website design software
Story 1

Maureen Bowden


Maureen Bowden is an ex-patriate Liverpudlian living with her musician husband in North Wales. She recently achieved a BA First Class Honours with the Open University.

In the last two years she has had ninety-two poems and short stories accepted for publication. She loves her family and friends, Shakespeare, Rock 'n' Roll and cats

Sometimes things are not what they seem, like classical  gods and goddesses living in the present day. Add to that a modern-day-science nightmare coming face to face with classical mythology, and things are bound to get interesting. Enjoy, as we did, The Companions of the Winged Sandal.



The Companions of the Winged Sandal

By Maureen Bowden


Clara Bulkley was a large woman: not obese, but chunky. She had broad shoulders, muscular arms, and what the Victorians would have called childbearing hips. She had no trouble jacking up a defective car or unscrewing the top off the toilet cleaner, and at her all-girl college, in the days before she acquired an impressive bosom, she had invariably been cast as the male lead in the end-of-year play.

Her once-a-week lover, Roger Packwell, in an attempt at verbal foreplay during one of their Sunday evening trysts, said, ‘You’re magnificent, Clara. You’re a goddess.’

Clara preferred sex without conversation. “Shut up, Roger, and do your stuff.”

After packing Mr. Packwell off home, in the early hours of Monday morning, she discarded her bathrobe, and studied her voluptuousness in her full-length mirror.

“He’s right,” she said aloud. “I am a goddess: not Aphrodite or one of those simpering bimbos, give me my armor and I’m Athena, ready to charge into battle with swords blazing.” She acknowledged the mixed metaphor, but she liked the image. So did an eavesdropping god.

Whilst admiring her reflection, Clara observed, hovering in the air behind her, a skinny boy in a loincloth. She turned to face him. “Who the hell are you, where did you come from, and how are you hovering?”

“Hermes, at your service, large lady: known in my current incarnation as Chesney Hardcastle. I come, originally, from Mount Olympus and I have wings on my footwear.” He raised his leg, presenting her with a down-at-heel sandal that did, indeed, possess a wing.

“Take your foot out of my face and stand on the floor,” she said. He obeyed. He was several inches shorter than her, so they now stood eye to nipple. Feeling somewhat uncomfortable, she signaled to him to raise himself higher. He did so, until they were, once again, eye to eye. Clara assumed that Roger must have slipped something into her vodka and orange, but she decided to go with the flow. “What shall I call you, small man, Hermes or Chesney?”

“If you don’t mind, I’d prefer Hermes.”

“What do you want, Hermes?”

“I want you to lead an army of Titans against the higher deities of Mount Olympus, to prevent them from bringing about The Big Crunch.”

“What’s that, a new breakfast cereal?”

“I’m afraid not. It’s the opposite of The Big Bang. It will suck the universe back into The Void. Our destiny is upon us. I dressed for the occasion.”

“No kidding? When do we get crunched?”

“Probably within the next twenty-four hours.” He handed her the black lace bra that had been dangling from a wall-light. “Put on some clothes, but not too many. The armor will have to fit on top of them.”

“I get armor?”

“You do. Please hurry. I’ll explain on the way to the Balkans.”

She squeezed into her Stella McCartney designer jeans, and an orange vest-top with ‘Look But Don’t Touch’ emblazoned across the front. “Okay, let’s go.”

He wrapped his arms around her waist and they flew out of the window. The sight of Earth falling from beneath her feet made her dizzy, so she closed her eyes and, for distraction, interrogated the small man. “Enlighten me. How did the mighty Hermes dwindle into Chesney Hardcastle?”

“I was the messenger of the gods. It was a good gig, plenty of overtime and no heavy lifting, but I didn’t like the tactics of the rat pack that called themselves the New Olympians.”

Clara plumbed her memory of The Child’s Book of Myths that Auntie Kathleen had bought her for her seventh birthday. “Zeus, Hera, and the rest of the boys and girls in the band, right?”

“Right,” Hermes said. “They kicked out the Titans: called them has-beens, hurled them down to Earth, where they could only survive by becoming mortal, dying and reincarnating, over and over again. I was so annoyed that I came with them.”

“A small man of principle: I admire you.”

“You came too, but we lost touch a long time ago.”

“How come you remember and I don’t?”

The small man blushed. “I have Iris, my soul mate, to remind me. She’s also a messenger of the gods. She stayed in Olympus to keep me informed about what they were up to. That’s how I found out about The Big Crunch.”

“A spy in the camp: does she have wings on her heels too?”

“No. She rides the rainbow. We may need her help today.”

They landed on the slopes of Mount Olympus as dawn was breaking. An archway, black, and smelling of hot metal, towered above them. It stood, like a slice of midnight, absorbing the glow of early morning.

 “It’s as I feared,” Hermes said. “The gods have opened a portal between their reality and ours.”

“What’s it made of?” Clara said.

“Dark matter.”

“What’s it for?”

“We’ll get sucked through here and follow them into the void. They’ve seen it all, done it all, and now they’re tired of existing. The only way to cope with immortality is to keep busy, and they’re not good at that, so they’re packing up their troubles in their old kit-bags.”

