The receptionist raised her Egyptian-blue shaded lids to reveal dilated pupils that took in the bow-shaped protrusion from beneath the patron’s cloak, the moon tattoo on her wrist, and the slender greyhound panting at her feet. The lids narrowed. “Right,” said the receptionist. “You did not request a specific room. Do you have any preferences?”
“No view please.”
“No. No forests, hills, mountains, trees – a brick wall would do nicely.”
“Very well.” Jewelled fingernails tapped the keyboard. “Room 360.” The receptionist reached behind her to retrieve a key card with a red and blue logo. “The lift is to your right. Enjoy your stay.”
“Thank you.” Diana climbed the stairs on the left, careful to prevent her knee-length chiton from hiking up indecently. She needed the exercise to burn through the nervous energy pulsing out of every twitching muscle. Three flights wouldn’t be nearly enough.
She’d barely dropped her bow and arrows on the carved sideboard before a knock sounded on the door.
She opened the door. “I didn’t order room service.”
“No one ever does.” The slim steward cheerfully rolled his trolley into the room and lifted the white cloth to reveal two silver cloches. “Bon appetit,” he said, silently pulling the door closed behind him. Diana caught a glimpse of a tattoo peaking out from above his white glove.
“Ambrosia and venison,” muttered Diana with a cloche in each hand. Her hound, Kýon, drooled appreciatively.
She didn’t want any ambrosia. She wanted chow mein, tikka chicken marsala, sushi, anything that wouldn’t remind her of Hellas or Olympia or hunting or delivering babies. She tossed the venison to Kýon who, being a conscientious canine, caught it in mid-air without a fragment soiling the plush carpet.
Guests filled the restaurant with raucous laughter and painful conversation. Perhaps she should have left the hotel to look for something quieter. She tugged at the tight black number she’d acquired at the gift shop. It didn’t appear to want to be a dress. It had aspirations towards being a belt.
“Does madam require a table?” A slim waiter with a French accent gestured to an empty place in the centre of the room.
Diana’s eyes flickered to his lopsided moustache and back to the conspicuous table. “Do you have anything more … secluded?”
“Of course. Social media or non-social media?”
The waiter smiled, and his moustache tipped further to the right. “Not to worry; I have the perfect spot.” His accent wavered between French and Jamaican. Diana narrowed her eyes. There was something familiar about him.
She noted the ‘no cellphones’ sign as the waiter ushered her to a corner table in a glass-enclosed portion of the restaurant.
“Something to drink?” His moustache dangled over his lip, only the left side still attached to the skin.
“I don’t know.” She squinted at the drinks menu. “Maybe a cocktail.”
“I know just the thing.” He winked and sashayed away.
Diana rested her chin on one hand while tapping her elegant fingernails against the polished wood table. Ennui brushed across her bare shoulders. She shivered. Maybe this was a bad idea.
The sound of a hundred pairs of flapping wings touched the furthest corner of her mind, and a strapping body encased in a high-end suit slid into the chair next to her. She turned to take in the chiseled nose and glistening black curls.
Her lips thinned into a tight line. “Hermes. Zeus throw a stick and you’re here to fetch it?”
“Ha ha,” said the unsmiling perfect example of manhood. “You’re such a hose when you’re not lecturing about the benefits of chastity.”
“I didn’t invent STDs. But if you enjoy warts on your—”
“I take it back. Shoulda known better than to think you had a sense of humour.”
“Excuse me for not finding teenage pregnancy funny. What are you doing here anyway?”
Hermes stretched out his legs, the expensive fabric clinging to his muscled thighs, and examined his fingernails. “Zeus wants to know why you’re not answering his calls.”
Diana sighed. “I’m on holiday.”
Hermes snorted. “Gods don’t go on holiday.”
“All the petitions that should go to you are redirecting to him. He’s got a migraine from all the screaming women in labour.”
Diana leaned back with folded arms and a hint of glee. “Well, now he knows how it feels to be a goddess of pregnancy and birth. About time you chauvinist pigs got a taste of what the girls face.”
Hermes’ lip curled in distaste. “You and Athena still on your women’s rights campaign? The two of you really need to get out more.”
Diana spread her arms. “Is that not what I’m doing?”
“I was thinking more along the lines of getting out with me more,” answered Hermes. His eyes slid over her lithe form, and the corner of his mouth hitched in a predatory smile. “Although that dress is certainly an excellent start. You, me, and that dress could have a real good time together.”
“I’ve had enough of you philanderers,” she snapped. “I’m sick of your endless feasting and seducing anything with legs – and a good deal of things without – and your insistence on sticking to the old ways.”
“Why mess with a good thing?” smirked Hermes.
“That’s your trouble – none of you want to change anything. But the world is changing – whether you like it or not. There are so many people now – the earth is bursting with them. The animals no longer dominate.” Her shoulders drooped. “Hunting loses its charm when your target is one of a dwindling herd.” She sighed. “We can’t go on as we have been. Something must give.”
“Your drink, madam.” A multi-coloured beverage in a tall bulbous glass appeared before her. It had an umbrella in it. “It’s a Galaxy Magic Tropical Rainbow,” said the waiter. A swirl of ink flashed before vanishing below the cuff of his jacket. “It changes colour while you drink it.”
Diana took a careful sip. Her lips pursed as she swirled the liquid across her tongue. She smiled.
“I knew you’d like it,” said the waiter. He turned to face Hermes, and his perfectly straight moustache tilted with his grimace. “Would Sir like a drink?” he asked with a thickened accent.
Hermes waved him off, and the waiter retreated with a distinct stiffness. “Of all the places you could have gone, you chose this dump? The staff is decidedly odd.”
