Isabel crossed her legs in the seat, resisting the urge to tap her foot.
Going through the internet for any information that could point to the United States government making its own gods had been like looking for a needle in a needlestack. The internet was full of information that could lead that way…if one was willing to also accept that Beyonce was controlling the masses with Illuminati hypnotic rituals in the form of dance moves, the Royal family was actually an ancient race of lizard people from space, Hitler’s grandson was planning a fourth reich in Argentina, and some combination of chemtrails and vaccines caused either autism, SIDS, or both.
Hell, half the internet seemed to believe that her brother and the other gods – as well as the monsters and the Heresiarch of the Church of Adversity – were actually government experiments gone rogue, and the radiation spike in Canada had been them trying to use a nuke to cover up the mess. Not that any of that was new information to her – when her brother had appeared on national news and not answered her goddamn calls,she’d started searching his name…
“You alright love?”
Crystal’s voice shattered Isabel’s train of thought. Because it was unexpected. Not for any other reason, Isabel reassured herself. “Yeah, why?”
The goddess arched an eyebrow at her. Nothing wrong with thinking of her as a goddess. She dove out of a window and threw helicopters around with math. “Well, because you looked for a moment there like you just bit a lemon in half.”
“Oh, it’s just…I’m not one hundred percent over Ryan blowing me off for the first chunk of all this.” She shrugged and shifted in the suddenly uncomfortable seat, “I mean, I get the whole thing, but I was freaking out about him.”
Crystal smiled warmly at her at that. “If it’s any consolation, I think I did the same thing to my family when I was Nascent.”
“You think?” Isabel asked, tilting her head slightly.
“It was a million years ago, love. My memory may be good, but things do get a bit fuzzy, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Isabel said softly. As Crystal studied her, she reached up and rubbed her forearm, her eyes drifting down to the floor.
“Penny for your thoughts?” Crystal asked, in that tone of deliberate cheer you use when you’re worried for someone’s well being.
“It’s…it’s stupid.” Isabel shifted in the seat and cast her mind around for a new topic. “How much longer until we get there?”
“Uh, love? You haven’t told me where we’re going yet.” Crystal’s voice was gentle, and that smile glinted in her eyes.
“Oh.” Isabel felt herself flush. “Uh. What’s nearby?”
Crystal chuckled at that, a throaty sound Isabel felt on the nape of her neck. What the hell, Isabel? You don’t even know if she’s into women. Hell, you aren’t sure if you’re into them. “It’s a staging area, love. We can go pretty much anywhere on the planet in the same amount of time. Take your pick.”
“Right, right. Then…I guess a burger place? Some kind of fast food, I think I need something greasy. Especially if we’re going to go drinking.”
Crystal’s fingers began to fly over her console. “We’re on our way. By the by, love? Before you drink anything there – and I mean anything – make sure the bartender knows you’re a normal mortal, yeah?”
“I mean, sure. But why does that matter?”
“Some of the drinks there would kill a mortal outright. Others could leave you a drooling idiot for weeks, some will ensnare your will and make you the slave of the first person to say your name, some will-”
Isabel held up a hand, taking a hard swallow as she did so. “Okay, I see what you mean. Is it even safe for me to drink there?”
Crystal winked and nodded. “You won’t be the first mortal they ever served there in the last ten thousand years, and they haven’t made a mistake yet. The only times things have gone wrong is when they didn’t know they were serving a mortal, or a mortal grabbed someone else’s drink. So you’ll be fine.”
“Okay,” Isabel said, deciding in that instant she would not get more than buzzed.
“Great. Also – we’re here.”
Isabel let out a sigh of relief and got up, nearly sprinting to the door. She emerged in an alleyway next to a Moonburger (They’re Outta This World!™) in Texas and dashed inside.
Once the immediate, pressing business of a biological need no god or goddess had to worry about was dealt with, she met with Crystal in the lobby of the Moonburger. “I love this place,” she said, stepping in line.
Crystal smiled and motioned for her to continue.
“The have these deserts, Moon Stones. They’re these chocolate and powdered sugar covered dough balls that are lumpy so they look kinda like rocks, y’know? When I was a kid, dad would take us here after school every Wednesday so we could have some, made us promise not to tell mom. Which we didn’t, because she’d take us on Saturdays while dad was out golfing and made us promise not to tell him.” Isabel could feel herself smiling, and although she felt like she was babbling, she didn’t care.
