Olympus is dead. It had been dying for many years but few could have foreseen or foretold the manner of its passing. When catastrophe impacted even the gods, chaos followed uncertainty. I am the last goddess on the great Mount. Even now as I write this account of our final moments, I am surprised that I am the last survivor. I thought that it would be one of the really big names, but oblivion does not pay heed to rank or ability.
A tear still comes to my eye when I envision mighty Zeus looking forlornly at his thunderbolt, drained of all power, realizing that He was no longer the most powerful of all the gods. The weather was no longer at his command. Neither were the balance of his progeny for that matter; the ones that were still around towards the end that is. That was a terrible time for all. There was anarchy! All adherences to order and rank were ignored as each of the gods and goddesses indulged their every whim without thought. It was as if they knew what was coming.
The residents of our mountain have never been known for their ability to get along, but without the threat of mighty Zeus wielding His great power, our heaven became a true hell for those of us who were unlucky enough to be around to experience it. The father of all of us cursed the Absent One as mayhem ensued. Seeing the impossible, watching fear consume him, drove all of us to meddling with humanity and to tormenting each other in our final days. I wonder how we could have ever been granted the ability to control the world. The Absent One was generous to us back then. Now I am all alone. I don’t know when my turn will come but I know that the Absent One no longer sends missives. I wonder if He too has been consumed by the plague. If so, then all are truly lost except me. My only companion is this journal that I keep, and it fails to assuage my deep loneliness.
Time moves more slowly on Olympus than on Earth. The Absent One once said that His time passed slower yet. So it is hard to gauge in earth years how long ago our impending doom unleashed its deadly affliction upon us. I now know what evil helped write the final chapters you now have before you. But, that is getting ahead of my story, is it not? It is my hope that this diary survives, so should I or others ascend, we will not succumb again. I hope to return to the days when we reigned supreme, accountable only to Zeus and the Absent One. Those were the days of nectar, ambrosia and power which I long for every moment of each day.
In the beginning the twelve deities, so ordained by the Absent One, were quite like the twelve apostles were to the man called Jesus. We followed as He led, and once we had learned all that we needed to, the Absent One vanished. He entrusted us to do His bidding. On occasion Zeus, much to his chagrin, would get a missive from the Absent One advising the mighty God of Olympus of His desires. They were orders. We kept this deep secret from all of humanity. If any one of us even alluded to the Absent One at any time, the penalties were great and widespread. It makes me shudder to think of the torments that Zeus imposed. I will not expand on this. There are some things that humanity need not know. Understand that it was truly horrific and it lasted as long as the rage of Zeus; whose ire burned longer than Mount Vesuvius’ hellfire upon the earth.
In the golden years as I have come to think of them, we were complacent about our power and the effects that it had. We felt our power was an entitlement, our birthright; therefore we indulged ourselves and flaunted it. Why would we have thought otherwise? The Absent One was only mildly concerned with humankind as a race. We learned everything we knew from Him. In fact, we emulated Him completely. We learned to be cruel when the humans became unruly and merciful on those occasions when it suited us. Our first priority was always our own needs and whims. We would employ or sacrifice any human to get it. We believed that humans would always exist to worship us. As immortals we assumed that we were going to inhabit our heaven forever. It turned out that we were eternally … I am getting ahead of myself again. I want to leave an orderly record; I have craved order since our downfall began and while I can, I will indulge this desire for order..
The demigods and demigoddesses began to disappear first. Zeus didn’t know why. He was perplexed. He sat helplessly upon his throne as they began to vanish one by one. He became incensed. We all were. When it hit the twelve of us though, he became truly enraged.
Sadly it began with one of the mightiest, Hera. As I think back to our beginnings, Hera and Zeus were a formidable pair of gods. Back when we were powerful, Mount Olympus’ residents watched the two of them with interest. Hera was always embroiled in some great drama with her insane jealousy of Zeus. It was a decadent and perverse kind of joy to watch their affairs unfold. Being a spectator in the arena where Zeus exercised His considerable charms was wonderful, if you were not the object of His lust that is. Because of His all-powerful nature, the conflict was beyond comprehension. I never really could blame Hera for her anger. She would have been more incensed to know that their backbiting and scheming was part of our daily entertainment. Sibling rivalry, coupled with marital strife, created interplay between them that was explosive. You needed to be one of the pantheon to even be able to comprehend the limitlessness of that dynamic. Yet when Hera began to fade, Zeus never left her side. They truly were a pair made in heaven. I miss the two of them very much…
When The Great Apathy arrived hers was the first role to disintegrate. That became the basis for my hypothesis as the plague decimated our numbers. The humans that we toyed with all those centuries became disinterested in our family. Women were left unprotected, alone and unprepared for the world. The reality of divorce and spousal abuse was particularly painful for them. All that Hera stood so proudly for was crumbling and none of her interventions had any effect. Most of the women that had worshipped and prayed to Hera stopped sending their praise and adoration. Having to take on the role of both parents to support a family, without the support of a partner, just shattered their spirits. They began to believe that no one was interested in them. At least this is how I chose to interpret events. The Absent One did not come to our aid or even provide an acceptable explanation for the plague.