“Why do they want to take us with them?”

He shrugged, “Because they can.”

“What do we do now?”

“We wait for the Titans. In the meantime, take a look through the portal, into the reality of the Greek pantheon”. She looked. White-robed figures lounged around the mountainside. Their demeanor suggested boredom. A woman with long golden hair dangled her naked feet in a fast flowing stream. Her robe was transparent in some places and absent altogether in others. Aphrodite, Clara guessed. Her blind child, Eros, sat beside her, playing with a bow and arrows. While Aphrodite was distracted, a tall warrior, wearing a helmet and a short tunic, gave the child a clout around the ear.

“Who’s the dude in the skirt?” she asked Hermes.

“That’s Ares.”

“He’s a nasty piece of work.”

“Well, he is the god of war. What do you expect?”

Clara pointed to a figure on the mountain peak. It appeared to vacillate between male and female. “Who or what’s that?”

“It’s Gaia and Tartarus,” he said. “They’re the Duality: negative and positive, good and evil, left and right. They’re lovers, sister and brother, mother and son, father and daughter. Everything that exists comes from them.”

“But where did they come from?”

“They came from The One, that rose out of The Void. We call it Chaos.” He sighed. “It’s all about to go into reverse, large lady, unless we can stop it.”

The clomp of boots, and other assorted footwear, signaled the arrival of twenty-four men and women who had once been Titans. “I thought there’d be more of them,” Clara said.

“The rest are between incarnations.”

“You mean they’re dead?”

“You could say that, yes.”

“How long do we say dead?”

“Could be ten years or ten thousand. We come back when the time’s right.”

Hermes pointed out the ancient man, bald and bent, who was leading the procession.

“Before The Fall he was Prometheus, the mightiest of them all, but he’s had many incarnations since then.”

“He looks like he’s ready for the next one.”

Supporting Prometheus, keeping him vertical and dragging him up the mountain, was a young man whose face Clara had seen before, snarling at her from the screensaver on Auntie Kathleen’s laptop. She remembered asking, “Who’s he, Auntie Kath?”

“He’s the pre-army Elvis,” her favorite aunt had told her. “He’s a hunk, isn’t he?”

Clara nudged Hermes, “Who’s the fit one holding up Prometheus?”

“Back in the day he was the Titan Astraeus, god of the dusk. There’s a rumor that he’s had an incarnation as some sort of king, but I think that’s unlikely. He’s a trucker now: calls himself Snake-hips. He’s a hunk, isn’t he?”

The Titans were all ages, all shapes, all exhausted. They flopped down on the grass and passed around sandwiches and beer cans. Snake-hips deposited Prometheus at Clara’s feet, along with a sack he’d been carrying over his shoulder. “Hello, baby,” he said. “Athena, I presume.”

“How do you know me?”

He grinned at Hermes. “Tell the lady about The Companions of the Winged Sandal, Chesney.”

“They’re a secret society: a Hermes cult,” the small man said. “Their members are postal and delivery workers all over the world: this reality’s equivalent of winged messengers. They know who and where everyone is, and they can contact the Titans whenever they’re needed.”

“Is Roger one of them? He runs his own company, Packwell’s Parcel Delivery Service.”

“He is, indeed. I asked the Companions to seek you out, so that you could lead the Titans against the Olympians. Roger found you.”

“Why didn’t he tell me about all this?”

Snake-hips growled deep in his throat, “He might have done, if you’d settled for a little more conversation and a little less action.”

She appraised his athletic, youthful body. “Thank you for the advice,” she said. “Now take some from me. Keep off the beef burgers, eat healthily, and stay away from Las Vegas.”

“Okay, baby.”

“I’ll have some advice for Roger, too,” she said. “If he wants our association to continue, he’d better stop gossiping about me to reincarnated Titans.”

“He has to talk to somebody, baby.”

Clara said nothing. She knew he was right.

Hermes intervened. “This is a war, not a relationship counseling service. Give her the armor, Snakey.”

Snake-hips untied the sack. A cardboard box was inside. She tore it apart. Under the Amazon delivery note was a suit of glistening gold armor. There was also a sword that looked as if it had been forged by Tolkien’s dwarves, in the ancient kingdom of Gondolin, and called whatever is Elvish for ‘Avenger’.

Clara had never lacked self-confidence, but she was now overwhelmed by a sense of inadequacy. “I can’t wear this. I may have been a goddess once, but I’m only a human being now.”

Hermes smiled. “Once a deity, always a deity. It’s a state of mind. A god is just a human with attitude.”

“But I don’t know how to fight.”

“You don’t have to fight.” He pointed to the portal. “You have to destroy that eyesore.”

“Why do I need armor?”

“To protect you from the Titans.”

“I thought they were on our side.”

“They are. They’ll send mental energy towards the portal to weaken it. You have to knock it down. The armor will prevent the Titanic thought power from weakening you too.”

“They’re the brains, I’m the brawn?”


The goddess Athena donned her armor. The helmet and breastplate gleamed in the sunlight. “I wish I had a mirror,” she said.

