Artemis looked around the tight canyons of the great city. She was there for a change of pace. There were kinds of hunting here, although not the traditional sort she had always patronized.
She watched as a bus pulled up to its stop and several passengers exited. One man captured her attention, and she watched as he trudged down the sidewalk.
Artemis, goddess of the hunt, knew the terrible look of prey resigned to its fate, and that was the look on this man’s face. He was conventionally handsome and of average height. He wore a dull gray suit and a black tie. Only the despairing look in his eyes distinguished him from the crowd.
“Athena,” she called in her mind. “Do you have a moment?”
The other goddess appeared next to Artemis.
“Look at that man,” Artemis said, pointing down the street. “What has happened to him?”
Athena used her powers of knowledge and wisdom and divined the man’s history. She saw images…
* * *
Two-year-old Kent Terrance cried as he was strapped into his car seat. “Car crash! Car crash!” He kept repeating it. Ten minutes later, a taxi ran a red light and smashed into the family’s car. No one was badly injured, but the coincidence struck the toddler’s parents as being particularly odd.
At age four, Kent knew what he was about to receive for his birthday and Christmas even before he got his hands on the packages. His parents vowed to be more careful, as Kent had apparently seen them wrapping his gifts. No amount of caution – including not bringing the presents home until the special day – helped.
Once he had started school, his parents naturally asked how he was doing. He could tell them exactly what his grades would be even before his teachers had checked his work.
His parents began to play a game with him: guess what’s for dinner. Kent was to write down what he thought his parents would make for dinner that night and see if he was right. He always was, and the game ended after three weeks when his parents could take it no longer.
As he got older, Kent began to predict important news events and the imminent deaths of relatives and neighbors and pets. Kent’s father abandoned his plans for an affair with a coworker, and his nerves began to crumble under the certainty that Kent knew.
While a high school junior, Kent took the long way home one day to give his father time to complete his suicide attempt. He knew his mother would blame him, and after calling the police to come deal with his father’s body, he packed a suitcase to begin a whirlwind tour of the foster care system.
In college, he tried to keep his foresight of certain future events to himself, but it would occasionally come out in ways that were socially disastrous for him. He spent most of his college career alone.
He was downsized from his first job because the company wasn’t doing well. He had his desk cleaned out before his boss arrived to break the bad news.
* * *
“How does he know the near future?” Artemis asked.
“There can be only one explanation,” Athena said. “One of the trickster gods did this in a moment of boredom. The trickster has undoubtedly tired of watching this poor human’s life and has gone on to torment others, but the damage lives on.”
“One of our kind did this. We have to set things right.”
“It will be difficult,” Athena said. “Whatever the trickster did has had many years to ossify in this man. We cannot confront Mr. Terrance openly; he would expect us and the trickster’s work would interfere with anything we tried to accomplish.” The goddess of wisdom fell silent in contemplation.
Artemis clenched her fists. “If only I knew which of the tricksters had done this, I would put one of my arrows through him.”
Athena looked at Artemis. “That may be the correct approach, but it is the wrong target.” She smiled. “We need assistance.”
Soon, a cherub with a bow and a quiver of arrows hovered near the goddesses, and Athena explained. Cupid shook his head.
“Believe me, I’ve tried. There’s a thick miasma around Mr. Terrance – created by a lifetime of misery – that my arrows can’t penetrate.”
Athena regarded the love god’s little bow. “What if you wielded a stronger bow?”
Cupid pondered. “Possibly. That would give the arrow a better chance.” He flexed his chubby right arm. “I’m not really made for it, though.”
“I can fire the arrow,” Artemis said.
“Oh, yes,” Cupid agreed. “Yes, your skills would be perfect for this situation. And there’s an excellent match for Mr. Terrance coming right up.” Cupid drew an arrow from his quiver and elongated it to fit Artemis’s bow.
Artemis took the arrow and marveled at its strength; she had always assumed Cupid’s love arrows were flimsy things. She notched the arrow on her bowstring.
“Where are the targets?”
“There’s Mr. Terrance,” Cupid said, “and about 100 feet up the street, the woman in the gray coat: Trina Abernathy.”
“The arrow has to penetrate Mr. Terrance and then immediately strike Miss Abernathy.”
“Got it.” Artemis crossed the street to set up her shot. The traffic meant nothing to her, and she meant nothing to the traffic. She pulled back on her bow as hard as she could and took aim. She took a slow breath as her targets approached each other, held it, and let the arrow fly.
The goddess’ strength lent Cupid’s arrow the power it needed to slice through the miasma surrounding Kent Terrance’s life. It tore through him and sailed onward to bury itself in Trina Abernathy.
The humans stopped walking and looked at each other.
“I … I didn’t know about you,” Kent said.
“I didn’t know about you, either,” Trina said, “but here we are.”
“Yeah. Here we are.” And he smiled a little stupidly at her.
Artemis returned to Athena and Cupid.
“Excellent work,” Cupid said. “I might like to borrow you for a few other tough nuts I haven’t managed to crack.”
She smiled. “I’d be happy to help.”
“Oh, I’ve got to go,” he said. “There’s a much easier pair down there that I’ve been meaning to get.”
“Thank you, Cupid,” Athena called after him, and he waved back.
“Athena, I don’t quite understand what we’ve done here. We’ve helped Cupid bring that couple together, but how have we helped Mr. Terrance with the trickster’s curse?”
“The curse is broken,” Athena said. “All it took was introducing an element of the unknown into Mr. Terrance’s life.” She looked back toward the new couple, now walking in the same direction. “Love is always unexpected.”