Heavy footfalls, like a distant rumble, sounded evenly on the tiled floor as the mysterious man moved slowly through the halls. He was draped in a long coat that dragged behind him as he walked. A wide-brimmed hat obscured most of his face, but the man's stature and poise spoke of a practiced air of command. Onlookers would swear afterward that they'd seen strange flickers of blue light in the shadows around his face.
There were countless other noises echoing around him, muffled discussions and speeches from lecture halls, disjointed snippets of cell phone conversations, and the like. Yet wherever this man stepped, the distracting buzzes were dulled to a murmur. His rumbling stopped next to an open door, and from within could be heard a name, spoken quite clearly. "… Zeus."
The man craned his head to listen, but he was taken aback when the name was greeted by a chorus of laughter and snickering. He stepped just inside the doorway and looked out over a classroom filled with young people. The laughter died down, and the teacher at the front of the room continued where he had left off. "The god of thunder, the sky, and—"
"And rape!" shouted a young woman from the back. Her outburst was met with more laughter and smatterings of whispered conversation.
The man clenched one fist at his side.
"Yeah, seriously," said another student, a young man, "why are we spendin' time on some stupid religion from a million years ago?"
"Hey, you can't call religion stupid," a third student countered.
"Yes, I can. They thought some old perv turned people into stars when he was done bangin' 'em as a bucket of piss." The latter remark earned another bout of laughter from the room.
The man at the door raised his hand, and an audible rumble erupted, punctuated with a snap of his fingers. Blue sparks danced around the hands of the male student.
"Ow!" the young man hissed.
"You ok?" the student next to him asked.
"Yeah, just static."
"Alright, calm down," the teacher said from his post at the front of the room. "I think we can all agree that the stories from ancient cultures are a little comical to us now. In some cases, they're even offensive. But these stories aren't nearly as interesting as why they were crafted and retold from one generation to the next."
The man in the doorway looked down to his hand, flexing his fingers.
"Subtle," said a voice from behind him.
The man spun around, stepping back into the hall. A shorter man, dressed much like the students in the classroom, was leaning against the far wall. "Hermes," the tall man said bitterly. "I didn't see you arrive."
"Well, you wouldn't, would you?" The shorter man chuckled. "That's not the way it works anymore." His attention was fixed on the smart phone in his hand, fingers flying with inhuman grace over the buttons onscreen.
"Put that thing away," the taller man growled.
"Can't. I'm working."
"Working," the taller man scoffed. "On that… thing?"
"Yep. I can get you one if you want. Bring you right into the twenty-first century, with style. Aphrodite never puts hers down now. She's really into emojis. Shocker, I know." His lips curled into a smirk. "Get it? Shocker?"
The taller man looked to the exit at the end of the hall. He sneered at the sunny sky shining through the window. "I don't need your contraptions. I don't need any of it." He began to walk the way he'd come.
"Of course not, Lord Zeus," Hermes replied smoothly, taking great care to enunciate the last words. "Just like you didn't need to make an example of that kid back there."
"Even though you could have," Hermes added pointedly. "If you wanted to."
"Why are you here, Hermes?"
Hermes said nothing for a moment, tapping away at his phone. In a blink, he was standing before Zeus. "They're gone," he said simply. He then turned his screen to show the other.
Zeus squinted at the device, brow furrowing in concentration. "That's impossible."
"No more than putting them up there to begin with, wouldn't you say?"
"Stars do not disappear, Hermes," the elder god grumbled.
"Of course not. You want me to shoot 'em a text? Remind 'em of that?"
A booming rumble shook the hall as Zeus towered over the smaller god. "Just find them!" he bellowed.
"You bet," Hermes said. "And don't worry. I'm sure this is just a fluke and not some sign of impending doom or anything." He smiled broadly, and much to the god of thunder's chagrin, by the time the latter reached out to strike him, he was long gone.
A few moments later, with the same heavy steps, the god of the sky stepped out into the sunshine and sighed.