said. “What’s your name and how do you spell it?”
“I abandoned my name long ago,” came the answer, “but in the future the people of this world will call me Prometheus, the god who brought light down from the heavens in the form of fire. Such stories corrupt the truth, but I did bring light to humanity: the light of reason, the light of science…”
“The light of light bulbs,” Talie added.
The nameless god nodded. “You may refer to me as Prometheus in your report.”
Spiro mouthed the name, savoring each syllable: Prometheus. The name of the nameless god, or at least as near to it as anyone had ever known. But Spiro could not bring himself to say it aloud, to give breath to the word. That still felt like sacrilege.
“I know your species,” Talie said. “You’re an Acelera. They’re a noble race, creatures of pure beauty and defenders of the known universe, but you are mutilated almost beyond recognition. What happened to you?”
“I fought in a war, the gruesome war at the beginning of the universe.”
“On which side?” Talie asked, smirking.
“I turned against my Acelera brethren. They’d fallen in love with the young universe and would not allow anyone to tamper with it, not even to improve upon it. We Acelera could foresee the future. Our enemies had the power to change the laws of physics. Instead of waging war, we should have formed an alliance. Imagine how the universe would have developed under our combined guidance!
“I killed many of my own kind, and this is what they did to me. No magic or medicine can heal my wounds, yet if I could make the choice again, I would still fight against the Acelera. They have permitted a great deal of pain and suffering in this universe which they supposedly defend.”
Talie pursed her lips.
“You disapprove,” the nameless god said. “The media never gave a fair and balanced report on how this universe began. Can I trust in your journalistic integrity, Ms. Tappler, that you will remain unbiased as you cover tomorrow’s newsworthy events?”
Talie scowled, tapping her foot impatiently.
“Why do you let the humans of this era treat you like a god?” she asked. “You’re still an Acelera, regardless of what happened in the war. You’re supposed to be better than this.”
“Is that truly how you see us?” the nameless god said. “We are beings no more virtuous than yourselves. The humans insist on worshipping me, and I don’t understand why. No matter how I explain it to them, they won’t stop. I doubt it does them any harm.
“But you, Talie Tappler… I sense the taint of the Acelera on you. You lived among us perhaps? It doesn’t matter. The Acelera taught you that we represent all that is right and good in this universe, and even now after everything you’ve seen and done you still believe that lie. You worship the Acelera in your own way, Talie. I pity you. You are lesser for your misguided faith.”
Talie glared at the nameless god. She spun on her heel and marched toward the exit. Her servant glanced at her in confusion.
“No, you’re right,” Talie said, turning back. “You’re not a god. Humanity will remember you, but not just in Greek mythology. They’ll tell another story about you, the story of an angel–the greatest of all angels–who was cast into Hell for his treasonous acts. Have you heard the name Lucifer before?”
“No,” the nameless god replied.
“It’s Latin, a language from a small village called Rome. They’ll be a big deal one day. The name Lucifer means light-bearer. Not too different than the meaning of Prometheus, is it? In the interest of being fair and balanced, I’ll refer to you by both names in my story.”
The nameless god laughed. “Your story doesn’t matter. The Tomorrow News Network is only a ploy. You, Talie, serve a greater master than some news organization. The Acelera want their vengeance upon me, and you are here to witness it, to ensure that history doesn’t change in my favor; but I’ll warn you that the laws of chronotheory do not constrain me. I can change history any way I please.”
Talie smiled. “I’ll match a warning for a warning: people like you create their own downfalls.”