“It was one of those traditions that faded when Ryan hit high school. Then Ryan turned sixteen, and he drove us to and from school, and I figured that would be the end of it. But then the first Wednesday after he picked me up, he went straight to the Moonburger near home. Paid for it out of his own money, turned to me and winked and said, ‘Don’t tell mom and dad.’ Every Wednesday, no matter what Ryan had going on, he always took me to Moonburger.”
Crystal nodded in understanding as they stepped up to the counter and placed their orders, both of them getting an order of Moon Stones.
“Sounds like you two were tight,” Crystal said as they sat down.
Isabel nodded as she finished swallowing her bite. “Oh yeah. Ryan was home a lot and always a bit weird, but we never did a lot of those stupid sibling things. We’d fight, of course, but usually it wasn’t over anything big and never really hit each other, even when we were younger. I think when he was a kid he was afraid he’d break me, and when we got older, well…” She shrugged. “I was a bit afraid I’d break him.”
Crystal gave her a small smile. “Well, I’m glad you two had each other.”
Isabel returned the expression. “Me too.” They ate without speaking for a short time, before Isabel moved over to her fries. “So, let me ask you. In the last million years, what is the coolest thing you’ve ever seen?”
Crystal blinked., and it was her turn to swallow before speaking. “How do you mean?”
Another fry found its way into Isabel’s mouth. “Coolest thing, however you want to define that. I know you must have seen some amazing stuff, so what comes to mind as the ‘coolest?’”
A Moon Stone was plucked from from Crystal’s tray and the goddess stuck it between her teeth. Isabel was struck with how ordinary she seemed here – jeans and a t-shirt, she’d pass for any other exceptionally beautiful twenty to thirty something. So far she’d only had a chance to look at Crystal in the heat of a life or death situation or in a room made of stars. Really, though, what did you expect? Ryan looks mostly like himself if he actually bothered working out.
“Okay, these are delicious. And I’m not just saying that to stall, they’re really, really good.”
Isabel smiled. “Told you.”
Crystal gave a slight bow in her seat, causing Isabel to giggle slightly. “And coolest thing? It’s really, really hard to pick one – but the first thing that comes to mind? The first time I saw you lot. Humans in your proper form.”
Isabel leaned forward, suddenly intensely interested. “Go on?”
Crystal nodded as she finished her Moon Stone. “So neanderthals were around, and a few other hominids over the millennia, but none of them had gotten very far. Caves and all that, proto languages like what crows speak, all that. I was just about ready to pack up and head out to find a sentient species, any sentient species, capable of holding a conversation, spend a few sodding millenia with them – I was barely using my powers, but even the slight drain had accumulated into a social hunger, and I was bored. Then I thought I heard something and decided to just push a few miles further – and bam!” Crystal clapped her hands quietly.
“Bunch of hairless monkeys with mud huts and spears, sitting around a campfire. They freaked when they saw me, yeah? I didn’t know what they looked like so I was in my normal form, and seeing some kind of alien pop up really did them a bloody fright.”
Isabel had to giggle at the thought. “So that’s the coolest thing? Scaring the shit out of the first humans.”
Crystal smiled and shook her head. “Nope. It was what one of them did. See, languages that aren’t to a certain level of development, us gods can’t translate. So I can’t speak to crows, although my money is on those little buggers being the ancestors of the next sentients. But this one little early human, she was maybe five or six, didn’t run away from me. She ran straight up to me and looked at me with these big eyes and said, ‘Hello you look funny my name is Eve.’ All in a rush like that.”
Isabel nearly choked on her burger. “Eve? As in ‘Adam and Eve? That Eve?”
Crystal chuckled. “Kind of. Genesis is pretty allegorical, but yes, she was the most recent ancestor all humans share in common. Biologists call her Mitochondrial Eve, but when angels passed along the bible stories to early humans, they edited it to something people could understand, figuring you lot would work out figure out the science later on. And I made sure they eventually got the name right.”
Isabel just stared at her, having to fight to remember not to let her mouth hang open. “So the coolest thing that comes to mind,” she said after a moment, “Is meeting the literal mother of an entire species?”
Crystal nodded. “Why? Not cool enough for you?”
Isabel started laughing, unable to help herself. “It’s on a scale of cool I can’t comprehend. On a 1-10 metric, it’s eleventy. Yeah, it’s cool enough for me!”
And Isabel’s heart skipped a bit when she realized the goddess across the table from her was the one blushing. “Well…glad I could answer the question. So, love, you ready to go get drunk with myths, legends, and your brother?”
Isabel grabbed her tray and stood up, still smiling. “I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. Can I change in your staging area?”
Crystal stood up too, the blush fading. “Absolutely.”
It took a real effort of will for Isabel not to skip the whole way back to Crystal’s doorway.