For the record, immortals do not die. We cannot. I believe it is a law of nature. We were therefore oblivious to the possibility that humanity could affect our form. We also trusted the Absent One blindly even when He became more removed than He had ever been…and has remained.
Hera became weak and tired. These were the first tangible signs of the plague when it affected one of the almighty. Zeus commanded the elements and all the gods in a massive effort to help her regain her strength and vigor. All attempts failed. She began to whither in front of our eyes. Hera disintegrated more and more each day and even by the hour.
Zeus became dejected. He couldn’t explain what had happened. He just looked sorrowfully at her as she faded and promised that they would meet again someday. She became more translucent and ghostlike with every breath. She could not rise from her bed or speak. It took a week, seven short days, for her to literally vanish. Then when the week had passed, she just evaporated.
After Hera’s loss, Zeus was more tyrannical than ever. His pronouncements on us and on humanity were unimaginably harsh. He teamed up with Poseidon to cause great storms, tidal waves, flash floods, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. In Zeus’ final months there were more natural disasters than had ever been recorded in the course of history. Extreme drought and floods destroyed many of the crops that people had planted. Demeter was quite angry about this but it was to no avail. Zeus would not be dissuaded. He laughed as He watched humankind die. I did not understand this. People had never really interested him much before in any way, either good or bad. He had always acted unconcerned about whether they flourished or floundered. Now, He was resolute about spilling their blood. What He didn’t realize was that in His great rage humans were dying by the tens of thousands with every gesture from heaven. At the hands of His fury we all lost a multitude of worshippers. He had inadvertently accelerated the plague. I wonder if this is what He’d intended to do in order to shorten our suffering? I shall never know for sure. However, I know that Zeus would have preferred going out with a bang as opposed to helplessly watching our demise.
As the population diminished and the plague spread like wildfire anarchy reigned. The Immortals were so furious at the impotence of Zeus and the Absent One to stop our destruction, no rule could have prevailed. Zeus didn’t even try to regain a modicum of control. After Hera vanished He became a very different god. Yet, all of the Immortals soon followed his lead and unleashed their wrath upon the earth, seas and skies too. Humanity suffered blow after devastating blow. We turned on each other as well, although that was nothing new. What was unheard of is that there was little malice in our attacks. We knew that the worst would soon come to each of us when we had to forfeit our home on Olympus and all that we held dear. Everyone abused their powers before the Great Apathy stole them away. I was no exception, I am sad to say. I too despised or should I say feared the plague. I hated the Absent One and above all, I resented the humans that continued their normal existence when I could not. I instigated the worst wars ever unleashed upon the earth. These were wars where victory was eternally elusive. Each lasted decade upon decade and reduced the remaining population by millions. I also inflicted ugly diseases upon humanity which transformed the act of love so that it became a death sentence. I regret these things now. But I, like my fellow Immortals, was acting out my terror and rage. Our actions did not stop the plague and I know that they did not personally make me feel any better. Yet I persisted with fire and brimstone and vengeance in my soul.
The plague continued to gain in its intensity, fuelled by our actions no doubt. Hestia was the next to vanish. She was the purest of all women. It particularly pained me to see her go. Unlike Hera, it seemed that she was in great agony in her last days. She writhed as she vanished. I still cry as I think of her. I always considered her a friend despite our obvious differences.
Next Hephaestus disintegrated before our eyes. The Great Apathy continued to accelerate while we overreacted with new tyrannies. It stole from us with greater rapidity. Did it take a decade, a century or longer in earth years? I can never remember. I have never needed to know. I did not pay enough attention. I guess none of us did. I think that was a key factor in our eradication.
You cannot imagine the fury of Zeus with His wife/sister and son gone. The turmoil that He inflicted on the earth increased exponentially with His added losses. I do not understand these things, but Zeus chortled for days as He saw the results of His workmanship. He said He’d launched a time bomb that would give humans the end that they deserved. I trusted what He said. Yet, there has been no evidence of its success. I still watch for it, although I’m unsure whether I am hoping for its success or failure.
