Athena makes the other gods jealous with her ingenious new invention
Athena was bored of the other gods. All they cared about was gossip and entertainment; none of them wanted to sit and listen to her talk wisely or play Trivial Pursuit Architecture Edition. All the nymphs and spirits were all so boring, ghosting around the woods to play lighthearted games of tag.
Athena would spend the day up in her godly workshop. This workshop was nothing like Hephaestus’s forge, full of loud noises, fire, and white hot metal—no, not at all. Athena liked to call her neat, air-conditioned space The Laboratory.
And so Athena would spend all the time she could working on blueprints or writings or solving Mount Olympus Times crossword puzzles in The Laboratory.
But she was not motivated by anything lately. Designing the machine that wrote the Mount Olympus Times had been a challenge, but that had been millennia ago, and she felt that her brain had not been fully stimulated for some time. She would simply sip her hot ambrosia and do the crossword, then pace around, making a 3-D model of this and extracting the DNA of that.
Of course she was not lonely. No, what a silly idea. She enjoyed her time in The Laboratory. And she didn’t care what the other gods posted about her on social media, or that in the game Battle of Godz she was portrayed as a little freckled girl in pigtails and a school uniform. But sometimes, late at night, she knew she did care, and she would wish that there were beings out there somewhere that understood what it was like to always need to know why. People who would play Trivial Pursuit Architecture Edition and admire her work up in The Laboratory. People who would think of her as a great, wise being. People who would name cities after her. People who would ask for her architectural advice. People who would design a giant statue of her in a temple and put it in a great, prominent spot overlooking the city. They would worship her too. Set a new standard for intelligent life, and make gods look like, well, gods. And so the idea of the human was born.
The Oracle always told the truth, and the Oracle was kind of freaky, and the Oracle didn’t make satyr ears behind the other gods’ heads when they took a family picture.
One day, while in her workshop, Athena decided to make a diagram of what this “human” would look like. And how it would function. And so on and so forth. Athena got caught up in this idea, working late into the night, her mind racing, designing the complexities of her ideal being. Of course she would never show this idea of a “human” to the other gods. They would laugh, even make fun of her, and Athena was the god of wisdom. She would never stand for being ridiculed and would avoid this at all costs.
* * *
Apollo wore sunglasses, the lenses a cool, reflective gold, and a thick gold chain around his neck. His hair was long and blond, stirring slightly in the breeze. He wore a deep black T-shirt that read MUSE ROCK in gold letters. For pants he wore long, shiny gold bell-bottomed jeans and elevated black shoes with a solid block of gold on the bottom. Since Apollo’s shoes were god size, the gold blocks weighed about 400 pounds. You couldn’t tell this by the easy way he strode over to a door of fire with a lopsided sign above it that read Apollo’s Place. The door did not send out tendrils of flame like normal fire but rather was contained by some invisible force. The door was set into a giant dome of gold that reflected the sun so strongly that if you were a mere nymph or ungodly being, you would disintegrate upon such a sight. Apollo liked the way the lopsided sign looked in contrast to the symmetry of the dome. He also liked how gold it all looked. In case you have not yet noticed, Apollo liked all things gold.
Apollo thrust each door of fire open with both hands and entered into a cavernous space with green mist swirling all around, “Eye of the Oracle” blasting.
Apollo was in a good mood, sauntering over to the edge of what seemed to be a bottomless pit. He flipped off the rim of the chasm, landing perfectly on a circular yoga mat that was positioned on a solid gold column rising up from the gloom. He snatched a remote that seemed to have just appeared in thin air and turned on a huge flatscreen TV. He went to his godly yoga profile and selected his favorite video.
After he finished his yoga, he decided to ask the Oracle something.
Of course, Apollo was the Oracle, but everyone referred to the Oracle as if it were someone else, for Apollo and the Oracle were just so different. For instance, the Oracle always told the truth, and the Oracle was kind of freaky, and the Oracle didn’t make satyr ears behind the other gods’ heads when they took a family picture.
