The Goddess Housekeeper
The wind blustered its way around the house as Delores Castro dug in her jacket for the house key. She took her glove off and dug further into her pocket until the cold keys stung her hand. She shivered as she found the right key and pushed it into the lock, opening the front door.
“Mr. Albertson? Mr. Albertson?” Her voice echoed down the corridor. There was no reply.
There was a note on the phone table addressed to her. It detailed what Mr. Albertson wanted to be done by his housekeeper. He had gone to work to test out his new video game. The heat was on. She could regulate the heat if she wished. Lunch was in the fridge.
She sighed. He almost never was home anymore when she came. He was a good man. One that she…well. She was only the housekeeper, anyway. She started working, cleaning the kitchen and the front room, changing sheets and picking up stray socks that went into the laundry basket with the other dirty clothes.
She carried the basket down the hall toward the laundry room, stopping at his office. The door was open which was unusual. Setting the basket down, Dolores poked her head inside. What a rat’s nest! She eyed the video game console sitting on the desk along with many illustrations of game characters and scenes, scripts that were marked, corrected and changed. Daniel must have forgotten to unplug it. It was glowing, beckoning her with the soft pulsing lights but she had work to do. It had been over a week since she cleaned it.
Maybe she ought to just unplug the console. She turned her head, listening. Was that a humming sound? Dolores had never heard that before. She wiped her hands down the front of her thighs, straightening the already straight uniform. Why Daniel insisted she wear a uniform when she cleaned was beyond her. She was just a housekeeper, after all, not a maid!
“What’s going on?” Dolores whispered. She glanced around, seeking the source of the humming. Was it the video game console?
She touched the console, turning it so that she could see the controls. It whirred. She touched the keyboard to turn the console off. A green light emitted from the machine. Delores vanished, the laundry basket the only evidence that she had been there.
“I wonder why Delores is still here.” Daniel thought as he drove into the driveway after work, noticing Delores’ faded blue Honda parked at the curb. He punched the remote garage door opener and waited as the door cranked up. He drove in and entered the house as the garage door lowered.
“That’s odd,” Daniel muttered as he went through the laundry room. There was a strange, muffled humming sound. “Delores? What is that sound?”
He moved on through the kitchen, expecting to see his housekeeper any moment. There was no noise other than the low humming sound. It appeared to be coming from his office. “Maybe she’s running the vacuum in there.” He pushed the already open door open further and was surprised to see the office empty as well.
“Oof! What’s this doing here?” The full laundry basket barely moved when he stumbled into it. He reached for the desk to steady himself, bumping the keyboard with his hand. A green light shot out from the keyboard. Daniel vanished.
He was lying flat on his back when he woke. The first thing he saw when he opened his eyes was … nothing. Just endless black, pierced with occasional red, green, yellow, and blue light flashes. He rolled over, pushed himself to his feet and then fell back to his knees. He could see nothing. There was obviously a floor, he was kneeling on it, but there was no beginning or end to the black. Those light flashes were the only thing keeping him from drowning in the black.
A keening started to his right, weak at first but getting louder. Eerie, but familiar. “Who’s there?” he demanded.
The keening stopped. “Mr. Albertson?” a voice asked. “What happened? Why are the lights off? What are those flashes?”
“Delores?” Daniel recognized her voice. “Where are we?” He felt something brush up against the hand he held out, reaching toward the snuffling sounds.
“Turn on the lights, please. I’m scared.” Delores implored, running her hand up his arm, fingers flickering on his face. “What is that? Mr. Albertson, what’s on your face?”
“What do you mean? There’s nothing on…whoa! Where did this come from?” Daniel’s fingers touched his face meeting some kind of mask. He explored further, discovering a sharp vertical ridge running from his nose up to the top of his head, where it ended in a spike. His cheeks felt like leather, swooping out at the ears. He tugged but it was part of him, not a mask.
“Delores, check your face. It’s different, too.” He could see her face reflected as the colored lights flashed again.