Apollo and Artemis faded together. The sun and the moon just became elements in the sky to me after that. I wonder if the twins are allowed to visit their beloved heavenly places in their current form. I hope so. I choose to believe so. I know it would be torturous for them to have to live without their celestial orbs. Whenever I gaze upon either, my heart warms remembering those two. They too, were good friends to me, even if I did not realize it at the time. .
As time passed directions from the Absent One, or interference if you prefer, grew less frequent. When we needed the Absent One the most, He proved to be completely unreachable. It was a devastating blow to everyone on the Mount. It was when the great thunderbolt began to fade that the awful reality descended. None of us was strong enough to weather this plague, not even the mighty Zeus. Too soon the two of us were the only ones left. While Zeus faded, He took longer than most, probably because of the sheer power he once wielded. He conferred with me before His fatigue felled him and explained who the Absent One actually was. It turned out that He was the Creator of Zeus Himself. This was the great secret on Olympus that he strove to protect! I was shocked that Zeus was created just like He created all of us. He was not all-powerful as the Absent One was, or as I thought He was. Zeus told me that this Absent One was also known to humanity. He was called Almighty, Father, and Buddha. He had so many other names that it was impossible to keep track of them much less record them here. To us He was really the God of gods and not merely our teacher. He was the God that had been kept from us all these millennia while we thought Zeus was the power that sustained us. I remember my shock and I began to query Zeus.
“Why is He not saving us from this plague?”
“Zeus hung his head and his great beard sank low to his belly and remained deathly silent.
“What is this plague? Why can no one stop it?” I persisted.
“I call it the Great Apathy. Humans have become completely disengaged and disinterested. They are living as hedonists, as we once did.” He heaved a great sigh and there was a look of longing and nostalgia in his now dulled eyes.
“We need them to believe to survive?”
“NO!” It was a roar that shook Mount Olympus below Him. “We are Immortal. We cannot be known to them in their current state of disbelief. It is they who gave us our corporeal form and power.” His face scrunched up as if He had eaten something bad; as if the words tasted bitter in His mouth.
“What happens to us then?”
“We fade from sight, lose our beloved Mount and ride the winds for the rest of eternity. We Immortals are banished to passively view these insects called humans while we cannot be seen or heard. We have no power to intervene…perhaps, unless they begin to believe once more.”
I felt that it was highly unlikely.
“Do you think this will happen?”
He shook His head, which took great effort. Deep resignation was etched upon his face.
Then I asked the question that I had been dreading, knowing the temper Zeus was famous for. “Why am I the last?” A timid whisper emerged. I flinched, waiting for the reply.
Zeus did not loose the little thunder that he still possessed. “Aphrodite, you are the embodiment of sexual intercourse, of both passion and warfare. These are things that humankind still believes in with all of their hearts. It is the last bit of energy that is still flowing. It will wither too, as we all have. You are the last gasp of Olympus. I command thee to ensure that we are not forgotten.”
Zeus never told me exactly how I should ensure that we, who lived upon Olympus, and our children should be remembered. You knew not to ask Zeus that kind of question, He could not be bothered with details. He would have thundered at me then and would have rocked the entire universe with His last bellow. He had tasked me with the most important job of all and I became obsessed with how to complete it.
I have lasted far longer than the rest and I have thought ceaselessly about how to ensure our remembrance. I have no alternative but to survive to achieve this end. I can think of no other way. My family cannot help me therefore I need human help for me to survive as there is no other palatable way to establish a memorial to the former dwellers of the Mount.
I amassed hundreds of female acolytes and ensured their allegiance. It was purchased when I created a potion created from ambrosia and other secret ingredients, which made women both beautiful and irresistible to males. I took on a human form to prove my prowess among the brothels and within high society. The ladies worked for my corporation, Aphrodite’s, which became home to most of the desirable escorts of the world. My followers achieved what they wanted most; recognition, money, power and sexual gratification. These are the types of riches that humans seem to be obsessed with. This is what they worship.
I believed I had found the key to my continued existence, but my venture among humanity may be my demise. I became the woman most preferred by clients. I paid no attention to time and now I can no longer work. I look at myself in the mirror, and beneath the wrinkles I see I am weakening and a touch translucent. Little did I realize that humanity and its depravity would eat into me like a disease. I have traded one plague for another. My business will survive but I am uncertain about my own chances. Here alone on Olympus I am not sure I even want to.
I think Zeus was wrong. It is better if the gods of old are forgotten. The world has moved past Olympus and now I wish to as well. I pray that I too will ride the winds free from the turmoil and loneliness I suffer, but to whom I cannot say. Perhaps the fates will be kind. Until then I watch and I remember and scowl upon an ungrateful humanity remembering our glory; remembering the golden years of Olympus.