Pandora: The Escape
When newcomer Mason arrives in town he threatens the lives of the children in her care, Mama Gia is forced to tell all of juvenile residents who they really are and how they came to be living with her.
She also has to take Rodhan and Emilee aside and tell them why Mason is hunting them and how they can protect themselves and possibly save the entire universe from the destruction of his wrath.
But when Mason delivers a devious present to Rodhan, will all of the preparation they endure be for naught?
Rodhan Apera and Emilee Ulta, along with the other child residents, walk out of the kitchen of the group home they live in with 6 other abandoned and unwanted kids. The children living there range in age from 11 to 16 years old and the girls both being 13 years old share a room in the house.
Petting the menagerie of exotic animals on their way out the door, the brood bids farewell to each beastly companion that lives with them. "Bye Calypso, bye Bartleby, bye Cali (short for Calliope),” they call out. “Bye Shiloh and Sholoh,” they say as the pat the two enormous Xoloitzcuintli hounds, who are the size of adolescent male lions, who are sitting by the front door as if guarding the residents from the evils and ills of the natural and supernatural world.
“Bye Dréa,” is whispered to their Alaunt, as she rests in the hallway leading to the front door.
“Bu-bye Günter,” they each say in a baby voice as they walk pass their pet Catahoula Leopard dog
“Bye Titi (short for Nefertiti),” all of the children pause and kiss the snout of the Afghan hound for good luck, peace and calm. Emilee and Rodhan are the last to pay their respect to the exceptionally large but extraordinarily gentle animal that watches over and protects them. They each separately place their forehead against his, take a deep breath and brace themselves for the day ahead.
It had become a tradition for the kids to individually place their head against the head of one of the Xoloitzcuintli hounds and the Afghan hound before embarking on their day. The practice gives them a sense of peace and security that none of the children get from anyone or anything else. Even though they do not understand where the serene feeling comes from, none of them want to discontinue with the ritual.
All anyone knows is that the dogs balance the children in a way that only animals can, and no one is willing to question or change the routine that has worked for so long.
Little did they know that the dogs were able to sense their moods and transfer their protection to their wards, if necessary, calming the children and allowing them to leave the home in peace.
“Bye Mama Gia. Bye bye Mama G,” they say last, blowing a kiss to the 6’ tall, dark-skinned woman that is walking along behind them as she always does, escorting them to the door for one last goodbye. The children separate at the curb and go to their different schools; Rodhan and Emilee make their way down the sidewalk to the middle school they attend, chatting about the things they like and dislike. At the front door their ‘mother,’ lovingly referred to as Mama Gia or Mama G by all of the children, watches them walk arm in arm. She smiles as she sees the bond between the two sisters of the soul as clearly as she sees the morning dew on the grass.
A chilling wind blows across the front lawn, causing Mama Gia to tense up as her other-worldly senses take over, fearful that they have been found. There is only one entity that causes her blood to freeze and a cold sweat to break out over her entire body. There is only one thing that she’s afraid of, that the secret that they all have been harboring for years has been discovered and that she and her babies are in grave danger. There is only one being that can do harm to her and the life she has made for the children of her heart.
“Not while I live and breathe, you contemptuous hoodlum,” she growls as she steps out of the house into the front yard. Focusing her energy on her hands, she begins to rub them together furiously. “You will not get to my children; not without a war. I have stopped your heinous plot before and I will do so again.” Mama Gia rubs her hands faster and faster as smoke appears to rise from them. Then, bending down, she grabs a handful of dirt and cups it in her steaming hot hands. After mumbling a few words, she blows out a puff of air, causing the dirt to float out and encase the house she and her makeshift family live in. She then swiftly repeats the process and eyeing the children off in the distance, she blows the dust towards them, cloaking them in a protective layer of her life’s blood, the ripe red Earth beneath her feet.
Mama Gia, her pulse pounding and her breath coming fast, turns and enters the house, knowing that she and the other guardians that live there need to prepare for the upcoming battle.
“Guardians assemble,” she calls out as she closes the door on the outside world and encloses them in a masque of impenetrable seclusion. “He is here, he has found us,” she says as the door slams close. “I can feel his presence. We need to prepare for the worse and get ready to move. We have a plan of action for just this eventuality and we need to set it in motion.”