“I like it,” said Diana, stirring her cocktail with its straw as warm tingles melted her spine. “And frankly, you’re killing my buzz. Why don’t you run back to your owner and see if he’s got a treat for you?”
Hermes huffed. “You know it’s not wise to get on Zeus’ bad side.”
“Well I’m not in the mood to be wise. Beat it, pretty boy.” She squinted at the bottom of her glass. “Ooh, look! It’s turning purple!”
“Women,” grunted Hermes, and dematerialized in a fluttering of wings.
Minutes into the bourbon-seared, sustainably-sourced salmon entrée, just as the white wine began to pool comfortingly in Diana’s belly, a cry both familiar and dreaded assailed her ears.
“It’s coming,” moaned a woman from the direction of the bar.
Diana dropped her cutlery and covered her eyes. Maybe if she couldn’t see them, they’d go away.
“She’s in labour!” cried a male voice.
“Is there a doctor in the house?” bellowed another.
“Osiris, Isis, and Horus,” muttered Diana and rose to her feet, stepping cautiously in her nine-inch heels towards the source of the sound.
She caught sight of the heavily loaded patron who stood panting while a slight male held her hand and imitated her measured breaths.
“I—” she began.
“I’m a doctor.” A short woman with a blue pixie cut strode to the patient’s side, cutting off Diana’s words and her view.
“A gynae?” asked the encumbered woman between puffs.
“Oncologist,” replied the doctor. “But I’ve done deliveries. Let’s time those contractions, shall we?”
Diana watched on as the doctor checked vitals, assured all concerned that there was yet plenty of time to get the mother to the hospital, and directed various staff members to help her to a vehicle.
The unspoken pleas of the laboring woman bled into Diana’s mind, but they were just as quickly calmed by the spoken assurances of the doctor.
She was not needed.
“Alright everyone,” called a burly manager as the pregnant mother was escorted out of the restaurant. “Crisis over. We apologise for the disturbance, but everything is under control. Service will resume immediately.”
Kýon danced around Diana’s legs as she locked her room from the inside and threw her bag and keycard on the hall consol.
“Hello, boy,” she cooed, scratching his ears and earning a look of complete adoration. “Miss me?”
She cocked her head as Kýon whimpered at her. “Tentacles, you say? Oh no, Zeus didn’t try it on with you—oh, not Zeus then? They played with you? Well, that’s … fortunate for you.”
Her heels clattered onto the entrance tiles as she slipped out of them, and she padded over to the window with no view. Through the glass, the mottled bricks turned to stars. Three stars in particular.
“Oh, Orion my love,” she murmured. “How things have changed.”
They’re dying …
They need our help!
Angry, desperate voices trickled through Diana’s mind, and she fought to open her eyes. Something big was happening – animals were in danger. She needed to get there, now!
Throwing on the WFGC-branded tracksuit she’d bought on the same shopping expedition as the black dress, she bolted out of her hotel room and ran towards the source of the turmoil.
In the hotel foyer, two groups faced off: a handful of armed, camo-bedecked fur hats, and a larger crowd of skinny, shiny people holding placards that read ‘Hunting is murder’, ‘Animals deserve life’, ‘Stop the slaughter’, and similar phrases.
“Tigers are endangered!” yelled a protestor sporting a healthy glow. “You’re destroying a precious species!”
“These tigers are raised to be hunted,” roared a paunchy hunter with a shotgun nearly as tall as himself.
“Canned hunting is illegal in these parts,” shouted another protestor.
“The law! It doesn’t matter if that ranch advertises itself as a wildlife preserve – we all know the truth, and we’re going to stop it!”
“You think your little cardboard signs are going to stop us?” scoffed a raccoon-hatted woman.
“No, but this might.”
A wave of red paint coated the hunters. They froze in shock, large drops of vermillion matting the pelts on their heads and forever turning their camouflage into a natural warning sign, clogging their guns with thick lacquer globules.
“Not in my foyer!” screeched the receptionist, and ushered the two parties toward the exit.
“We can’t leave like this,” bellowed a hunter.
“Your reservation has been revoked,” said the receptionist. “We do not tolerate animal cruelty here. Your things will be moved to the sidewalk for your convenience.”
Diana grinned as the hunters were cast into the street. The protestors cheered.
“The police are on their way to the ranch,” shouted one of them. “Those jerks are going down!”
And that’s when Diana had an idea.
“Artemis,” sneered Hermes, throwing himself on the sofa in Diana’s room. “You summoned?”
“I have a message for Zeus.”
“How disappointing.” He pouted. “I thought you were going to take me up on my offer.”
“Poor deluded soul – you been drinking with Dionysus again? I warned you he’s far too fond of the hard stuff.”
“You don’t know what you’re missing.” Hermes pulled at his immaculately starched collar, mouth twisted into a frown.
“Oh, but I do,” retorted Diana. “And I intend to miss a whole lot more of it.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m going on hiatus.”
Hermes furrowed his brow. “You’re already on hiatus.”
“No, I’m on holiday.”
“What’s the difference?”
“This was an opportunity to rest and rejuvenate, step back from the madness and refresh.” She slid her fingertips over the back of the couch and ambled towards the window. “The hiatus is me breaking away from the nonsensical circus of Olympus. I’m leaving to pursue other interests.”
“What other interests?” asked Hermes with narrowed eyes.
Visions of scarlet-drenched fur and damaged guns danced across her mind.
This story was written as part of the Write-Fight-Gif-Club Online Hotel Blog-Hop Anthology. Feel free to check out some of the other contributions HERE