“What is this? How did this happen? I can see you now in the flashes. You, you … look like the sketches on your desk. I remember now. There was a green flash. Then everything went black.” Delores looked down at her hands and saw long, tapering fingers – six of them on each hand.
“I can’t believe this! It’s impossible.” Daniel’s six-fingered hands continued to explore his head and body. “Look. This is a uniform. And you are right, it is exactly what I was drawing on the avatars in my newest game.”
“Mr. Albertson?” Delores looked at Daniel, “What happened?”
“Call me Daniel. … I think we’re together inside my video game.”
“What? How…? I don’t understand.” Delores sighed and sat down on a chair that just seemed to appear when she needed it.
“I’m not sure how it happened, but if I’m right, we need to get out the game quickly. I can’t quite explain it, but if we can find the exit, we need to do it fast.”
“OK, are we in danger? There’s nothing here but us and this chair.” Delores patted the chair under her.
“Well, for one thing, we need to find someplace with some light so we can see where we are. Come on, take my hand. Let’s start walking, there must be a wall somewhere – we just can’t see it because of the black,” Daniel instructed.
Delores gladly took his hand, something she had thought about often before this predicament. They walked together, their free arms stretched in front of them, searching for something solid. It didn’t take long. They bumped into a wall and started running both their hands all over it, looking for anything that could help them.
“Here! I think I found it,” Daniel almost shouted in relief. “There is a button here. Hold on to my hand. I am going to push it and whatever happens, I don’t want us to get separated.” She took his hand again, closing her eyes.
“That’s better. Wow! That was a really bright light,” Daniel almost laughed. “Are you all right?”
“I had my eyes closed. I didn’t see anything,” Delores opened her eyes. “What is this?”
She gazed out on a room with gold walls encrusted with jewels. They were on a dais at the end of the room, a large bronze chair draped in velvet of many shades of purple moved to her rear as she walked. She sat down.
Tall figures with faces like Daniel’s entered the room. They posed near the doors, weapons raised as if in salute. Trumpets sounded. Smaller figures came through the doors and took seats below her. Their eyes gleamed in leather-like faces, ears swooping majestically to the top of their heads.
Two of the tall figures approached, one with documents on a tray, one with a small lap desk. They bowed, placing the tray on the desk before placing it on her lap.
“Goddess: Please read these appeals from your humble servants and write your portents on these sheaves so that they will know your answers,” the figure holding the desk pronounced.
Delores’ mouth flew open. She started to rise in surprise, to protest, to deny that she was anything but a lowly housekeeper trapped in a world that was increasingly more confusing. Before she could do anything, Daniel stepped forward.
“Hannakai. Please. A moment for your intended.” Daniel said. The smaller figures rose. “In private, please.” Delores motioned and they sat back down in unison. “Thank you, Hannakai, for your patience.” She rose and followed him to a small room behind the dais. One small figure trailed behind.
“The Chaperone.” Daniel explained in a whisper as they walked. “Listen to me. “You are Hannakai, Goddess of the Harakons. You are the leader of these people. I am your second cousin, Rakanabi. Your intended. Follow my lead.”
Delores nodded, smiling slightly to herself. They entered the chamber followed by the Chaperone, who sat quietly down on a stool in the rear of the room away from the couple.
“The barbarian invaders will attack very soon. We must leave here so that we can figure out how to get out of here. We must go now.” Daniel said in low tones. “There is a traitor in our midst.”
“Who? Who would risk defying a goddess?” Delores asked remembering the folk tales of her youth about hubris and the revenge of the gods. “And how do you know these things?”
“I’m not sure. In the script, it was one of the ladies in waiting. Not her.” He indicated the Chaperone with a slight inclination of his head.
“The SCRIPT?” Delores was incredulous. “What script? This is real life here.”
“It’s my video game,” Daniel protested.
“No. It’s my life. It’s what I’ve always wanted to be. A goddess. Not some cleaning lady that no one ever notices.” She was angry, bitter and mad at herself for saying what she always wanted to say to him. “I always wanted a hero.”