Rodhan and Emilee look around them, startled at the sudden wind that descended on them and the cloud of dust that seems to cling to them like a second skin. “Do you feel that?” Rodhan asks as she brushes at her clothing and hands. “It’s like the dirt has gotten under my clothes. It is disgusting.”
“I know. I feel it too,” Emilee adds, rubbing at her jeans, a frown marring her face. On the rest of the two mile walk to school Rodhan and Emilee talk about their upcoming classes and other happenings in the school, forgetting about the puzzling dust storm that momentarily descended on them.
“You know that Jones likes you,” Emilee said teasingly to her sister of the soul, “I do not know why you pretend that you do not see how he looks at you. And he is always at your locker, wanting to ‘help’ you,” Emilee said as she made air quotes and a comical face.
“Because he does not ‘like me,’ as you say, he is just a helpful boy,” Rodhan argues weakly as a blush creeps up her dusky neck to her cheeks. “I mean, he is on the basketball team, for crying out loud. Why would he be interested in me?”
Emilee went from teasing to irritated in a flash, “Uh, because you are pretty and smart and nice. Duh!”
“Yeah, but he is totally babelicious and can date just about any girl in the school.”
“Well then, it might as well be you then, huh?” Emilee answered smugly as she grabs her friend around the neck and briefly hugs her. They continued to school talking about less volatile topics, completely unaware that they were being watched from afar.
Off in the distance, behind a crumbling building he watches the girls as they walk side by side down the busy roadway. He can sense that she could be the one he has been searching for for eons. But there’s something blocking his usual perception, a cloak of some sort covers both of them.
“Ugh,” he mutters quietly to himself, “I can’t get a good read on them. I had it for a second and now it is gone.”
Looking around to see if anyone is watching him, he opened all of his senses to detect if he has been found out. “Who is blocking me; trying to confuse me? I do not know who you are, but I know that you are here. I can sense it, I can smell it. I can smell you.”
Taking in another deep breath of air as he closes his eyes, the man tastes the essence of the cloaking spell. He traps the scent on his pallet and in his brain. “I can smell your fear and desperation. Your little parlor tricks will not stop me. I will find her and destroy her.”
Turning and looking at the backs of Emilee and Rodhan he growls, “And then I will find you and make you pay for your duplicity and deceit! You and your conspirators will regret banding together against me.”
Disappearing in a puff of acrid black smoke, the man moves to put his plan into motion.
As Rodhan and Emilee finally reach Huntington Middle school, a black cloud suddenly blows over them and the school. A bolt of lightning flashes and thunder rolls over their heads, causing the girls the squeak in surprise and run for the cover of the school building. Then, as suddenly as it appeared, the cloud dissipates and the bright sunlight breaks through once again.
“Wow, that was weird,” Emilee comments as she shakes her head.
“Yeah, freaky,” Rodhan agrees as a shiver passes over her body.
As the friends enter the school Emilee with the usual spring in her step, but Rodhan’s mood changes. She follows behind Emilee slowly, her mood suddenly somber, more morose than normal. The girls, although the best of friends and what they term soul-sisters, are as different as night and day. Rodhan is very serious, with an occasional burst of teenage angst and merriment, while Emilee sees the joy and laughter in everything, and seldom takes anyone or anything seriously. But, as different as the girls are, their sisterly bond is stronger than that of blood related siblings.
“I hate this,” 13 year old Rodhan complains as she walks down the hall of her school with Emilee. Rodhan’s tawny face twists into a grimace as Emilee’s smile brightens thinking of the class they are about to enter.
“Why are you so happy?” Rodhan grumbles.
“Because I love Greek and Latin Studies, you know that,” Emmie replies.
“Well I hate it and Etymology as well,” Rodhan continued to grouse. “They are both boring and snooze worthy. Why do I need to know about a bunch of ridiculous Greek gods anyway? It’s not like they are roaming the Earth now. Who wants to
learn hear about ancient societies long buried under sand and rubble? I don’t.
And Etymology, really? What’s the purpose of learning where words originate? All I am doing is learning a bunch of words that I will never use, because Latin is a DEAD language.”
“You are so overly dramatic,” Emilee says on a sigh. “You might think that it is ‘boring and snooze worthy’” she adds air quotes to emphasize her point, “but you are acing both classes.” As well as every other class you take, she adds under her breath. “So let’s just go inside so you can make yet another perfect score for the day.”
“Hi Mr. Turnbull,” Emilee and Rodhan greet their teacher as they enter their classroom and sit in their assigned seats.