But anyway, back to the story. Apollo took off his sunglasses, closed his eyes, inhaled some volcanic gas, and passed out. As he passed out, he had decided to ask how to get his newest music video to one million views. At the time, when there were so few beings on the earth, and the majority of the population was nature spirits who shunned anything that involved electronics, such a number was huge.
Almost instantaneously his eyelids shot open, and with bright green eyes, he recited, “Go to The Laboratory. Bring the other gods.”
Of course this was before it became popular for oracles to tell the future in the form of insanely complicated rhymes.
Apollo eventually woke up, wondering what on earth The Laboratory was. He asked around and eventually was enlightened by a geeky satyr with a subscription to the Mount Olympus Times. Unfortunately for the satyr, he tried to show the crossword to Apollo, and deciding the satyr had outlived his usefulness, Apollo vaporized him.
Apollo popped in his earbuds and sauntered along as he sent a group text to all the other gods.
To: Everyone except Athena
Meet @ Athena’s ASAP! Oracle’s orders!
Of course, no one could refuse “Oracle’s orders,” so in five minutes everyone was waiting in front of the elevator to The Laboratory, wondering why on earth the Oracle had wanted them to meet there.
Apollo took his time getting there, skipping along happily and vaporizing things.
* * *
Athena was just putting the finishing touches on one of her “humans.”
It did not resemble what we currently look like in the slightest. It had a square head, a six-foot cube, but unlike us it had no real face. On what would have been the front of its face was a small ball covered in miniscule hairs that stuck out on a short rod, which served as a nose. On each face of the head besides the top and bottom, half of a sphere stuck out, serving as eyes. The head of the “human” was set on the body and would turn smoothly. The body was very small in comparison to the head, a ten-foot cube, just barely big enough for the ridiculously complex workings inside. The legs resembled tank tracks that could hinge to negotiate almost any terrain. The “human” had four arms which were extremely flexible tubes that could extend to lengths of 200 feet and could lift most anything. The hands were extremely precise and could commit most anything to muscle memory within seconds.
If you take your hands, and you imagine that the wrists are fused together so your palms face each other, imagine your pinky fingers are opposable as well as your thumbs, and imagine each finger is exactly four feet long, then you will have the basic idea of what the original “human” hand looked like.
Except for the hands, its whole body was black to absorb heat from the sun, which it would convert into energy.
It was the ultimate being to Athena’s eyes. She had just stepped back to admire her work when the other gods walked through the door.
* * *
Apollo was very pleased with himself; he was in charge of all the other gods for the moment, and even though the Oracle hadn’t technically ordered the other gods to come and help Apollo get his million views, they had steadily believed him. And now the gods were going to step into Athena’s workshop and make fun of her stupid clothes and whatever stupid things she was doing. Now, as he stepped through the door, he quickly felt his control on the situation slipping.
Athena looked so confident in her stylish long gray apron in a room full of scary-looking things, and Apollo could find nothing to make fun of.
He had no idea what he was supposed to say and do now that he was standing in front of a very surprised Athena, in a room full of things that were a mystery to him. This was not at all what he had expected. Athena looked so confident in her stylish long gray apron in a room full of scary-looking things, and Apollo could find nothing to make fun of. His eyes found her “human” and, with no idea where to start, the absolute worst possible thing he could have said spilled straight out of his mouth: “What’s that? What does it do? Can I vaporize it?”
* * *
Athena could barely process what had just happened. Of all the times the other gods could have dropped in and asked questions about her inventions for her to answer very wisely, they chose now?! She had been about to complete her greatest godly achievement when her upstart brother with his stupid posse had popped in and volunteered to vaporize it! She had been so close to finishing, but now that all the other gods were here, they would demand to know what it was, and then they would want their own beings, or Zeus would demand she make one for him, and nobody else, and on and on and on. So Athena turned all her frustration and worry into sarcastic, demeaning humor and wit, which she felt would compensate for when the other gods would surely steal her idea and come out on top again. Of course, none of the other gods had actually done anything to her yet, but in her mind they were all malicious scheming devils. All these thoughts had gone through her head in a split second, and she coldly answered Apollo without missing a beat. “No, you can’t. What are you all here for?”
