I took a deep breath, snapped myself to attention and shouted, “Okay!”
“Okay?” Odin replied, one eyebrow raised, “Okay, what?”
“Okay. Fuck fear.” I answered, with a completely different tone and posture than I held just moments before.
A smirk crept across the lips of the One-Eyed-Wanderer.
“Just like that?” he asked.
“Yes. Exactly like that. I mean, you’re right. MY kid can overcome anything the world throws at her. Hell, David Goggins had it worse than her or I ever did and he’s the undisputed baddest mother fucker on Earth! And you know what else? Fuck the inbound death regime and their Great Reset bullshit! If it’s one thing the study of history has proven it’s that the harder a government clings to power, the harder the Universe pushes back. Everything in life moves in cycles – victories and defeats – and there isn’t a force on Earth that can stem that tide. No matter how bad things get, it can’t last…”
I then encountered one of those Fight Club moments; when the cabin pressure light goes on and I feel like all the air in the world suddenly rushes away from me.
“That’s why you do what you do.” I said in shock.
Odin’s smirked got a little wider, “Go on.”
“It’s a cycle. I mean, I know Ragnarök is a cycle, but it’s one that you actively participate in. You know you can’t win the battle any more than the Giants can prevent you from being reborn and eventually defeating them again.”
“Yes, but do you understand why I participate in it?”
“Because it’s just like Neo said in Matrix: Revolutions…”
Odin smiled, “Because I choose to.”
“Yes,” I continued, “because it’s within your power. Not even the gods can change their fate, which in this case is the cyclical nature of reality itself. However, you can choose how you conduct yourself…”
“And I choose to conduct myself with honor, and pride, and strength. I choose to be grateful to be in the game, and to be part of it.” Odin said with his chest puffed out.
“Right. And you share that honor with the triumphant dead. Fighting and partying, fighting and partying; but always grateful.”
“You can’t choose your lot in life.”
“But you can choose to play.”
“That’s right. And I choose to play.”
“It’s not about win or lose, Daouda, it’s about ‘Do you accept the challenge?’.” I said in a bad, West African accent.
Odin cocked his head.
“Matthew McConaughey’s book, Greenlights. He traveled to Africa and got into this wrestling pit with this big, hulking bastard that was twice his size. McConaughey fought this beast of a man to a draw, twice, and the locals all treated him like a champion because he didn’t back down. To them he was victorious because he chose to play.”
“This McConaughey fellow sounds like my kind of man. I should have Huginn bring this book to me.” Odin replied with a nod.
“Yeah…or ya know, you could just get it off Amazon.”
There was a pause, and then the two of us burst out in laughter together.
We walked on in silence for a bit, making our way back towards the dunes. I could feel his mood change, and I decided to speak up.
“I can’t leave here alive…can I?” I finally blurted.
Odin sighed, “No…no you cannot.”
“That’s fine.” I nodded, “It’s not my first death. It certainly won’t be my last.”
I was, of course, referring to Ego death, which I find is best explained by consciousness explorer, James Stewart who said, “It is the dying of the conceptualized sense of self. In many ways ego death at its optimum is the fluid flexibility of adjustment to the ongoing expansion into the mystery of consciousness, and at its most challenging, the horrifying experience of attachment and rigidity.”
“This is different.” Odin cautioned, “You may have had moments of ego death in the past, but that was largely due to YOUR action, which meant that if you slipped back into old patterns, it was on you to make adjustments again. No harm, no foul. I’m a god. If I do this for you, and you fail to live up to your new level of consciousness, there could be a significant karmic backlash. This is serious. You have to be sure.”
I looked around. In the distance I could see a man down the beach playing with his kids, and I felt as if the decision was made for me. I thought of my own daughter, and I knew what I had to do.
“Allfather, I can’t go any further like this.” I said, “The man I am now is not capable of doing what needs to be done. He’s too full of doubts. He’s not strong enough; he’s too unsure…too weak. He has to die.”
Odin nodded, held the tip of Gungnir to my chest and paused.
“For the record,” he said, “a truly weak man would have run away.”
With those words the apparition of Odin drove his ephemeral spear through my heart. Nothing happened to my physical body. If anyone was watching they would have just seen some weird ginger fall backwards onto the cold, hard sand for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Inside my body, however, I could feel a force split my ribs, shred my heart, and shatter my spine. That sensation felt VERY physical, and it was quickly followed by a searing heat, as if every nerve in my body was lit up to the point of frying before everything suddenly went dark. My consciousness was there, but I, the ego, was not, and for a stretch of boundless time, I The Observer, was all that existed.
I’m not sure how long I laid on the ground, but at some point I heard the sound of female voices speaking to each other. They came from both within and outside of me, yet they weren’t clear at first, coming in sporadically – like a weak signal on an old radio.
“…ybe. I…ink…s…st be…dr…atic.”
“…ought…two were friends.”
“Nothing. …otta wait for him …reboot.”
“People are coming. We need to get…moving. How…we speed…ocess along?”
“Oh. That’s easy.”
I’m not sure how, but at that moment a stray piece of grass flew along the breeze and dropped onto my face. It tickled the skin on my cheek, causing my body to reflexively flinch and wipe it away.