“Good morning ladies,” their teacher replies as the bell rings for the class to begin.
Just as Mr. Turnbull is closing the door, a hand grabs the door and pulls it open. Startled, the teacher turns and looks questioningly at the person standing in the hall.
“Yes, can I help you?” he asks the young man standing in front of him.
“Yes sir, my name is Mason Conroy and I’m in this class, I think. I’m new here; today is my first day.”
“Okay, come on in and let me see your schedule.” As Mr. Turnbull steps aside he allows the students in the room to get their first look at the new kid in their class. The girls all gasp and the boys grunt in agitation, because Mason Conroy is very handsome; some might even say beautiful. His sky blue eyes are framed by extra long eyelashes. His wavy blond hair is brushed back and just touches his shoulders. His pearly white teeth accentuate a fabulous smile as he scans the classroom full of people watching him; everyone except the two girls who had entered the class right before him. They were busy arranging their desks for the lesson at hand. Mason’s eyes stop on a few people then finally come to rest on Emilee before his eyes shift and he stares unblinkingly at Rodhan.
Rodhan, feeling his eyes on her, looks up at the newcomer. She shivers and goose bumps cover her arms and legs. As a feeling of fear and foreboding fills her body, she instinctively reaches out for her best friend and soul-sister, Emilee.
“What?” Emilee whispers, startled at being grabbed so tightly. “What’s wrong?” Emilee moves her gaze from her desk to where her friend is staring. “Oh my,” she whispers, as she too feels an uneasy sensation overcome her body. Emilee pats Rodhan reassuringly on the hand, their solidarity bond giving them both a warm feeling of confidence.
Mason stares at Emilee and Rodhan sure that one of them is the girl he has been searching for. As he looks over all of the occupants in the room, he is surer by the moment that he has found who he is looking for. And once I have you, he thinks to himself, I will take you to that evil hag and she will have no choice but to do as I say.
“Alright young man,” Mr. Turnbull speaks, breaking into Mason’s thoughts and releasing the tension from the room. “It looks like you are supposed to be in this class. Take a seat so we can get started. Class,” the teacher turns and addresses the rest of the student body that is in the room, “This is Mason Conroy. He’s new to our school and I hope you all will make him feel welcome and at home.”
Rodhan and Emilee look at each other with trepidation in their faces, Not me, each of them seem to say as they subconsciously shrink away from him, watching as he chooses one of the open seats in the classroom. Mason walks to and sits in seat behind Emilee, three rows back, giving him a perfect unobstructed view of Rodhan’s profile and Emilee’s head.
It is you. I know it is. I can smell her essence all over you. Mason pauses as he scents something else. Guardians? Is that who I smell? Is that why I have had the devil of a time finding you? And what else is that I sense? Are there more OlympiTitans about? They were supposed to have been eliminated; expunged off the face of this and every planet. The foul odor of their tainted breeding has been burned into my brain. I will find you and I will make sure to end your tainted bloodline, forever. Rage fills Mason’s body as he thinks about the subterfuge and disloyalty of his subjects, so much anger that his ice blue eyes turn almost black with emotion. When I find out who has been protecting you, they will pay. Those who have sheltered you, along with your cursed mother and anyone else who has stood in my way all of this time.
The room shakes as lightning flashes brightly outside the classroom windows and thunder cracks.
“Ahhh,” one of the girls shrieks as she puts her head on her desk and covers her ears.
They will ALL pay! Anger rolls off of Mason in palpable waves as he continues to shoot daggers with his eyes alternating between Rodhan and Emilee.
Rodhan and Emilee squirm uncomfortably in their chairs. First Emilee looks back suddenly, then Rodhan follows suit. “It feels like someone is behind me, touching me neck,” Rodhan whispers.
“Me too,” Emilee replies, her normal smile replaces with a furrowed brow and a frown. “It’s creepy! What is going on? What is happening?” she whispers back.
“I don’t know, but it’s really creeping me out.” Rodhan looks behind her again and catching Mason staring intently at her. His ice blue eyes are shooting daggers of hatred at her.
Shivering, she whispers to Emilee, “The new boy is staring at me.”
Emilee looks back to see that Mason has not taken his eyes off of Rodhan, and he is indeed staring at her best friend. He is evil, a voice whispers in her head. Beware of him; he means you harm. DANGER! Just then Mason quickly shifts his malevolent gaze from Rodhan to Emilee, causing her to gasp audibly.