“Well, that’s not me. I’m just a nerd who makes video games that don’t sell very well. They’re too romantic. The guys don’t like them. They just want war and violence and gathering up the spoils.” He sighed.
“I love your games. And I’m going to save these people. They’re supposed to be my people. So I guess it’s up to me,” she said firmly.
“We have to get out of this game before we’re destroyed. I tell you, we will be destroyed. I wrote the script,” Daniel urged.
“Then we defeat the computer. We change the game,” she said defiantly.
Delores turned on her heel and marched back into the throne room, disappointed in Daniel. The chair followed her. She pointed to a spot on the floor imperiously. “Stay,” she commanded. The chair stayed.
Striking a majestic pose, she called her troops and generals out, urging them to take courage and heart. She outlined her strategy to stop the barbarians, counseled her troops and her generals to hold firm. Then she commanded them to bring a horse. She headed out, not waiting for her troops to follow. They gathered their forces and hastened behind her.
She rode towards the mountain pass the barbarians would have to take if they wanted to invade her lands. She abandoned her horse to move on foot when the trail became narrow and too rocky for him to travel further. The moon lit her way. Soon, she came to the other side of the pass, searching for the enemy encampment.
The crescent moon shone above the horizon. She saw the enemy pickets and the campfires of the enemy troops ahead. She unslung her crossbow from her back and cranked it tight. Loading her arrow, she aimed it at the pickets. A sharp twang and a succeeding wail of anguish indicated a successful shot. “Wow. My character is a pretty good shot,” she said. “I’m a pretty good shot,” she corrected, cranking the bow taut and adding another arrow. She caught another of the pickets and the game was afoot.
Alarm spread through the enemy camp. Foot soldiers ran for their weapons and troopers ran to catch their horses. Delores drew her long sword and streaked for the pass. “Whoa. I can really run,” she said aloud, amazed at her new abilities. “Wonder if I can use this thing,” she added glancing at the sword as she ran.
The horsemen arrived first. They were grinning with the thought of easy rape and kill. They circled her until she backed against the wall of the pass. Then they dismounted and headed confidently for her. She raised her sword, laughing with the pleasure of the coming battle.
Her blade rang as she swung it against the blows of the enemy. She was taking them two at a time, thrusting, parrying and striking with deadly force. More were coming. She had to finish this quickly, and continue into the pass, drawing the enemy in with her.
She heard the sound of hoof beats. A white horse, fire in his eyes, mane flying, and ears laid back swept past her, the heads of the last two attackers bouncing across the trail in its wake. The rider turned the horse and swept her up behind him as they raced back into the pass, heading to the their homeland. It was Daniel, her hero.
Hannakai’s troops, who lay in quiet ambush, swooped down to surround the enemy as they swarmed unaware into the pass. The enemy was easily defeated. The homeland was safe. Their goddess was safe. The troops blocked the pass, many remaining to stand guard while the rest returned home in cautious triumph.
Hannakai rewarded her troops with medals and a feast. She sat with her intended, Daniel, at the feast table. “Have you found the way back?” she asked Daniel.
“Yes. I can introduce a virus from the tablet I carried when I was transported.” He pointed to his tablet on the table. “It will destroy the program. We can transport safely back then, as long as we are quick.”
“I don’t wish to return. I don’t want to go back to housekeeping. I like what I am here, this body, and its power. Can you go back without me?” she inquired.
“I could. But I don’t want to. I have always loved you, ever since that day that you made me stop what I was doing and put that nest of baby birds back into the tree from where the wind had blown it. I knew I loved you then,” he replied.
“Why didn’t you ever say anything?” she asked aghast.
“I didn’t think you’d love a nerd like me,” he stated simply.
“I loved your games. How could I not love their creator?” She smiled crookedly at him.
“If you stay, I stay,” he said decisively.
“You are my intended, Rakanabi,” she answered kissing him.
The game console slept, the laundry forgotten. The house sat, waiting.