Artemis couldn’t get comfortable.
The ivy itched, the night air was too cold, and a friendly beetle wasn’t taking the hint. Something promised to be easy was turning out to be hard. Artemis closed his eyes. Three, two, one, then looked around. Nothing had changed, except now the beetle had brought friends.
The window remained dark, the bedroom beyond as empty as a broken promise. Fuzz wasn’t to blame – or maybe he was – yet this was nothing like what was promised. Artemis had sought his advice, and Fuzz had enthusiastically agreed.
It went something like this: “Bro…,” said Fuzz – ironic, because they were brothers – “Babes are like food; even good food expires. So, when they’ve been on the shelf too long, say this, ‘It’s not you (meaning them), it’s me (meaning you)’,” he let the words untangle in the air. “She’ll see you as this fantastic dude who wants to eat other food, and the other babes will go,” he shifted to falsetto, “That now single guy is so sensitive.”
The food metaphor was weird, but everything else made sense.
Fuzz knew a lot of things. What he lacked in book smarts, fashion sense, metaphors, and personal hygiene, he made up for in knowing everything about girls. Also, there was no-one else to ask. Since Fuzz graduated to teenager – five or so years ago – Artemis witnessed dozens of girls slapping him, with a couple aiming somewhere lower. His advice hadn’t always make sense, but Artemis’ friends through Fuzz was cool, and peer pressure was the next best thing to understanding.
Fuzz promised that it was going to be easy, but in the dead of night, hiding in the bushes, waiting for Becky Beckons, it didn’t feel so easy.
Becky Beckons was, is, and will always be the prettiest girl in eighth grade. She had long mousy-brown hair which flew wild, even in a light breeze. Metallic braces that shone like the Sun when she smiled. He was even blind to her pimples, seeing only beauty-spots. They’d been going out for three months, one week, and two hours but when she dumped him, Artemis knew it was time to break up.
Artemis was hiding in their special place. The first time he saw Becky outside school, he’d been waiting in the same clump of decorative bushes. I know what you’re thinking. It wasn’t like that. That’s weird. Shame on you. As if Artemis would cut down a perfectly healthy plant just to improve his view.
It was fate, or poetry, or something in between, that Artemis was now hiding in those same bushes waiting to break up with her, a perfect bookend to their relationship.
Artemis still couldn’t get comfortable. The beetle had not only brought its friends, but also its family, cousins, distant relations, and everyone it had ever met. They were everywhere. Artemis had never seen so many. Luckily the moon was cowering behind some clouds, otherwise he would not have been so brave.
Artemis checked his watch to see time crawl by. Becky’s bedroom mocked him with its emptiness.
“Flick off,” he said, flicking away another beetle.
The night whispered back. “Sorry,” it said.
Two thoughts went through Artemis’ head as he jumped ten feet into the air. Firstly, he didn’t know he could jump so high. And secondly, there were an awful lot of beetles. He landed in a thick patch of ivy – why anyone would plant the itchy kind remained a mystery – and welted immediately.
A girl emerged from the bushes. She may not be a spider, but Artemis was definitely the fly. Laying on the ground, Artemis looked up from her obsidian shoes, to inky gloves, to black, glossy hair. Only smooth, alabaster skin interrupted the murky darkness. She was a girl around his age, and she was beautiful.
Struggling to recover from unexpected company, Artemis spluttered out his name. “I’m Daisy,” she introduced herself. She didn’t look like a Daisy. She wasn’t young and bubbly, nor old. Her quiet and endless gaze made Artemis think of Shiva, The Destroyer of Worlds. He shook it off.
“What’s in the box?”, she asked, picking up a small wooden box from the ground. It had bounced out of Artemis’ pocket when he fell. Without waiting, continued. “Is that what I think it is?”
“How do I know what you think it is?” he whined. Much like Daisy, he didn’t wait for an answer. “Why are you hiding in the bushes?” he asked with no trace of irony.
As if on cue, the moon emerged from behind the clouds, illuminating Daisy in her own personal moonbeam. She was more than beautiful. A dark energy radiated outwards, trapping everything in its wake. It felt dangerous. Even the beetles were in awe of her.
“I’m looking for my cat,” she said, cherry-picking her words carefully.
Daisy didn’t look like a cat person. Instead, she looked like someone who owned a furry hell-beast that signs deals with desperate humans, Artemis imaged, only for the hell-beast to then drag their souls down to the underworld. Daisy looked like that kind of girl. Before he could ask, the vision of eighth-grade loveliness that was Becky Beckons appeared.
Even though he’d be wrong, Artemis would like to think that he didn’t resemble a crazy wild-man spring out of the bushes like a loaded missile aimed directly at his ex-girlfriend. He’d like to think this. And sometimes, late at night, when the streets are quiet, he almost succeeds. To her credit, Becky Beckons only screamed a little, but to Artemis that looked a lot like being unreasonable. “It’s-not-you-it’s-me”, he shouted, much like someone falling off a ladder might shout for help they hurtle towards the ground.
Becky Beckons, the prettiest girl in eighth grade stared at Artemis. There he was, a teenage boy, standing in front of his ex-girlfriend, trying to break up with her. He offered her the box.
“Is that what I think it is?” Becky recoiled.
“Why does everyone keep asking me that?”
The vision of darkness that was Daisy appeared by his side, a swarm of beetles worshiping her as she stepped. Slipping one arm over his shoulder, Daisy opened the box to reveal a heart. I know what you’re thinking. It wasn’t like that. That’s weird. Shame on you. It was a goat’s heart. Artemis purchased it with his own money. Perfectly ordinary. The heart was Artemis’ love for Becky, and he was giving it back.
Daisy chomped down on the heart. It squelched. Blood oozed down her mouth, a small puddle of blood pooling onto the ground. Becky was a girl from the suburbs. She lived with her parents in a house with decorative bushes. She liked cheerleading, shopping, and makeup. This was too much for her. Becky fled to the comfort of her ordinary existence. Artemis stared at this bloodied enigma.
“I’m a,” munch, munch, munch, “Goddess,” Daisy explained. She offered him a small chunk. Unsurprisingly – to Artemis at least – raw goats flesh tasted exactly what you think raw goat’s flesh would taste like; it tasted like a new relationship.
Artemis smiled a bloody smile. Munch, munch, squelch, squelch. Goat’s flesh was a little chewy. Daisy had captured his heart and now she was eating it. Once again, Fuzz had been right. Artemis had been single for two, maybe three seconds, but the wait was over. The other “babes” had seen his sensitive side.
Artemis, a mortal teenage boy, and Daisy, a Goddess of the Celestial Planes, walked arm in arm into the dark night, munching away and oblivious to all but each other. They were soon joined by a towering hell-beast of a cat, its new chew-toy calling for help from its mouth.