Zeus, standing directly behind Apollo, helpfully supplied the answer. “The Oracle said we should come. Well, Apollo said that the Oracle said we should come.” Zeus had been feeling rather childish, being led by Apollo and standing in a group with the other gods, not at the head of the line. Answering Athena’s question had made him feel a little better, and now he moved to stand in front of Apollo.
“You fools believed him? The Oracle doesn’t lie, but Apollo lies about what the Oracle says. I’m sure this is all for his personal gain, and he made up the whole part about the Oracle,” Athena said.
Trying to deflect the attention to Apollo, Zeus said, “I’m sure the Oracle didn’t actually say anything and you’re lying.”
Zeus was now feeling rather stupid being belittled by the very god he regularly made fun of. Whenever Athena was required to come for a meeting with the gods, she spoke little and was away as quickly as possible. This was a different side of Athena, new to him and the other gods.
“No I’m not!” said Apollo, realizing how stupid that sounded.
Athena, very unimpressed, leaned on her creation. “Usually you come up with a believable lie, brother, or at least try to make yourself look smooth, but you truly are an idiot.”
Zeus decided that, as the king of the gods, he should do something more than stand in a clump with the other gods. He stepped into the middle of the room, and, trying to change the subject, he said, “Athena, what a wonderful . . . workshop you have here, with all these little . . . gadgets.”
“It’s not a workshop. It’s called The Laboratory. Didn’t you read the sign?” said Athena.
After an uncomfortable pause, Zeus, realizing he was still stupidly standing in the middle of the room, and thinking that Athena looked very in control of the situation when she was leaning on something, decided he needed something to lean on as well. There was a table right next to Zeus, so he leaned on that and reached down to select a fragment of lightning bolt to pick his teeth with. Instead, his arm accidentally turned on the welding machine Athena had just been using, and in his surprise he yanked his arm up. That arm had currently been stroking the handle of his biggest bolt, and in his surprise he clamped onto that, and, in yanking his arm upward, proceeded to create a gaping hole in the ceiling of The Laboratory with his lightning bolt.
“Honestly. I was beginning to think I needn’t have redesigned the electricity in here so you couldn’t short it out, but I guess we should put baby gates and corner protectors up as well.”
A laugh burst out from the crowd of gods. “The people love you, Zeus!” Aphrodite crowed. “I’ve already got like 20,000 likes!”
All eyes turned to her, and everyone realized that she was holding her phone up, recording the whole thing.
“Oh, by the way, Athena, the people want to know what invention you’re leaning on.”
The thought of proposing this new, dominant being to the public on a social media livestream occurred to Athena, and, realizing how much negative attention that would get, she had no idea what to do. Athena was never very good at coming up with things on the spot. What would my mother have done? wondered Athena.
Her mother had been the Titan of wisdom and cunning, and always knew what to do in a tough situation. When the gods and Titans went to war, she had allied with the gods. She would have thought, What can I get out of this? And so Athena wondered what she would get out of it if she simply said her invention was a barometer and the other gods were none the wiser. Well, then she would go back to being silly old Athena until Zeus found out about her invention and in his jealousy punished her. No, that wasn’t what she should do. Maybe she could simply keep her invention in The Laboratory, and it would become her friend. No, even if the gods never found out about her invention up there, she would stay silly old Athena, who shyly stayed away from all the other gods. Then Athena had an idea of another path she could take. It was risky, sure, but if it worked, she would no longer be silly old Athena. She said, “Well, I’ll tell you, if you will all play Trivial Pursuit Architectural Edition with me.”
Zeus started to say, “But—”
“No buts,” said Athena
“No butts!” said Ares, giggling.
Athena gave him a glare and he stopped. “Well, if you’re all done here, I guess I’ll show you to the door,” Athena said.