“Ladies, quiet,” Mr. Turnbull snaps, as he turns to look at Rodhan and Emilee.
Emilee and Rodhan sat perfectly still for the rest of the class, not daring to look at Mason again. But Rodhan could feel the cold hard stare of his ice blue eyes on her back. Even though she did not look at him again, she knew he was watching her. It felt as if the cold icy hand of Thanatos himself was raking down her scalp and back.
While Rodhan and Emilee are in school, the guardians, as commanded by Mama Gia, assemble in the kitchen of the vast house to discuss the approaching storm. “Change,” Mama Gia says to the people and animals in the home as she walks into the roomy kitchen. At her command, the collection of animals, the cynanthropes, shifts into their human forms and the adults morph into their godly bodies. Mama Gia herself transforms from her human frame to her goddess form, Gaia the Mother Earth goddess.
To accommodate the sheer massive size of the god beings in the room, the kitchen takes on a different shape, at a thought from Gaia. It transforms from the modest kitchen of a group home to a grand hall, complete with vaulted ceilings and a meeting table.
In her human body, Mama Gia is an imposing 6’ tall but when she changes into her godly figure, her imposing body blocks out the sunshine with its magnificent size and her presence fills the room with a commanding aura.
There’s a hum in the room as the godly beings whisper amongst themselves, trying to figure out why they have been ordered to change into their true forms during the day, a time when it has been forbidden to transform. They are only allowed to change under the cloak of darkness so as not to be discovered by the ones that they are protecting or the ones that would cause them and their charges harm.
Gaia takes her place at the head of the table while the other beings seat themselves in their usual spots.
“Mother,” Calliope who had shifted from her Saluki form, had entered the room after Gaia had made her pronouncement, speaks first, “what is the problem?” she asks as she sits on the edge of her seat, tension etched on her face. “You have forbidden us to transmogrify in the house during daylight hours.”
“Had you been her on time you would know what the problem is Calliope. Your perpetual tardiness will be the death of us all,” Gaia chastises the cynanthrope as she sits in an empty chair.
Frustrated at having to begin again, Gaia repeats herself for Calliope’s benefit. “I believe that Zeus has found us,” Gaia speaks solemnly to the assemblage. “I can feel his ominous presence near.”
There is an audible gasp in the room as the deities think about the repercussions of the head of all beings finding their location and the children. They all know of his decree to dispose of all of the OlympiTitan babies, children who are the product of an Olympian and Titan. When it comes to light what they have done, his anger will know no bounds and the punishment he metes out will be new and inventively horrifying.
“What does this mean? Do we flee or stand our ground and fight?” Bartleby, the guardian Rhodesian Ridgeback asks, cracking his knuckles and neck in preparation for a fight.
“To fight is futile. With but one swipe of his hand, we will be wiped off the face of this and all other worlds!” Mystic the Sphinx cat replies, dread and fear filling her agile feline-like body as she thinks of the vengeance that will be exacted on them when the king of the gods locates them and sees the depths of their disobedience and betrayal.
Her sister Sphinx cat Jade disagrees, “But to give in and wait docilely for him to come and eradicate us and those left in our care is not within the realm of possibility either,” determination filling her face as she prepares to do whatever is necessary to protect her charges. Then as she calculates all the different scenarios that could occur, confusion warps her beautiful face and she is at a loss for a successful solution.
The cacophony of voices rises and more questions than answers are thrown out into the fray. Gaia raises her hand and everyone stops, midsentence, and awaits her words of wisdom.
“We will not flee, we will not budge. We were sent here by the Queen and the Former to protect the children and that is what we will do.” Gaia looks around the table and chooses her champions.
“We had planned for this eventuality and we will begin at once. We have to prepare the children for the upcoming altercation,” she tells the group. “They are the only ones who can stand against Zeus and survive. And Rodhan and Emilee, solely, are the ones who have the power to defeat him. None before or since have been blessed with that strength.”
“So we have to tell them! We have to tell them who they are and where they come from,” Sholoh and Shiloh, the Xoloitzcuintli guardians, speak at the same time.
“We have to tell them WHAT they are,” Nefertiti, the Afghan hound guardian, clarifies.
“I know. Training will start today. I will tell the children the bare facts and you all will train them for combat,” Gaia decrees. “I will also take Rodhan and Emilee aside and tell them who they really are. They need to be prepared for battle.”