“Well, it looks like his nerve endings still work. That’s good at least.”
My eyes blinked open to see the apparition of Aphrodite staring down, beaming at me.
Being the embodiment of love and beauty, she has no specific “form”. I see her a lot, but almost always with a different appearance. Sometimes she’ll wear the face of a good friend (Andrea seems to be a favorite of hers). Usually, though, she’ll appear to me in what I jokingly call her “default skin”; a body with a perfectly proportioned feminine frame and a pleasant face that resembles a young Jeanne Tripplehorn, topped with a generous cascade of brunette locks accented with blonde highlights. (Imagine my shock when I found a drawing of what my mind perceives her to often look like for this blog’s banner!) As expected, she is always dressed to the tens (nines are for humans), clothed in gowns that are a cross between the highest opulence of the late 1930’s and the simplicity of the Grecian period from which she commonly hailed. Of course, that’s just how she looks. Her personality comes across as a blend between the Batman villain, Harley Quinn, and a more charming Joe Exotic (although she can be genuinely sweet when she wants to be).
“It’s about time, Shithead.” She jokingly huffed, “I thought you were going to lay there all day.”
“Not gonna lie, you’re not what I was hoping to wake up to.” I groaned, sleepily.
“You’re an ass.” Aphrodite chuckled.
“You’re a psychopath.”
“No, you’re fucking it up! You’re supposed to insult me, not compliment me.”
“Am I going to be expected to banter like this, because it’s kind of weird.” The other voice interjected.
I turned my head to see another female deity standing to Aphrodite’s left. She was tall in stature and opulent in presence. She wore a dark-red, ruby breastplate with thick, ornate gold trim running along the seams. Her armor sat over a long, flowing, white chiffon gown. Her serious dark eyes and curly, black hair was topped by a golden helmet adorned with a massive, dark red crest running down the middle.
“My terrible manners.” Aphrodite giggled, “Shithead, I’d like you to meet…”
“Minerva.” I said rolling onto my knees, putting a mild effort into a clumsy bow, “It’s an honor to meet you, Your Highness.”
I looked back over my shoulder to where Odin had stood. Not only was he gone, I felt an uncomfortable void where he had been – as if his presence was erased from my life.
“Hey,” Aphrodite said, gently and sincerely, “he had to go. You know that. But he’ll be back, when it’s time. In the meantime, we’re here.”
“Yes, you’re right.” I said sighing deeply, stifling tears before pulling myself up onto my feet, “You’re right, and I have a lot of work to do.”
Aphrodite came in close. She put her hand against my cheek and steadied me. Her eyes changed from piercing blue, to resplendent green, to a smooth, comforting brown and she stared deep into my soul.
“Hey…it’s not just that. Yes, you have work to do, but if you need to grieve, then grieve. This wasn’t just any ego death; this was big.”
“Yes, but can he grieve elsewhere? People are coming.” Minerva jumped in.
She was right. I couldn’t hear it before, but faint voices were emanating from around a distant bend on the trail behind me. I could also see a hiker and her dog about a quarter mile ahead in the direction I had to go. I took a deep breath and the three of us paused our conversation for a while as I started the roughly three-mile hike back to my car.
“So, what’s the first step for you?” Minerva finally asked after I put enough distance between me and the other hikers on the beach.
“First thing,” I began, “I launch the Centurion Commission tomorrow as planned. Then, I ramp up the pro-man, pro-Western messaging on my IG.”
Throughout the months leading up to that point I had started a slow shift in my Instagram output from sardonic memes, to things of more broad-based, spiritual insight. I would occasionally pepper in things that could be potentially perceived as “problematic” by the more “woke” sector of the internet, but the time for pussyfooting was over. A lot of what held me back from moving Hero’s Breath into exactly the direction I wanted to wasn’t fear of ridicule, it was for me to avoid slipping back into old habits of pointless, dogmatic arguing to feed a cycle of dopamine dependence. On that day I realized that I hadn’t doubted my ability to handle criticism, I doubted my ability to handle it properly. Now that those doubts lay dead on the beach, it was time for me to step up and take proper action.
“You ready for that?” Aphrodite asked.
“I’ve been ready, I just never gave myself the credit to act. That ended today.” I replied.
The goddesses smirked to each other.
“Okay. What’s the plan?” Minerva probed.
“It’s simple; I’ll operate on two rules,” I continued, “Rule One: I’ll only drop posts that are framed in the positive; to speak out FOR what’s right, instead of attacking what’s wrong. Rule Two: Don’t engage with a troll, not even when it comes dressed as an old friend. If anyone tries to start shit, I’ll either ignore or delete the comment and deal with the repercussions privately if I have to.”
“What about another indirect attack? Like the one from that cuck?” Aphrodite prodded.
“I’ll deal with those issues as they come. I’ve got to focus on what I have to build, and right now, that’s the Centurion Commission. Besides, anyone that’s going to attack me because of speaking out FOR masculinity and Western values isn’t someone I give that much of a shit about anyway.”
“They could prove meddlesome.” Minerva added.
“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” I shot back.
The goddesses again smirked to each other. Things were different, and they were going to stay that way…I no longer had a choice.