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“It’s a pen,” said Diya. She couldn’t quite keep the disappointment from her voice.
“Is it?” asked Messenger.
“What do you mean? Don’t you know what a pen is?”
“I know many things,” said Messenger, still smiling that stretched-out smile. “But I cannot know what sits in the palm of your hand.”
Diya blinked in confusion. “It’s a pen. It’s right here. Look.” She held it up towards the strange being’s face. As she did, she noticed it seemed to glow faintly.
Messenger eyes widened until they took up a full third of his face.
“It is nothing, yet. A unperfumed memory, still undreamed. A softened ingot of molten luminescence, not yet cast.”
“Yeah, well,” said Diya. “It looks like a pen.”
“You see a future,” said Messenger. “A wish.”
“My wish?” asked Diya. “Why would I wish for a pen?”
Diya sighed. “Okay. So you’re, like, a trickster god. I read about this. So you speak in riddles, or something?”
“Do I?” Messenger’s mouth opened in mock shock and scandal. It was so ridiculous and exaggerated that Diya laughed, despite everything.
“I don’t know,” she said. “That’s why I’m asking.”
“I speak in truths,” said Messenger. “Sometimes they are simple, sometimes they are complex. Sometimes,” he leaned down towards Diya, and looked back and forth like a criminal in a cartoon. Then he said, in a whisper, “they are lies.”
Diya shook her head. Messenger wasn’t going to explain himself. That was fine. Whatever. It wasn’t exactly new territory. As far as Diya could tell no one ever explained themselves. Not fully. Sometimes they didn’t want her to know the full truth of the situation, or thought she couldn’t handle it. Sometimes they were just too dumb to realize what was going on. It didn’t matter. She would do what she always did.
She would figure it out for herself.
“So I summoned you,” said Diya. “Because I need you for something.” She looked up at him. He gave the slightest nod. “And you’re a god. No, no, you said you weren’t a god. Didn’t you?”
“Indeed,” said Messenger. “Gods are to us as that,” he pointed to a statue of Ganesha on Diya’s dresser, “is to a god.”
“Us? There are more of you.”
“But of course,” said Messenger. “I am merely the messenger.” Something about his faint smile made Diya think there was no “merely” about it.
“So, okay, wait,” she said. “So gods are real? I mean, my dad said there aren’t any gods. That people just made them up to explain things in the world that didn’t make sense. Stuff they couldn’t understand.”
“Yes,” said Messenger. “They did. Us.” He held up his hand, and fingers formed out of the liquid metal of his arm. Each one of them had a face. One was stern, one was angry, and another was very calm. They all looked familiar. Like family members she hadn’t seen in forever. Or friends from a half-forgotten dream. She tore her gaze away from them and looked back at Messenger.
“So why are you here? What did I summon you for? And how did I summon you? I mean, I don’t know how to summon stuff.”
“You will,” said messenger. “In time, you will have the strings of our fates dancing in and out of the loom of your fingers, even as we pour the golden path before you, and so choose where you step.”
“Fine,” said Diya. “Fine, whatever. But, I mean, what do you do? Why would I even want to summon you?”
“Ah,” said Messenger. The wings on his head and legs spread out, and he seemed to fill the entire room. “Now we come to it. I am here to bring you a boon. A gift.”
“You mean this?” She held up the pen. It left trails of fractured light as it moved through the air.
Messenger nodded. “Whatever that may be.”
“But it’s just a pen,” said Diya. “Why is it worth summoning a…whatever you are? I mean, do you just carry messages? That sounds kind of useless. I’ve got a phone.”
“Men have called my name and attention to their dance because they wished to learn secrets, or because they wished to enter a door sealed to their footsteps.” Blackness spread over Messenger’s eyes, until they were pools of inky nothing. “But most of all,” his empty gaze caught Diya’s. “Because they wish to connive.”
“Connive?” asked Diya. “What does that mean.”
“They wish to swindle. They wish to inveigle. They wish to…”
Diya looked deeply at the pen clutched in her fingers. She saw the light inside of it earlier. But there was more. It wasn’t just light. And it wasn’t made of plastic. Not really. When she looked closely, Diya saw that what she thought was a normal erasable pen was actually, somehow, a dense collection of words, woven into physical form.
“To cheat,” she finished. Suddenly everything made a lot more sense. A cold feeling ran through her blood, while at the same time she tingled all over with excitement.
“Indeed,” said Messenger, and he smiled that terrible smile. “You, my Epimethea, have a problem. The message I have manifested to deliver can become, if you so wish, the solution.”
Diya wanted to cry that she accepted, that she would do whatever it took to make this wish come true. But something Messenger said caught her.
“Epimethea?” asked Diya.
“Your name,” said Messenger. “The name spoken by the wind and drowned in the sunlight and tasted in the tears that salt the soil.”
Diya bit her lip as a terrible thought lanced through her. Was it possible this messenger, this terrible, impossible, wonderful thing, had come to the wrong person? It was with great hesitation that she said what she said next.
“That’s not my name.”
“Oh child,” said Messenger, as his face-wing reached out and stroked her cheek. His voice was thick with amusement and something else Diya could not quite place. Pity? “Oh my ridiculous, magnificent, star-stained child. It will be.”