“Nefertiti, you will tutor Rodhan and Emilee in the art of spell casting and how they can work together to defeat Zeus; if it comes to that.
Shiloh and Sholoh, you two will train them in hand to hand combat. The rest of you will take your wards and teach them how to use their gifts.”
“Mystic, Jade,” Gaia turns to the two women she trusted most with the task of reconnaissance, “you will go out and track who I am sensing. We need to know for sure that Zeus is about. If you can determine how much he knows, that will be even better.”
The women smile malevolently as they mentally plot how to track the head of the gods without being caught themselves. “This will be fun,” Jade whispers. “This is not a game,” Mystic whispers in response. “Our mission on this planet is to protect those children, to keep them safe from the evil intent of Zeus and his followers. We will not fail.”
“Aetos,” Gaia calls out, pausing as her words flow into the air beckoning her ever-watchful
protector agent. The air temperature immediately drops and a frisson of electricity passes over everyone’s skin making their hair stand on end with the static electricity that suffused the air. The lights flicker momentarily and when everything returns to normal a giant eagle is standing before them, surveying them with its beady eyes. The assembled guardians do a double-take at the speed with which he appears.
“For such a large creature, he moves with great skill and covertness,” Bartleby whispers to no one in particular.
“Such stealth,” mutters Mystic, envy seeping through her words as she shifts in her chair.
“Aetos go to Prometheus,” Gaia
continues speaks as if none of the guardians had uttered a sound. “Tell him that we have been found, that I have sensed the presence of Zeus himself and that we are preparing the children for the end.”
“Yes Mother Gaia, as you will,” the humongous eagle answers shocking those present with his ability to comprehend and speak to their leader.
Startling the assembled group she adds, “Send your convocation here to protect the children; one per child should suffice. We will have need of their special skills. Also send one to the third child, he is with the foster mother and need protection as well.”
“We do not need any help protecting our protégés,” Bartleby complains.
“I do not want some bothersome eaglet around, spying on me and watching me train the children,” Calliope adds.
“It is an insult to suggest that we cannot guard the children on our own,”
“Who is ‘the third?” Nefertiti whispered to the brother Xoloitzcuintli hounds.
“They will be here and at the ready, Mother Gaia.,” Aetos pledges. “My offspring will do your bidding and protect the OlympiTitan young.” Aetos lowers his large eagle head in a bow then with a flap of his gargantuan wing, he disappears as swiftly as he appeared, leaving nothing behind but a puff of wind and a cold chill in the air.
The guardians at the table grumble in discord at having the care and safety of their charges placed in the hands, or claws, of another.
After Aetos disappears without a whisper of a sound, Gaia turns back to the guardians that are still assembled around the grand table. “Do not forget your place. Yours is not to reason why I enlist the help of the avian armament; yours is to do as I bid. My main concern is the safety of the children that we have been blessed to raise and defend – with our lives if necessary.
The Queen and the Former have both entrusted us with their most prized possessions, not to mention the other Olympians and Titans. When the order went out to dispatch the OlympiTitan young, we were called into service. Do not question your call to duty, just serve the greater good with honor and Hera will reward your diligence.
Now, you have your orders,” she growls, anger at being discovered by the one entity she did not want knowing their location permeating her words with rage, “go prepare for the return of the children. We have to train them quickly and I do not know how much time we have before Zeus turns up here, ready to eviscerate us all.”
As the guardians disperse and turn back into their mortal forms, Gaia morphs into her Mama Gia body and leaves the now normal sized kitchen. “I could have waited another two lifetimes before this happened. We are not prepared to deal with this,” she mutters as she walks down the hallway.
“But you should have been,” Calypso whispers, her voice floating down the hall, buzzing around Gaia’s ear like a meddlesome fly.
For the rest of the school day, Emilee and Rodhan felt as if they were being watched, but whenever they looked, there was no one around. A feeling of discomfort settled over them like an itchy blanket, causing both girls to feel ill-at-ease in their own skin.
When the day is done and the final bell rings for dismissal, Mason watches Rodhan and Emilee from an alley as they walk down the street towards their home. “You thought you could hide her from me Hera, but we both knew that that was impossible. One of you is the one that I seek, and I will find out who you are.” With a malicious smile on his face, Mason shrinks into the shadows and plots his revenge.