But none of the other gods wanted to leave, for they needed to know what the thing Athena was leaning on was, for that was one of the main differences between gods and Titans. Titans lacked curiosity, whereas the thing that made gods gods was curiosity. And so they one by one gave in, swearing on the river Styx that they would play, until all the gods were waiting in an attentive little group.
And so Athena told them all what it was, and of course they were all jealous and wanted their own. But Athena was prepared for this as well. She shushed all of them and said, “I am sure you all want your own modifications made on this being. I will grant these, if you will give me something in return. Now make a line.”
And such was her authority in this statement that none of the other gods challenged her.
All the other gods had jockeyed for a spot in line, and Ares had ended up in front. Stepping up to Athena he asked, “What’re we in line for?”
Athena sighed dramatically and said, “You’re all in line to see who can give me the best present. Really, Ares, you must pay attention to these things. What were you doing, anyway?”
“I was playin’ this really fun game on my phone where you try to kill as many people as you can and everybody else tries to kill you! And then I got distracted when you started talking about butts!” Ares said enthusiastically.
Athena, knowing that sooner or later Ares would figure out he’d been cheated, scribbled in a little clipboard, Makes war with their own species, and a few enjoy potty humor. She was relatively sure that was what Ares would have requested anyway, based on his previous statement. Then she turned to Ares and, raising her voice so all the gods could hear, said, “In return, you, Ares, will give me your best non-bloody armor and spear, and you all will respect me as the god of wise and strategic war. Swear this on the river Styx. They all did, Ares more enthusiastically than most, for he felt the world could always use more gods of war and he hated his non-bloody armor, thinking it looked weak, and was constantly looking for a way to get rid of it. And so Athena moved on to the next god in line. Each god added his or her own touch, Hephaestus asking that they would have a knack for crafting with metal, Aphrodite making them basically resemble gods but not be quite as attractive, and have all sorts of love dramas. Each god chose a quality that they thought these humans should have, something that reflected those gods themselves, and in return, Athena acquired IOUs, treasured artifacts, and in general changed her whole reputation. Instead of being silly old Athena, she was now a war god who had invented an amazing new creature.
Finally, it came down to just two gods left in line, Zeus and Apollo. Apollo stepped up first, and he said, “Make them have a great appreciation for music and the arts.”
Athena grudgingly scribbled this down and tried to think of something that Apollo couldn’t stand to give up, so she could require him to give it in return. After all, he was the one who had started this whole mess. And then she had it. “You will have to promise not to vaporize anything for a millennium.”
As expected, Apollo’s face fell, but he still swore it on the river Styx, glumly going over to sit with the other gods.
At last Zeus was the only god left, and he stepped up and said, “Make them smaller. So I can tower over them. Also make sure that if I throw a lightning bolt at them, they will be fried.”
Athena thought long and hard about what she should make Zeus give her. Finally, after much thought, she decided that this was too good an opportunity to forgo for a whim at the moment. And so she turned to Zeus and said, “Someday, there will be something of yours I want and need. When that day comes, you will give it to me.”
And so Zeus swore on the river Styx that he would.
Once Zeus had sworn, all the other gods filtered out, and Athena went to work fulfilling her promises, turning the being into the human we know today.
After a couple hours, Athena’s phone buzzed. It was a text from Apollo:
Party @ 8 see U there!
Athena smiled and shut her phone. She would definitely be there.
And as you can see, Athena’s “human” really took off.
Now, you might be wondering, What happened to that IOU Zeus made? Well, one day Athena decided to take advantage of it. She had been thinking. The other gods respected her, but they didn’t fear her like Zeus was feared. And so one day, she marched into the throne room and demanded the Aegis, which is a goatskin shield which had the head of Medusa on the front, which was so ugly, it could turn you to stone. So yeah, if someone had the power to turn you to stone, you probably would fear them and try to be extra nice to them.
Now Athena’s reputation is complete, and our story will end here. It makes you wonder, though, whether gods were an invention of our imagination, or the other way around.