Hermes delved into his loincloth and produced a powder compact. “This belongs to Iris. I keep it close to remind me of her.” He handed it to Clara, as she tried not to visualize the part of him to which he kept it close.

The mirror in the compact was tiny, but she saw enough to be impressed. I look the business, she thought. This should liven up Sunday evenings. Roger Packwell will blow a fuse.

The battle to save the universe commenced. Twenty-four latter-day deities directed their combined brain waves at the portal. Weakened patches grew paler and the armored goddess slashed at them with her sword.

All day they toiled. The pale patches spread. Clara lunged and pounded. Gaps were appearing in the dark matter, and the Olympians beyond the portal were looking worried. A tall figure with a long white beard appeared in their midst. I’m guessing that’s Zeus, Clara thought. I wonder what he’s got up his sleeve. What he had up his sleeve was a hammer. He scowled, and brought it down with such force that it shattered a boulder on the banks of Aphrodite’s foot spa.

The sky clouded. A lightening bolt and thunderclap signaled a bombardment of hail that stung their faces and clanged on Clara’s armor. Hermes yelled to her over the din, “Zeus is The Storm-Bringer. He’s playing mind games with us. We’ve got them rattled. Keep pounding.”

Snake-hips shouted, “We need more help, Chesney. Call the Companions.”

The small man produced a phone from his loincloth. “I’ll tell Roger to email them all and ask them to back you up by sending out their own thought power from wherever they are. It’s not much but it could just tip the balance.”

Clara, still pounding, called, “Give him my love.”

No more than three minutes after Hermes made the call, her flesh tingled as a surge of energy from the Companions joined their assault on the portal. One of the side pillars collapsed, and the other, under Clara’s hacking and battering, began to splinter. The apex, however, high above her reach, remained, suspended in the air. The Titans directed their mental muscle towards it and Hermes flew Clara up to its level to give it the hammering from Hades, but it wouldn’t budge. She looked through to the Olympian’s reality. Zeus, Hera, and the rest of the boys and girls in the band were being absorbed into The Duality, and Clara confronted the prospect that she, and everything in her reality would be next.

They were facing oblivion, but without Zeus the storm stopped, and a rainbow arched across the sky. A girl was sliding down it like a child on a fairground ride. Hermes waved to her. His voice trembled. “It’s Iris. I knew she’d come.” They watched the slender figure leap onto the portal, slamming her body into the unyielding blackness, infusing it with all the colors of the spectrum. The apex collapsed onto the mountainside, taking her with it, just as The Duality folded in on his/herself, becoming The One. Chaos passed into The Void as the portal disappeared.

Hermes sat, sobbing, holding the girl’s lifeless body in his arms. Clara hunkered down beside him and touched his shoulder. He smiled at her. She realized that he was shedding tears of joy. “She’s mortal now,” he said. “She’s come to join me.”

Clara shook her head. “She’s dead, Hermes. I’m so sorry.”

“Of course she’d dead. What does that matter?” Still cradling Iris on one arm, he used his free hand to blow his nose on his loincloth. “We all die, but next time I reincarnate, so will she. We’ll be together through all our future lives. I told you, we’re soul mates.”

The Titans collected old, dry timber from the forest on the northeast side of the mountain, and built a funeral pyre, topped by a rough trellis of twigs, on which Hermes laid his soul mate’s body. They covered her with violets, madworts, and rare mountain flowers. Prometheus rubbed two pieces of wood together. A spark flickered and set the branches alight. Snake-hips whispered to Clara, “The old man still likes playing with fire.”

The flames rose as the sun was setting. The blaze crackled, burst, and illuminated the night sky. Clara’s tingling flesh told her that the Companions of the Winged Sandal were still with them in spirit; the mourners kept a vigil; and Snake-hips sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

When the fire burned itself out and the night wind scattered the ashes, Hermes said to Clara, “Are you ready to go home, large lady?”

She nodded. “I’ll sleep well tonight, knowing I helped to prevent the universe ending.”

“We didn’t prevent it,” he said. “It’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen, but we have a few billion years yet.”

“Then we get sucked into The Void and the party’s over?”

Snake-hips was listening. He flashed a lopsided smile. “No, we recharge the batteries and wait for the next Big Bang. The party never ends, baby, so don’t hang up your rock ’n’ roll shoes.”

“Can I keep the armor?”

“You sure can. It suits you.”

She winked. “I know.”

After they exchanged hugs, high-fives, and email addresses, Hermes wrapped his arms around Clara’s waist, and they were airborne. She looked down on the Aegean Sea, and then kept her eyes closed until they flew in through her bedroom window, and landed in front of her full-length mirror.

“Goodbye, large lady,” Hermes said. “When you see Roger Packwell next Sunday, remember that we owe him a debt of gratitude.”

“Don’t worry, small man, he’ll be well rewarded. That’s why I’m keeping the armor. It’ll give rise to a little more conversation, if nothing else.”

The End


[Index] [About Us] [Stories] [Story 1] [Story 2] [Story 3] [Story 4] [Guest Art] [Editors Write] [Archives] [Contact Us] [Links]

Copyright © 2017 by 4 Star Stories. All Rights Reserved.